Entering the lobby of Le 71 Hotel Cafe (pronounced le soixante-et-onze) on rue St. Pierre in the old port section of Quebec City, travelers are greeted by cool simplicity and warm hospitality. There’s no sign the 19th-century neoclassical building once housed a bank, except perhaps the high ceilings and tall arched windows, some graced with stained glass medallions.
Anglophones have no need to fear. You can practice your French with the staff at the front desk, or lapse into English. After we checked in, the perfectly Gallic bell captain showed us to our rooms. On the way up in the elevator (there’s a bank of two), we learned he’s really from San Diego, although after years in Quebec he seems like a native.
The rooms are simple and clean, of ample size but seeming much larger because of their 13-ft. ceilings. Everything besides the light wood floor and furniture is in tones of white and shades of gray and black, with crimson accents in the reading chair and the plush velveteen drape hiding the closet.
My fourth-floor room, number 431, had its own small foyer of light-toned hardwood, with a glass table beside the door to receive the packages and papers that always seem to clutter the rooms of busy travelers. The entry hall led to a black granite bathroom with large shower and separate toilet room, with the closet at a right angle. Inside the closet were a laptop-sized safe and ironing board. Other amenities included a bathrobe and upscale toiletries, and most importantly, free and dependable wireless internet throughout the hotel.
The tall window of the room looked out over Quebec City,with a view toward the St. Lawrence River, where a cruise ship was docked for the weekend. With a bit of a stretch, I could catch a peek of Le Chateau Frontenac, the huge castle-like Victorian hotel, now a Fairmont property, that overlooks the 400-year-old-plus city.
An ample desk with extra outlets for charging electronics, flat-screen television with DVD player and surround-sound speakers, and a comfortable chair with reading lamp filled one side of the room, while the queen-size bed with integrated lighting and nightstands filled the other wall. An area rug under the bed took the chill off the hardwood floor for those first steps in the morning. The firm but not too firm mattress was dressed with high-quality sheeting, with an extra blanket in between the sheets and duvet, and several pillows of various degrees of firmness ensured a choice for almost any preference.
Two bottles of spring water are provided free of charge each day, but there are no coffee and tea making facilities in the room. Instead, the cafe downstairs provides free, round-the-clock unlimited coffee and tea, including specialty cappucinos, mochas, hot chocolate, and the like. Room service is also available around the clock.
A generous breakfast buffet is also included with each night’s stay, served in a large, high-ceilinged room on the ground floor. Regular American-style coffee is available in urns on the buffet, or you can ask your server to bring you a pot of tea or something special from the cafe. The rest of the offerings are typical Continental breakfast fare: fresh fruit, cereals, yogurt, cheese, croissants, pain au chocolat, small muffins, bagels, and sliced breads for toast.
The hotel shares a ground floor bar with its next-door sister property, Auberge Saint-Pierre.