As many travellers would know, the Fairmont Hotel and Resort brand is one associated with luxury, with stunning accommodations scattered all over the world. But there’s only one hotel in their chain that’s been built into an Airport, and that’s in Vancouver on the west coast of Canada – the entry point for all Australians who fly directly into the country with carrier Air Canada.
The hotel first opened in 1999 and has since become one of the most acclaimed hotels in the world – in fact it’s the only airport hotel to feature in Conde Nast’s 100 Gold List. And you can understand why from the minute you walk into your room. Arriving in the early evening, an ambience had been set in the room. The shades were drawn, select lights were turned off and jazz music was playing through the television. The room mixed modernity with the classic elegance that the Fairmont brand is known the world over for, with a beautiful and comfortable bed, massive flat screen television and a huge bathroom – complete with a sizeable bath.
The toilet is separated from the main bathroom via a wooden door, which will be welcome for couples staying in the room, and the shower is also separated from the bathtub. They certainly fit a lot into the room, while still maintaining a true aura of spaciousness. It’s elegantly designed to say the least. And the Rose 31 hair and body products supplied are divine.
There are also a lot of common sense inclusions in their rooms, which keep in mind their guests: the multi-national traveller. For one, the outlets in the rooms will cater to any international plug, something which more hotels should be offering its guests. The hotel is also completely soundproofed, and the blinds are so heavy duty they create total darkness for when you need it. You have a touch screen next to the bed which allows you to to control the blinds, as well as all the lights in the room, making the customisation of the space as easy as it gets.
But it’s hard to not want to open the blinds, as it introduces you to a different world, revealing the incredible floor to ceiling windows that gives the hotel room – the Gold King View Room – its name. They’ve even, surprisingly, included a telescope in the room, helping enhance the voyeurism of the experience as you watch planes take off and enjoy the nearby terrain. Elsewhere, they also have a “dark and quiet” floor, with no room service or disturbances, designed for short term guests who just want to come in for a brief sleep between flights. You’ll also find an indoor pool, health club and spa, helping provide all the services you’d expect from the brand in any other location.
The Gold King View Room not only meant that we had a stunning view of the airport and the North Shore Mountains, but it also meant we were situated on the Gold Floor, a now common feature of the Fairmont brand. It offers a private reception area and lounge, situated in this case on the 14th floor. They call it a “hotel within a hotel”, and its lounge was of particular mention, with a stunning view of the airport, as well as complimentary hot and cold hors d’oeuvres at set times of the day, as well as drinks, computer access, free wi-fi and more available at all times. At around 6pm we enjoyed salmon canapés, egg rolls, chicken wings and a glass of wine. All sitting beside the view you see at the top of the article.
The hotel offers more than just a nights stay, too, with the spectacular restaurant [email protected] open to guests staying at the hotel as well as those looking for a special meal before their flight. It wasn’t just a great meal for a hotel – it was one of the best meals I had on my entire recent trip to the continent. They offer both breakfast buffet and an à la carte menu in the mornings (which we didn’t experience as we enjoyed the Gold Lounge’s buffet breakfast instead), an extensive lunch menu (which continues an all day breakfast menu for those dining outside of their usual hours), and an incredible dinner menu designed to showcase the best of Pacific Northwest cuisine alongside wine selections from British Columbia’s famed Okanagan valley.
No attention to detail is spared in their expansive menu, nor in the presentation of its dishes. Just take a look at the beautiful plate this starting dish is served on – the Dungeness Crab Cakes appearing like ripples in a lake. You’ll notice that on every photo below, no plate is used twice and the dishes look just as divine as they taste.
One of their most popular main courses, the Cedar Smoked BC Salmon, melts in your mouth, and is served with grilled fingerling potato, kale, wild cress, cippolini onion and sauce vierge.
Their menu also comes complete with several choices of Cache Creek Natural Beef. I went for the 8 oz. Striploin, with pont neuf potatoes, charred vegetables and a side of béarnaise (you can choose some chimichurri, peppercorn or natural reduction, alternatively). Cache Creek promise a minimum 30 day aging process, with no hormones, steroids, or antibiotics used, and it’s as good a steak as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Perfectly cooked to your liking with pleasure in every bite.
And then there’s desert – if you have room – and though it was hard to squeeze in, it was worth every bite. They make all their pastry on site, with natural and local ingredients. They even make their own honey, with over a million bees calling the airport’s McDonald Beach Park home at their self-described “bee hotels” – one of the hotel’s many sustainability initiatives, designed in this case to try and encourage growth of the shrinking bee population.
This dish was the pick of the dessert list: a warm apple pie, with cinnamon spiced Okanagan apples, rosemary caramel sauce and ice cream infused with the airport’s own honey. A perfect end to an incredible meal.
If you don’t have a night to spare at the hotel, a visit to the restaurant is a must on your way out of Vancouver – after all, the flights back to Australia are usually around Midnight… so you should have plenty to time to enjoy this special meal before you take that long trip home. And if you’re not hungry, just pop in to The Jetside Bar for a drink as you enjoy the magnificent windows and view.
But one thing to keep in mind is that the airport is now within easy reach of the city thanks to the Canada Line, a rail service that opened just in time for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. It makes the airport hotel a perfect alternative to a city hotel for a brief stay in the city. What’s better than never having to take your bags out of the airport? With only 36 hours in the city before flying back to Australia, it was the perfect place to call home for my brief stay.
This is not just one of the best airport hotels in the world, but one of the world’s best hotels. Period.
To make a booking at the hotel, and for more details about it and all its amenities, head to their official website. Air Canada fly daily, non-stop, to Vancouver International Airport from Sydney and Brisbane.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel. All photos by the author.