I have a love for nice hotels.
Having grown up with two very generous parents, I have had the privilege of seeing some of the world’s most beautiful places, and as a result, have been able to stay in some pretty remarkable hotels. I fondly remember one family road trip: the illegally parked car out front as my father ran into a gorgeous Banff hotel, asked to see their best room and specifically, the colour of the bed sheets. Minutes later, a thumbs-up from Dad and we checked in. It might be there that my love affair with hotels began.
Though there are many decent hotels in Winnipeg, none can compare to the Fort Garry Hotel on Broadway. Walking through the golden revolving door, you are instantly transported to a place of classic luxury — the type of place that is relatively hard to find in our relatively new city. Built in 1913, the historic chateau-inspired hotel is a beacon of architectural mastery. From the grand ballroom, where I have attended many a big, Italian wedding to the simplicity of the exquisite windows, this "castle" was built and designed for royalty — literally. Queen Elizabeth stayed there in the 1930s. The Fort Garry is our nation’s answer to New York City’s Plaza Hotel, and trust me, when you first check in at the front desk, you too will feel like Kevin McCallister with your dad’s credit card and a Talkboy.
My attraction to this hotel runs deep, but there are two main features I admire most: the spa and the lounge.
Being pampered at Ten Spa is truly a Turkish delight. This spa is unlike any in town. Getting off the elevator on the tenth floor (coincidence?), you are led to a relaxation room that you will never want to leave. No joke. I have strategized what time to arrive before my appointment, knowing I will have the opportunity to enjoy both mid-morning and mid-afternoon refreshments, which are laid out buffet-style so no one can judge you on how much you eat. Those flax seed cookies... cue the mouth watering.
The Palm Lounge has been reigning host of my birthday parties for the past three years. The staff graciously puts together a giant table in the middle of the room for me and the loud group of theatre freaks I lovingly call my friends. Luciano, the tallest Italian man I have ever seen, seems to always take care of us with a smile. The elegance of that room can truly make anyone feel like a celebrity. I am fairly certain those iconic paintings of Marilyn, James and Elvis were done right there — that is how cool The Palm makes you feel.
My birthday is in mid-August and there is no other place I would rather celebrate than at the Fort Garry.
The ambiance that comes with history is something not many hotels, let alone buildings, can offer much anymore. I find that very exciting. Knowing the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier and Louis Armstrong were once guests there is truly incomparable and deserves a certain level of respect from not only our city, but also the country. I will always be an admirer, and this is my love letter. Here’s to the next 99 years, cheers to the Fort Garry Hotel.
Connie Manfredi is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg Department of Theatre and Film. She is a founding member of the new local theatre company, District Theatre Collective, whose latest project, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, will be presented at the Fringe Festival this summer. She cordially invites you to the Palm Lounge this August to celebrate her 24th birthday and will graciously accept glasses of champagne that you will pay for.