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Toronto: Gladstone Hotel

Phone: (416) 531-4635
www.gladstonehotel.com

Reviewed by: will Code For Fun from CA, review #2129

When: April 2007

Quirky, offbeat, not luxurious, but really delightful.

We stayed in room 405, the Parlor of Twilight, because it was the only one with a king-sized bed. The photos of it on the website are accurate. The bed really is as big as it seems in the picture, for once!

We didn't see inside other rooms, but they are all decorated individually in extremely unusual style. This was certainly the most one-of-a-kind hotel room we've ever seen. My husband comments, "how often is it *fun* to just walk into your hotel room and look around?" The color scheme and the furnishings were so unlike a conventional hotel room that it felt like staying in some eccentric artist's sketch of one.

The bathroom was exceptionally tiny, almost as small as the bathroom on board the Norwegian Hurtigruten boat, and that's almost coffinlike. Everything was clean, and there were interesting local toiletries, including a dry bar of shampoo.

The room itself is cramped, and feels a tad spartan. For example, the only way to store your clothes is on slightly rough painted wooden shelves along the walls.

It would definitely not be suitable for someone with mobility issues: the elevator has to be summoned by calling the front desk and asking for it to be brought, which happened reasonably promptly every time, but we usually took the stairs -- which are a workout, very steep. And there are no ground floor rooms. I believe there are art exhibitions on the second floor -- the third floor, I'm pretty sure, is where all the rooms are.

What you don't see is that the ceiling has an embossed metallic pattern that is really amazing and peculiar. The purple comforter was not perfectly new (it was pilling and looking a little worn in a few places), but it felt like a reasonable exchange for living in an artwork, and the round bolster on the bed was pleasant to lean on (and, although we blush to admit it, fun to have a pillow fight with).

The bed was quite comfortable, and did I mention that it was HUGE? We liked the flat-panel TV and DVD player. There was a photo exhibit of Toronto filmmakers up in the hallways outside our room.

One of the strange features of our room (fascinating to our local contact, who had seen it from the outside) is a neon sculpture outside the window. The room should come with instructions on how to turn it off, since we couldn't sleep with it flashing and glowing and buzzing. We pulled the plug out, but there must be a better way.

In the vestibule of the floor our room was on, there was a big lounge we could sit in with local friends, though we had to keep it quiet because we were right outside the other rooms. The floors slope oddly, but it didn't bother us. The walls are pretty thin and we did get awakened by a fellow guest clomping down the hallway - might not be for light sleepers.

A couple of the front desk staff were snotty, but most were perfectly nice. The parking lot is a rough dirt lot across the street, but we did appreciate having a place to park.

One more note is that we were dismayed by the seedy-looking surroundings and the not-very-promising plain brick exterior with low-budget-looking "Hotel" sign. We thought we had made a big mistake when we arrived, and we sure wouldn't want to walk around the immediate neighborhood after dark. But the hotel interior is quirky and artistic, with a cool pub inside that our local contacts said is well-known and a fun hangout (we're not really pub-type folks, so we wouldn't know).

Also, although we didn't do this, it's apparently just on the fringe of a really fun neighborhood to browse through, with many bookstores and interesting shops.

I will absolutely come back to the Gladstone in the future, though I might splash out for one of the bigger rooms if we could afford it. I found it really entertaining just choosing the room from their website.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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