A Boutique Hotel, A Chef and a Miserable Weekend – Part 1
Once a year go somewhere you’ve never been before.Dalai Lama
It was the Family Day long weekend after Valentine’s Day. We found ourselves with no formal plans. It seemed the perfect setup … for a Staycation. With Christa consumed by school demands right up to the hour of our departure, I took planning into my own hands. That was easy. After all, I’m the planner. She was only too happy to go with the flow.
Calgary’s Downtown hotels tend to have very decent weekend rates, while weekday rates are somewhat inflated to meet business travellers’ supply-and-demand. These late winter weekend escapes into downtown are fast becoming an annual treat for us. We don’t often get to explore downtown together, so when we do have these little “stolen moment” get-aways we try to pack as much into the hours as we can. This weekend was going to be no exception!
We bundled into our car at 5pm on Friday afternoon and navigated towards downtown, thankfully against the peak hour traffic that was inching its way in the opposite direction. The frigid, snowy, windy conditions slowed things down even more. We were in for a miserable weather weekend, perfect for a little R&R!
A Boutique Hotel
Stay in. Unplug. Restore.
I had made reservations for two nights in a king bed corner room at the newly opened boutique Alt Hotel by le Germain in Calgary’s East Village. In my pre-arrival communications with the Staff they had volunteered information of where to park and what to explore in the neighbourhood. Their communications were prompt, up-to-date and very helpful. Upon arrival and check-in, amidst a menacing winter storm, we were welcomed by Mohamed, the friendly and efficient Hotel Front Desk representative. He had been liaising with me prior to our arrival. His friendly welcome made us feel like we were the only guests he’d seen all day (which was definitely not the case). He was delighted to host us. Being very proud about the fact that this was the hotel’s three-month birthday, he excitedly told us about the history of the hotel group and the luxurious European-modelled benefits we could enjoy in our room. The card-activated in-room automation system that controlled the lighting, ventilation and block-out blinds. The king size bed. The spacious rain shower. It sounded so inviting. And it was!
Our corner room on the 4th floor was more than adequate. Unfortunately, the hotel is already being boxed in by neighbouring high-rise developments typical of a downtown location, so a room with a view is unlikely. For our two night stay a more spacious suite might have been an enjoyable perk. However, I’d planned our weekend waking time to the hour so there was likely to be little need for suite benefits. I enjoyed pressing buttons and figuring out the hotel room automation system while Christa unpacked. We flopped onto the bed for a few moments of rest before bundling up again to brace the cold and hit the town.
Offline for the weekend.
One of the advantages of being a much-loved elementary school educator are the generous gift cards that are given to their favourite Grade 3 teacher by families each year. It was our intention to use some of these to indulge ourselves with free food for the weekend. However, before leaving our room that plan had already started unravelling.
I was reminded that a local Chef had recently started following me on social media. Being the cold, wintery night that it had become, I easily convinced Christa that a detour to visit Chef Rocco Bartolotti’s nearby Scarpetta Italian Eatery in Inglewood might provide us with some inviting comfort food. Were we ever glad we sidelined the gift cards, made a last-minute reservation here and forked out cash for this occasion. When Italians eat at an Italian eatery then you know the food must be authentic and good. Our lack of Italian heritage meant we couldn’t vouch for the “authentic”, but we sure could vouch for the “good”. In fact, it was awesome! From the service to the plating to the flavours, Scarpetta has new-found foodie fans in Christa and I. We shared a calamari fritti starter followed by the gnocchi and tagliatelle entrees garnished with fresh herbs which we also shared. As a final sweet taster we indulged in the mini cannoli. All the flavours were superb and the quantities sufficient for us to leave elegantly satisfied despite wanting a little more. It was an added bonus to be able to meet the engaging and friendly Chef Rocco prior to our departure, too! It’s worth noting that the restaurant hosts free live music every Saturday night. Sadly, we were a night too early to enjoy this added bonus.
Some people look for a beautiful place. Others make a place beautiful.Hazrat Inayat Khan
A Miserable (Weather) Weekend
Despite the turbulent winter weather, I was determined to get my weekend itinerary back on track. Instead of walking, as I’d originally hoped to do, we drove from our Italian dinner detour into the downtown core. Here we braced ourselves against the frigid -25˚C wind chill to explore the Calgary Glowfest that had infiltrated some popular street locations.
It didn’t take long before our winter clothing layers proved inadequate and we were driven indoors for some respite from the icy wind. We gladly succumbed to a welcome hot chocolate, served up by Sandstone at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, one of the more than 70 participating locations in the YYC Hot Chocolate Festival happening during the month of February. We sipped on our $10 decadent lushed butter cocoa and maple treat in the soothing ambience of the comfortable venue before braving the cold, finding our car and retiring to the comforts of our hotel room.
Unintentionally taking the Dalai Lama’s opening quote to heart, our staycation weekend was already proving to serve up several firsts for us.
The inviting new Alt Hotel hospitality and comfort.
The authentic Scarpetta Italian Eatery goodness.
The electric vibes of Glowfest.
The Hotel Front Desk, the Chef and the miserable (weather) weekend were all conspiring to make this a very memorable start to an enjoyable staycation.
Find out what happened next in our follow-up blog Part 2.
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