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Ode to a Canadian hotel room

While the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia are still a year away, if you are planning on going and need a place to stay, you might want to book room 801 at the Sylvia Hotel right now.

The eight story Sylvia Hotel in the west end of Vancouver was designed by Seattle architect W.P White and built in 1912 as an apartment building for a Mr. Goldstein who named the building after his daughter.

During the depression the building fell on difficult times and in 1936 was converted into an apartment hotel. Throughout WWII the rooms provided accommodation for the merchant marine crews. By the mid 60’s The Sylvia had become a hotel and in 1954 opened the first cocktail bar in Vancouver.

What sets The Sylvia apart from other hotels besides its enduring past is its location. Situated across the street from Vancouver’s English Bay, the west facing side of the building has direct and phenomenal views of water, mountains, boats, beachgoers, sunsets and the city lights. It’s like a microcosm of the best of Vancouver in one spot.
Approaching the ivy covered brick structure that is surrounded by contemporary buildings, gives you the sense that not a lot has changed in the hotel over the past sixty years. While the sprawling main floor bar and restaurant are thoughtfully modern, the building’s common areas and guest rooms have been spared a characteristic spiritless facelift. It’s a little gritty feeling, not quite dirty, but not antiseptic either. This grittiness leads to its unaffected charms and in fact enhances them as you take the somewhat gloomy elevator ride up to the eighth floor and proceed down to the end of the hallway and room 801.

Entering the room in the late afternoon, the light pours in through the many huge sash windows that cover the entire west and north sides of the suite. A gigantic seagull is perched on the ledge of the window facing the entrance door offering a personal welcome that is later augmented by its friends who will line up to visit and eat from your hands anything you might be offering. (In this case a lemon cranberry muffin from the Whole Foods market about half a mile away from the hotel 1675 Robson St. Vancouver, (called the Capers Community Market at this location).  The suite hardly feels like a hotel, but more like an elderly person’s apartment without the tchakes and family photos.

Absent are Frette sheets or flat screen TV’s, instead there are a couple of somewhat lumpy beds in two huge separate rooms with a long hallway in between, a full sized kitchen with fridge, stove, cupboards and sink complete with eat in table and chairs and a modernized (this decade) bathroom. The suite’s sparse furniture could best be described as 1960’s thrift shop…and not in the ‘good mid-century’ kind of way. Yet the main living space is comfortably furnished with a dining table and chairs in the corner, an upholstered sofa and chair, a bed and a bulky television on a squat stand. The master bedroom down the hall in the almost 1000 sq. foot suite takes up almost a third of the apartment. The king sized bed looks stranded in the generous open expanse.

However, it’s the spectacular view that washes away the lack of modern room amenities. Transport ships sit in the glittering water in the distance while the snow capped Coast Mountain range provide a dramatic backdrop to the setting sun. English Bay curves in towards the city whose lights can be seen from sticking your head out the window and looking to the left. As the light changed and the sun set, the sky filled with bubbly clouds of oranges, crimson and purples. The city lights started twinkling and the mountains grew darker and the entertainment for the evening was provided by feeding the seagulls and gazing at the view.

If you desire some company other than your new winged friends,  head downstairs to the main floor restaurant and bar where you can get decent if not ordinary food served along with street level people watching and of course those views. The bar favours martini’s and locals swear by the blueberry version but on this night, we had brought our own bottles of wine and unwholesome snacks from the market and between feeding the birds, watching the sunset and taking dozens of photographs there was no reason to leave the room. However, if you did decide to explore the area, English Bay is an eclectic community located in the West End portion of Vancouver’s downtown core and its main thoroughfares of Denman and Davie Streets are lively and rife with bars and bistros.

The massive 1000 acre Stanley park is beside the hotel providing a good reason to leave the room for awhile, maybe rent a bike at the plentiful shops that offer bike rentals get some fresh air at sea level, after all, your in one of the worlds most beautiful cities; and room 801 at the Sylvia is what must be one of the worlds most beautiful views from a room.

The Sylvia Hotel
1154 Gilford Street and Beach Ave.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6G 2P6
Hotel and Reservations call 1.604.681.9321
Rates for Room 801 in high season are $275 CDN down to $175 CDN during low season.

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