the fair(mont)est of them all


I'm going to write a day by day breakdown of my visit to San Francisco, but first, here's a little summary of my evening out at the Hotel MacDonald for another behind-the-scenes tour organized by ArtsScene Edmonton.

The gentleman is a bit of a hotel connoisseur (on account of his good breeding and his work travel schedule... anyone who has had to do some business traveling in the past knows the value of a good hotel) so as a little present I bought us both tickets, so that we could take the tour and learn a little of the history of this Edmonton landmark while fraternizing with the young professional crowd on the Hotel Mac patio. Unfortunately, on the day of the party Edmonton was enveloped in smoke from British Columbia forest fires. As a result socialization sur le patio were cut short by the horrid air quality. Instead, the majority of the activity took place inside the Wedgwood Room. A few of us did venture outside briefly for a glimpse of the river valley that looking alternatively romantic and apocalyptic in the smoky haze.

Cue the music...

behind the scenes at the fairmont

Unfortunately there was nothing really romantic about the air quality. Throughout the day smoke had seeped inside buildings leaving people smelling more than slightly reminiscent of the backwoods, eyes reddened and voices hoarse from the particulate matter in the air. Sort of a hilarious lead up to an evening of networking in one of Edmonton's classiest hotels.


Other than the few minutes that I spent on the patio admiring the silhouette of the river valley, the rest of the evening was spent inside in the prettily detailed Wedgwood Room (inspired by the intricate work on Wedgwood china) snacking on the assortment of hors d'oeuvres and savouring our beverage of choice (savouring as the drinks were expensive. I heard more than a few discontented rumblings that a free drink was not included in the ticket price of this event).

I had worked later at the office than usual and as a result I didn't get a chance to go home in between work and the event. Of course I was carrying my laptop and camera equipment, but the coat check was a bit too open for my taste so I had the annoyance of carting around a heavy bag for the entire night (or rather whining for the gentleman to carry it for me, which he did). I guess I sort of expected there to be spots to sit. Ordinarily having to stand around wouldn't have been a problem, except my feet were absolutely killing me following the walking marathon that was my trip to San Francisco. Poor footwear choice on my part. I hadn't taken into consideration the amount of walking I would be doing during the day running from meeting to meeting, nor did I consider the different weight distribution from carrying my belongings in my pannier (so classy) versus a shoulder bag, nor did I think about the inevitable end-of-day foot swelling (always go shoe shopping at the end of the day). I probably could have avoided a lot of trouble if I had just thought to shove a pair of flats in my bag.

So, boring trivialities of my carrying too much and making poor end of day footwear choices aside (typical problems for me), there was some animated conversation with friends and a few assorted strangers while we all waited anxiously for our designated tour of the hotel to begin.

Our tour groups were large and fairly boisterous, which made it difficult to hear our guides. They gave us some general history of the building, with a few anecdotes about the hotel ghost and celebrity visits to the hotel.

tour guide
a chandelier for the ladies

The tour took us through the various spaces of the hotel, starting with the empire ballroom, the drawing room (once ladies only), the jasper room (for the gents), then upstairs to one of the suites on the 8th floor (reclaimed attic space), followed by a wander through the confederation lounge to the outdoor patio. I had originally been scheduled to go on one of the first set of tours, but the gentleman was running late so I swapped our spot for one of the later groups. It was a wise decision. It was dusk by the time we had finished checking out the suite. Wade had wandered down the hallway while we waited for the elevator to head downstairs and discovered a window that overlooked one of rooftop spires. You could just make out some of the lights from across the river. The view from the patio was equally scenic. It was a real shame that the smoke had prevented us from really taking advantage of the space. If only it had been misty rather than smoky.

gargoyle prevention

We left shortly after the tour (and our little bonus tour where we got to see the staff-only areas), but I heard that the party (and after party) continued into the night. I took my tired feet home.