Fit for a queen

Published 10:18 pm Friday, June 28, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

I have been fortunate to have travelled some in my life.  The first really big foray into the unknown, without my parents, occurred when in my mid-teens. The journey entailed hop-skipping across the country, from home to far western Canada. After a relatively uneventful car ride to the airport, the itinerary included layovers in Chicago, Denver and Calgary before arriving in Vancouver in the early evening, Pacific time.

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Chicago proved to be a fascination, having never experienced big city airports. Denver became somewhat less enthralling. Multiple mechanical issues necessitated sitting on the airplane and waiting, getting off the airplane, and sitting and waiting, getting on another airplane and sitting and waiting and taxiing, and waiting.

Being the relatively inquisitive sort, arrival in Calgary was much anticipated, as I was informed we were passing through in the midst of Stampede season. Surely, I would get a good look at some real Canadian cowboys. I was to get a good, long look at the airport (which was in the middle of a major expansion program) while experiencing several flight delays caused by a series of snow storms across Canada. The cowboys were all occupied elsewhere while I was trying to catch some sleep in a waiting room separated from the runway by billowing sheets of plastic.

Eventually, we did land in Vancouver. Unfortunately, we landed in the early morning hours of the day — after we were to have arrived. Therefore, we had no accommodations at the planned hotel,  which was booked solid for some sports event. By this time, we had been at it for over 24 hours, Pacific or Eastern. The novelty of an adventure was beginning to wear off. 

Perhaps it was because we looked so forlorn and worn, or maybe it was just airline policy, but we were told not to worry and escorted to a courtesy bus with some vouchers for a hotel room in downtown.

Our fellow passengers were a decent looking sort, mostly airline personnel types who silently exited the bus at various hotel stops as we proceeded along the route. Quite soon we began to worry through the fog of fatigue as fewer, and fewer people were left on the bus.  Eventually, it was just us and our vouchers for some hotel, somewhere.

The driver, not the chatty type, pulled into the drive and stopped under the substantial portico of a very substantial establishment. “Time to get out,” he informed us. Too late to bail on this project, we did as we were told and were escorted into the lobby of the most elegant hotel I had ever seen. It was old world, European, stylish movie, elegant.

I don’t recall if I even said a word at the front desk.  I simply handed over the vouchers to the desk clerk.  He typed up the details from the slips of paper and handed over two keys, gesturing  to the porter. Those were the days when porters handled your luggage, which amazingly had arrived at the same time and place we had.

This wasn’t a hotel where you wandered off on your own to an elevator.  We followed obediently behind the uniformed man and our luggage.  Using the elevator was a foregone conclusion in this hotel.  As we approached the doors, the porter, who hadn’t paid much attention to the keys to this point, glanced at them to determine the floor button to push.

Incredulously, he said, “Is this where you are staying?”  I replied intelligently that I guess so.

It was a long, quiet ride to the penthouse.

I don’t know what sporting event was in town, booking up every room in the city, except one.  The apparently very last room in the whole, big town was the penthouse suite at one of the most beautiful hotels I had ever seen. And the whole suite was ours.

Each bedroom was enormous with a huge bed and a bathroom fit for a king. Between the two bedrooms was a living room, which was furnished with three full size sofas and a fireplace in just one seating area, and a full kitchen to service the dining room. A lovely space was outfitted with a writing desk. The hotel had obligingly supplied the desk with an ample stack of stationary engraved with the name of the suite. The rooms were lined with windows overlooking the city.  The draperies were heavy silk and operated like real draperies.

Did I mention the rooms were fit for a king? Well, actually, it was a queen, in this case, THE Queen.  Obviously, Elizabeth was not into whatever sporting event was so popular, because this suite was her suite when in town, Canada being part of the Commonwealth and all, and it was available for the weekend. The one and only room available for the weekend in the great, big city.  And it was ours. Courtesy of whatever airline had been determined to be liable for our unfortunate travel delays.

I can’t say this adventure spoiled me for travel. I’m usually quite game for whatever. But, what a way to start? Thanks, Elizabeth!