Legendary. Historic architecture. Impressive in size. Majestic stone towers and grand copper turrets that resemble a magic castle from a fairy-tale. Magnificent location on a high bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Elegant and luxurious rooms that have hosted royalty, world leaders, and movie stars for over a century. The indisputable symbol of Québec City. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. That’s the charm of Le Château Frontenac, said to be the most photographed hotel in the world.
For over a century, Le Château Frontenac has been the true-life castle of many people’s dreams. It attracts lovers as well business people, dignitaries and world leaders, movie stars, and tourists interested in elegance, history and stunning architecture. Like the top layer of a wedding cake, the Château is perched on a steep cliff above the Old City. Within walking distance of all the most popular sites and attractions, the Château is surrounded by the cobble-stone streets that add so much charm to this picturesque city.
My own experience with this fairy-tale like castle began just over four years ago, soon after my husband (then fiancé) requested that our wedding take place in his hometown, Québec City. As all of his loved ones were in Québec, I had no objection to a destination wedding, especially since my family and friends were spread out, and most would have to fly to wherever we chose to get married.
At the time, I didn’t know much about Québec or it’s iconic Château, but I learned quickly. My husband (Alain), the impulsive one in our relationship, wanted to get married a month after we met. I’m the more cautious one. I like to keep my feet to the ground. I like to p-l-a-n things out and take time to make decisions, especially life altering ones! What? Get married? So quickly? We just met! My mind reeled!!!! Excited, elated and in love, we opposites cut the “apple” in two and within six months were married in one of the most romantic cities in the world. It felt like a dream. Alain proudly claims French heritage is what makes the Québécois so impulsive, passionate and romantic, but I’m pretty sure it may just be him. What can I say? I love this man. He gave me a reason to leave ground. I leaped and experienced a new kind of joy.
Note: Here, my bouquet on the left looks like a little puppy. All I can say is life has a way of making you laugh. Not sure how this happened! Even so, we still love this photo and so does the Château, so much that they’ve asked us to use it a few times. You can see the most recent use on page 2 of ‘Exquis’ magazine here. The “puppy” got a facelift.
My meticulous planning skills did come in hand; just a few months after the official proposal, we celebrated our wedding with cocktails—in the Salon Rose (located in one of the castle’s turrets), it has large windows and breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River—and an elegant dinner reception at the majestic Château Frontenac.
The Château is named after the flamboyant French governor Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac. A legendary war hero, Buade is renowned for bravely defending and guiding the destiny of New France from1672 and 1698. Built in the late 19th century as a stopover location for those traveling on the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Château was designed by New York architect Bruce Price (the father of famous etiquette author Emily Post). Incorporating the use of towers and turrets, Price combined the architectural styles of both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The elegant “château-style” of design aspired to celebrate the luxury of traveling by rail.
A Grand Makeover
Over the last 120 years the Château has had additions and minor renovations, but none as costly as its recent top-to-bottom multi-million dollar makeover—a renaissance and renovation project. I had the pleasure of being escorted by public relations director, Geneviève Parent to have a look at the updated guest rooms, lobby and dining venues. She explained management’s wish before the renovation—to preserve the Château’s heritage and ensure its continuity, while adding a contemporary dimension. “It marks a transition to a contemporary style that remains respectful of the hotel’s history”, she said. Historic details and materials were preserved and the history of the hotel and its site, which boasts over 400 years, are now showcased throughout the hotel.
Perhaps the most striking change has been in the Château’s restaurants that have all been revamped with the introduction of three new concepts—Le Champlain restaurant, 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar, and Le Sam Bistro. All named in honor of Samuel de Champlain who is considered the father of New France. It was in 1608 when Champlain founded Québec.
We were happy to be led on an exceptional culinary journey for dinner one evening at Le Champlain. Led by experienced executive chef Baptiste Peupion, the hotel’s culinary experience has been transformed and reinvented. Le Champlain restaurant, the hotel’s signature dining room, offers new Québécois cuisine enhanced by collaboration from François Chartier, international award winning sommelier and pairing expert. Le 1608 offers one of the city’s widest cheese selections, and Le Sam is the new bistro that provides a lively experience from creative lunch dishes to afternoon tea to vibrant evening entertainment.
Interesting Guests Over the Years
So many interesting personalities have graced Le Château Frontenac with their presence. They 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, 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. Source, here.
When you visit Québec City, even if you don’t stay or dine at Québec’s most famous landmark, stop in to see the lobby, check out the shops, look at the historic photos and paraphernalia, or perhaps take a tour. Bonnes vacances!