Advantages Top quality modern comfort in old setting, wonderful views
Disadvantages None really
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The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel dominates the cliffs overlooking the St Lawrence in the Old City of Québec. Designed to be a railway hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway, this fairy-castle like building has expanded since construction started at the end of the 19th century, to become the landmark building for the city. The architects have taken pains to ensure that the hotel does not look out of place with the nearby citadel, and this marriage of old style in new, modern surroundings are much in evidence in the interior. According to the leaflet provided in the hotel room, many famous people have stayed here including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Princess Grace of Monaco, Charles de Gaulle, Ronald Reagan, François Mitterrand, Charles Lindberg and Alfred Hitchcock. It also played host to the Québec conferences during World War II in 1944, involving Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.Coming from the airport, you seem to drive through a cityscape that becomes progressively less north-American and more familiar to European eyes. Shortly before arrival, the bus takes you through the Old City walls and through parts of the UNESCO World Heritage Site City Centre. Finally the bus drops you off on a square with some magnificent statues of French 17th century missionaries. The entrance to the hotel is actually in a side road, which you reach by means of an archway, all of which reinforces the impression of history. You wouldn't be surprised had this been an enclosed courtyard, but instead the road goes out past the far end of the hotel to the Terrace Dufferin on the left and a square with a memorial to Wolfe, the British general who led the surprise attack that saw the British seize Québec from the French in 1759.
The entry hall feels more like a corridor in a very posh castle, or even the Houses of Parliament, being vaulted and therefore with little daylight. There was various plaques and pictures conveying some of the history of the provinces dual French/English heritage, and even an 18th century stone bearing a Maltese Cross (the cross of the knights of St John). Apart from the various concierge and check-in desks, there are a number of interesting shops, but the prices suggested that they were more suitable for browsing than buying!The service is in keeping with the impression you have from the outside – very efficient, helpful, lots of old-fashioned courtesy, but also understated. Fairmont, which runs the hotel, has a free loyalty scheme, which you can sign up on the internet before you travel. Having done so, checking in was completely hassle-free, and it also gave me free internet access during my stay.
My room was not particularly high up and faced across the side road to another wing of the hotel, so the view was nothing special. The room was very light, with a high roof, and a very generous size. In addition to the bed, there was a writing desk, armchair, TV, minibar, coffee-maker and kettle, and lots of wardrobe and drawer space. The bathroom had just been modernised, and was top-notch.The food in the restaurant was the best I had during my whole Canadian trip. It was classical French style cuisine, with the sauces having a light touch, washed down with French wines. The breakfast was wonderful too, with a huge arrange of fresh fruit, cereals, hot food and a chef in attendance to make you a fresh omelette. Best of all though was eating breakfast watching the sun rise over the St Lawrence river and the distant mountains on a clear, crisp, clear late November morning. The breakfast room is next to the terrace, and I imagine in warm weather you can sit outside while you eat.
The hotels staff were very efficient. Working in an international environment, I am used to hearing French most days, but it took a while to get used to the Québecois accent. It took an effort to realise that these were native French speakers, not reasonably fluent speakers like me, albeit with a strong north American accent. I didn’t get the impression that it would be an issue if you spoke English in the hotel, but it was clear that they preferred to speak French if possible.When checking out (I paid about CA$225 for bed and breakfast (about £100)), the person on the desk explained that it is possible to have a guided tour of the oldest part of the hotel, which dates from the 1890s, and sometimes the staff even dress in period costume to show period round.
The overall impression of this hotel was one that is very proud and conscious of its iconic status in this pretty old city, but which also takes great pains to fit in with that history and heritage. It also is a thoroughly modern, high class hotel with all the facilities, that stresses Québec’s unique character. It may not date back to the French colonial period, but you sense it would dearly have loved to!If your budget will stretch to it, I thoroughly recommend it, and don’t miss the views.
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Situated in Old Quebec, this heritage property boasts views of the St. Lawrence River. On-site restaurants offer a variety of dining options, from...
Shipping: refer to website
Availability: Price is per double room per night and may vary depending on date booked