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Quebec’s Legendary Chateau Frontenac

Had to leave your dog behind? Borrow the hotel’s resident pooch to take for a walk. You can at Quebec’s legendary Chateau Frontenac. It’s just one of the attractions of the city’s most famous landmark.

When British Columbia joined the Canadian Federation in 1871, one condition was that Canada would build a railroad from sea to sea, connecting the new province to the rest of the country. that’s how Canadian Pacific Railways was born. But the 6-day trip was a grueling one because train technology didn’t give engines enough power to pull the added weight of sleeping and dining cars over the steep passes of the Rockies.

The railway’s president, WilliamVan Horne, came up with the perfect solution: build a string of hotels at the major stopping points so passengers could get a good meal, a good night’s sleep and get back on the train the next day.

Van Horne was not a man who did things halfway, so these were not rickety little rooming houses. He hired premier architects to design grand hotels worthy of their locations, and he chose the best settings Canada had to offer. The first was in the Canadian Rockies, beside a mountain lake at Banff Springs. The second was at nearby Lake Louise.

The third crowned the cliff above the St Lawrence River inside Quebec’s old walled city. Although other CP hotels followed, forming a golden necklace across the continent, these three have remained the chain’s brightest baubles.

It’s not just the stunning buildings with their characteristic steep-pitched roofs and cute turrets or the sumptuous interior décor. What characterized CP Hotels from the first is their service and the thoughtful extras they offer guests. When Canadian Pacific bought Fairmont Hotels in 1999, the hotels came under the Fairmont banner, joining the traditions of both groups of prestigious hotels.

The history, while interesting, is not the bottom line to guests. What counts is the experience today, and I can only think that Lord Van Horne would be proud. Our room at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, although not large, was spacious enough for a king-sized bed, a substantial desk, a comfortable reading chair and a console that contained the TV, minibar, drawers and a coffee maker. Inside the closet was an ironing board and iron, and on the bathroom door were cushy bathrobes.

Of course we expected all these, but what we did not expect was being addressed by name each time we picked up the phone, original art on our walls, whisper-soft bed linens, and free use of workout suits during our stay, so we could enjoy the fitness center. Complimentary membership in the President’s Club brings more perks: express check-in, a morning paper, free in-room internet and local calls. After only 10 stays, Platinum status adds room upgrades and substantial credits at hotel restaurants.

These are among the reasons to choose this address. Local ingredients – fresh seafood and produce from Isle d’Orleans farms and orchards – are at the heart of all the menus, from the elegant Le Champlain restaurant to Café de la Terrasse, open for all day dining. The Chateau is a long-standing favorite for afternoon tea with scones, petit fours, finger sandwiches and fresh fruit. Service in all the restaurants is well-informed, helpful and impeccable.

Throughout the hotel, it’s the service that guests remember – the chef who asked if he could help me find a meeting room I was looking for, and escorted me there himself, the smiling bellman who offered me an umbrella as I left on cloudy morning, and the newest member of the hotel staff, Canine Ambassador Santol. This big friendly charmer can be found at his post – a large cushion beside the Concierge desk in the lobby. The highlight of his day is taking guests for walks in old Quebec.

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