Monday, 13 July 2015

History and Happy Hour at the Great George Hotel

The Great George Hotel is not only outstanding in all of its' aspects of experience and service but also in it's location and establishment. A boutique hotel with 54 rooms spread out over a series of Victorian-era homes, each one is as unique and colorful as the past that shaped their buildings. This is not an ordinary layout for any hotel, but truly, like everything that characterizes the Great George, it is extraordinary. And there is no better way to get to know historic Great George Street and the Hotel itself than to partake in the complimentary walking tour provided by the hotel, with a special cocktail hour hosted afterwards.

Hosted by the Great George's Concierge, Ian Cheverie, I was able to see even more deeply his passion and attachment to this incredible hotel and it's location. We began in the Great George's Lobby where Ian began to paint a historic portrait, explaining that the place we know and love as the hotel's main pavilion once began over 160 years ago. It lived a short life as an elegant shop for the those with the finest of taste, then became a hotel and has continued to serve that same common goal of hospitality while wearing several different hats. Some of it's more famous names having been the "London House" and "The Regent" before becoming a culmination of all the effort and history behind it; The Great George Hotel.

In 1990, the building was officially given recognition as a National Historic Site of Canada for the overwhelming influence it had in Canadian Confederation. It's no secret after PEI's sesquicentennial celebrations that Islander's are proud to have hosted the Charlottetown Conference over 150 years ago and while Great George Street leads to Province House where this meeting famously took place, the Great George Hotel certainly has a part in this Country-shaping event as well. Best explained with the furor of Ian's captivating storytelling, it's safe to say that while you will be surrounded by the beauty of history, it's not just a veneer; at the Great George Hotel you are living in and through History. That's not the kind of amenity you can pick up just anywhere.

Directly in front of the Hotel's property is a statue of two of the Fathers of Confederation, looking out onto St. Dunstan's Basilica, a beautifully towering church that has a history of determination, heartbreak and ultimately monument making success that welcomes visitors from every corner of the globe each year. I'm personally lucky enough to have a perfect view of the Basilica right from my Suite.

Walking alongside the mature trees and sun soaked streets of Great George Street, Ian led our group and introdouced us to the living, breathing stories behind each of the Hotel's properties. They each hold an tale as interesting as the past itself and some of them are even more unique than others and namely for me, the Wellington. As the oldest of the homes at the Great George, it was also the very first home built on the street; once known as "Howell's", it was wildly popular Hotel and Pub. Home to what was reffered to as the "un-official legislature" of Prince Edward Island, many of the Island's most influential decision makers would gather there to discuss politics over their favorite drink of choice. There's even a rumor, as Ian said, among historians that the Father's of Confederation too gathered at this place as well. Even more colorful is the fact that there was once supposedly an underground tunnel leading from Province House to the Wellington.

Having remodeled each building and home into guest properties, the Great George offers everything from cozy rooms to sweeping suites, romantic getaways and even fully equipped homes. Ranging in design from the rich tradition of the past to sleek with up to the moment style, each place is lovingly designed by Kathy Murphy who along with her Husband Kevin, own the Great George Hotel. Understanding the passion that has driven this two, it makes it that much more engaging to know that even the impeccable design details which characterize the Great George were made with the thoughts and heart of one of it's artistic owners.

I can easily say that after this tour and getting to know historic Great George Street, I feel that much closer to the Great George Hotel. As if being introduced formally to everything which has and continues to make it special, it's the kind of bond you just don't normally recieve from such accommodations. It's very hard to put words to how, in a way, it bonds you to your time here even more, but it certainly does and sends you home with even more stories of the Island!

These are just a few of the selected stories which are imparted each and every day (weather permitting) during the Great George Hotel's walking tour, there's nothing quite like feeling the warm sun, soft breeze and learning of the past. Well, there might be one thing... Happy Hour!

As soon as guests return from their tour from Monday to Friday at 5PM there are complimentary drinks served. Offering both Barefoot Californian Red and White wines along with Island Brewed Gahan Artisan beer, there's much lively discussion and many many faces throughout the evening.

I, myself, being a fan of micro brewed beer was excited to partake in what I personally know as one of the greatest beers...ever. While I'm no strict authority on beer, I do have a fairly discerning palate and could even be considered picky; yet I've never met a Gahan Beer I didn't like. Crafted at the PEI Brewing Company, I plan on heading down to their new facility and taking a tour of the building sometime soon, just so I can see exactly how the create their deliciously refreshing beers. Their Blueberry Ale and and Island Red Amber Ale were my two selections over the cocktail hour and I found myself lost in their rich, complex flavors which are refined until perfection.

Socializing over a drink has to be one of the most time-honored Prince Edward Island traditions and as the Great George Hotel is all about their guests experience, it only makes sense that they include even this very specialized service.

There's only one thing left that I can say to that... Cheers!

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