MONTEBELLO, Que. — Mary Patterson, her husband Bruce and six other couples celebrated their 50th anniversaries at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. Here’s a guest’s-eye view of how the hotel accommodated the group and made this celebration ultra-special.
CLN: How did you meet the other five couples who came on the trip?
Mary: Five of the women met during high school at Lawrence Park Collegiate in Toronto. The sixth couple met as part of the group at a dance at Hart House at the University of Toronto. We all met our husbands in our early years of university, and the husbands became friends as well.
CLN: Tell me a bit more about your friendship over the years.
Mary: In the beginning, one couple, the Herouxs, started having parties and the same group would show up. Over the years one couple moved to the U.S. and my family had different postings in the U.S., Europe and Asia. We didn't see each other sometimes for months or even years, but kept in touch with letters, phone calls, emails and gatherings, often during the summer, when our family would return. In later years we were invited to attend weddings of each others' children.
CLN: Why did you choose the Chateau Montebello for your event? Had any of you been there before?
Mary: It all started with a golf game. Four of the guys started talking about doing something together for our 50th anniversaries. Everyone threw in ideas, some more exotic than others. One person, Doug Townsend, sent out a list and each couple was to select their choices. It soon became apparent there was no consensus, as most of us have travelled extensively. I stepped in and suggested Chateau Montebello. I had been there for my daughter's 16th birthday and also for a four-day stay with some other girlfriends. It seemed to fit all the criteria: driving distance for all but one couple, the Tongs, who live in California; not too long a time together; lots of activities; good food; and an elegant dining room where we could host a fancy dinner.
CLN: Was there a lot of pre-planning involved?
Mary: The hardest part of the trip was finding a date that suited six couples. That is the reason we booked almost a year in advance. We all made our own reservations within a few days of each other. We used one person's name to be the group name. One of the couples, the Taylors, were in the area a few months before our group visit. They went to the hotel and made sure our rooms would be close together. This was mostly achieved — one couple changed their room to be closer to the others on check-in.
We divided the responsibilty of trip planning among all the couples living here in Ontario. We planned a pontoon boat ride, golf, golf shirts with a logo, visit to Park Omega, browsing in the village of Montebello, dinner at the Bistro, brunch in the village, spa time, gift bags for each couple, and lots of time just sitting and chatting. At the last minute most of us decided to bring our wedding pictures to share “going down memory lane”.
CLN: What did you think of the Chateau Montebello when you arrived? Atmosphere? Décor?
Mary: I think everyone was impressed by the exterior of the building and the lovely property it sits on. The lobby with its huge fireplace and wrap-around balcony was wonderful. We made good use of the balcony, commandeering chairs around one of the tables for pre- and post-dinner gatherings.It was perfect for a group who wanted to just catch up with each other.
CLN: How were your rooms?
Mary: By modern day standards, the rooms were tiny. We noticed they are gradually renovating the wings of the hotel. We were in the non-renovated side. However the rooms were very clean and the beds super comfortable.
CLN: Tell me more about your special meal.
Mary: We each ordered from the menu what we wanted to eat as there were some specific dietary issues. The hotel served us free bottles of champagne. Several of the group contributed to the meal: one couple decorated the table; another had special cookies made; and the Herouxs designed the cake and arranged with the pastry chef, Mario Menard, to have the cake made gluten free with the design showing the names of the couples in the shape of hearts.
We were totally impressed by the wait staff in the restaurant, who seemed incredible in remembering our names when we went into the dining room for breakfast. Our waiter for the special dinner was also wonderful, giving us his total attention.
CLN: Would you recommend the Chateau Montebello to people for special events like this?
Mary: Yes, we would choose Montebello again as it was perfect for a group. The Tongs, who live in California, had a book of pictures made for each of the couples to act as a memento of our trip.