I’ve stayed at a few Fairmont properties over the years (all on my own dime) including the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Banff Springs and the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi. All have delivered wonderful stays and experiences – but at a price – as you would expect from a hotel chain of this caliber.
Almost a year ago I was asked if I’d consider coming to the Outaouais Region to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Canada Ski Marathon (more on this in a future blog). It is a cross-country skiing event over a weekend (160 kms done broken into stages) that has been on my radar for some time. I said yes and agreed to the “full experience” which included two nights sleeping in a classroom on the floor of the Papineauville High School. By the time John and I were finished with the second tough day of skiing and two nights on a floor, we were both very ready for a little luxury.
Enter the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello – a hotel I could have comfortably stayed at for days. Here’s why.
The building itself is fantastic. Called the world’s largest log cabin, it is truly an architectural masterpiece – and worth the visit just to see it. With an enviable location on the north shore of the Ottawa River, the property is criss-crossed with hiking, cross-country skiing and dogsledding trails, in the small town of Montebello, Quebec.
The chateau has a very interesting history. With 3,500 labourers working around the clock – even on Sundays – which was normally a day of rest, the chateau was built in just four months. (According to lore, the local curé, a man who would not have approved of working on Sundays, was sent to Rome for a conveniently timed two month holiday.) It’s hard to appreciate the size of the chateau and the height of the structure without seeing it in person – definitely an incredible sight, especially inside.
The most beloved part of the hotel has got to be the six sided stone fireplace that rises 20 metres (66 feet) to the roof. It’s a gathering spot with comfortable seating all around. In winter it’s a great place to sit and warm up. I especially like the fact you can order drinks and appys from the bar – just steps away -and then sit back and watch the world go by.
John and I enjoyed a spacious bedroom with a king sized bed and sitting area. Though the hotel was opened on July 1, 1930, there have obviously been lots of upgrades as our room felt modern with only the bathroom harkening back to older times when they weren’t built to be big.
There are several dining rooms to try. A lot of regional products and some of the local brews are featured on the menu. I particularly liked the breakfast room; with big windows, it felt like you were outside.
Exploring the hotel is a lot of fun, especially as its got its fair share of nooks and crannies. Wandering the halls we discovered lots of historical photographs – showcasing many of the important politicians that have stayed here over the years. We found private chairs for reading and even a colourful canoe on the second floor. It wasn’t until the morning after our stay that we discovered the pool via an underground walkway. It’s big and a great one if you’re into swimming laps. Too bad we missed the hot tub the night before. I would have enjoyed its soothing waters.
On a Monday morning we seemed to be the only ones out walking the grounds. Unfortunately we had a five hour drive in front of us so we didn’t have much time to linger. But we did walk along the river – and could easily imagine how beautiful it would be when the snow was gone and you could go swimming and boating.
When it comes to the outdoors in winter, Chateau Montebello offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dogsledding and sleigh rides – along with a couple of small ice rinks for skating and shinny.
Rooms in February start at around $249 per night plus tax and the resort fee. All meals are extra.
Is it worth the splurge to stay in a beautiful, historic one of a kind log cabin?
Granted Tourism Outaouais and the Fairmont Chateau Montebello were kind enough to host me (thank you!!) but I’d definitely come back. In fact, if I ever do the Canada Ski Marathon again, I will most definitely stay here for it’s one of the stops for the bus shuttle (which you must take) and I’m finished with dorm style sleeping on floors!
Does the Fairmont Chateau Montebello sound like the sort of hotel you would enjoy?
Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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