Friday 2 May 2014

Prince of Wales Hotel

I love hotels.

I love the entire process of checking into a hotel room: walking into the lobby; checking in at the front desk; being handed keys to my room; walking down the corridor looking for the room number. It's like I'm five years old and on an Easter egg hunt! And finally, opening the door to my home away from home for whatever number of nights.

Once inside the room, the first thing I do is dash to the window to check out the view. Often, I confess, this is disappointing--the view of a concrete parking lot packed with multi-coloured vehicles or in the distance, a blue streak of water can be seen, if I lean dangerously over the balcony and peer around the corner. But who cares. I love hotels.

So when I was tasked with organizing what may now become a yearly reunion of cousins in Ontario's wine country, I chose the Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake for our over-night stay, because not only do I love hotels, I adore old, classy, elegant, filled-with-character hotels. The Prince of Wales fits the bill perfectly. It's one of Ontario’s finest hotels and one of the world’s finest  heritage hotels. Prince of Wales offers charm, elegance, and romance in a uniquely intimate setting.

Built in 1864, Prince of Wales is in the heart of historic Niagara-on-the-Lake. Known by several different names throughout its history--Long’s Hotel, The Arcade Hotel, and The Niagara House, it was finally named Prince of Wales in honour of a royal visit in 1901, where the future George V and Queen Mary were guests.


This is old world charm filled with antiques, old photos of dignitaries and royalty line its walls. Each of the 110 rooms is furnished in the authentic style of the Victorian age; some have fireplaces (ours did). There are bathrobes to keep you warm and toasty after a luxurious bath. Fruit bowls and water bottles await you.

Our group of twelve rowdy and excitable women met in the hotel's Churchill Lounge, which feels like an old, but upscale English pub (is there even such a thing?), with a wide range of  foods to choose from. Here you can get haddock fish and chips, but also merguez lamb sausage and root vegetable cassoulet. We just wanted wine, which our server brought over promptly and which got the party started, the debauchery and the merry-making well underway. Some of us hadn't seen each other in months. The noise level got a little high. We were asked politely, but firmly to take it down a notch, which although difficult to do, we managed not to get into further trouble.

The evening found us at Escab├Ęche, the hotel’s flagship restaurant with its dynamic seasonal menu which included among other options, Foi Gras, Malpeque Bay PEI oysters, Braised Ontario Lamb Shanks and Pan Seared Diver Scallops. For dessert, a chocolate cake to die for was on offering and so was a rich, decadent creme caramel. A cheese platter can also be had.

An authentic English afternoon tea is served in The Drawing Room, which unfortunately we did not have time for. We also did not have time for the cal├Ęche right outside the door which takes guests on a romantic carriage ride through the old town.

Prince of Wales also has one of the top spas in the country. The Secret Garden Spa is an oasis of serenity with the natural influences of earth, fire and water where guests can be pampered with tea-infused treatments, aesthetics, healing reflexology, and the ancient art of aromatherapy. It offers a saltwater swimming pool, manicure and pedicure salon and 4 treatment rooms. Again, sadly, we did not have time to indulge.

When we were checking out, a slight hick-up with our bill emerged. “No problem,” said the agent behind the counter. She fixed the problem promptly and efficiently. Empowering front-line staff to resolve minor issues is one of the greatest gifts establishments can give to their guests. Thank you Prince of Wales.

The entire property is non-smoking, something we all appreciated. All in all, a great time was had at a wonderful old, rustic, charming, elegant hotel, with great service.

Just one complaint:  we needed to stay longer. Next time.


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