Quebec: Story-book grandeur of Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac
Chateau Frontenac

Conjuring history and fantasy, it's a flamboyant neo-French Gothic confection, crowning Cap Diamant, teeming with spiky turrets scratching the sky.

Tourism Quebec would have you believe that it's the most photographed hotel in the world — a lofty call, but there's no denying its totemic grandeur is instantly recognisable.

No matter where you find yourself in Old Quebec, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, looms large, from every angle. From the Lower Town, it resembles a storybook castle in the sky. I'm a walkover for a good historic hotel and this marquee specimen spills forth with proud footnotes from history.

An early morning view of Quebec.
An early morning view of Quebec.

At the height of the World War II, the secret military talks, called the Quebec Conferences, were headquartered at the hotel, involving US President Roosevelt and British PM Winston Churchill, in which they thrashed out their Allied battle plans, including invading France.

Today, 17 of the hotel's most prestigious suites have officially been named in honour of famous guests who have stayed at the hotel since its opening in 1893 Visiting glitterati to have bedded down within its lavish quarters include British and European royalty, Chiang-Kai-Shek, Charles de Gaulle, Ronald Reagan, François Mitterrand and Charles Lindberg.

Champlain Restaurant
Champlain Restaurant

Designated a World Heritage Site and backing on to the Dufferin Terrace, the property was built on top of the ruins of the Chateau St Louis, the official residence of Quebec's colonial governors.

Coinciding with the dawn of rail's golden age, the hotel was commissioned by the general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th century. Its copper roof, multiple turrets and sloped peaks define the hotel's architectural splendour, which has been steadily expanded over the decades.

The guestroom
The guestroom

When you enter this spell-binding property to live out a true-life castle dream, one of the first "staff" you're likely to encounter is a dog, Daphne, a docile St-Pierre pooch. Resident hotel dogs are a Fairmont trademark, known as Canine Ambassadors, who are impeccably-well behaved, professionally-trained, and always happy to be taken for walkies. I loved taking Daphne for a head-clearing morning walk along the Dufferin Terrace.

Routinely garlanded in praise, the serial award-winning hotel boasts over 600 elegantly furnished rooms and suites, overlooking the St Lawrence River and the ornate rooftops of Old Quebec. I stayed in one of the freshly renovated deluxe rooms, with a sedately coloured interior which was restful and calming.

It had been overhauled as part of the hotel's multimillion-dollar renaissance project. Combining the time-honoured character with ultra-modern amenities, a sense of sophistication overlays the historical cachet.

I enjoyed a dazzling view over the old town's cityscape, fabrics and furniture are carefully-selected, the bedding was fluffy-cloud-comfortable and the big marble bath was indulgently restorative after pounding the cobbles, taking in the sights.

From classic to casual

Wine & Cheese Bar.
Wine & Cheese Bar.

Pleasingly, Chateau Frontenac staff are assiduous without being stuffy.

The place purrs like a well-fed pussycat and you'll be well-fed too. My daily buffet breakfast was artfully presented, a celebration of freshness. The pain au chocolat alone were worth getting out of bed for.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac's dining offerings range from classic continental and regional cuisine to fuss-free casual fare. Local, fresh, and innovative are Executive Chef Baptiste Peupion's pillars upon which he and his talented culinary team create new menus, reflecting the hotel's heritage while embracing cutting-edge culinary trends.

Champlain Restaurant
Champlain Restaurant

Inspired by the year of Quebec City's founding, and situated on the very site of the fledgling settlement, the new 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar showcases one of the largest varieties of top Quebec cheeses, paired with wine.

Champlain Restaurant is the hotel's classic formal dining affair, recently refreshed by one of Quebec's hottest restaurant chefs, Stephane Modat. A more informal experience awaits at Bistro Le Sam, inspired by the great French explorer, Samuel de Champlain.

Showcasing some of Quebec's hottest culinary trends, it's a buzzy and relaxed affair with an open kitchen. This exuberant swirl of a hotel celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. If you're planning a trip to Quebec, soak up the sparkling grandeur of Le Chateau Frontenac. It is unreservedly gorgeous and an exemplar in affordable luxury.

¦ http://www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec/

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