Castles In The Land Up North

Kish and I have enjoyed a few very pleasant, albeit all too rainy, days in Ottawa at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.  As a result, we have a bit of an idea of what it would be like to live in a castle — because that is what the Chateau Laurier looks like.

One of the common rooms

With its turrets and grey stone facade, sitting majestically aside a canal, the Chateau Laurier is a feast for the eyes, inside and out.  The hotel is one of a number of striking Canadian hotels that were built in conjunction with the Canadian railway in an effort to boost tourism and railway travel.  The railroads spared no expense, and it shows in all of the rich and varied details of these amazing places.  Two years ago we stayed at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, another of those railway hotels, and it was equally extraordinary.  These hotels and many others currently are part of the Fairmont chain, and a quick look at their photos make me want to visit them all.

The view from our hotel room window

I love grand old hotels, and the Chateau Laurier definitely falls into that category.  The hotel is directly across the canal from the Canadian federal government buildings, and the view from the window in our room offers a commanding view of the Canadian Parliament.  The ceilings in the common rooms on the ground floor  seem almost impossibly high, and all of those rooms are uniquely decorated and well maintained.  The place reeks of history, and tradition, and recalls the days when teams of porters would cart steamer trunks through the bustling lobby while travelers made their lodging arrangements.

When you have a choice of hotels, why not select the hotel that lets you wallow for a day or two in the luxury of a long-lost era when travel was special?

Qualite’ en Quebec

Chateau Frontenac
Chateau Frontenac

Kish and I had a wonderful time in Quebec, where we stayed at the memorable Chateau Frontenac. It is a grand old hotel, replete with the kind of detail and polish and wood paneling and flourishes that you would expect in a grand old hotel. (We won’t speak of the air conditioning unit in our room, however.)

Prior to our visit to Quebec, the only time I have been to Canada was to visit Niagara Falls when I was a kid. I’m not sure why I haven’t been to any other locations in Canada, but I now think that we will look to our neighbor to the north for other visits in the future. The country seems to have a lot to offer, from the islands to the east, to the French-speaking enclaves, to the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver to the west.
Kish and I like to walk, and Quebec is well-suited to self-guided walking tours. It is very picturesque, with pretty street scenes, colorful buildings, and little parks wedged in between. The streets in the old town section are brick and shaded and lined with shops and bistros. It is ideal for a casual stroll, some window shopping, and a spur-of-the-moment decision to stop for a cold beverage at an outdoor cafe.
A visit to Quebec helps to demonstrate what downtown Columbus is lacking. The streets in Quebec are inviting and friendly to walkers, but the streets in Columbus really aren’t — there are too many surface parking lots, too little shade, and too few buildings that catch the eye. Unfortunately for Columbus and many other American cities, quaint older brick and stone buildings were razed during the urban renewal days, and the buildings that remain are like islands in a concrete sea. I don’t think Columbus could ever be as scenic as Quebec — it isn’t a 400-year-old walled city that with French for its main language, for one — but a few parks, and small buildings, and shade trees, and street vendors would be a good start.