Fairmont Palliser Hotel – Calgary, Alberta

We have stayed at this hotel a few times before, most recently in July of 2016. This historical hotel is located in the heart of the downtown, just down the street from the Calgary Tower. The Palliser is over 100 years old and is known locally as the hotel of choice for hosting elegant events.

THE GOOD

When you enter the lobby of the Palliser, you immediately get a sense that you are stepping back in time. The ballrooms are grand, the decor is elegant and you can see hints of times gone by everywhere you look. 

There have been several updates to the Palliser over the years, one of the recent ones being to the Gold Rooms. On our most recent stay, we were lucky enough to have a gift certificate to use for one of the newly renovated Gold Rooms!

img_3831

Along with a Gold Room comes a couple of pretty nice perks! You can check-in on the Penthouse level to avoid any lines, you get nicer towels and bathrobes, an upgraded coffee machine in your room, turn-down service, etc. But the best perk by far is access to the complimentary Gold Lounge where they serve breakfast every morning and snacks, cookies and appetizers every evening between 5-7 pm. They also have unlimited beverages available all day long (and an honour bar) and they have big jars of candy, which our kids were over the moon about!

img_3810

Fresh Juices Available at Breakfast in the Gold Lounge

img_3809

Gold Lounge

The room itself was comfortable. There was a king-sized bed, TV, a small desk and a small sitting area.

img_3591

img_3595

The bathroom was very large and was fully wheelchair accessible. It had a wheel-under sink, toilet with a grab bar on the left and a wheel-in shower with built-in shower bench. The bathroom also had an electronic scale, upgraded amenities (mouth wash, cotton balls, Q-tips, etc.) and heated floors. 

img_3596

Huge Bathroom

img_3599

Wheel-Under Sink

img_3598

Wheel-In Shower With Built-In Shower Bench

img_3827

Toilet Only Had One Grab Bar

The hallways on the Gold floor looked to have been recently updated and this floor was completely non-smoking.

img_3832

One of the best things about the Palliser is their pool and spa area. The pool area is complete with pool, hot tub and steam room and it is very quiet and peaceful. This area can be accessed by anyone in a wheelchair (although there are no pool lifts). The spa is called RnR Wellness and it is one of my favourite spas in Calgary. I have had a good experience every single time I have been there.     

THE BAD

It is a challenge to think of anything bad to say about this hotel, but I can say that the view from our room wasn’t amazing. It overlooked the train tracks and you could hear and feel the trains going by as they ran adjacent to the hotel. The kids enjoyed watching the trains go by, however, so it wasn’t all bad. 

img_3824

The windows in our room were older casement windows that cranked open at the bottom. The bottom half of the window opened out and there were no screens on the window. I was pretty sure that my kids would be able to fit through the opening. Given that we were on the 8th floor, these windows made me pretty nervous. 

The Palliser is really old and you can tell that the accessibility features came along many years after the hotel was designed. The main entrance to the hotel is all stairs and there is no wheelchair access right at the main entrance. There is a long ramp off to the side of the main entrance that takes you into a small room with a lift. The lift takes you down into the lower level of the hotel (spa level) and then you can access the main elevator bank to get up to the lobby or up to your room. The staff was very helpful and escorted us through the accessible entrance but the setup is certainly less than ideal. 

THE UGLY

There is nothing ugly about the Palliser. 

OVERALL

Its proximity to other downtown amenities makes the Palliser a very attractive choice. The staff was exceptionally pleasant and helpful and they really went out of their way to make us feel looked after. For the access to the Gold Lounge, I think the extra cost of a Gold Room would be well worth it. Overall, the Palliser is a very elegant, peaceful hotel, perfect for a relaxing weekend or overnight stay. 

Embassy Suites by Hilton Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort – Oxnard, California

We stayed in room 9301 at the Embassy Suites in March of 2016 for one week. We booked this hotel knowing nothing about Oxnard, California other than that the hotel was right on the beach with some accessible pathways alongside the beach. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by the overall accessibility of the hotel and surroundings.

THE GOOD

There were several different buildings at this hotel and our room was on the third floor of building number 9, which was just to the right side of the main lobby building.

View of Main Lobby

View of Main Lobby Area

All of the rooms at this hotel are suites. In our room, we had two queen beds in a separate bedroom, two bathrooms (one with a wheel-in shower and built-in shower bench, wheel-under sink and toilet with grab bars), living room with a pull-out sofa and small kitchenette (microwave, mini-fridge, coffee maker and sink).

Two Queen Beds

Two Queen Beds, Access to Deck Across From Far Bed

Main Area Bathroom - Not Accessible

Main Area Bathroom Located by the Front Door – Not Accessible

Accessible Bathroom

Accessible Bathroom Attached to the Bedroom

Wheel-In-Shower With Shower Bench

Wheel-In-Shower With Shower Bench

Accessible Toilet Area

Accessible Toilet Area

Pull-Out Sofa and Living Room Area

Pull-Out Sofa, Living Room Area and Access to Deck

Kitchenette

Kitchenette

Front Door And Desk

Front Door And Desk

Our room was a “resort view” room. We had a nice view of the pool and courtyard and could actually see the beach and ocean in the distance.

View From Our Room

View From Our Room

View of the Main Pool from Our Room

View of the Main Pool from Our Room

View of Waterfall Near One of the Two Hot Tubs

View of Waterfall Near One of the Two Hot Tubs

Our room was cleaned every day by the time we got back from our morning activity except for once. The staff seemed very efficient and happy to help.

This hotel served free breakfast every morning until 10 am and free drinks and snacks every night between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Breakfast was buffet-style with eggs, potatoes, pancakes, waffles, sausages, bacon, cereal, fruit, toast, yogurt and a selection of beverages. There was also a made-to-order section where you could order eggs or omelettes. The happy hour snacks consisted of nachos, veggies and party mix and the drinks consisted of alcoholic selections from the bar, punch and pop. Although the food wasn’t the best quality, it was plentiful and it made for an easy alternative to going out.

There was one large swimming pool and two large hot tubs at the hotel. The pool and one of the hot tubs were equipped with battery-powered pool lifts. We had no issue with the lifts and they seemed to work smoothly using a handheld remote.

Main Pool Lift

Main Pool Lift

Hot Tub Lift

Hot Tub Lift

Turn On the Key and Use Remote to Operate Lift

Turn On the Key and Use Remote to Operate Lift

There was direct beach access at the hotel. There was a gate in the back that led right to the sand and a long accessible pathway along the edge of the beach. If you turned right, it led you to a beautiful park with a large playground.

Beach Access at Back of Hotel

Beach Access at Back of Hotel

Paved Pathway Along the Beach

Paved Pathway Along the Beach

Amazing Playground for the Kids

Amazing Playground for the Kids

There was an accessible pathway through the sand so that wheelchair users could get closer to the ocean. The beaches were extremely large and there were lots of sand dunes, so one would not be able to get to the water in a wheelchair but you would be able to get close enough to see over all of the dunes and to watch the waves roll in. There were picnic tables up near the end of the accessible pathway where you could sit and have a nice lunch or dinner on the beach if you wanted.

Accessible Pathway Towards the Ocean

Accessible Pathway Towards the Ocean

Accessible Pathway Heading Towards Ocean

Accessible Pathway Heading Towards Ocean

View From the Top of the Accessible Path

View From the Top of the Accessible Path Facing Away From the Ocean

Looking Towards The Ocean - The Picnic Tables Mark the End of the Accessible Path

Looking Towards The Ocean – The Picnic Tables Mark the End of the Accessible Path

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean – The Sand Was Extremely Soft Everywhere Except Right Along the Water’s Edge

In terms of its general location, this hotel was within walking distance of a number of beautiful harbours where you could look at fancy boats and beautiful homes. We also drove around and explored a number of shops, grocery stores and restaurants.  There was a family-friendly restaurant close to the resort called Toppers that served some of the best pizza we have ever had.

One of Many Beautiful Harbours

One of Many Beautiful Harbours

We learned when we were there that Oxnard is surrounded by fruit farms. It’s quite something when you are driving there to see the miles and miles of strawberries and other produce growing right there.

For entertainment purposes, you can drive from Oxnard to Ventura in 5 minutes, Camarillo (where there is a HUGE premium outlet mall) in 23 minutes, Santa Monica (where there is a really fun pier with rides and food, etc.) in one hour and Solvang (which is a very cool Danish tourist town) in one and a half hours. We thought Oxnard was ideally located for fun day trips with the kids.

Santa Monica Pier - View From the Top of the Ferris Wheel

Santa Monica Pier – View From the Top of the Ferris Wheel

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

For those flying in to California, this hotel was about one and a half hours away from LAX. Do not be afraid to rent a car as the shuttle buses for the major rental companies are accessible and they will pick you up at the terminal and take you to the rental company. Most all major car rental companies will install hand controls in a rental car for you for free. (Little tip we learned – don’t pay for anything fancy as chances are good that no matter what you rent, you will end up with a Chevy Impala (or similar) and they will not refund you the difference. Apparently most companies can only install the hand controls in mid-sized cars.)

THE BAD

I really had to think about something bad to say about this hotel. All I could come up with was that the food was not amazing and it would not be somewhere I would recommend to someone travelling without kids. We were there during spring break, mind you, but this is not a peaceful adults-only type hotel. It is definitely geared towards hosting families.

THE UGLY

The only thing that was ugly in my view was the bird poop on our deck. We were on the top floor and there were wooden slats above our deck that the birds sat on. Every morning, the deck, the deck chairs and the deck table were covered in fresh bird droppings, which made the deck unusable.

Our Deck

Our Deck

Bird Droppings on Our Deck

Bird Droppings on Our Deck

OVERALL

Overall, we thought this hotel was great and that Oxnard in general was a total hidden gem for those in wheelchairs and for families. We tend not to go to the same place more than once but we both agreed that we would definitely return here in the future. We left feeling like there was still a lot more to see.