Leading on from my rather elaborate review of the Museum of Civilisation in Ottawa, I would imagine that some of you are desperate to wing your way across to Canada to see this cultural gem. You will, of course, need somewhere to stay - which rather cunningly leads me to this review which concerns the Capital Hill & Suites Hotel. (You see what I did there, with the linking and the plugging and the padding of the review...)
Located on Albert Street, right in the centre of the Downtown Area, this hotel could hardly be more well placed. A five minute walk will take you to the stunning National Parliament Buildings, the Currency Museum, the rather spiffy and interactive Tourist Information building, a host of food courts placed inside the atria (atriums, atria, atriae? I did 7 years of Latin and still I'm unsure) office blocks, the open air Sparks Street Mall and the impressive Chateau Laurier. Five more minutes will take you across the Rideau Canal and into the Bytown area, awash with markets, cafes and diners. Ottawa has far more to offer than watching Politicians.
Well served by buses - the downtown loop drops off on the streets in front of and behind the Hotel, and serves all points across the river to Hull (Museum of Civilisation), as well as across into Bytown and further along towards the Train Station and the Airport - the Hotel is within easy reach of all points of interest in and out of the city, that include the National Art Gallery, The War Museum and the various stadia used by the Capital's sporting teams.
The entrance, whilst not exactly grand, does at least contain a large lobby, handy considering the number of convention guests that appeared at the same time as us. The staff were consummately professional despite the chattering questions of dozens of guests in several languages and a variety of volumes.
We took one of the two lifts (slow service when it's busy!) up to our floor, somewhere in the sky, but were forced to call for assistance when the water in the bathroom was found not to work. An impressively short span of time later, and our maintenance chap decided it would be best if we changed rooms because it would take a few spare parts and a lot of cursing to fix the problem (Union minimum requirements as I understand). Our new room was larger and had a better view of downtown Ottawa, so I was rather pleased with the outcome.
Along with the standard Canadian Hotel paraphernalia - large TV with oodles of cable channels, giant comfy bed with a plethora of pillows, air con unit under the window, coffee machine with sachets of ground beans (no kettle!), powerful shower, hairdryer with a cord so short that you can either dry your hair or look in the mirror (not both!) and so on - we were pleased to find a stack, and I mean a stack, of brochures and magazines detailing tourist delights of the city. A large book of discount offers was hidden amongst it, as well as a very glossy magazine which listed some of the swankier joints in town to lighten your wallet in pursuit of gastronomic satisfaction. This pile of reading also helped to pass the inevitable waiting periods whilst my better half got herself ready to go out again.
The Hotel itself sits atop a Comedy Bar, the name of which eludes me as I didn't visit it, and a very busy restaurant, judging from the flow of visitors to its stairwell that evening. As for the extras - the standard Ice Machine was found lurking behind a half wall, around the far corner on a middle floor. Always handy for cooling your drinks, especially when the weather was as warm and muggy as it was in May this year over in Ontario (about 25C).
For the price we paid, roughly £50 a night room only, and considering both the location of the Hotel and the quality of the rooms, I was very pleased with my stay here - experiencing as I did, both rest and convenience of facilities. The service was excellent, specifically the quibble free change of rooms, and I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again if ever I were to return to Canada's Capital.
This year we stayed at the Chateau Laurier Hotel for the first time. We had booked some 18 months earlier through a website based in the UK and managed to secure a room this far in advance for the brilliant rate of $129 for a standard Fairmont Room. The Chateau Laurier from the outside is typical of the early 1900's Chateau style of Canadian Pacific/National Hotels with copper turreted roof. It is situated right next to the Rideau Canal locks just across from Parliament Hill. Its location is brilliant, and Ottawa being fairly compact anyway, most attractions are a short walk away. When we were there the copper roof was being repaired and this temporarily spoils the aesthetic image of the hotel, but it is still a striking building architecturally and one that fits in seamlessly with its neighbours the Parliament Buildings. Once inside the Hotel, the lobby is large and ornate, with dark wood panelling, marble floor and a central ornamental fountain. The hotel differs from the style of other similar hotels like the Royal York or Hotel Vancouver, as the atmosphere inside is much cosier and dark. It also has various vestibules connected by wide marble floored corridors off from the lobby, instead of one huge expansive lobby. This also adds to it's intriguing style. The day before our departure from the UK, we received a Suite Upgrade Certificate, as my husband is a member of the Fairmont President's Club. Determined not to miss out, I thought it would be worthwhile e-mailing the Chateau Laurier to see if we could use one during our stay. Much to my surprise they said yes! When we checked in, our room request had been processed and we must have been given our key in record time. We went to find our room, which was on a high floor of the hotel. The corridors leading to the guest rooms do appear slightly dated, but it is hard not to dismiss this slight criticism as being part of the hotel's charm. A lot of ori
ginal features abound, including the rather old elevators, which nevertheless are very efficient. Our room was described as a Junior Suite, and consisted of a wide central lobby with bathroom off, and large walk in wardrobe. Inside the main room which had plain cream walls with a few small traditional framed prints was a sitting area with sofa and two armchairs in various patterned upholstery. The carpet was a light blue - probably not the most practical colour for a room of this size and one that had suffered from some kind of spillage just in front of the window. At the sitting area end of the room was a large mahogany TV/hospitality unit and at the far end was a desk area and the entrance to the bedroom, with another TV unit just outside that you could see from the bed. This main suite area which must have been more than 20ft long, and had two windows, which looked out towards the Canal but mostly offered a view of the opposite wing of the hotel. The bedroom was separated from the living area with French doors, and had a small closet, large bed with floral cover, regency striped valance and ottoman and mahogany round bedside tables. In the room original features were also apparent including the monogrammed door handles. The room was far in excess of what you would expect from a Junior Suite. We worked out that it exceeded the area of our home in the UK!! The room contained all the usual Fairmont amenities, such as coffee maker, hairdryer, minibar, two telephones etc, but similar to many of their hotels suffered from poor lighting. One petty gripe as well was that you could not actually see the TV from the sofa! The only full length mirror was on the back of the bathroom door, and as always the room would benefit from some kind of dressing table with mirror, or at the very least a full length mirror in the bedroom. The bathroom was very traditional in style, with good lighting. The service at the Chateau Laurier was very good, in particular t
he very speedy check in. Our room was serviced before our return each day but the evening turndown service was very early, meaning we were always getting ready to go out, and had to arrange for it to be done later. The Hotel has two main restaurants, Zoe's Lounge and Wilfrids. We ate on one evening in Zoe's Lounge which has a comprehensive drinks service including some very good cocktails (I recommend the Kir Royale!) and a meal service consisting of sandwiches, burgers, light meals etc. We found the food extremely good, and very reasonably priced. The service on the whole was good, but I was rather annoyed on our first visit to have an over-enthusiastic barman who insisted on taking away only half drunk drinks!! We stayed at the hotel Friday to Monday and were perhaps stupidly surprised at how quiet is was. In Zoe's Lounge we were two of very few guests and it occurred to us why we had managed to get a Junior Suite Upgrade at such short notice. I guess the fact that the Hotel is busy during the working week, means that it is possible to get a really good deal at the weekend, but I couldn't help thinking the hotel lacked some of its character when it was so quiet.