By David Schissler
(February 2015) There are plenty of hotels in Quebec but there’s only one Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. I recently returned from Winter Carnival in Quebec and I had the good fortune to be a guest there. The 611 room structure has dominated the Old City since 1893. You can see its multi-spired roof from just abouteverywhere. Superior service, location and amenities await you. It’s been said you haven’t really stayed in Quebec until you’ve stayed at the Frontenac. They’re right.www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec
There is a distinction between the “Old City” and the “Lower City”. The Old City is on a hill and extends for several blocks all around the Frontenac. There are rows and rows of charming shops and inviting restaurants. Though quite cosmopolitan, many offer the French cuisine so sought after in this most French of North American cities. We had an exceptional dinner at Le Cavour on Rue Saint Louis, just a couple of blocks from the Frontenac. www.restaurantlecavour.com
The Lower City is nestled between the cliffs and the St Lawrence, nearly 200 feet below the Frontenac. Some of the oldest buildings in Quebec are here. Don’t miss the 5-story Quebec City Mural reflecting 400 years of history. The Trompe L Oeil affect makes a flat wall look like a 3-D street view. If you feel like having a bite after touring the Lower City try Spag & Tinis at the bottom of the hill. The house specialty is lasagna and the homemade bread will have you asking for a second loaf. www.spagettini.ca . Travel to and from the hotel to the Lower City is made simple through the use of the Funicular. For about $2 you can get a two minute lift up to the hotel instead of walking for 10 minutes or so uphill.
Winter Carnival is very popular with families and children. There are events and activities for them throughout the three week period. One of the more popular sites is the ice castle, home of “Bon Homme”, the good man mascot of the Carnival. It’s fun to watch people’s reaction to walking through a castle of ice complete with rooms, a bar and dance floor. It has a fantasy quality to it.
Without doubt the featured event of the Winter Carnival is the annual canoe race across the St Lawrence to the Isle de Orleans and back. In Quebec’s earliest days when there were no bridges trappers had to get their furs to the city and return with supplies. The St. Lawrence is quite wide here and the tidal current is swift. In summer it’s not a trip to take lightly but in February it’s, shall we say, challenging? There were thousands of people with their kids and dogs bracing the -17 degree temps to witness the crossing. I have no idea who won, but that’s not really important. This is one of those instances when just showing up makes you a winner. For more information:www.quebecregion.com