Those of you who travel with me online know that I’m crazy about dogs. I love all dogs and would love to have one myself, but instead of leaving one at home all the time, I try to adopt whichever dog I find on the road. What I’ve discovered is that every destination has dogs and most of them are very friendly.
Quebec is no exception. Not only did my hotel (the iconic Chateau Frontenac) have their own dog, but Santol is their official representative. I was lucky enough to be able to take him on a walk around the hotel and the old city of Quebec. Having a guide dog guide me through his own home was a special introduction to such a renowned destination.
Santol is a Swiss Bernese Mountain Dog, or (Bouvier Bernois) and was once a guide dog for blind children and so he was the perfect traveling mate for the day–patient, loving, and curious. His trained doggy nose sniffed out the live poultry upstairs and led our walk to the roof, where I first met Chef Jean Soulard. Not only does the chef produce all of the hotel’s own honey (with 4 rooftop beehives), but he also keeps Chantecler chickens. a rare Quebec breed. He says he does it more for the tradition than for practical reasons–his chickens produce only a handful of the 1,500 eggs he uses per day in the kitchens of the chateau.
I must confess that staying at the Chateau Frontenac was a long-awaited travel dream of mine. I saw the hotel once before and began dreaming of it as this inaccessible fairy castle. The reality of checking in was a personal thrill for me–just stepping into the gold-adorned lobby makes you feel like you’re entering a special space. From my room on the 15th floor I could look down and see the copper turrets and rooftops of the chateau and enjoy a stratospheric view of Quebec’s capital.
I have a soft spot for hotels that are destinations unto themselves. The Chateau Frontenac is just that, as well as the emblem of the city of Quebec. First built in 1893, the hotel has expanded over the years–now with 618 rooms and welcoming more than 300,000 guests per year. That the French tradition of the mighty chateau lives on in the hospitality industry is fun and staying in these rooms and walking these halls did give me the feeling of royalty living in centuries past.
The Chateau Frontenac was designed by architect Bruce Price, who also lived and worked in my hometown of Washington, DC and who designed many of the buildings in my neighborhood. I enjoyed seeing such a gargantuan piece of his work so intimately and comparing the architectural familiarities to the homes and embassies back where I live.
Santol was less interested in architecture. He wanted treats and I easily crumbled to his demands and fed him a doggy cookie. Our walk began in Le Parc des Gouverneurs, a somewhat-overlooked and very peaceful green square behind the Chateau Frontenac, surrounded by stately beaux art residences, as well as the beautiful American Consulate. We then walked along Quebec City’s high promenade but were stopped constantly by admiring strangers who wanted to pet the dog. I quickly discovered that Santol is too famous, and so like so many famous people, he retreated back to his hotel, where we escaped to the roof for a moment of quiet and to chase chickens.
- Nat Geo Expeditions