I am a bit of a history buff! One of my secret desires is to one day write a historic thriller.
For that reason, one of my favourite past times in a new place is actually taking a historic tour of the place I am staying in. I can almost hear as I say this, the cringing of some of those I’ve travelled with, who find hotel tours to be a sales / marketing pitch, and while some can be, others can be the most magnificent journeys back in history. As I write this, I am remembering a glorious afternoon in Memphis spent with the Assistant Duckmaster & Hotel Historian at the Peabody, Doug Weatherford. I really could not have asked for a more delightful way to have spent the afternoon, then walking back in Memphis history with Doug. In fact, this visit was one of the highlights of trip to Memphis, better than my tour of Gibson Guitars, better than my visit to Stax Records, and WAY better than the circus that was Graceland. At any rate, I will write more about my adventure back in time with Doug another day on Roamancing. Today, I want to to put my tech specs on in combination with my historian hat, as I take you further North to the Fairmont Château Laurier.
This past spring on a visit to Ottawa, I was fortunate enough to stay at the Fairmont Château Laurier, a hotel steeped in history, a history I wanted to learn more about. Rather than give me an actual tour, the hotel asked me if I could try out their new interactive history tour. Being a bit of a tech nerd, and loving seeing and experiencing examples of technology being used to educate and tell story, I readily agreed.
Right now the Fairmont Château Laurier’s history tour is available on iPads and tablets, although I rather hope that it will at some point be available on other devices, like smart phones. Anybody with an iPad or tablet can take the tour for free, whether they are a guest or not, they just need to download the Fairmont Château Laurier History App (from the links I’ve provided in this paragraph). If you don’t have an iPad or tablet, but are fortunate enough to be a guest of the Fairmont Château Laurier, you can borrow an iPad for the tour from the front desk.
Once begun this digital tour takes visitors to the Fairmont Château Laurier on a walking tour, starting in the hotel’s lobby. It provides an informative and interesting narrative, including historic photos, as it walks you through various rooms of the hotel, intertwining history with the current space visitors see before their eyes.
So my take on the experience? I very much enjoyed it, as it gave me context to the space I was walking through (oh, if the walls could only talk), and snippets of history I’d been hearing about (like, did you now there is an historic connection between the Château Laurier and the Titanic?). It also got me to explore deeper into the hotel, right into the depths of the basement. I only wish that I’d taken this tour at the beginning of our stay, rather than at the end, as it would have ensured that I made it down to the basement for a dip in that fabulous art deco pool, and would have enriched my stay so much more, with the stories of the history that surrounded me.
Now does this compare to the kind of tour that a Hotel Historian and Storyteller, like the Peabody’s Doug Weatherford gave me? No, but afternoons such as that one are special, to be cherished, that cannot happen all the time due to scheduling and the likes. There are after all only so many Historians and Storytellers, like Doug Weatherford around, and they can’t be scheduled around the clock to suit visitor’s schedules. Catering to visitor’s schedules and the access to historic imagery are what made this technology driven digital walk back in time such a win in my mind. The weary traveller could even take the tour digitally from the awfully comfy Fairmont Château Laurier bed, as a form of a bed time story, or the uber organized traveller could watch in prep for their stay, even on-route to Ottawa on the plane or train. I, however, think it is enjoyed best as a leisurely stroll through the Fairmont Château Laurier’s historic halls.