One of the most popular day trips with Edmonton seniors is the annual holiday lunch buffets held at prestigious Hotel MacDonald in December.
One of the most popular day trips with Edmonton seniors is the annual holiday lunch buffets held at prestigious Hotel MacDonald in December. These bus tours fill up quickly not only because of the scrumptious buffet and the convenience of transportation but also because of the hotel tour that follows. On Dec 18 such a tour organized by North Edmonton Seniors Association (NESA) and Central Lions Senior Association (CLSA) picked up seniors and their guests at both centers and delivered them to the hotel entrance ready to enjoy the festivities of the season in style.
Tables elegantly set with sparkling silverware and glasses of ice water with cranberries welcomed guests in the Empire Ballroom. This ballroom was recently restored to it's original elegance with chandeliers and an artwork ceiling entitled "The Chase" depicting the fox, hounds and hunters which had been concealed by a false ceiling when the ballroom was decorated pub style. Soft music from the grand piano and choir added to the ambience for diners.
Following the meal, the hotel tour guide provided a brief history of the hotel saying that it was built in 1915 of limestone imported from Indiana at a cost of 2.2 million dollars. After a period of prosperity, the hotel, named after the first prime minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald, came close to being demolished in 1983. The City of Edmonton came to the rescue designating the building as a Municipal Heritage Property and, in 1988 it was purchased by the Canadian Pacific (CP) Hotel, restored and reopened in 1991 after work totaling $28 million. The renovation added several suites in what had once been the attic. Today the hotel is part of Fairmount Properties and is owned by the chain Westmount.
Next stop was the main lobby where a replica of the hotel made of gingerbread was proudly displayed. The tour guide explained that making this from scratch ingredients has been a tradition for the last three years and starting early November, it takes the culinary team a total of 180 man-hours. There is a wooden frame underneath built according to the blueprint of the hotel that supports the completely edible material each year. Joining the tour group briefly was the hotel managers Labrador dog named Smudge who has her own "hotel room" (doghouse) for daytime use. She works a normal 9 to 5 and greets guests as they come in. She can be booked and taken for walks if you miss your pet.
Finally, everyone gathered at the only elevator that goes to the eighth floor where the hotels grandest suite, the Queen Elizabeth II Suite is situated. This suite, consisting of 2400 sq.ft, is built on two levels and includes a large foyer, dining room, service pantry, two bedrooms, two and one-half bathrooms and a spacious living room. The view of the river valley can be seen at the south end of the living room. As the visitors entered many gasped at the enormous living and sitting area. Going upstairs to the second level revealed a king sized bed with sitting area and a gigantic bathroom with a hot tub sized bathtub.
According to the tour guide, many celebrities including Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Brad Pitt, Justin Bieber, Mick Jager have been guests in this suite. To ensure their comfort, a list of their wants and needs are received in advance. For example, there was a request for a special apple juice which the hotel had to have shipped from France as well requests for items such as green M&Ms. Carol Burnett was also said to be very impressed with the accommodation and inspired to sing "Don't Cry for me Argentina" from the balcony, according to the tour guide.
In 2015 the hotel will be celebrating its centennial and will be asking for the public for help in returning some fixtures, furniture and other items for display in the hotel. During the early1980s, when the fate of the hotel was uncertain, many of these articles were auctioned off to the public. Apparently, whatever is returned will still remain the property of the owner. In any case, from what was seen during this tour, it should be an event not to be missed by residents and visitors to the Edmonton area.