My Night at the Fairmont Château Frontenac
Walking into the lobby I spied a boy of around five, wearing a tuxedo jacket. He didn’t seem to have a wedding to attend or family photo to shoot, yet he fit in with his surroundings as if the interior designer had commissioned him. Bizarre. The other patrons of the Le Chateau Frontenac were equally glamorous, although not nearly as cute. I watched as they waited for the immaculately dressed bellboys to fetch their luggage, a handful of different nationalities- and nobody seemed nearly as impressed as I under the gilded, ornamental foyer.
The Fairmont Château Frontenac is located in Quebec, Canada- towering over Quebec City on a hill that threatens to annihilate your calf muscles just by looking at it. Below, the St. Lawrence River roars through the landscape, just at the foot of Old Quebec with its 17th century charm and World Heritage listed streets.
I was to be staying in one of Canada’s most iconic and recognizable properties. Who doesn’t dream of sleeping in a fairytale castle, if even for a night? I hurriedly made my way to the bronzed gilded elevator, happy that my things would soon follow behind without a huff or a puff or even a bead of sweat. I knew I was as close to the Princess life as I could ever expect to be, and I was enjoying every lavish second.
Arriving on my floor I took in the views at every window. almost delirious as I snapped pictures of the post-rain glistening streets and rolling current of the mighty St. Lawrence. The views from the Château Frontenac must be the best in Quebec City.
I opened the door to my room slowly, like unwrapping a present, excited to see what I would find inside. Unfortunately it did not live up to the decadent perfection found elsewhere on the property. Although the decor was of a high standard, the room was small with little natural lighting. Perhaps this is just the downside of a historic castle property. Still, the amenities were plentiful, the bed was heavenly, and besides the lack of sunshine and space- it was perfectly sufficient for my needs and then some.
I was happy to find my bathroom stocked full of products from New York perfumery Le Labo in the signature Fairmont scent of Rose 31. I am so in love with the smell and quality of this line, every half-used bottle made its way back home with me. (To buy the small hotel sample sizes on the Le Labo website you could expect to pay a pretty £64.00 ($106), so it may be worth a night for the goodies alone.)
I must admit, in truth the Château Frontenac is not an actual castle. It was originally built at the end of the 17th century on the site of the former colonial headquarters, but burnt down in 1834. The property was re-built sixty years later, with railroad passengers passing through the town in mind. Many features such as the pool and outside terrace weren’t added until the 1990’s and major renovations are currently underway to position the Château Frontenac as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. While a castle it may not be, it certainly lends itself to the label. Its position in the city would surely make it a fantastic strategic center… if Quebec City ever found itself under attack by bow and arrow.
Food, Cocktails, and Coffee
Although I hate to say that the food and alcohol was a highlight of my stay, it was honestly the best hotel breakfast and drinks I have ever had. In the evening we were fed multiple concoctions by the mixologist of Bistro Le Sam- from a very modern twist on the Old Fashioned (pictured below) to the L’Aviateur cocktail complete with paper airplane. For those who wanted wine, there was an iPad featuring the bistro’s extensive wine collection which listed where each bottle was from and what local cheeses on offer would pair suitably.
For breakfast I was seated at a table near the window and a wonderful Americano was quickly served before I made my way through the ‘buffet’ offerings. I say buffet because technically that is what it would be called, but it was definitely the fanciest buffet I have ever eaten from. There were choices for days, but I settled on fresh fruit and pastries and a couple vials of something fancy that was delicious- but still have no idea what was inside. There was also salmon and cheeses, warm options, and even some caviar if that gets you going in the morning. Absolutely terrific service and the food was extraordinary. (Hence why I hate to use the word buffet…)
Check-out was quick and they addressed me by name with a Madame on top- it is difficult for me not to giggle in these situations. However, it was appreciated, and I could honestly tell them I had thoroughly enjoyed my stay.
The Fairmont Château Frontenac is not for budget travelers- a non-suite room typically runs $320-$650 (£200-400) a night. I would argue though that for most people, besides five year olds prancing around in tuxes, a night at the Château Frontenac in not just a place to sleep but a special place to celebrate something special or just experience a day out of the ordinary. For those people- you will not be disappointed. The staff is top-notch, the food is perfection, and the chance to say you stayed in the most photographed hotel in the world is truly priceless.
(P.S. I beg of you. Whether you stay a night or just pass through for a drink- you MUST give the Old Fashioned a try. Seriously.)
Alright folks, where is the coolest place you have ever slept for a night?
Disclaimer: My trip to Québec, Canada was part of a press trip organized by KLM UK, AirFrance, and Tourisme Québec. A big thanks to all involved that made this trip possible. All content, thoughts and opinions on The Fly Away American are always my own.
photo credit: OZinOH, Djof via cc