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Hotel Le Soleil: European Elegance in the Heart of Vancouver

© By Hans Tammemagi
From the bus window, we caught views of marinas full of sleek yachts, tug boats pulling barges and, up ahead, snow-capped mountains peeking out from behind the crenellated skyline of downtown Vancouver. My wife, Allyson, and I were excited for we were making a rare visit to the big city. We crossed Granville Bridge and entered a jungle of concrete and gleaming glass towers.
     From the bus stop, a short stroll through the bustling historic business district led us to our destination, Hotel Le Soleil. We had decided to treat ourselves, and had selected Le Soleil because it was a boutique hotel and centrally located. Okay, perhaps we were also influenced by Resorts and Great Hotels Magazine naming it "one of the Top 100 Hotels in the World." It is also on the Condé Nast Gold List of the World's Best Places to stay. As we were to discover over the next two days, Le Soleil is a gem and one of Vancouver's top 3 hotels.
     Entering the lobby, our first impression was not disappointing. Suddenly we were in a European hotel with stylish sophistication and old world elegance. Spread out before us were a thirty-foot-high vaulted and gilded ceiling, crystal chandeliers, fluted columns and Louis XVI style furniture. A fire crackled in the fireplace. Italian marble glinted and reflected rich gold's and crimsons. The furniture and decor were straight from the 18th century and the lobby reminded me of the salons of France, like a miniature Versailles.
     The check-in went smoothly and quickly we found ourselves at our door on the 15th floor. Allyson's eyes opened wide as she stepped into the luxurious living room decorated in rich Biedermeier style with bold gold tones and crimson accents. Each piece of furniture was like an antique. Her eyes grew even wider as she stepped into the adjoining bedroom (Every "room" in the Le Soleil is a suite!) with its king-size bed with a crimson brocade cover and Egyptian cotton linens.



     We unpacked and relaxed over coffee. Allyson loved the suite so much, it took some time to convince her to venture forth to sample the cultural life of Vancouver. With the help of the concierge, we discovered Le Soleil is at the heart of the city and almost everything is within walking distance. We enjoyed Monet and Emily Carr paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery only two blocks away.
     Refreshed from our explorations, we entered the Copper Chimney, Le Soleil's unique restaurant. "What a beautiful place," exclaimed Allyson; "this is one of the most attractive restaurants I've ever seen!" Looking like a theatre, a magnificent carved wooden sun and its rays cover an entire two-storey wall. The tables and wood floor exude warmth and large scalloped shells hang from the high ceiling. Many diners were seated high up on the second storey looking down on the action below. A wooden staircase curved between the two floors where I could imagine a Phantom of the Opera scene or a tumbling death from a murder mystery taking place. With thoughts of operas dancing in our heads we selected from the lunch menu, which featured Indian fusion dishes, whose exotic aromas wafted tantalizingly around us. Allyson chose Chicken Tikka Satay with coconut curry sauce while I picked the Chicken in Fenugreek Sauce with a zesty curry sauce. While we waited, the friendly server brought us Naan bread accompanied by warm garlic oil ... lovely.
     After lunch I spoke with Sheena Pillay, the general manager. She explained, "Le Soleil is not a chain hotel. We make the decisions right here, and don't need approval from a distant head office." Indeed, during our entire stay it felt like a family-run establishment with attention to detail and a staff that cared about the guest.
     Later we ambled a few blocks north to the harbour and the sea wall walk where we savoured magnificent views of the sails of Canada Place, boats of all sizes and mountains along the northern horizon like giant valets attending to our pleasure.
     Next morning, Allyson slipped into a bathrobe so thick and plush that it felt like a polar bear skin. With a come-hither look, she said, "Next time we must try the Chocolate Affair." A chocolate lover, I couldn't agree fast enough. The package, one of several the Le Soleil offers, includes an in-suite chocolate fondue, ice wine, a chocolate sugar body scrub and something I was especially intrigued by: triple indulgence edible chocolate body paint.
     Allyson also loved the Aveda toiletry products, and, while packing, I thought I saw her slipping some into her suitcase. As the concierge hailed a cab, we were already eager to return and pamper ourselves again.

Hans Tammemagi has written two travel books: Exploring Niagara - The Complete Guide to Niagara Falls & Vicinity and Exploring the Hill - A Guide to Canada's Parliament Past & Present. His work is often featured in Osprey and CANWEST papers.

Photo credits
Hans Tammemagi:

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Website: www.hotellesoleil.com
Number of suites: 119
Location: 567 Hornby Street on west side just north of Dunsmuir Street
Phone: 1-877 632-3030
Corporate functions can be held in meetings rooms or the penthouse suites.
Amenities include a fitness centre and business centre.
BC residents: ask about the BC package.

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
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Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/

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