by Jessica Price -
SGN A&E Writer
Getting away for a bit of romance is as simple as a 10-minute cab ride, or a four-hour train trip, from your doorstep.
THE SORRENTO HOTEL
A romantic and cosmopolitan getaway is just steps away for Seattleites. Planning a well-deserved local staycation or a weekend of international indulgence is easy with Vancouver only a few hours and a simple (and now required) passport check away. If you're planning an amorous getaway with your inamorato, or perhaps wedding bells are ringing, look no further than your own Northwest backyard.
For starters, the grandiose and undeniably romantic Sorrento Hotel is hosting a quiet renaissance right here in our midst. The Sorrento, opened in 1909, boasts that it is our region's first and longest-operating boutique hotel. Over the years, the hotel has hosted countless weddings, anniversaries, and special occasions. Located on Madison Street in the historic First Hill neighborhood, it's a perfect choice for couples to burrow away for a pampered, extravagant weekend. The lush main lobby sweeps into the original mahogany woodwork of the Fireside Room, where you can sink into a cushy chair, chat with friends, borrow a book from the Sorrento library, or enjoy a stiff cocktail before dining in the ritzy but comfortable Hunt Club.
The Sorrento is quickly becoming a high-profile, swanky nightspot for locals as well as discerning travelers. Currently, cocktail and reading nights in the Fireside Room have been gaining the most attention, but there are also chamber music events, "Drinking Lesson" cocktail clinics, and other special "Night School" installments arranged in collaboration with an array of intellectuals, artists, writers, filmmakers, mixologists, and local chefs.
The doting staff is welcoming and treats you like royalty whether you're traveling or just dropping in from the neighborhood. But if you are staying the night, the rooms are opulent, charming, and come equipped with a memory book written by guests detailing personally memorable stays at The Sorrento in years past. All suites are decorated with rich fabrics and decadent extras - French doors, fanciful sofas, overstuffed chairs, complimentary wireless, and Italian marble bathrooms.
Though The Sorrento Hotel is luxurious, it's far from stuffy - various fun packages are options such as the famous "Whatever" package (he/she, he/he, she/she, etc.), which includes a deluxe guestroom for two, a rose, champagne and strawberries, and bubbles for the tub. A forgiving 4 p.m. checkout is optional, based upon availability. If you're planning a special occasion, the hotel's staff is only too happy to assist with arrangements.
PAN PACIFIC - VANCOUVER
The Pan Pacific Vancouver is a five-star, all-suites hotel that feels much more like a fanciful resort. Five sweeping, modern sail-like structures on the edge of the water nearest the hotel are regarded by locals as one of Vancouver's most striking and well-known landmarks, and you can see a panoramic view of the white sails, water, nearby Stanley Park, and the mountains from most guest rooms.
The hotel was a hub for major media and athletes visiting Vancouver during the Winter Olympics, and with its breathtaking views and proximity to just about everything, it's easy to see why. Our deluxe guest suite looked over the water, with a view of the now-dimmed Olympic rings still plainly visible in the harbor. By day, you can be pampered; by night, the vibrant Gaslight District and all of downtown are just blocks away on foot. The hotel is also an ideal stopover for a cruise to and from Alaska, as it's virtually connected to the cruise ship terminal, as well as the futuristic convention center.
For weddings, anniversaries, or special events, there's a vast array of options, such as the breathtaking Crystal Pavilion Ballroom, which was being prepared for an elaborate wedding reception during our stay. Various other luxurious banquet rooms are easily converted to suit a celebration or event of any size. The restaurants and lounges connected to the Pan Pacific will graciously help you coordinate any kind of surprise party or reception, no matter the specifics, with the hotel's staff.
Though the hotel is large, boasting over 500 rooms with majestic views, all rooms feature luxurious personal touches alongside all the business amenities you could ask for. Room service is delivered by the friendliest staff I've ever encountered, laying out a tablecloth and breakfast at your very own four-person dining table (the egg white omelets are made to order and absolutely delicious). There are also two restaurants on the facility - Five Sails (detailed below) and Café Pacifica - as well as the Cascades Lounge.
Guests are encouraged to enjoy a state-of-the-art fitness club and heated pool with Jacuzzi and sun deck. The bedrooms offer huge king-sized beds you can easily get lost in, with a bevy of feather pillows and down duvets. Baskets bursting with Aveda products fill both bathrooms (yes, our suite had two), and a Jacuzzi tub and plush bathrobe are tempting enough to keep you inside, curled up with your sweetie in front of one of the flat-panel TVs (one in the living area, one in the bedroom). The mood of the Pan Pacific Vancouver is modern opulence, making it easy to feel like you and your sweetie are the only two people on earth.
WHERE TO EAT IN VANCOUVER
Gerry Sayers - formerly the Pan Pacific Hotel's catering director - and her husband, chef Ernst Dorfler, launched the Five Sails in May 2007 with a loving hand and years of five-star fine dining experience between them. Though not associated with the hotel, the elegant restaurant is housed in the same enclave at Canada Place and overlooks Vancouver's inner harbor, Stanley Park, and a breathtaking view of the city and mountains. Their first special event upon opening was an elegant Gay wedding reception, and it's easy to see why, when taking in the view of the five modern white sails in the harbor and the twinkling lights of North Vancouver in the distance. If you're celebrating a special event or anniversary, it's a memorable location, and guests can stay just a few steps away at the neighboring hotel. The menu, though pricey, is money well spent, and from time to time there are seasonal samplers that are affordable without much of a stretch. Start off with crab cakes or delectable risotto and a bottle of Canadian wine, and try the pan-seared halibut brushed with herbs and citrus greens with asparagus. If you're not a seafood fan, there are plenty of other options, and chef Dorfler is more than happy to customize. The handmade spinach, herb, and ricotta ravioli was to die for. For a sweet ending, the smooth chocolate parfait with mango is outstanding.
The Medina Café is a unique, tiny bistro where the wait staff and patrons are chic and beautiful, and the menu is a glimpse into French café culture at its best. For brunch, Omlette du Matin is served up any way you like it in a tiny personal pan, and the Belgian waffles are dripping with your choice of topping and syrup (I suggest the fig orange marmalade). Cassoulet, a variety of sides, and a connoisseur's selection of coffee options will get you warmed up for a day of exploring Vancouver. The Café is tiny and the atmosphere leisurely (diners enjoy chatting over coffee and staying a while), so get there early to soak up some sophisticated scenery and brunch delicacies before there's a line.
WHERE TO DRINK
Chambar's philosophy encourages you to "leave your day at the door and indulge in civilized debauchery." Though well-known for dinner, many hip locals enjoy having drinks at Chambar (which is neighbor to Café Medina in Gastown), so we decided to drop in for drinks before heading out on the town. Beautiful exposed beams and sloped ceilings behind the bar paired with low, warm lighting, and either stools or plush sofas set the mood for a warm-up drink. As the menu is Belgian, Chambar offers a stellar selection of Belgian beers. If cocktails are more up your alley, try a specialty concoction to toy with your senses such as the Mûres Sauvages with blackberry, vanilla and gin or a Harmony, which is Canadian whiskey and lillet stirred with agave nectar and bitters. There's nothing on the cocktail menu that will disappoint, and there's plenty of eye candy to take in before going out. Definitely a place to see and be seen while letting your inhibitions down just a little.
The Commodore Ballroom
The Ballroom is a renowned combination dance club and live music venue right on famous Granville Street. The classic Art Deco building holds approximately 1,000 people in the main ballroom, plus four additional bars, and over the years everyone from Tina Turner to Weezer has played here. More recently, hot up-and-coming bands like The Morning Benders, The Gossip, and The xx played the Commodore. The stage is easily viewable anywhere in the house, and tables are also available if you don't feel like standing and prefer to people-watch. On the off night we stopped in, a local showcase had finished, and so a bit of dancing was in order. There's plenty of room to cut some rug, as well as a great sound system and multiple bars to refresh yourself. The crowd varies greatly from night to night depending on what is on the schedule, so be sure to check out the concert calendar before dropping by.
WHERE TO INDULGE
Spa Utopia & Salon
After a night out, there's nothing more welcome or indulgent than treating yourself and a partner to a double-spa experience. Spa Utopia, tucked inside the same complex as the Pan Pacific and the Five Sails restaurant, offers a convenient way to roll out of your guest room and disappear right into a few hours of down time. An array of VIP packages include your own spa suite complete with fanciful Grecian columns, a sprawling waterfall shower, a dining area at the foot of your own double Jacuzzi, rose petals and orchids festooned all around the suite, and a hostess to see to your every need. Guests are encouraged to customize their services with anything from Swedish massage to facials or wraps. From head to toe, your therapists will take every care to make sure that you and your partner are soothed and lavished with attention. Aromatic oils and gentle strokes relax achy muscle and frayed nerves. We opted for the Utopia Signature massages, scalp and foot massages, and a VIP fruit and cheese plate with a bottle of champagne. The spa suite was private and lived up to its reputation of excellence. It was hard to imagine that any other customers or rooms existed; the attention to detail and atmosphere of personal care was so complete. After our services were complete, we lounged for an hour in our warm, dimly lit room and left feeling kneaded and perfumed into absolute bliss. For an experience this grandiose, the prices were quite reasonable compared to the Spa Utopia's American counterparts. Package costs vary depending on add-on services; just call ahead to inquire or your host will be happy to help upon arrival or during your stay.
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