The Hotel That Got Away

on Monday, September 22, 2008

It was 1994, I had been studying in Ottawa on a scholarship for more than 3 years. My stay in Canada was coming to an end and I saved up money so that my wife and I could enjoy one big Canadian travel adventure before we had to leave. My brother and his wife also was keen to visit Canada while we were there. So it was agreed that we would meet in Vancouver and drive through the Canadian Rockies to Banff and then on to Calgary.

While I was definitely excited about this and sharing the car rental helped a lot to stretch my limited resources, choosing accommodation became a problem. My brother and his wife were accustomed to a better quality or level of accommodation whereas I was more concerned about the costs.

As the date neared, I desperately scoured the Internet for information on the best deals for accommodation. In Vancouver, I narrowed it down to two places. The first was Sylvia Hotel. It seemed too good to be true. From the pictures, it looked like it had a lot of character and the price was incredibly reasonable. I could not believe the price and I suspected a con job. Back then, the web pages were not as interactive as today's travel pages and more importantly it did not have comments from previous customers. If we had that, I am sure we would have gone for it.

Instead, I delayed making a decision and lost the rooms. I eventually chose a place called Shatto Inn which was a bargain and near Stanley Park but it was not Sylvia Inn. When we finally arrived in Vancouver and saw Sylvia Hotel for ourselves, we could find nothing wrong with the place. It would become, in our family lore, the great hotel that got away.

A funny side-story was that I spoke to my brother on the telephone and told him to make his way to Shatto Inn when he arrived as our flight would arrive some 6 hours later. He thought he heard "Chateau Inn" which conjured up some thoughts of a rather opulent establishment and was therefore a little taken aback when the taxi took him to Shatto Inn - a three star rather than five star establishment.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, A Majority of Two, posted about the Sylvia Hotel and talked about the hotel in detail, even about a cat called Mister Got to Go. Please follow the link to read more about it. At that time, I mentioned that there was a song by Cheryl Wheeler about the Hotel and the cat is even mentioned.

Here is the only version I could find which is a cover version by a German fan who actually got to stay at the hotel. She heard the song first and was determined to see the hotel whereas, the squirrel never got to stay at the hotel but got to hear the song. Be warned that it is a soppy, sad, emotional type song and that it gets more interesting after the cat appears. Enjoy.


VioletSky said...

In 1990, I was returning from 6 months in Australia and had 5 days (of sunshine!!) in Vancouver. By then I was rather broke but was determined to sit on the patio of the Sylvia Hotel. Not quite enough money for lunch, but afternoon tea overlooking the Bay was my highlight. I dreamt of never leaving.

Dr.John said...

Sorry that the hotel got away but the song , at least, has some value.

Anonymous said...

Vancouver is high on my lost of places I need to visit. So many locations, so little time!

meggie said...

My dream destination is Canada

Eastcoastdweller said...

Wow, you were a squirrel ahead of your time. In 1994, I barely knew that the Internet existed and had never been online even once.

the walking man said...

It would appear that we were in Ottawa at the same time. My mothers family is from that area, with an aunt having owned a house not but 5 kilometers from parliament. Banff though...I got there thirty some years ago and seeing as I had the rain forest early winter to contend with I went east instead of north to Vancouver. *shrug* maybe one day.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

If the hotel is still around, you really must return and finally stay there.

Your stories always transport me to exotic locales in other times, which I suppose is the next best thing to actually being there myself.

Joyce's Ramblings said...

Ahh, The transport to another place via song and story. Thx. I spent a day and half in Canada and was amazed at the prices. Ouch it really hurt the budget.

Margaret said...

That is so cool to have a Dejavu like that. So sweet. Thanks for sharing.

Molly said...

Love hearing the history of old buildings. You still have time to go back to Vancouver and stay at the Sylvia......Maybe you'll even be lucky enough to run into Mr. Got To Go, or his descendants!

Marja said...

Where I am now I can't see the video but I liked the amusing story about the sylvia Hotel. Named after my friend who is of course a 5 star friend.
Also came to say bye to you squirrel as i am leaving for a while. Take care and lots of hugs

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Ah, now I have to have afternoon tea at the Sylvia Hotel.....someday!

dr. john,
I do like that melancholic song.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I am sure you will make it there someday.

It deserves to be a dream destination. Hope you will get to make it a reality too.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I was using the internet to do research at University. Now if I had spent more times online playing games, who knows, I might have done something useful like invent google.

I love Ottawa. A decidely liveable city and great for families. Perhaps a little boring but I like it quiet.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

We both should try to get to Vancouver and at least have high tea at the Sylvia Hotel.

I think the currency exchange is now in your favor although many things are probably still cheaper in the USA.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

.....and the weather is raining and blustery ....just as Eeyore might like.

There is always time.....unless they tear it down to build some characterless modern highrise.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

take care.

jmb said...

Even the locals visit the Sylvia, especially for lunch after walking in Stanley Park, including me. I heard that some people book a year in advance to get in there.

What a wonderful trip you had, Vancouver and the Rockies after the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter in Ottawa. Before I knew him my husband did a post doctoral fellowship at NRC in Ottawa for two years and he was very glad to leave the climate behind.
Enjoy your blogging hiatus. Sometimes it just gets to much to keep up with.

tsduff said...

You are cute. Check out my B.W.O. link under "links" under my sidebar... I think you will relate. Always love your blgg my dear squirrely friend. Don't be away too long.

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