We are sitting at about 9 and a half days since setting off on our honeymoon. Currently close to a week in Canada. Starting in Vancouver, we are now between Niagara Falls and Ottawa. We woke up in Sudbury, drove to Niagara Falls, had lunch and a look around. Now continuing on so we can sleep tonight.
The drive to Ottawa is draining, long, unmemorable. I am sure it is actually a nice drive but we were full, tired and it had already been a really long day with hours left before we could rest.
I book the hotel, we have been debating the hotel in Quebec so I had not yet booked the remaining hotels but on the drive from Niagara Falls, I decide it is time to book the hotels. Andaz Ottawa it is. We are Hyatt members and Andaz is a brand we have yet to stay in so we are excited to give it a try. I book online (though an agent log in, but essentially a retail rate – it was on sale being last minute), and add a little note in the booking that we are on our honeymoon.
The Fairmont Le Chateaux Frontenac is also booked, I add the note about our honeymoon into this also and after I have booked and paid I confirm that it was ok to have booked that as it was the super expensive room. I had decided it was our honeymoon so we were going to have no regrets and stay but it was out of courtesy to TW that I decided to ask if he was happy with spending that much. He rumbled and grumbled and said well we have no choice really, if only it was cheaper. I said great, it was already paid for and no refunds.
We were now sorted for the rest of the trip – Hyatt in Montreal had been booked with points, Andaz in Ottawa and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac had just been booked. Our final hotels back in Hawaii, Hotel Wailea in Maui and The Waikiki Parc had been booked before we left Sydney so all we had to do now was sit back, relax and survive the rest of the drive. Did I mention it was difficult? The road was fine, We had the same traffic away from Niagara Falls due to roadworks as we had getting there and we really just wanted to curl up and enjoy our food comas.
It was pretty easy to get to our hotel and they had valet parking for us. The parking was beside the hotel and not at the front door, it was a little unusual but easy and well signed.
On arrival, we are valeted, portered and checked in all with ease. While we wait for the room keys to be cut we look around and feel both at ease and out of place. This hotel is far cooler than we could dream to be. Not the way a tired and disheveled driver feels out of place when everyone else is dressed up for a function but out of place in the way that we would never be as cool, hip or chic as the hotel implies its guests will be. Even so, we felt very welcome and at home.
Our keys are ready, we have been told about the rooftop bar that will close soon (as we are arriving so late) and we make our way to the room. We have a cute entranceway, a very cool bathroom, and walk-in wardrobe before we get to the bedroom part of the room. Huge windows, a very comfortable bed, an on-trend couch and a mini wet bar area greet us. It takes a while to see it all and slowly we realise we have a special welcome waiting for us.
On the table waiting for us sit a lovely letter, cake, and bottle of wine. We discuss eating the cake, as we are kind of hungry. Hungry for dinner, not just food. I saw a poutine place just down the street on the drive in so I suggest we walk back to it. We go up to the bar and there is a 21st birthday celebration happening and the bar is only going to be open for another 10 or so minutes.
I don’t drink and TW doesn’t feel like one so we head out for poutine, it is our current best offer. It was open when we drove past and I hope with all my might that it didn’t close on the half-hour that has just passed. You always have to hope a store closes on the hour, we have just over 10 minutes for the hour to end and I can’t remember how far it was but I am sure it is just a few minutes walk.
Slow walking, tiredness, call it what you will. The block and a half seemed like a 5-hour marathon. Three steps in I think we should get the car and drive because we will never make it. I can’t remember the name though I know it is something memorable. We pass a speakeasy looking place and I question if that is what I saw. I am sure I read the word poutine specifically and then, then we stumble on it.
The 3-minute 45-second walk from the bar to the restaurant was, finally over and, worth it. We had arrived! Smoke’s Poutinerie, how could I forget that name. I read it and remember that I had instantly thought of brisket and Texas when I read it. Andaz and Smoke’s are both on Dalhousie Street and it was only 250 meters away.
There was time but not a huge amount of time before it closed. There were 15 or so people ordering and a lot of the ingredients for their special poutines had been sold out so the options were limited. We take in the menu and every time we decide on an order a person in front of us tries to order it and is told something is not available.
Plain, traditional poutine is probably the best. No one needs to try and improve it and we discuss just ordering the original. Why mess with perfection right? Perfection is available readily (in Costco) across Canada so I convince TW we should try one of the specials as it has not been as easy to get these fusion offerings as it has been for the traditional.
The menu is electronic and we didn’t realise it was changing at first. We were looking at different options and arguing with each other because we didn’t see the option the other person was seeing. Confused but the food coma that appeared to be hanging over our heads. We worked out what we were doing wrong and decided on … one poutine between us.
Eventually, we settle on Philly cheesesteak, jerk chicken, and chicken inferno had been contenders. Korean beef was one we heard was out and there were random ingredients that were sold out – like mushrooms. I don’t really like mushrooms and it was included in the Philly cheesesteak so I am happy to hear it is sold out. Our server expects us to order something different instead but we assure her we are happy with the order and without the mushrooms.
Remember I mentioned it was busy? In the time it took us to decide what we were ordering, only the people who had ordered before we arrived have received their orders. We spent more than 10 minutes deciding. It was difficult, so many good options, most sold out. A tired brain processes everything slowly. We were slow. Now we are starving, having just ordered we don’t want to add to our order. The process of working out what the second poutine would be was bound to take another 10 minutes, maybe more so we agreed just to wait for our order and if we are still hungry after we will order another.
We wait, we watch. Food envy starts to creep across our minds. Almost as soon as we ordered we forgot which option we chose and as the orders start rolling out everyone’s meal looks so good, smells fantastic and we just want to be eating. Even now, if I ask TW what we ordered he will say a chicken one. Our initial choice was jerk chicken or inferno chicken but both were sold out and in our mind, it is what we ordered, in reality, what we ate was Philly Cheesesteak.
A second poutine might have been appreciated because this one was so good, it was enough food. We didn’t need more but we were going to be here such a short time it might have been nice to try another flavour. Technically they didn’t have too many flavours available so we didn’t really miss out. It is a chain, we didn’t know that at the time. Everything is a chain and we never know. The meal was exactly what we were hoping for so we make the arduous trek back to our room, although now we realise how close it actually was. Poutine has given our brains some functioning power and clarity. We are tucked into bed in no time.
With the arrival of morning, we can see our full view. I think there is a lot of green space and the city reminds me a lot of Canberra. We really love our room and stay. It is short. Nothing spectacular happened to make us feel that way. The bed is comfortable, bathroom pretty, staff helpful and friendly, atmosphere beyond our own cool factor but we felt at home for a night. We don’t often get the sensation of feeling at home when away but anywhere that gives us that feeling is a place we are likely to return to. Andaz Ottawa, we will be back (hopefully).
To make the most of this very pretty city we decide to walk towards the park we can see from our window. The route is through Byward Market and we intend to then continue on to get breakfast at some super special pancake house TW found online. He is craving them and this is meant to be the best place in the city.
Our morning started after 10 am, turns out we overslept. By the time we get to breakfast, it will be lunch so we make sure breakfast is offered all day, or at least until afternoon. It is, fantastic. Our bags are packed and stored. Sadly, we check out before we leave for our walk.
The 150th birthday display was in the Byward Market area, just out the front of the hotel. We pass it on our way to the park and from the park we walk to the water. I hear this weird noise. I hear a man call out something. It is all foreign to me. I am not expecting to hear any of these sounds so my brain can’t process it. I ask TW if he is hearing any of it but he hasn’t heard anything. There it is, again. Confused but certain that I am not imagining this I walk over to where I think it is coming from. To my surprise, below me, is a series of lochs and boats are coming and going.
OMG, I am more excited than a kid in a candy store. As we walk around to get a closer look (passing the Fairmont, impressive building) there is a family with a son, about 6 years old. It is also his first time seeing a loch in operation. He is asking a lot of questions and I am squealing with glee. I felt a little foolish but too excited to care. An adult can be excited by simple things. It was unexpected and they are cool so I stand by my excitement.
I don’t know, TW said he knew that Ottawa had lochs but I don’t know if I believe him. He was just trying to keep his cool and play it down I think. So cool.
I mean seriously how cool can this city get. Our hotel was too hip for us but this is certainly a livable city.
I will admit, it took me a lot longer than the 6-year-old to understand how it was working. At first I was too excited to watch the changing water levels, eventually, I focussed on the mechanics of it all. It really isn’t that complex but when something like this isn’t already invented it must be a completely abstract and totally ingenious concept. It works, it is very manual, it all happens faster than I would think while appearing to be slow. TW was happy to move on but we spent a long time, I watched boats go out and come in. I just had to see how it worked in reverse.
As soon as we leave the amazing sorcery that is lochs, we head for breakfast. TW’s pancake house. I have eggs benedict, he has pancakes. Pancakes with everything. His cravings have been met. Both were pretty decent meals. A lot of food, enjoyable, fast service. Of course, it was a chain. This time we knew before we went but it met our Eggspectation so it was worth it. The puns I had to endure during breakfast were not.
On the way back to the hotel after breakfast, we stop by the parliament buildings. Impressive. Cute and I see a lot of faces in the buildings.
I am distracted. TW learns some stuff and I take photos of the building faces. I wonder if the design was intentional, are these inbuilt gargoyles? Can it be coincidence? Surely someone recognised on the design that these looked like faces. Some happy enough.
Others like the scream painting.
I give each face a background story. How they came to be trapped the way they are. What led to those pained expressions and why they were forever that way. Fun times in Ottawa.
That is our time in Ottawa over. We head back to the hotel, now it is about midday, pick up our luggage, get the car and drive on to Quebec City.
We are going to French Canada today. We accidentally cross into it on our way out of Ottawa before we realise we took a wrong turn, that doesn’t count.
This drive has an incredibly bad storm. We divert off the highway on suggestion of the GPS and spend 2 hours trying to get back on to it. The traffic wasn’t bad enough to warrant a diversion and the diversion managed to get us about 5 miles in those two hours. Many arguments occurred during this time. Such a waste of time. Should we continue to follow the GPS and her absurd advice or get back on to the highway as directly as possible? Finally, finally, we get back on to the highway.
Just as we make it back, we need petrol and take the next exit. For the first time in our trip, we are at a Tim Hortons where everyone else in the state is not. It just so happens we are in French Canada now and the menu, staff and most customers are French speakers. TW orders what he wants and because of our GPS arguments tells me I have to order my own. So I don’t order anything. Our first Tim Hortons and I don’t get to try a doughnut.
Petrol is part of the same service stop but the exit implies you can only go one way. We go that way. GPS says to keep going that way, through all the back streets. After two hours of arguing about that, I suggest we just do a u-turn and get back on to the highway the way we got off it.
The road is narrow. TW drives past every driveway and turn off that he can, claiming that he didn’t have enough notice to use those as an appropriate place to turn around. Another hour of this and we manage to go through another storm, small local flooding. For a moment, I think we have actually entered the highway before the exit we took rather than after it. I am still not convinced we didn’t but sometimes you just have to let it go. This is our honeymoon after all.
The drive isn’t memorable as far as scenery goes. It might be better in the fall. It would definitely be better without an argument and a GPS insistent on stirring the pot, taking sides and pitting us against each other. Divide and conquer I guess. She gets a little too flirty so I make TW change her to an annoying man. Once that is done he is happy to stop listening to the advice of Mr. GPS.
Quebec City. Wow, this looks like it is something straight from Disneyworld’s Epcot and maybe it was modelled on this. TW has been to Epcot so he feels the town is fake, staged and a bit of a rip off of Disney. I remind him that Disney has generally taken its ideas from the real world so this could be their inspiration. Instantly not a huge fan, not a great way to start any city stay.
The streets in old town are filled with tourists. Scoffing at how quickly we will also become one of those people, fully aware that we will be, we look for our hotel parking lot entrance. Missed it, have to do a loop. The one-way streets and tiny alleys make it slow but we get the right entrance on the second try.
Our room cost over $1000 for the night. More than we would ever dream of spending. The hotel was almost sold out, it is peak season and we booked yesterday. With a sky-high price, we expect something fancy and exciting for the money.
Château Frontenac is hive of activity. Castle-like and grand, there are a lot of people who want to stay here and be here and been seen here. The lobby is busy with people standing about and generally getting in the way of someone who actually wants to achieve something by being in the lobby.
Wading through the hoards of families, friends, random strangers all huddling in spots that make a never-ending, impenetrable wall of annoying people, we get to reception. Excitedly check-in and happily head to our room. Our ever so disappointing, hugely overpriced, teeny tiny room.
Expectations often set your experience in a hotel. In this case, it was price as well as raving reviews of the hotel. We would have much preferred any of the hotels we could see from our window, which were $200 for the night, and look back at this than to stay here.
Had we known the hotel had rooms like this available for such an outrageous price we would not have stayed. Service wasn’t great, staff weren’t super helpful. There was nothing about the hotel, other than name, that stood out about the property for it to command such a high price. It was a huge disappointment to have spent so much money on one night and not received anything of value in return.
Our room at $200 a night is a fair price and I am sure for most of the year the asking price is somewhere close to that. Unfortunately for us we booked last minute and had been recommended by many people (travel agent peers of mine included) who said it was amazing, iconic, worth every penny.
Worth pennies totalling $200 for sure, a suite or grand room for $1000 sure. We appeared to have the worst room at the highest price and staff with an unhelpful attitude to boot. Every other hotel, apart from Thunder Bay and Banff, on this trip had been a better experience. We may be a little harsh, the disappointment was huge. We did make note of it. No one was too bothered. The hotel was very busy but that is no excuse to let the service decline.
There is a note in our room and gift. It is always extremely nice to receive a gift from a hotel. We had macarons, no wine. One hotel shouldn’t be compared to another but when this hotel was 5 times the price of the Andaz and they gave us cake and wine, we did feel as though Quebec was having a laugh.
The increase in price is just an increase in profit and with that profit, they spared us very little for a gift – though they had made the effort and they don’t have to. It still felt like a slap in the face. 2 macarons. One each. And two mini cupcakes. Thank you for your $1000. Enjoy your honeymoon in this $200 room with a macaron each.
Again, hotels don’t need to give you a gift. They read the booking notes and acknowledged it, in a full hotel that is impressive and considerate. We don’t speak French, as mentioned earlier so the staff may have been helpful and we just couldn’t communicate properly but for a grand a night, you expect something grand. It would have been nicer to look at the stunning building than to look out of it.
No regrets though, we didn’t want any regrets on our honeymoon. If we booked a few days earlier we would have saved many hundreds of dollars for the same room. It is our own fault. This is my travel diary though and that is what happened and how we felt.
Our scoffing selves were right. It was not long before we became those annoying tourists clogging up the streets. The plan is to walk down the hill and into an old town area that is away from this hubbub of tourists and getting dinner. We succeed in walking away.
I look up a place to eat and we try to walk to it. Getting lost allowed us to explore backstreets and we weren’t in any hurry. By the time we found the restaurant, it was 8 pm and we are told that there is no availability until 9:30 or 10:30. Something that sounded extraordinarily late. We declined and walked back towards our hotel.
Deciding where to eat, when everything looks good, is such a challenge. We spend over an hour looking. Yes. No. Are we going in? Oh, I thought you wanted to eat here. I don’t mind. Happy to eat here, are you? It takes forever. By the time we pick a place, I see the time is 10 minutes to the time we could have reserved the actual good restaurant for. Too late now. We are seated and we didn’t book that spot, no doubt it is full now.
We eat, what must be the most hammed up and “fake” Canadian/French Canadian/Quebec City meal. It is decent. Very expensive and oh so cheesy but fun. We had fun. Awkward fun. We got to laugh at other people also having awkward moments with the owner/manager who interacts with every guest. It is a nice touch. An awkward touch. Cheesy and only possibly endearing but it is definitely his personal touch. If you are his type, that could be an awkward touch, with a wink.
We have a starter and main but decline dessert. Our main, we take as the special. It sounds like it will be a feast.
The meal is brought out and cooking is finished off at your table and the carving happens in front of you.
When it is plated up you realise there isn’t much to it at all. A small piece of carrot each. That is all we got. For a $100 meal, there isn’t a whole lot on the plate. It certainly isn’t a feast but there is one of everything, for two people, so I guess it is a ‘meal for two’.
We get charged an additional amount for a set menu, which we didn’t order, rather than just the dish we did order. The set menu comes with soup and dessert along with a glass of wine. We had the roast for two and escargot. Not in the mood for debate we pay and leave. We don’t speak French, it is too hard to get into a battle over what we did and did not order and we have already decided that Quebec is a city that just wants to gouge you, a tourist, for every last penny.
It looks like it might be 4 or 5 pm but it is closer to midnight then evening. Tomorrow, all we have to do is get to Montreal before our flight which is in two mornings time. No rush. We have finally made it to the end of the line. Now, all we have to do is decide if we are spending the bulk of our day here in costly Quebec city or chancing it and leaving earlier to see more of Montreal.
Honeymoon day ten was 30 – 31 July 2017
Originally published 11 April 2018
Updated 10 November 2019