48 Hours in Victoria, BC: Where to stay & what to do + Chateau Victoria Hotel Review

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Earlier this month, my boyfriend and I took a weeklong trip to British Columbia. This was our first ever visit to the province, and we were so excited to explore a brand new place (especially one we’d heard such amazing things about!). After some research, we decided to spend a total of six nights in Vancouver and one night in Victoria in the middle of the trip.

Victoria is BC’s capital, located on the southern end of Vancouver Island – meaning we had to take a ferry across from Vancouver to get to the city. We ended up renting a car which we brought with us on the hour and thirty minute long journey (you park it on the lower deck and then are free to explore the boat which includes a restaurant, shops and free wifi). The ride ended up being super scenic, and was definitely a highlight of the trip!

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Once we made it to Victoria we checked into our room at Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites*, a locally owned and operated hotel located conveniently in the heart of downtown Victoria. We stayed in one of the property’s One-Bedroom Suites, which included a king sized bed, living room area and kitchenette.

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My favourite part of the room definitely had to be the cute little walk-out balcony, which had an amazing view of downtown Victoria, including the British Columbia Parliament Buildings which are beautifully lit up and night.

One of the things I noticed while visiting BC is that many of the restaurants do awesome Happy Hour specials (which are harder to come by in Toronto). The hotel is home to a beautiful rooftop restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner called Vista 18 Westcoast Grill & Wine Bar, which has breath-taking views of the city. After a quick rest, we made it just in time for the end of the restaurant’s Happy Hour, which featured 2 for 1 Small Bites as well as affordable beer and wine options.

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We split sliders and shrimp, which were both tasty and a great value.

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The hotel also has a bar located in the lobby – Clive’s Classic Lounge – that serves up delicious cocktails as well as their own yummy menu of apps, charcuterie and more.

After spending some time exploring the harbour and streets of Victoria (which were full of tons of cute locally owned shops!) we decided to call it an early night and returned to our suite for some quality time relaxing on the couch and watching TV. Overall we were very happy with our stay at Chateau Victoria – the staff were friendly and accommodating, the room was spacious and comfortable, and the location couldn’t be beat! Even though we had the car, we ended up doing most of our exploring by foot as everything was within walking distance.

After check out the next morning, we headed to John’s Place for breakfast – a local favourite that’s been around for over 30 years, which I highly recommend! We then headed to the Royal British Columbia Museum to check out the exhibits – another must-see in the city – before hopping on the ferry back to Vancouver.

Victoria ended up being one of my favourite parts of our trip! Vancouver Island is full of natural beauty and is actually a lot bigger than it seemed on a map, so I’d love to return to spend a week dedicated to exploring more cities on the island. Two days in Victoria was enough time for us to feel like we saw enough of the city before leaving, but three days would have been perfect to have the chance to check off a few things we didn’t get around to – tea at the Fairmont Empress, whale watching and Butchart gardens (a perfect excuse to return!).

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*Thank you to Chateau Victoria Hotel & Suites for hosting us during our stay.

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Valentine’s Day Staycation at One King West

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My boyfriend and I were looking for a special way to celebrate Valentine’s Day together this year, as it’s the first time in three years we could spend it together in person (we were long distance for two years while he attended school in London, UK). With both of our hectic schedules, it seemed like a weekend staycation was just what we needed. After researching a few hotels, we settled on One King West, and were lucky enough to be invited to collaborate with them to experience one of their Romantic Getaway packages.

One King West is located in the heart of downtown Toronto at Yonge Street and King Street West in an Ontario Heritage-designated building. Formerly the head office of The Dominion Bank (later The Toronto-Dominion Bank), the building is architecturally stunning, with all of the historical charm you would expect of a 100-year-old landmark. Amenities include a full concierge, limo service, valet parking, a business centre, and a newly renovated rooftop fitness centre. One King West actually doubles as a hotel and residence, with suites divided between two buildings: the historic Dominion Bank Building, and the “Silver” Condo Tower, which we stayed in.

The Room

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We were upgraded to a Tower Premium Suite, which was located on the corner of the building, offering incredible views of Lake Ontario as well as the CN Tower. On a clear day, this would have been one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever had of the city – unfortunately, we were hit with some terrible weather during the weekend way stayed, and the top half of the CN Tower was engulfed in fog! Luckily it cleared up at night, just in time to see the pretty city lights.

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The suite itself was cozy, with a separate bedroom containing a king sized bed, and a little living area with a kitchenette, couch, and desk area. The bed was one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever stayed in – we actually had a quick nap after checking in after failing to resist the soft, squishy siren song of the mattress and pillows.

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As part of the package, we were greeted with a bottle of white wine (custom bottled for the hotel) and a plate of gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries – one of my all-time favourite treats! I love that we were also provided with plush robes and a pair of slippers, which really added to the rest and relaxation theme of our weekend.

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The washroom had both a tub and a shower, and luxurious toiletries by BYREDO. A few things to note about our experience if you’re planning a stay at One King West in the future – I did notice that the Wi-Fi signal in our room was quite weak, which could be a bit tricky for those travelling for work. It wasn’t as much of a problem for us, as we could use the data on our phones, but could be frustrating for longer stays.

The hotel also offers valet parking at a cost of $49 a night on a first come, first serve basis, but spots seem to fill up quickly – we arrived around 5:30 pm with the car but unfortunately were turned away and had to park in a public garage nearby. If you’re located in the city, you might want to consider other transportation methods, since the hotel is located very conveniently on the subway line.

The Food

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The hotel offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in their lobby bistro, as well as a bar named “Teller’s Bar” that serves snacks and drinks in a casual setting. We were ecstatic to have breakfast included in our stay, which was buffet-style and served in the lobby until 11:30 am. This gave us ample time to sleep in, and we were thoroughly impressed with the selection available when we arrived at the buffet.

In addition to every kind of breakfast protein you can imagine (bacon, peameal bacon, sausage, turkey sausage, and eggs cooked any way you like them), they also had a selection of pastries, pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, parfaits and fruit. It was truly a spread fit for royalty! The best part? They let us take our food back to our room, where we could eat in the comfort of bed, and enjoy a little more quality time before a late checkout.

Location

In my opinion, one of the best features of One King West is the awesome location. Just steps away from major landmarks including the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Hockey Hall of Fame, there’s never a shortage of things to do and see in the area. Another key feature is that the hotel actually connects to the Toronto PATH, the underground tunnel system that provides optimal access to public transportation and many downtown Toronto destinations. This was particularly handy during our stay for avoiding the cold and slush when walking to dinner for the evening at Jump restaurant, located just across the street.

The only complaint I have about our staycation experience at One King West is that it was far too short. We had such a relaxing stay, and were treated with such friendly, accommodating service that we’re sure to return!

If you’re looking for a last minute way to spend February 14th with your special someone, the hotel is offering a Valentine’s Day dinner/getaway package featuring a four-course prix fix dinner menu set to live music. I definitely recommend a stay at One King West if you’re looking for an affordable hotel in Toronto for a weekend of sightseeing, or simply to relax and enjoy some time off.

A Weekend in Montreal: Loews Hotel Vogue Review

Loews Hotel Vogue Review

Making an annual fall trip to Montreal has become somewhat of a tradition for my boyfriend and I that I hope we’ll be able to continue for years to come! Only a five and half hour drive from Toronto, Montreal makes for the perfect weekend getaway, with historic charm and a thriving arts and food scene that we love to explore. I feel like we never have enough time to fully see everything we want to, which just means we have an excuse to return.

As we didn’t have much time in the city, we wanted to stay somewhere as centrally located as possible – close to everything we’d want to see, and with a good selection of restaurants and sites near by. We landed on the Loews Hotel Vogue, a chic luxury hotel situated in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile. After a long drive on Friday evening we were relieved to arrive at the hotel, which provided us with complimentary valet parking (regularly $35/night). We were checked in by the friendly front desk staff and notified to our delight that our room had been upgraded to a Luxury King Suite! The hotel also provided luggage service to help us bring our bags to our room, which was a nice touch, especially after the long journey.

The Room

I was greeted with the sweetest gift when we got to our room from the Loews Hotel Vogue staff – a cosmetics bag, nail polish, and a bottle of their signature scent (that I’m absolutely obsessed with!), which they also use to make the lobby smell divine. The suite was more than enough room for our party of two, with a king sized bed, multiple desk spaces, a living area, two closet/vanity areas, and the best part, two full-sized washrooms with whirlpool tubs! I should also mention there were a total of four TVs in the room, with two of them located facing the tubs in the bathrooms – a dream come true for a Food Network fiend like myself.

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For me, the most important part of a hotel room is the bed – as I’m likely spending the day out and about exploring the city, getting a good night’s sleep is crucial. I’m not over-exaggerating when I say the bed at the Loews Hotel Vogue was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in. The pillows and mattress were marshmallowy soft, and the sheets always seemed to stay cool. The curtains also did an amazing job of blocking out the light in the mornings, when we wanted to catch an extra hour or two of sleep.

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Other aspects of the room that I loved were the complimentary robes, the relaxing whirlpool bathtub, and the little vanity area that was perfect for doing my hair and makeup in the morning. I also adored the vintage Vogue Magazine covers hung as artwork above the bed, paying homage to the hotel’s name. During our first night, I also received a text message from a member of the staff making sure that everything was perfect with the room – something I’ve never experienced at another hotel and really showed an extra level of care.

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The Hotel

The Loews Hotel Vogue is elegant and modern, with subtle art deco touches. The lobby is decorated with beautiful hanging chandeliers, soft gold touches, and plush velvet couches, making for a truly luxurious experience. Amenities include a 24 hour fitness centre, knowledgeable concierge, as well as a complimentary coffee bar in the hotel lobby, as well as complimentary coffee and tea in the hotel rooms.

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La Société (which coincidentally has a Toronto based location that we’ve visited before) is the hotel’s restaurant, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner options, as well as 24 hour room service. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to try the food, but we would have loved to order breakfast to the room if we had a few more days in the city.

We actually really loved the valet parking, as it made it super easy to jump in the car and go when we wanted to drive to other parts of the city. The parking came with complete in and out privileges, and only required we call ahead by 5-10 minutes when we wanted to use the car. Checkout was quick and painless as well, with options to check out via the phone or through the TV available.

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Location

The hotel was located next to both high-end (Tiffany’s, Holt Renfrew, Anthropologie) and affordable (Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville) stores, which was perfect for us as we love to shop! If you’re an art lover, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal is only a five minute walk away, which features some awesome sculptures outside. There are also tons of restaurants close by – we dined at LOV located just up the street on Sunday morning for a healthier brunch and loved it. The only thing I wish there had been more of nearby were little cafes and bakeries. We only had one option to grab croissants and macarons from, which are a necessity for us, lol!

In terms of its location in relation to the rest of the city, we really couldn’t have asked for a better, more central hotel. It was a short 10-15 minute drive to other popular areas including Old Montreal as well as Le Plateau-Mont-Royal. Overall, I would definitely recommend the Loews Hotel Vogue the next time you’re planning a trip to Montreal. The top-notch service, attention to detail, and heavenly beds definitely get a winning grade in my books.

 

A weekend in Scottsdale: Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa Review

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A couple weeks back, I took advantage of the long weekend hopped on a plane to visit my boyfriend, who’s currently spending the summer working in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since both of our schedules are quite hectic, I had booked the trip last minute and was a bit worried about finding a place for us to stay while I came to visit. To my surprise, I discovered that June to August is actually the off season for Arizona (I didn’t realize quite how HOT it would be – it is the desert after all!), and for that reason there was a fair bit of choice when it came to choosing a hotel.

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa immediately caught my eye while browsing vacation packages. The resort is beautifully designed and modern, having opened recently in the Fall of 2016. Typically, my accommodations when traveling play a secondary role, as I usually spend more time exploring the area than relaxing at the resort. However, as temperatures in Scottsdale reached 40+ degrees Celsius during my stay (making exploring during the daytime a difficult feat), the hotel played an extremely important role.

The Room

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We were lucky enough to be upgraded to an XL King Room, which was more than enough space than the two of us. The rooms at the resort are set up “casita” style (like a little house), making it super private. The room featured a king-sized bed, wooden beam ceiling and was tastefully and simply decorated. We were greeted with a thoughtful card and cactus-shaped macaron on the bedside table – my idea of the perfect warm welcome. There was also a gigantic television hung on the wall opposite the bed, which made for great binge-watching/snuggling sessions when it was just too hot to go outside. The resort offers Chromecast (allowing you to project anything you’re streaming on your phone onto the TV), which I hadn’t previously used before. We had some difficulty setting it up, but the resort was quick to send a technician out to our room to help us figure it out! Once it was set up, it was honestly life changing to be able to watch whatever we wanted on the big screen.

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The best part of the room? The swoon-worthy bathroom! The modern, beautiful space was flooded with natural light thanks to a skylight and patio entrance, and the gorgeous, white subway-tiled double shower was big enough for 10 people. I often find myself frustrated that there aren’t enough mirrors or natural light in the hotel to do my makeup comfortably when traveling – but this was definitely not the case here. The room also had a nice closet area, vanity space (perfect for doing your hair and not hogging the bathroom), and mini-fridge area with a Keurig.

The Resort

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An open concept style lobby that leads into the resort’s restaurant made for a grand entrance when checking in. The resort itself was absolutely stunning and felt completely secluded, with Camelback Mountain providing the backdrop. The bungalow style rooms make the property feel more like an exclusive neighbourhood community than a resort, dotted with adorable cacti, palm trees, and desert-native plants. The Andaz is equipped with three pools (the main pool was located near our room, and the other two by the spa), a gym and a restaurant.

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The Turquoise pool (the main pool) was definitely the star of the resort, situated in the centre and a popular spot during the hot, sunny day. I loved the cactus and pineapple shaped pool floats they provided for resort guests, and there were more than enough lounge chairs and cabanas to accommodate everyone. My favourite feature was that the pool was salt water, which I prefer over traditional chlorine. I wish it could have been kept at a cooler temperature (I love a cool, refreshing swim in the heat!), but it’s unrealistic to keep a pool cooled in such intense weather conditions.

Location

Scottsdale is a relatively small city in comparison to the big cities I’m used to – meaning everything is located conveniently close together or just a short drive away.  The resort provided a complimentary car service (in a Tesla!) to shuttle guests to downtown and Oldtown Scottsdale, or anywhere within a short drive away. We used this to get downtown each day, and then used  Uber to get back to the resort, which was very affordable due to its central location.

Since I was in Scottsdale for only three days, I didn’t get to visit all of the spots on my wishlist – however I did get to try a few cafes and restaurants I had researched beforehand. I highly recommend stopping by these places if you’re ever in the area:

  • Diego Pops: an adorable Mexican spot with a cute patio & yummy food
  • Sugar Bowl: an old-school cafe and ice cream shop that’s been in Scottsdale since 1958. Also home to the most perfect pink wall for Instagram opps!
  • Ruze Cake House: the cafe of my dreams! This little spot serves boba and other sweet treats
  • Sprinkles Cupcakes: not unique to Scottsdale, but adorable nonetheless

Within walking distance of the resort, there’s also a Walgreens, Trader Joe’s and a casual but tasty Mexican spot (Blanco Tacos + Tequila), which basically covers all the bases.

Dining

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The resort’s restaurant is the Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, which serves up farm-to-table dishes and features an awesome “glass box” kitchen. We received a $50 credit for the restaurant and used it to grab a lovely Sunday morning breakfast. I’ll admit it was a bit on the pricier side, but everything was delicious – especially the avocado toast!

Overall, the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa was honestly one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had! The staff was friendly, attentive, and more than ready to help with any special requests or needs my boyfriend and I had. The weekend truly felt like our own private getaway and was just the escape I needed! I would highly recommend staying at the Andaz – and if you’re working with a tight budget and can brave the Arizona summer heat, booking during the off season is a great way to save.