Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel and the wonderful city of Quebec
QUEBEC CITY - There are few more charming places in the world than this. And few more iconic hotels in the world than the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.
I'm on my way to Halifax, and it took longer than I hoped to get here from Toronto on Tuesday. But I got checked in and down into the town at 5 p.m. or so and had time to check out the lower town and the shops on Petit Champlain. I looked around for a place to eat in the upper town, but so many of the places seemed to have "tourist trap" written all over them. I quickly ruled out any place with "genuine French atmosphere" and a guy playing the accordion.
I snuck a beer in and a travelling partner sampled a pretty good glass of sangria at the Cheval Blanc overlooking Place d'Armes and the base of the hotel. We then took the stairs down to the lower town and ate at Le Vendome.
It looks a bit like a tourist trap, I gotta admit, with its funky sign out front and the paintings of Paris inside. But I had a decent veal flank steak with good veggies and frites and my dining partners had very nice mussels and chicken skewers with cranberries and a Madeira marinade. Including a glass of wine each, dinner came to a very reasonable $90 and the service was friendly and quick.
In the middle of dinner it absolutely poured rain; perhaps a vestige of Tropical Storm Irene. But it eased off and we made it back to the hotel to try the wonderful bar.
A good hotel bar is a marvellous thing, and Bar St. Laurent is right up there with the greats. It's spacious and has an octagonal bar in the middle, with plenty of seats around the edges and a couple fireplaces, plus a terrace for summer. They have a whole slew of drinks dedicated to politicans, including Le Pierre Elliot Trudeau with vodka, campari and a splash of triple sec. Le Winston Churchill has gin with a dash of scotch.
I went for an old-fashioned but wasn't crazy about it. The waitress whisked it away and gave me a gimlet, with perfect gin and lime juice and a splash of soda and maybe a bit of simple syrup; I wasn't sure. It was wonderful and a great summer drink, for sure.
The hotel is lovely, with lots of stained glass and that old-fashioned CP Railway hotel feel to it. It's solid and masculine but pretty at the same time, with great bathrooms and modern conveniences such as flat-screen televisions and in-room espresso makers.
All in all, a great afternoon in a great city.
On to the wilds of New Brunswick and a long drive to Halifax on Wednesday....