Arriving from Montreal after a 3 hour train trip through the cold, Canadian November air, we take a taxi up a hill and within just five minutes, it appears in front of us, the most photographed hotel in the world: Chateau Frontenac. Built in the 1890’s, the best way that I can describe this wonderful edifice is a mix between the castle from Beauty and the Beast and perhaps another fairy tale mansion. The town of Quebec City looks like a northern French village set atop a hill with a charming old town below with the Fairmont hotel as the perfect centerfold. The best part about traveling to Quebec? No jet lag, lot’s of French language, ambiance and architecture. Yes, I’m Francophile. Sue me!
Because we chose to visit in November, we got an awesome deal to stay at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac for just $150 a night. A steal compared to the usual $300 – $400 rate. I’d highly recommend visiting during the off-season to get the chance to stay here. You could spend a whole weekend touring the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac and learning it’s history. A few of it’s guests over the past 100 years include “King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Princess Grace of Monaco, Chiang-Kai-Shek, Charles de Gaulle, Ronald Reagan, François Mitterrand, Prince Andrew, Lady Sarah Ferguson, Charles Lindberg, Alfred Hitchcock and Montgomery Clift. In 1944, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac became the action center of the Quebec Conferences of World War II, which involved U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King (http://www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec/hotel-history/).” I had a huge urge to throw on a 1920’s ball gown practice the Waltz, and just imagine what this gorgeous place would have been like not so long ago.
The hotel sits at the highest point of the city aside from the Citadelle of Quebec City which has the best possible view of the Fairmont and the surrounding city perched high above the icy Saint Lawrence river. If you usually lean away from visiting military fortresses, think again. The fort itself is built in the shape of star for tactical purposes and the museum houses so pretty amazing World War I & II artifacts. Myself and my Aunt Laura, who has traveled all over Europe, were shocked to find a Nazi Eagle inside the museum. It was originally built in 1608 and still houses the Governor of Quebec and his family along with active members of the Canadian military.
Shopping is in no short supply in Quebec City. You’ll find endless boutiques with amazingly inexpensive furs (a scored a rabbit scarf for just $55 USD), Norwegian sweaters, my favorite Fraser Fir candles, and wonderful local merchandise. For $3 CAD you can take a tram from the Chateau to the lower old town that is closer to the river with an abundance of shops, restaurants and wonderful Christmas decorations starting in November. I’ve never been to Germany for the Christmas markets, but I could feel what the energy might be like from Quebec.
Like Montreal, Quebec City also has a Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but my goodness, the gilded church was insanely beautiful once you step through the doors. The alter is completely decked out in gold and you definitely don’t want to miss this! Aside from the Fort, some amazing shopping, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Chateau Frontenac itself, there are a few more museums and some winter sports when the time of year is right. Everything is relatively close together and completely walk-able, making Quebec City the perfect weekend getaway.
Until the next adventure!