Azuridge 178057 – 272 Street W, Priddis, Alta.; 403-931-0100; azuridge.ca. 13 suites starting from $398
Azuridge – with its nebulous, but soothing name and blue-green logo – could easily be mistaken by its marketing for a new antidepressant. What it actually is, is Alberta's first estate hotel. Nevertheless, tucked away in five hectares of rolling foothills just southwest of Calgary, a visit to this luxurious retreat is likely to lighten your mood. Who needs Prozac when you have deer walking by your window – and, well, butler service?
The estate's two lovely residences – Sapphire Hall, once a Calgary entrepreneur's 13,000-square-foot home, and Emerald Manor, once its guest house – are located on park-like grounds in Priddis. Each of the 13 guest suites has floor-to-ceiling windows that give you grand views leading to the Rockies in the distance. There's hiking or lying around in any of the outdoor lounges or gazebos – but you're also just around the corner from equestrian heaven at Spruce Meadows and within 25 kilometres of four golf courses.
Inspired by the architecture of the Canadian Pacific Railway's Rocky Mountain train stations, Azuridge seems to bring the outdoors indoors, and vice-versa. Calgary design star James McIntyre is in charge of the recently revamped interiors – with each suite themed to a particular gemstone. You can work your way up in price range from the Onyx to the Pearl to the Garnet to the ever-popular Rhodochrosite suite – named after a red-coloured rock said to soothe the heart and stimulate love. (Or, if you were an Inca, said to be the blood of your ancient kings turned to stone, a point omitted in the brochure.)
WHOM YOU'LL MEET
Originally, Azuridge was designed to be rented in its entirety for conferences or events – so if you fork out $12,000, you can meet whomever you darn well please. On other occasions, however, you may run into a certain Oscar-winning director whose daughter competes at nearby Spruce Meadows. (I was asked not to spiel the berg – I mean, spill the beans.)
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
In. Executive chef Alois Multerer will win your taste buds over with lemongrass scallops placed on a brick of pink Himalayan rock salt, carrying the gem theme all the way to the dinner table. But Multerer, who lives on the property, is like a live-action Food Network show, whether you're watching the dynamic personality in action as he does his magic in Sapphire Hall's open kitchen – or, if you're lucky, sharing a meal with him at the chef's table. Ask him about his time making bison chili for the Calgary Flames or when he played Faust in high school back in Europe – and he'll probably share a few more salacious stories, discreetly, off the record.
Butler service is one of the selling points of Azuridge, but if you're expecting Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey, you may be disappointed. What you really get is a super-concierge who might act as an executive assistant to a businesswoman or a personal assistant to a bride-to-be. In my low-maintenance case, my main interaction with the butler on duty came when she got my "hydrotherapy" ready – that is, ran me a bath – while I was drinking Armagnac with Multerer.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
A clearer butler-client relationship would be nice. As I was staying only one night, I really wasn't sure if I should let my butler unpack my suitcase or not. This led to an awkward stand off that produced the only anxiety of my stay. Apparently, Canadian guests are often uneasy about one's butler unpacking one's underwear, while certain foreign billionaires have had no qualms about asking the butler for a foot rub. (Not included, but one will bring in a professional for you.) Like any intimate relationship, clear communication is key.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.