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By Jane Cassie
(For Travel Writers' Tales)

Have you ever wondered what royal living would be like -pedigree service, posh pampering, chef-prepared meals? While staying at the Fairmont Château Laurier during this weekend escape to Ottawa, we get a real regal taste.

[1. Fairmont Chateau Laurier]

Slabs of limestone and Gothic turrets embellish this castle-like cornerstone that's been well-rooted in Canada's capital for nearly a century. This architectural wonder was the brainchild of Charles Melville Hays, who unfortunately perished on the doomed Titanic before getting to cut the inaugural ribbon. All celebrations were postponed for two months and on June 1, 1912, this grand dame began graciously greeting her guests. Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's seventh Prime Minister still holds a prominent position here. Immortalized in marble, his sculpted bust sits front and centre in the spacious foyer.

[2. Enjoying a royal stay]

We enter this convivial meeting spot where cushy couches are embraced by swanky décor. Impressive pillars and ornate archways fall beneath a glitzy embossed ceiling. Within these confines it's not unusual to spot well-known MP's, cabinet ministers and prestigious senators as they chin-wag or text on their Blackberries. After all, this is Ottawa, and our parliamentary nexus is just a walk away.

As well as government gurus, Château Laurier has been the chosen retreat to a star studded line-up. In the adjacent Heritage Hall, cronies like Jack Benny and Billy Bishop are framed next to Bryan Adams and Nelson Mandela. A few imperial icons intermingle here as well: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, the late Princess Diana. Many of the black and whites were crafted by Yousuf Karsh, a sought-after photographer who took up residency here for eighteen years! It must have been quite the life-living in the hottest hotel on the continent. To this day, The Château hosts almost every name of notoriety who visits our capital -from intellectual highbrows to raging rock stars. As I enter my getaway haven, I wonder what famous footsteps have preceded mine.

[3. Goodies on the Gold Floor]

Although all the guest rooms boast sumptuous delights like marble baths and dreamy feather beds, we bump it up a notch and go for the Gold! Fairmont's fourth floor is dedicated to guests who are looking for added perks and pleasantries. A private lounge that's textured with antiques is decked out with luxury-loving conveniences: a breakfast spread in the morning, late afternoon culinary canapés and an honor bar that hosts everything from fine wine to malt brew. The service is also pedigree-rated and presented with a smile. Within seconds of asking, our concierge, Mallory, produces a list of DVD's for late-night viewing and whips out a map, circling the popular tourist tromps and recommended eateries.

Wilfrid's Restaurant on the main level dishes up regional fine fare topped off with a pretty panorama. La Terrasse, overlooking the Rideau Canal, is the summer place to wine and dine. And Zoe's Lounge, named in honor of Sir Laurier's better half, entices us with afternoon tea.

[4. Afternoon Tea at Zoe's Lounge]

In spite of once being a hoity event, there's no longer a pretentious air. We arrive in our touring duds and feel right at home when dining on dainty sandwiches, pastries and cranberry scones topped with clotted cream. It's a feast that's literally steeped with tradition and one that gets our vote!

[5. Taking in a Little Parliament]

With all this fine royal living, it's easy to see why waist-cinching corsets were once necessary. Thanks to the lower floor's art deco pool and high-tech fitness club, there's no need to worry. And within a brief stroll, there are dozens of ways to burn off those unwanted calories. During this three day visit, we take in the free hour-long Parliamentary tour and get a sneak peek into the operations of our capital.

[7. Browsing ByWard Market]

We browse ByWard Market, one of the oldest and largest open-air venues of its kind, where fruits and veggies spill from stalls and chic boutiques butt up with yummy bistros. We meander through a few of the twenty-nine museums, retracing Canada's thousand years of history, the military time line and the finest collection of our county's visual arts. And even though there's not a drop of royal blood in our veins, when it's time for more pampering, we return to our sweet retreat and feel like a king and queen again.

[6. Canadian Museum of Civilization]


The Fairmont Château Laurier
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Ottawa Tourism
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PHOTOS by Brent Cassie -Suggested photo captions
1. Chateau Ottawa's castle-like cornerstone
2. Enoying a royal stay
3. Goodies on the Gold Floor
4. Afternoon tea at Zoe's Lounge
5. Taking in a little Parliament
6. Canadian Museum of Civilization hugs up to Ottawa River
7. Browsing ByWard Market

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