Luxury Living at Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa

My last visit to Canada’s capital was six years ago, when I was in town to eat my way through Ottawa during the Winterlude Festival. As my luck would have it, that particular weekend was abnormally mild so I sadly didn’t have the chance to enjoy a skate on the city’s iconic Rideau Canal.

This time around I was determined to lace up my skates and haphazardly sail past the Parliament Buildings while noshing on a crispy fried BeaverTail tossed in cinnamon sugar. Does it get any more Canadian than that? I seriously got lucky. Greeted by a morning of blue skies and sunshine which made skating along the 7.8km “world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink,” a Canuck dream achieved.

After dazzling a choir of children with my rendition of a wobbly salchow and double axel I smiled up at the city’s architectural icon, my home-sweet-home in Ottawa and the castle of Canada’s capital, Fairmont Chateau Laurier.

The historic property was the dream of Charles Melville Hays, who hired Ross and Macfarlane of Montreal to design a chateau that combined French Renaissance style with the neo-Gothic vertical lines of the Parliament Buildings next door.

Building the hotel was truly a luxurious endeavour with builders using granite blocks, white Italian marble, light buff Indiana limestone and copper for the roof. The elegant chateau was furnished with antiques, a travertine marble staircase with brass railing, Czechoslovakian crystal and Sevres vases.

The grand opening of the hotel took place on June 1, 1912 with hundreds of people flocking to see Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, officially open the hotel. Renowned French sculptor, Paul Romaine Chevre had been commissioned to create a bust of Laurier for the hotel, which still stands overlooking the lobby to this day.

World-class portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh lived at the chateau for 18 years, operating his studio from the sixth floor where he photographed international celebrities from 1970 to 1992. Years later his wife Estrellita gifted eight portraits to the hotel (including famous portraits of Winston Churchill and Einstein), which can be seen in the Reading Lounge and the hotel’s posh Karsh Suite.

Luxury travellers looking to situate themselves in the centre of Ottawa’s action can now enjoy the hotel’s newly expanded and renovated Fairmont Gold floor. Now offering 69 redefined rooms and suites, this “hotel-within-a-hotel” has maintained its historical integrity, while offering modern details, clean and classic lines, as well as fresh colours. The Fairmont Gold experience features private check-in, deluxe continental breakfast, complimentary shoe shine, and business amenities.

The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is home to 426 guest rooms, many of which include views of Parliament Hill, Major Hill’s Park, the Rideau Canal or the bustling ByWard Market. My spacious Fairmont Gold suite featured a plush king sized bed, cotton bathrobe and slippers, Nespresso machine, 55″ HDTV, rain shower, and sweet smelling bath amenities by Rose 31.

Ottawa’s most infamous brunch can be found each morning at Wilfrid’s Restaurant on the hotel’s main floor. The buffet-style breakfast offering features a collection of yogurt, fruit and cereal, freshly baked pastries, cheese and charcuterie, a la minute omelette station, baked beans, smoked sausage, crispy bacon and classics Eggs Benny. Fairmont’s signature is it’s maple crepes (which I’ve also devoured at sister properties in Montebello, Mont Tremblant and Charlevoix), delicately folded French pancakes swimming in maple butter.

Skip into Zoe’s Lounge (the name is an homage to Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s wife) and you’ll find a newly renovated bright space featuring splashes of white and grey. The hotel recently launched a new craft cocktail program and seeks to be the best spot for spirit fans to enjoy a tipple when visiting the capital. Highlights from the resident mixologist include The Stateman (Canadian Club, single malt scotch, cedar smoke, lemon, bitters, maple syrup), Bitter Valley (tequila, Canadian sweet vermouth, Aperol, Cyner, grapefruit), and The Beachcomber (coconut infused local vodka, pineapple, passion fruit syrup, lime, egg whites, and orange bitters).

After enjoying a slurp at the bar, spend a leisurely afternoon tucking into the British tradition of High Tea. Chef Louis Simard’s take on “tea time” evolves throughout the year with each season and features a traditional three-tiered service and pot of your very own loose leaf. If you’re celebrating with a special someone start things off with a flute of sparkling Moet. Highlights include Cherry Buttermilk Scone with clotted cream and jam, Double Stacked Cucumber Sandwich, Deli Turkey on Puff Pastry, Maple Walnut Fudge, and Strawberry Rhubarb Eclair.

If you’re looking to enjoy an elegant dinner, the culinary team at Wilfrid’s pulls out all the stops, offering a menu that showcases a superb selection of regional Canadian cuisine. Enjoy a taste of Canada by forking your way through sublime Bison Tartare, Halibut with creamy polenta and crispy leeks, a Pork Trio composed of tenderloin, crispy belly, and shoulder en caillette, or spice-brined Duck Breast with cranberries and salsify.

If you’re looking to keep fit on holiday (the impulse looms after enjoying an epic feast), head to the hotel’s health club to sweat yourself silly in a state-of-the-art gym. Be sure to pop by the hotel’s art deco swimming pool, it’s a spectacular centerpiece built with pale pink Tennessee marble walls and dark green marble pillars. A gallery with hand-wrought brass surrounds the pool with a Greek fountain at one end. Visitors relax on chaises lounges warmed by overhead brass lamps.

If you’re looking to enjoy a slice of R&R skip down the street to Holtz Spa. Ottawa’s urban oasis works alongside an award-winning salon to provide a top notch experience for those looking to treat themselves to a me (or we) day. Holtz Spa’s signature Maple Luscious Body Scrub and Wrap is its sweetest treatment, featuring a maple sugar exfoliation, vichy shower, and maple shea butter wrap which takes place in a comfy cocooning bed. Fun Fact: the maple used in these beauty products is produced by local maple farm, Fulton’s Pancake House & Sugarbush.

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