Posts Tagged: hotel

Jul 13

Toronto: Four Seasons hotel and spa

Stunning high ceiling lobby

Stunning high ceiling lobby

The first thing I did when I arrived at the Four Seasons in Toronto was get lost. Later, I did it again in the spa and – just for good measure  – I got lost on the way to my room. Usually this would have me fizzing with rage but to be honest – it’s so ridiculously pretty that I almost didn’t mind at all. I asked about the baffling lack of signage and was told that signs were a-coming – once everyone could agree on fonts and size and so on – that is.

Fingers crossed when you get there, that’s all been sorted. But I have to say – there are many, many worse places to get lost and by being a little lost I did get to find a few things I may have otherwise missed. I admired the stunning floral arrangements – not something that I ever pay too much attention to if I’m honest, but these were magnificent. I looked up at the high, high ceilings and felt their calming influence so when I finally made it to reception I was all smiles.

Adore these cool shades

Adore these cool shades

The restful feeling in the lobby spreads throughout the hotel; I loved the colour palette of creams, a pale jade-y-turquoise, moss green accents and warm peach touches. In my room I spotted that a fabric-like covering had transformed an ordinary bathroom door into something special. I like that kind of detail. I had chance to soak all this up later as when I arrived I had chance to barely hurl my case into my room and gallop back downstairs again as I had a spa appointment scheduled. I almost clapped my hands with glee when I saw the pool; I love to swim and hotel pools tend to be lost in the basement so this light-flooded dream of a pool area made me long to hurl myself in at the deep end. Gorgeous.

The spa was glitteringly clean and bright, I spent 20 minutes warming up my muscles by stretching out in the unexpectedly large steam room in the changing room. Then, I took a quick shower, wrapped myself in my robe and curled up in a comfy chair, waiting for my therapist. I like the idea of the spa massage menu here – all at the same price point for times, you just choose which style and pressure you’d like and if you want 60-minutes or 90-minutes of bliss. I liked the look of the Asian Fusion – which promised to blend techniques from across Asia into one stress-relieving, energy-restoring treatment.

A rare - and lovely - sun-lit hotel pool

A rare – and lovely – sun-lit hotel pool

I’m always so happy when I experience something completely authentic in a Western spa that I’ve previously had in its original setting. I may have been in a spiify hotel spa with soft towels, chilled music and heated massage bed, but the techniques that my therapist used could have been straight from the little hut on the river where I had dazzling Ayurvedic massages in Sri Lanka or the all-Chinese spa that I used to visit in a Paris backstreet where no one spoke a word of French. It was one of those treatments when I felt like rolling around on the floor wailing “More! Please! More!” once it was over, but I managed to control myself and instead thanked her and lay there for a while, feeling like the exhaustion of the brutally early start, the delayed plane, the hours of travel – all of it – had just melted away.

I got a bit lost trying to find my locker and – indeed – the exit, but I was so delightedly chilled that I just enjoyed my confusion and floated back up to my room to watch the city lights sparkle and catch a spot of room service…

I travelled as a guest of Toronto Tourism and the Four Seasons – but as ever – my views are 100% my own. 

Find out more: 

Four Seasons, 60 Yorkville Ave  Toronto, ON M4W 0A4, Canada
Tel: +1 416-964-0411

Toronto Tourism


Apr 13

All the fun of La Ferme

Looking around, it was hard to believe I wasn’t in in a funky hotel in a major metropolis. Airy spaces, glass and natural materials, clean lines and bold colours screamed ultra-modern design, but cheeky touches like the fabulously decorated life-size cow in the lounge or the farming tools sculpture in reception gave you a clue that Hôtel La Ferme is far from well – anything really – deep in the heart of the Charlevoix region of Quebec in Baie-saint-Paul.

Where urban cool meets painted cow...

Where urban cool meets painted country cow…

The brainchild of Daniel Gauthier, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, Hôtel La Ferme is the last piece in the puzzle that he’s been building in this beautiful part of the world that’s remained mostly unknown beyond Canada. Ten years ago, he bought Le Massif, a ski mountain, planning to transform it into a world-class four-season destination. The plan to link the area to Quebec City with a luxury private train stopping off at the mountain and then the hotel, offering top-notch accommodation (145 rooms ranging from the nicest dorm rooms I’ve ever seen to stylish doubles) and dining has finally come to fruition and – judging from my experience there – will put the area firmly on the radar of those looking for something new and deliciously cool.

Cool, clean lines - pastoral scenes

Cool, clean lines – pastoral scenes

Arriving by train, it’s worth noting that check-in isn’t available till the afternoon, so plan to have lunch and explore the small village of nearby Baie-saint-Paul or perhaps book a treatment in the spa. Farm touches are everywhere, tipping a nod to the 100-year old farm which used to stand here, from cow-coverlets in the spa and farm pictures in the room to the whole farm-to-table ethos of local dining in Les Labours restaurant and the Cafe du Marche where you can snack on soups, sandwiches and pastries as well as stock up on local terroir products to take home.

Quite wonderful to see the train from the spa pool

Jump in… warm up

Perfect for the ski crowd in winter and the relaxation-seekers in summer, Hôtel La Ferme also has a full-service spa. I’m a big fan of nordic style spa-ing, gently heating your body and then cooling down, but it always seems so much better when you can do it outdoors and lying back in the steamy huge outdoor hot pool at the Spa du Verger, with snow all around was heavenly. I’m getting better at the cold bit and managed not to screech as I plunged head-under in the icicle-covered cold tub. An indoor steam room and sauna add to the experience, along with a restful lounge area where you can sip herbal tea and look out over the garden.

Brilliant witty touches in the farm-friendly treatment rooms

Witty touches in the farm-friendly treatment rooms

I tried a candle massage – a deeply relaxing therapy that used the warm melted wax of a  candle as massage oil. You get to keep the candle afterwards – although they don’t provide an expert-fingered therapist to take away too. I wish I could say I remembered a lot about this treatment, but once I’d settled down from cooing compliments over the cow-cover and milk stool in the room, and relaxed into the sensation of warm wax drizzling over my back, embarrassingly enough, what I remember most is snoring through it – which, I guess is probably one of the highest accolades you could give to a relaxing massage, so let’s skate over that…

The best seats in the house...

The best seats in the house…

I woke from a post-massage snooze hungry and ready to tuck into dinner at Les Labours. I sat at the bar, the best view in the house, to watch the chefs do their thing. I had a four-hour, slow-braised shoulder of lamb, which came with the best lentils I’ve ever tasted. I should have asked how they do them, I never seem to get puy lentils right at home and these were so great, they’d be worth flying to Quebec to eat again.

I took time to explore before leaving in the morning, I watched a family ice skating in what would be the garden in the summertime and chatted with one of the staff about the impressive eco credentials of the hotel – sustainable development, geothermal energy, reusing rainwater and reducing food miles by using local suppliers. “It’s all about respecting the environment” she smiled and it makes sense – if you live somewhere as beautiful as the Charlevoix region, of course you want to protect it.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Charlevoix and Hôtel la Ferme. As always – my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Tourism Quebec

Feb 13

Vancouver’s shore thing: the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier

“You know, we’re spoiled really.” said my dinner date as he scooped up a handful of seafood nachos, loaded with tasty seared tuna and spicy shrimp, as he waved at the view. Vancouver was lit up before us. All glittering high rises and moonlight over the water. “Anywhere else this would be THE best restaurant in town. But here it is, tucked away on the North Shore.”

He was right. I’m slowly making my way around Vancouver and discovering its many different neighbourhoods. I’d imagined the North Shore to be The ‘Burbs. Not much happening there. Kind of quiet. Guess what? Think again.

A break in the rain and a golden view of Vancouver

A break in the rain and a golden view of Vancouver

I got there on the ferry bus from the terminal downtown. It’s a pleasant 12-minute trip across the water and I’m guessing if it wasn’t bucketing with rain, it’s a lovely view. The rain held off for a few minutes when I hopped off the ferry and looking at the city from the other side made me see with fresh eyes how gorgeous it is. On the way to the hotel I stopped into the Lonsdale Quay market place which really reminded me of the indoor markets in Paris, something about the metal shutters and artistically-stacked fruit and veg, I guess. After wandering around and making a mental note to come back with shopping bags another day, I checked into the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier.

My room was big and I loved the huge tub with its glass-wall shower which faced onto the bedroom. Very steamy! Floor to ceiling windows gave a show-stopping view of the city. I sat on the bed and tried to make out my new apartment building, it’s nice to finally start to recognise the skyline. All settled in, I went to explore, and discovered one of the largest hotel pools I think I have ever seen, on the third floor – flooded with natural light and a big gym too.

Hard not to just stare... and stare...

Hard not to just stare… and stare…

We had dinner at Pier 7 , which has Executive Chef Dino Renaerts, ex-chef of Diva at the Met (one of Vancouver’s best) at the helm. I tried the Dine Out menu, three courses for just $28, which was spectacular value for money, I loved the braised beef short ribs and hope they weren’t just a Dine Out special… People always talk about hidden gems, which are often in full view, but after raving about the food to other Vancouverites who’d never heard of Pier 7, perhaps this really is one after all. Maybe these North Shore-ers are on to something

New day dawning over the city

New day dawning over the city

After being led deliciously astray by sommelier Alain – a guy who knows far too much about wine and wants you to try every drop – I reeled my way back to the hotel and kept the curtains open as I curled up in bed so that I could see that view. In the early morning at dawn it just got better.

The Pinnacle has a huge patio which they have open in the warmer months and I’m already making plans to head back on that ferry and get a heaped plate of those amazing seafood nachos to enjoy with a few cocktails and watch my new city light up as the sun sets.

I stayed and ate as a guest of The Pinnacle Pier and Pier 7. My views are 100% my own and I am definitely going back once it stops raining!

Find out more about Vancouver’s North Shore

Dec 12

My first Vancouver hotel love revisited. I’m still crushing on The Opus

Seeing your first love again after a couple of years… well, that can be kind of complicated. You have all those expectations. Will your heart still flutter? Will they still excite you like they did? Make you feel special? Or will it be a terrible let down and leave you sad and depressed for days?

Oh, I should explain. I’m not talking about an ex-boyfriend. I’m talking about the very first hotel I stayed in when I came to Vancouver for the very first time two years ago, The Opus. I’d arrived by train from Toronto, a life-changing 4466KM, four day, three night journey that had me swooning over the sheer size of Canada and its amazing landscape. I got to the ViaRail station in the morning in a state of profound nature-worship and got a cab to Yaletown, where I checked into this gloriously sexy city hotel. At the time I wrote that it was, “…Absolutely everything a boutique hotel should be; sexy, smart, stylish and giddily decadent.” Would it still have the power to charm me? Yes, yes. YES!

Seriously snuggle-worthy

I was checking out one of the newly-renovated suites and oh, I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. My beloved moodily-lit disco-lift – all funky music and slow-changing lights - still put a smile on my face, I sashayed down the softly-soft carpet to my room and wondered whether I’d still get that giddy feeling once I got inside.

It’s enough to give a girl ideas…

I guess sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, because, if anything, the new designed rooms are saucier than ever. Oh, there’s still that knowingly party-friendly minibar, packed to the brim with re-tox and de-tox options and the gleaming Nespresso machine, but add to that an in-room iPad, a roaring fire at the touch of a button, sultry art work, all shiny lips and soft, squishy furniture that just begged for you to curl up and snuggle. The suites are pleasingly spacious; the lounge area perfect for a spot of room service as I enjoyed that hypnotic fireplace. The bedroom glamorous enough to ignite a fire of its own for any lucky couple who get to stay there. And if you’re a bit of an exhibitionist, well, the light-flooded windows of the bathroom face out over an office. Me, I kept the blinds low and enjoyed the Jacuzzi tub. But you, well… I bet you’d keep them open a bit, you saucy thing.

Sunny side up

In the morning, my four poster bed was so comfy I briefly considered chaining myself to it, to avoid leaving, but breakfast at La Pentola was calling, so reluctantly, I left its embrace and drifted downstairs. I’d eaten at the restaurant a few weeks beforehand, rustic Italian with a BC twist. There were a couple of dishes that I’d especially loved; a smoked veal tongue that was carpaccio-thin and a kale and ricotta-stuffed pasta that I could have happily eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Eggs were on the menu this morning though and a tasty sausage perfectly paired with an apple jam. I left with a dance in my step and a head full of new and wonderful memories. I’m still crushing hard on The Opus. The flame still burns for my first Vancouver hotel-love. Can we make this a regular anniversary date? I hope so…

I stayed as a guest of the Opus, however, my views are 100% my own.

Oct 12

Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim: a little bit of a love letter…

I know this reads like a cheerleader-y whoop of a write-up, but you know what? Sometimes things are just good… and this is one of ‘em. I’m already pretty much on record as a fan of the Fairmont group in general and their Willow Stream Spas in particular. It’s true, I don’t really like chains as a rule, but I’ll make an exception for these guys because I kind of love the feeling that each of the Fairmonts I’ve visited has; the Monte Carlo Fairmont made me gurgle with glee as it had a mustard menu to go along with their buttery-soft steaks, as well as a rooftop pool that you can see France, Italy and, of course, Monaco from, as you lazily swim laps under the sun. The Savoy in London is part of the group and if you know of a more elegant luxury hotel in the world to enjoy a White Lady cocktail (which was invented in the bar there) then tell me – because I simply don’t believe it exists.

But to the Pacific Rim  in Vancouver; perched on the water’s edge, it’s a huge modern property, with a stunning open lobby with a piano bar and cocktail lounge which makes for a buzzy atmosphere as you walk in. Cheery reception staff make check-in a joy. I said something about wondering whether the rain would stop later and as I walked into my room, the phone rang; it was the gal on the desk, calling with the weather for later that day.  Do you see why I love them?

Alas, I didn’t get one of the bath-with-a-view rooms which overlook the harbour, with the pretty floatplanes taking off like duckies into the air, but as my room had a huge soaker-style tub and a bed that I never wanted to leave, turns out I had nothing to pout about after all.

Next time, this bath shall be mine

Of course, the only thing likely to drag me out of bed in a Fairmont is the chance of a trip to the spa… I love the spacious feeling that the Willow Streams have; the soft touches from the fruit and muffins in the relaxation rooms to the soft blankets available to wrap yourself up in after a soothing treatment so you can just zone out. This Willow Stream also boasts Vancouver’s most fabulous hot tub; right on the roof, towering over the city, where you can watch the sunset turn the buildings the most glorious gold.

No time to soak it up today, it was all about discovering the rejuvenating effects of marine algae with a signature ‘Power of the Sea’ massage. I was wrapped in a soothing mineral-rich cream and while that soaked into my skin, my therapist gave me a brilliant acupressure facial and eye-rollingly good scalp massage. All too soon I showered off the wrap and was then treated to a body massage with more Thalgo product. Now, I’d usually say after a good spa body treatment you could expect softer skin for maximum a couple of days. This really impressed me; a week later, my skin still felt petal-soft. I’m interested to see what effect a Thalgo full facial might have as, wow, serious results!

Snuggle up under a blanket and bliss out

Later I got to check out a tasting menu at Oro, the elegantly funky fine dining restaurant on the second floor. It’s all about the taste of the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest cuisine here, focussing on what’s local, seasonal and just plain good. We started with a sparkling Blue Mountain rosé from the Okanagan Valley, a whoosh of strawberries and citrus which was so good, it made me decide there and then to get to the Okanagan fast! We were treated to a variety of small plates from the Oru menu, my two favourites were the  Qualicum Island scallops with a brilliant faux-lardon made from smoked salmon, and the Fraser Valley pork belly which came with a new ingredient for me: lotus root purée – a wonderful taste that I want to try again. Show-stopper of the night though, was an Alaskan salt cod which was served with a ‘tea’, brewed table-side in old-fashioned gas-fired contraption, made of fragrant tomatoes and herbs. Poured over the delicate fish it was wonderful; dense with layers of herby, zingy, pure tomato flavour. I’d never tried anything even close to this before. LOVE.

Seriously. I want to eat this all day long.

I wish I could find some negatives to even out this rave of a review, but there’s nothing. The cocktails are great, the staff are friendly and hey – even the bathrooms are nice! What can I say? Go there. Eat there. Spa there. Stay there…

I stayed as a guest of The Fairmont Pacific Rim, however, my views are 100% my own – I just really love this brand!

Keep Exploring Canada


Sep 12

Vancouver hotel low-down: The Loden

There was a pleasing amount of bustle and excitement as I checked into the Loden hotel; sequined gowns, elaborate hairstyles and a smattering of men adjusting their ties and checking their waistcoats. Pretty spiffy crowd, I thought, rather regretting not having worn something more dressy myself. But Vancouver always feels like such a dressed-down and casual town that I was tired of feeling like the only person not in flip flops!

After a few minutes swiping cards at the desk (how I love a pain-free check-in) I was zooming up to the 9th floor, sharing the lift with a woman in a dazzling dress.

“I love your outfit.” I told her.

“Thanks!” she said and anxiously checked her make up in the mirror.

“You look great.” I assured her.

“Oh! I’m doing hair for the wedding here today so need to look good for the photos.”

Spiffy dressers explained. Vancouver hadn’t undergone a style transformation, but perhaps if it stayed at The Loden it might… 

Sophisticated caramel and cocoa shades

Shiny marble floor in the bathroom, caramel and cocoa shades in the bedroom, a huge and pleasingly firm bed with crisp high thread-count linens in a room flooded with light from the floor to ceiling windows. Stylish indeed. I was glad I’d packed my favourite just-in-case red dress so I could get dressed up when I visited the bar and Tableau restaurant later.

I hit the bar and tried the house cocktail ‘1181’ a citrusy fizz of prosecco, gin, elderflower syrup and lemonade. Nothing seems to match fizz as well as oysters and I’d never tried the local Vancouver island variety. Large and meaty with a faint cucumber-ish after taste I squished them with lemon and sucked and chewed my way though a half-dozen on the half-shell with indecent speed. Delicious! Tempting through it was to work my way through the small, but perfectly formed cocktail list and an ever-increasing pile of oysters, there was local wine to sample from the Okanagan Valley and the main course to order.

My new favourite thing: Vancouver Island oysters.

Tableau specialises in French bistro cooking so of course, it had to be the steak-frites, I asked for a wine recommendation and my server suggested a Pinot Gris from Naramata’s Nichol winery. It was a fruity and spicy white with a blush-pink tint that paired perfectly with the juicy steak and crisp twice-cooked fries. 

Juicy, buttery steak with salty, crisp fries.

The buzz of a good room on a great night can’t be beaten and that’s exactly the feeling at Tableau thanks to excellent table service paired with good solid cooking and some creative twists. Hotel restaurants used to be the last option of the unimaginative diner – but no more, Tableau proves that. And as for casual Vancouver? Well, if you want to feel stylish in the city, you know where to come to stay… 

I stayed as a guest of The Loden & Tableau, however, my views are 100% my own.

Like Canada? Keep exploring

The Loden: Reservations:  877 225 6336 /  Phone: 604 669 5060 / 1177 Melville Street, Vancouver

Tableau: tel 604 639 8692 / 1181 Melville Street Vancouver /

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer