Québec’s hotel scene has a whole lot of history, including some gems that have been in operation for over 100 years. It’s inspiring, considering all the changes our old capital has undergone since its foundation, and also rather rare to see well-established hotels continue to grow and thrive over the decades.
Hôtel Château Bellevue’s most popular neighbor, the famous Château Frontenac, recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. A host of events highlighting this enviable achievement wrapped up on December 18, 2018, the date of the anniversary. Far from harbouring any jealousy over its longevity, I was more interested in what Hôtel Château Bellevue would be like when it turned 125, and my imagination began to wander. You have to agree that the views from Hôtel Château Bellevue’s rooms inspire the imagination…
Why not start from where we are right now after 33 years of hotel hospitality (my family acquired the premises in 1986), and look back on what was accomplished long before I began running the hotel? Our street, Rue de la Porte, has a rich family history that predates the hotel establishment you’re familiar with today. From the outside, you can see there were once four different adjacent houses. Today, these houses form a whole: our Hôtel Château Bellevue. Before my family bought the premises in 1986, here’s what was behind each of these addresses:
10, rue de la Porte : Manoir Laurentien
12, rue de la Porte : Castel du Parc
14, rue de la Porte : Manoir Laporte
16, rue de la Porte : Château Normandie, and later on Manoir Bellevue
While we know a little bit about what was behind these doors, I’m curious to know more about these small hotels that seem to have vanished from our collective memory. Could one of my readers or guests have already stayed at one or the other before we created the Hôtel Château Bellevue that we know today?
I like to know where we come from to gain a better understanding of where we’re going. Did you know that until 1997, our street was called Rue Laporte? It wasn’t in honour of someone named Laporte, but rather in reference to a door in a fortification that no longer exists. That’s why, a little over 20 years ago, the name was changed to Rue de la Porte, which literally means “the Door Street.” The houses that dominate the Jardin des Gouverneurs, formerly doors 10 to 16, form part of the rental houses that were built at the request of the widow of Simon Peters (http://www.patrimoine-culturel.gouv.qc.ca/rpcq/detail.do?methode=consulter&id=7868&type=pge#.XL94TulYaCo) at the beginning of the 20th century. Those houses have served as accommodation for tourists and travellers every since they were first built, which I find very interesting. And if the name Simon Peters doesn’t ring a bell, then maybe if I mention that he was the architect behind the gorgeous Domaine Cataraqui you may want to know a little more about him. Anyway, I digress…
The accomplishments of the previous generations of Girard have inspired me to continue growing the hotel in keeping with the family tradition, but also with an eye to current industry practices. Ever since we opened, we’ve been very conscious of the privilege and good fortune of being located in what is the heart of Old Québec. It seems only natural that in moving forward, we will continue to focus on our stellar location, the peacefulness of the area, and the warm welcome we offer all our guests.
Today, it’s an honour to continue my father’s work and uphold the company’s family values, but with a contemporary focus on quality. Looking at the latest trends in the hotel industry, I was delighted to see we are in line with many other hotels that focus on the trends frequently mentioned. I wrote about my concern for the environment and the practical steps taken to do our bit for sustainable development in a recent article. Also, I like to remind people that our guests enjoy their comfortable rooms at Hôtel Château Bellevue, but they come for the overall travel experience.
“Experience” culture must never be abandoned in favor of technology designed to increase the speed and efficiency of an accommodation service. Obviously these values and approaches were passed on to me by my father and grandfather, so they mean a lot to me. Like our 125-year-old neighbor, Hôtel Château Bellevue’s heritage isn’t just about the architecture and the decor—it’s about the warm welcome and personalized service of our dedicated staff. Don’t expect to be greeted by a robot butler at Hôtel Château Bellevue anytime soon. Technology may be evolving quickly, but our human values and personal touch will always come first.
Looking further ahead, I can already see a new generation mindful of maintaining the character and family spirit of our hotel. With technology omnipresent in the decades ahead, we can and must do our utmost to bring a more human touch to our services, coupled with an unwavering desire to always do better. Future travellers may experience less personal warmth and hospitality on their journeys, even in a destination as friendly as Québec City. At Hôtel Château Bellevue, I like to think that we’ll always be a welcoming and comforting place to stay.
Lastly, I would be proud to see our well-earned, but once secretly-guarded, reputation for classic Québec hospitality continue. I want to see the same glint of pride in the eyes of our staff—whether they’re a member of the Girard family or an employee looking to move into management—that comes from knowing they’ve helped grow the hotel over the years, without ever forgetting the warm hospitality that sets us apart.
As Hôtel Château Bellevue moves towards its own 125th anniversary, I encourage you to go in and visit the Château Frontenac this year (if you haven’t already). I’m sure you know it well from the outside, but take the time to admire the splendor behind its doors. With a guided tour, you’ll get a true insider’s view of our city’s legendary hospitality.