Bonjour Quebec!

Welcome to Quebec City and the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Welcome to Quebec City and the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac! Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I’m writing this from the cozy confines of the 1608 Bar inside the iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. I’m here in Quebec City, Canada to tour, photograph and write about Silversea Cruises’ ultra-luxurious Silver Whisper, which will be pulling alongside at her berth on the St. Lawrence River just down the hill from the hotel tomorrow morning.

I came for the ship. I had no idea I’d discover one of the loveliest places I’d been in Canada – and one of the most staggeringly romantic hotel properties.

My Home Away From Home in Quebec: the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

My Home Away From Home in Quebec: the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

My journey here from Calgary, Alberta took me over seven hours through three airports and two airplanes. I awoke before four a.m. this morning in order to make a seven a.m. flight to Toronto, where I connected on to Quebec City.

While the flight to Toronto was uneventful, a Jerry Springer-esque fight nearly broke out at Pearson’s Gate D7 this afternoon. Turns out all the Quebec City flights are overbooked for the rest of the day after an early morning Air Canada Express flight was cancelled. Our gate agent was looking for volunteers to be bumped to a flight to Quebec departing tomorrow. There were no takers. This didn’t please the throngs of would-be guests who were waiting for standby seating on a small 74-passenger Bombardier Q400 Turboprop.

The unassuming entrance to the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac... Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The unassuming entrance to the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac… Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

...hides a world of opulence (and a fabulous refurbishment) inside. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

…hides a world of opulence (and a fabulous refurbishment) inside. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

When I finally did touch down at Quebec City’s Jean Lesage Airport, it reminded me a bit of landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia: the airport is essentially in a farmer’s field in the middle of nowhere. I’ve never been to Quebec before, and I was initially underwhelmed.

That changed when my taxi entered Vieux Quebec – Old Quebec.

The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac has an on-site Starbucks with this whimsical welcome. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac has an on-site Starbucks with this whimsical welcome. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

There’s an old joke that Quebec is more passionately French than France, and that just might be true here in Quebec City, which is just simply referred to as “Quebec” here, even though the province it resides in bears the same name. In fact, I felt like I was in a different country: signs are almost predominantly in French. Stores are different. Gas stations are different. Everything, aside from the Canadian flag, is different. In the taxi cab, the radio alternates between French and English pop hits; one francophonie song for every Anglais song.

Suddenly, there it was; the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. At first, its unassuming entryway doesn’t inspire passion. But a quick step through the brass revolving doors that whir quietly as people brush in and out of them reveals a world of romance within La Belle Province.

The Chateau Frontenac undewent a massive refurbishment program that was completed last year. The result? The hotel sparkles. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The Chateau Frontenac undewent a massive refurbishment program that was completed last year. The result? The hotel sparkles. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

Refurbished last year at a cost of $75-million dollars, the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is one of Quebec’s most famous icons, and indeed one of the most-photographed hotels in the world. Originally built for Canadian Pacific Railways in 1893, the Chateau Frontenac is easily the most elaborate Fairmont hotel I’ve ever stayed at. I’m a huge fan of the chain, which was formed after Canadian Pacific divested its hotel operations in 1999. They rarely disappoint me. But the Chateau Frontenac makes quite a few other Fairmont hotels look like Holiday Inns by comparison; the attention to detail is that good.

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Our Live Report from Silversea’s Silver Whisper will continue tomorrow as we tour this magnificent ship in beautiful Quebec City, Canada! Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.

 

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