Sunday, November 13, 2016

Staycation at the Hotel Saskatchewan

I have a friend who's a big fan of the staycation. She takes her family to a hotel here in town and they stay there overnight, use the waterslide, eat the continental breakfast, and go home in the morning. And, I mean, it makes sense. Very little planning, very little stress. You can postpone easily if people are sick. You need fewer days off work because there's no travel time--and you can even spend a little extra money on a nicer hotel or a nicer breakfast or whatever because you saved so much in gas or airfare.

It's smart. Economical. Efficient. 

Me, I've been skeptical of the idea--not because I don't think it's brilliant, but because it doesn't seem...correct. I guess I'm hung up on the definition. A vacation is for getting away. Literally: to vacate. Why in the world, I've wondered, would I spend money to stay in a place just down the street from where I already stay to do things I already do in a city I'm already in?

So, okay, a couple of weeks ago, Hotel Saskatchewan invited me and Barclay to spend a night there--my very own staycation. I thought to myself, Why not? First of all: I rarely turn down free things. Second, when you're skeptical of something you really should get right up close to it and examine it from all angles. And when the thing is something as pleasant and relaxing as a vacation, whether you could hold a dictionary to it or not, all the better. 

In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, we took it a step further and dropped Sullivan off at Barclay's parents' house for the night. Bird #1: try a staycation, bird #2: spend my first night away from Sullivan since his birth almost three years ago (or even before that, if you consider the fact that I didn't even set him down for the entirety of those 9 months before he, you know, arrived).

Dead birds everywhere.

I figured it would be easier to spend my first night away from him if I was just across town (I was going to add a little self-deprecating disclaimer here about how I know I'm such a big wuss for waiting so long to leave him overnight etc etc, but, eh. I'm just a little late to the party. I came when I could, and I'm here now. I feel like I've written about this before...)

Anyway, the point, I'm coming to it: the point is that I checked into Hotel Saskatchewan this weekend and had my very first staycation and have since changed my stance from skeptic to full-blown advocate. 

The Hotel Saskatchewan has always been one of my favourite places in the Queen City (this is what people call Regina when they don't want to call Regina 'Regina').

I pop in from time to time to enjoy the food in the lounge or check out the Christmas decorations in the winter or for whatever other reason I can think of--I just like being there. There's always slightly tinny 20's jazz music drifting through the hallways and a doorman to let you in and chandeliers that shine down on you from the ceiling and up at you from their reflection on the floor. It's a good mix of beautifully-maintained 'old' and fresh-but-not-too-trendy 'new.'

In fact, I'd say that's what makes it stand out: its beautiful new oldness. I read somewhere once that back in the 20s it was known for being very ahead of its time because it had an electric vegetable peeler and a machine that took only three minutes to freeze 10 gallons of ice cream. So maybe now it's known for being very behind its time, but in the best way? (It should be noted that the bathrooms in the rooms are the one place that have no trace of "the old" left in them. And I think that's for the best.)

It's also known for having lots of famous people stay in it--the Queen, the Stones, the Biebs (and by the Biebs, I mean B.B. King) (but apparently the other Biebs is also on this list), Liberace, some guy named Paul McCartney, etcetera. In fact, the first time I ran into Michael Buble, he was on his way in.

I digress. So much.

The first item on my itinerary for the weekend was to "attend afternoon tea" with the other tourism ambassadors, so I put on my pearls and headed to the tea room, feeling ridiculously ladylike. Justin and his wife Megan got to experience something called Gentleman's Tea, which you can learn about here, and Katie and I did straight-up, old-school lady tea time, which is code for totally pigging out on dainties and finger sandwiches.

When I say pigging out, I really, really mean it. Here's a comprehensive list of the food Katie and I split: four kinds of sandwiches (egg salad, cucumber & cream cheese, pesto chicken, and smoked salmon) freshly baked scones with strawberry butter, chocolate-dipped strawberries, bichon au citron (I don't know what this is but I must have eaten it at some point because it's not anywhere anymore), lemon tarts with Italian meringue, chocolate truffle cake (THIS HAD GOLD ON IT), macaroons, chocolate-dipped eclairs, tea (of course), and strawberries & cream.

And it was all laid out for us by a delightful lady named Dora who has been serving afternoon tea for 33 years. Bless your heart, Dora, we loved you.

We sat there for a very long time. It was, as they say in these posh settings, lovely.

Barclay arrived from dropping Sullivan off as we were finishing up and we guiltily showed him our empty plates and gestured to the leftovers, which Dora put into a box for him to take home, like kind of a consolation prize.

There was nothing planned for the evening, and, like I said, Barclay hadn't been at the afternoon food fest, so him and I took his stuff up to the room and then set out to find...something to eat.

Here's another great thing about the Hotel: it's downtown and, therefore, surrounded by amazing restaurants--our options were almost overwhelming. In the end, we picked the Cathedral Social Hall because we hadn't been since its makeover and because Justin told us we needed to go, if only to try the pickle spears.

We did, and he was right. And lo! We beheld a staycation miracle: upon sitting down at the restaurant, it was as though I had never eaten anything else in all my life, and I had room for supper (but maybe not as much supper as usual, though).

Then we wandered over to Atlantis and got coffee to melt all that food away, because that's logical, and that's when we witnessed our second staycation miracle: my familiar Regina streets felt big and new and special, the way that vacation streets do, and my familiar Regina coffee shop felt quirky and big city. I got a drink I don't normally get and we sat in the corner we don't usually sit in and it felt like vacation and my brain let out a sigh of relief.

We talked about going to a show (Hannah Epperson was playing the Artful Dodger that night) and checked to see what delightful theatrical treats (I talk like this now) might be playing at the Globe a couple blocks away, but we ended up just visiting in the coffee shop for a while and then heading back. There's another staycation perk: you don't have to fit everything in. The pressure is off.

And the next morning, when I woke up, there was food in my bed. Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Eggs Benedict and coffee--and steak and eggs for Barclay. What a happy camper that guy was.

The last thing I was scheduled for was a manicure in the hotel's day spa and I was pumped about it. When the lady at the desk asked me, "Is this your first time at our spa?" I replied, "Actually, this is my first time in any spa."

And now my nails look like this:

And then, regrettably, it was time to go home. But like I said: I was a changed person. Turns out, you can have a vacation without leaving your city. All of this cost about the same as only one one-way ticket to New York (I looked up flights and did the math). We emerged with a new appreciation and fresh eyes for our city--and in the time it would've taken us to get halfway through airport security, we were home doing this:

And I have to say, as marvellous as the staycation was, this was my favourite part:

Thanks so much to Tourism Regina for sending us and to Hotel Saskatchewan for having us. 

We'll be back.

Tomorrow, actually, because I forgot my jacket.