“Oh my god! SOMEONE HAS BEEN IN OUR ROOM! The shades are down! The sheets are pulled back! THEY LEFT THEIR CANDY NEXT TO OUR BED!”
“Ashley, it’s called ‘turndown service.’ Calm down.” – my all too rational husband who has evidently spent more time in nicer hotels than me.
And so went our winter weekend at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Them, spoiling the crap out of me and me, not quite getting it.
At the valet: “So… you just give him the keys and he parks the car somewhere? And he doesn’t steal anything?”
With the bellhop: “So… he just takes our luggage to our room for us? But we’re going there anyway. Can’t we just take it ourselves?” [side note: Are they still called ‘bellhops?’ My knowledge of this sort of thing stems solely from Bugs Bunny cartoons.] “What if he steals something?” ← I have issues. I know this.
At check-in: “Oh… you don’t have to call me ‘Madame.’ Just kidding, I kind of like it. Say it again, more French this time.”
See? I’m getting it.
And then there are the moments when the Southern gentleman in me holds the door open for the guy who holds the doors open and all parties freeze in an awkward chivalry showdown. After you. No, After you. Please, I insist. No, I insist, you go. No, you go…
Who will be the first to walk through?! Results at 10.
I’ve always had a hard time letting others do for me things I am perfectly capable of doing myself. For instance, trying on a pair of shoes at a shoe store. Get your mitts off my ankles, I can do this! Or picking out a bra at Victoria’s Secret. Judge me by my cup size, do you? And DON’T EVEN get me started on bathroom attendants!
Nothing stresses me out more than watching an NFL player get Gatorade squirted into his mouth by a team staff member. HOLD YOUR OWN BOTTLE! YOU ARE NOT AN INFANT!
But I’ve learned that often, especially when traveling, the universe forces you out of your comfort zone and for me that means letting someone who’s been standing outside in sub-zero temperatures all day open (and shut) the car door for me and addressing me by my royal title. It’s called ‘luxury’ and we are now BFFs.
Being a lover of all things Hans Christian Andersen, I was equal parts disappointed and elated to discover Château Frontenac was indeed not a true medieval castle, but merely your everyday hotel. No exotic medieval history. No knights or princesses. No swashbuckling… no imps… but OH MY GOD I CAN SLEEP THERE!
That was eight years ago on my first visit to Québec City. In my own defense, the city was celebrating it’s 400th birthday that year so the idea that an actual fortification from the middle ages could have stood overlooking the St. Lawrence River all this time seemed plausible. In history’s defense, Canada.
In fact, Château Frontenac did not open as a luxury hotel until 1893 – about 600 years after I had previously assumed – when ‘luxury’ suggested indoor plumbing and personnel on site to spit shine your monocle. To give you some perspective, also in 1893:
- Japan adopts the Western calendar.
- Two Clydesdale horses set the world record by pulling 48 tons (of beer, I assume).
- The 1st ever Ferris Wheel opens at the Chicago World’s Fair.
- Daniel Williams performs the first successful open-heart surgery WITHOUT ANESTHESIA. Just reading this statement makes me lightheaded. I might actually faint. How? Just… how?
- And equally important, Cracker Jacks are invented.
It wouldn’t be for another 126 years that an excitable blogger would walk into a hotel bathroom and scream, “OH MY GOD, Y’ALL! MY NAME IS ON THESE SHAMPOOS!”
Château Frontenac, the world’s most photographed hotel, stands as the dominant feature of Old Québec on the Dufferin Terrace, overlooking the Petit-Champlain district and the St. Lawrence River. It’s the Mount Doom in the skyline of Mordor, the Green Monster at Fenway Park, the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face.
The Dufferin Terrace predates Château Frontenac and, therefore, Cracker Jacks. The DT is the large boardwalk overlooking the river on one side and lined with cannons on the other. Not Canons which, as we’ve already established, are all pointed towards our beloved Château. Old Québec is a shopper’s, beer drinker’s, food lover’s, architecture buff’s, historian’s dream.
To learn more about the awesomeness that is Old Québec, see this post.
Château Frontenac offers all of the typical (21st century) hotel amenities…
- Bars and restaurants on site
- Pool / hot tub / spa
- Fitness area
- Hallways that resemble scenes from The Shining and a friend that reminds you of that fact
…but what made this hotel unique were the endless ways the staff made me feel like they actually gave a shit about my presence. Fairmont Hotels is an international hotel brand with god knows how many guests at any given moment yet they still managed to respond to all of my social media posts, call me by name (after the ‘Madame’ of course, they’re not animals), and for the love of travel the toiletries had my name on them! That’s just something you don’t get at the Best Value otel (the ‘M’ fell off). It’s amazing what some polite, unsolicited Instagram comments can do for your cause. Take note, world peace.
As previously mentioned, I do possess the unheard of ability to carry my own luggage. I can park my own car (parallel even!). I can run my own website. I can identify any number of woodland creatures by both their tracks and what their poop looks like. I can even open my own champagne bottle. I’m an independent woman damn it.
However, do I actually need to do all of these things for myself? Well, most of the time, yes. I’m stubborn, a control freak to the highest degree, and someone needs to decipher the bears from the raccoons. BUT, is a weekend of pure hotel gluttony perfectly acceptable now and then? That, too, is a big, fat, maple-covered YES. This is something I know now. Do people travel like this all the time? And who are these people? Cracker Jack inventors? Sadistic heart surgeons? I think it’s time to change majors.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED TO GET ON BOARD WITH:
- Turndown service – I have never needed this in my life because I don’t think I have ever actually MADE a bed. I just chuck the comforter to the head of the bed to keep the cats from getting litter on my pillows while I’m at work. I do this while brushing my teeth. (#multitasking) However, this is a luxury I’ve come to love. Not having to decide where the sheets end and the mattress begins, priceless. (#firstworldprobs) Having the shades pulled down because you can’t figure them out on your own and so you don’t forget and are harshly awakened at dawn by a blazing sun, also priceless.
- Valet parking – I don’t even know where the parking lot for Château Frontenac is. I know where the horse parking lot is but mine’s currently in the shop. And thank you for not stealing anything. You are truly aiding the cause to help me become a functioning member of society who doesn’t think everyone is trying to steal from her.
- Costumed tour guides – Because everything is better when there’s a period-specific wardrobe involved.
- A dog in the lobby – Pups on site? This is way better than the Venezuelan iguana that joins you in the resort pool, poops, then swims away.
- Dali exhibit – Of all the mustachioed men I’d like to meet in a hotel lobby, Salvador Dali definitely tops that list. Bravo, Château!
- Starbucks – This should be mandatory of all hotels. Motels, y’all are clear, just concentrate on running tap water for now.
- All the bathrobes I want – and I do want all the bathrobes. Look how French this bathrobe is. Had this robe been cast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, it would’ve made a seriously awkward character given it’s job duties…
- Personalized toiletries – Like a kid in an Upper East Side cupcake boutique I took to this simple expression of appreciation. I have never seen this before! Mama was right; I am special!
- Maple candies – As soon as we cross the border and I haven’t gotten arrested for joking with border patrol, the husband runs solely on maple products. It’s nice to have an endless supply because withdrawal is the real deal.
- Nightly weather report and WWII history facts – I never knew this was something I needed so badly before I went to sleep. Now I know and I will expect nothing less.
THE ONLY LETDOWN:
Nobody is perfect, y’all. Not you. Not me. Not even Channing Tatum (probably). And while this is in no way a deal breaker, the “free” WiFi was a source of frustration and Madame ain’t got time for that.
Yes, the internet is free when you stay at a Fairmont Hotel. HOWEVER, to get said “free” internet you must first become a member of their hotel club. This involves navigating their website through a series of pages (on my phone – and how am I even doing this without the internet?), filling out some online forms, and accepting the $16/day internet charge. THEN you must call the concierge (And a good evening to you as well, kind sir.), let him/her know you’re now a member of the President’s Club and are ready to have the internet charge removed from your bill. Merci beaucoup.
Now, if I can get free WiFi at McDonald’s, I want it in my hotel room. If I can get free WiFi on the city bus, I want it in my hotel room. If I can get free WiFi at Everest Base Camp, I WANT IT IN MY HOTEL ROOM. How Earth isn’t just one colossal WiFi hotspot by now is beyond me. Scientists, it’s time to step up your game. Quit screwing around with hoverboards and the Pseudobulbar Affect. The sloths are beginning to lap us.
So yes, the internet is free (small print and bribery aside). That being said, I would like to point out that it’s been three weeks since my induction into the President’s Club and not only does it look great on my resumé, I haven’t received a single correspondence from them. That’s all I really want ultimately, for people to stay out of my inbox.
In related news: Even super rich people are pissed they have to pay for hotel WiFi when it’s available for free at the Best Value otel. Article here. This is the one and only time I will ever be in the same category as “the super rich people.” Thank you Château Frontenac! It appears you have made all of my dreams come true!
STEEP HILLS, CHEAP THRILLS
I’ve slid down an ice covered hill ONE TIME in my life. It was altogether riveting and terrifying, mostly because it was down a steep bluff along the Mississippi River that ended abruptly onto a busy urban highway of sorts, and then of course the muddy waters that would swallow you whole. I had to heave myself off my inflatable pool inner tube from Wal-Mart (you’re forgetting this is Tennessee) at the last second to avoid becoming roadkill, resulting in an epic face plant in the snow and the loss of my glasses. Pretty much what sold me on LASIK.
Just outside Château Frontenac is the aforementioned Dufferin Terrace and underneath this boardwalk is a preserved archaeological crypt containing the ruins of two castles that actually did stand in this space. I KNEW IT! Above the Terrace though, and I mean WAY above, is the toboggan slide. Much higher than my first sledding experience and I’m assuming much less chance of certain death. That’s a lie. I thought for sure I was going to die – a fact you would agree with if I were to let you watch the GoPro footage in its entirety.
Fun fact: In Tennessee, a toboggan is a knitted hat like the kind you’d find on emo teenagers with lip rings and perpetual frowns. Maybe now you can understand my fear of ice and snow and being propelled down steep hills at face-melting speeds.
The slide opened in 1884 and sends you FUH-LYING at speeds up to 70 kmh (that’s French for 43 mph). One trip down the slide costs 3 CAD and is WORTH EVERY LOONIE. I was hooked, immediately. Below is the edited GoPro video I shot on my way down. No accessories (or dignity) were lost in the making of this film.
The level to which Château Frontenac spoiled me this weekend is on par with the Free Willy pool party my parents threw me for my 12th birthday and every time my husband asks, “Do you want to get a Papa John’s pizza?” Both parties know the way to my heart. And I now know it’s OK to get spoiled once in a while. To chill out a little because not everyone means to rob you. And that one too many cotton bathrobes after a hot shower is an express ticket to heat stroke.
HOW HAS A HOTEL SPOILED YOU DURING YOUR TRAVELS? LET ME KNOW BELOW!
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