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This is the kind of hotel that makes you feel like sitting around a fire and singing camp songs. Looking like a cross between your cabin at the lake and a quaint country inn, the Drake Devonshire opened this week just outside of Toronto.
Owned by the folks who brought us hipster hangout, The Drake Hotel in Toronto, you can see that “Drake-by-the-Lake” is complementary in style but with a more pronounced cheeky nod to rustic Canadiana.
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Yes, it’s winter and yes, Canada can be cold. But that also means fluffy snow and chestnuts still roasting by an open fire. Starwood Hotels & Resorts wants to entice you to visit the country with some “winterful” packages (yeah, yeah, we know!).
1) “Two Nights are Never Enough in Canada: Two for the Price of One” package –- This sweet deal lets you book a long weekend of your choosing at over 50 Starwood Hotels across the country so that you can cuddle up during those cold, dark nights of winter. You pay for two nights and they’ve got the third one covered. Rates in a Deluxe King at the Westin Calgary, for instance, will only set you back $179, but you need to arrive between Thursday and Saturday.
2) It’s Hockey Night in Canada –- With the “Hockey Night Special” package at the newly-reno’ed Le Centre Sheraton Montreal, you get a special rate of $139 for a Traditional King on home game nights. Montreal’s Bell Centre is across from the hotel, so if you have that beer swagger going on after the game, you’re nice and close.
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We had the chance to stay at the new ALT Hotel Toronto Pearson, owned by Canadian boutique hoteliers, Groupe Germain and, we gotta tell ya, this hotel-in-a-box is stylin’!
Back in April we reported Groupe Germain planned to open several ALT Hotels across Canada, and Toronto is the first up. The ALT Hotel business model is to maximize style while keeping costs down by minimizing superfluous services and prefabricating the hotel rooms – sort of like how cruise ships are built (ergo, hotel-in-a-box!). What this means is that you can get a hotel room for a very reasonable price, that is always the same, no matter what day of the week or what time of the year.
Knowing all of this, we were still pleasantly surprised that the 153-room hotel is so well-designed. When you enter, you'll first notice the eye-catching video wall. Made up of photos and LCD screens, this ever-changing mural is comprised of photos submitted via Instagram.
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In its continuing quest for world domination – Okay, Canadian domination – family-run Canadian hotelier, Groupe Germain, has announced that they will build another ALT Hotel in Ottawa for 2014.
Expect to see a modern hotel with twelve floors and 148 rooms designed by Canadian architects Lemay Michaud and Richard Chmiel. The hotel will be located on well-traversed Slater Street in Ottawa's bustling business district and will share space with 164 luxury condos in the same complex.
As in all ALT Hotels, WiFi is always free and the hotels don’t just call themselves green, they mean it. They use: geothermal heating and cooling, heat recovery from indoor air that's vented outside, water from commercial washers, energy-efficient lighting and a direct digital control system for ventilation, heating and cooling.
When it comes to taking in the changing leaves of autumn, no mention of Prince of Wales hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, as we did yesterday, is complete without mentioning its countryside doppelganger, Pillar and Post. If Prince of Wales is Buckingham Palace, then Pillar and Post is the queen's country home, Sandringham Estate. The hotels have the same owner, with a clear fixation on British aristocracy.
The building, constructed in the 1890s, was originally a canning factory. Now a five-star hotel, it bears little resemblance to the original structure. The grounds include an enormous spa, a saltwater pool, and faux waterfall whirlpool.
Be forewarned, as the buggy photo above shows, the hotel takes its country cottage theme a little too seriously. For those who feel a surge of nausea at the sight of a ruffled bed skirt, this place is not for you. But if craft fairs are your favorite Saturday activity, book a room now.
[Photo: Dave Mather]