My Night at Canada Suites on Bay Street


Last Wednesday, I stayed at the Canada Suites located right in the heart of downtown Accordion City at 736 Bay Street, just south of College. They maintain a number of condos here, which they rent out as executive suites to visitors to Toronto or locals from the burbs who want to have a weekend downtown. They’ve been wanting to get the word out about their offerings, so they contacted Danielle “that PR thing” Iversen, who in turn contacted me.


I’ve been living a somewhat itinerant life ever since The Great Reset a year ago, having spent about half the year waking up and seeing strange ceilings. My longest such stay was at the Swank Tank, my nickname for the 126 Sparks executive suite in Ottawa, located on Sparks Street and right around the corner from the Parliament buildings. I lived there from May Day to Labour Day as I immersed myself in my new job at Shopify. I figured that I could offer an expert opinion on Canada Suites.


Kevin Murphy, who helps manage the suites, greeted me in the lobby of 736 Bay. It’s a condo building where Canada Suites owns about a dozen or so of the units. Kevin typically meets guests in the lobby, gets the relevant paperwork signed, takes them up to their unit, gives them the nickel tour and depending on their familiarity with the city, tells them about what’s in the area. He’s a young, friendly guy; in our conversation, I found him to be helpful and happy to answer my questions about the place.


The unit I stayed in was on the very top floor of the building – the 31st – a one-bedroom, one-bath affair with a combined living room/dining area and a kitchen that looked onto it. Tucked away near the entrance was a closet with a washer and dryer, and both the entrance hallway and bedroom had sliding-door closets.


Once Kevin left me to my own devices, I snapped photos of the unit. All the photos in this article were taken by me.


Most long-term stay places tend to be decorated in neutral colours in order to appeal (or at least not offend) the widest possible array of guests. Not this place: whoever decorated the living and dining rooms went for an Asian-ish theme in red, white and black with a bit of gold here and there. Red and gold are colours that symbolize prosperity and luck in Chinese and Japanese cultures, and they were into black lacquer before it was cool. It seems as if they were trying to attract taipans, and it’s a nice change from the typical, intentionally-bland hotel suites that I’ve been in all year.

The couches were comfortable and far less squeaky than they look, and the overall living room setup would work just fine either for meetings or social visits.


Although I didn’t try it out, Kevin told me that one of the couches folded out into a bed so that people could also sleep in the living room. He said that a number of their clients were people from the outer burbs or a few hours’ drive away who wanted to do a “boys weekend” or “girls’ nights out” and rented the unit as a group. It’s a good way for a group coming into town to stretch their dollar, especially if they take advantage of the kitchen and nearby groceries (there’s a Sobey’s in College Park across the street, and the big new Loblaws at the old Maple Leaf Gardens is just a short walk away).

The living room had a TV connected to a DVD player (the convenience store downstairs rents movies) set atop a fake fireplace (an electric heater, but it did give off a nice glow at night). Beside it was a computer desk with an iPod/iPhone dock; it’s a decent enough size for a laptop, but it might be a bit small if you’re working with paper or reference material on the side.

The suite comes with free wireless internet. It’s not all that fast (about 700 kbps both up and down according to’s speed test), but enough for you to get most kinds of work done.


Other clients who’ve stayed in the unit include the usual people travelling to Toronto on business, as well as people from out of town/province/country who are interviewing for jobs or who’ve landed a job in Toronto and need a “base of operations” while they look for a place to live. There have also been clients who’ve come into town to visit relatives on a longer-term basis.


In my opinion, the nicest feature of the place was the bedroom. It was nicely appointed, had a comfy bed (more comfortable than those in some hotels I’ve stayed in this year) with nice sheets, big closet, TV and fake fireplace (like the one in the living room) and its window was actually a glass door leading to a balcony overlooking downtown. It felt considerably more like staying in someone’s guest room than yet another cookie-cutter, could-be-near-any-airport hotel room.

If you’re sensitive to noise, you should note that there’s a constant hum that you can hear at night; it sounds like an HVAC unit on the roof (the suite’s on the top floor of the building, so the unit is just above). It didn’t bother me, but I was woken up by a helicopter ambulance coming in for a landing at one of the nearby hospitals. This is downtown in a city of three million, so you should expect that sort of thing.


Here’s a view from the balcony, which faces south towards downtown and the majority of the skyline buildings. That’s a fine mesh net you’re seeing; I have no idea of what its purpose is.


I liked the parquet flooring. It’s far less of a bedbug/dust/spill trap than carpeting is. The Swank Tank (the executive suite in Ottawa where I lived this summer) was carpeted and had a fair number of red wine stains. The wood floors at the Canada Suites suite were much nicer. They were well-swept; whoever they’ve got cleaning up after guests is doing a pretty good job.

The suite is a little more hotel-like in that not only do they provide towels in the bathroom, but there are also toiletries.The bathroom’s a decent size, with tub/shower, and was very clean; as with the bedroom, it felt more like the guest bathroom in a nice house than a hotel bathroom.


Being in a condo building, the kitchen doesn’t have windows facing outside, but it makes up for this by being extremely well-lit. There is a central light, a ring of fluorescents around the perimeter and even more lights for the counters. It’s a fully-functional you-could-live-here kind of kitchen with stove and oven, fridge, microwave and dishwasher.


There are enough cookware, utensils and dishes to make some decent meals, and as is typical for such places, they haven’t been used much. The pots and pans are bachelor-sized and aren’t going to be sufficient to make a Thanksgiving feast, but they will do for cooking meals for one to two people with the occasional couple coming over for dinner. Between the kitchen and the two nearby full-service groceries, you could really stretch your visiting dollar by cooking meals in the suite.


Here’s a view of the living and dining rooms from the kitchen:


All in all, I enjoyed my stay. The accommodations were far better than many of the hotels I’ve stayed at this year, and the suite is in a prime location: the middle of downtown, near transit, near shopping and a short walk away from the financial district, with Chinatown and the Entertainment District also within reasonable striking distance. The living room and work area were good, the bedroom was excellent, the bathroom was clean and Kevin, the one staffer with whom I interacted, was helpful. If you’ve got the money – the fee varies with how you make arrangements, whether directly through Canada Suites or via one of the discount hotel search engines – I’d recommend staying here.



aloft Minneapolis: A Nice Hipster Hotel

Front entrance of aloft Minneapolis

I don’t know Minneapolis at all, so I had no idea where to stay when I was planning my trip for MinneBar. I posted a question on Twitter asking for hotel recommendations and got two for aloft Minneapolis; one from Ben Edwards (one of the MinneBar organizers) and from @aloftMlps, the person or persons behind the aloft Minneapolis Twitter account. I’d never stayed at an aloft before, but I knew they were the hipper, more casual, less pricey cousins of W Hotels and was curious about them, so I went along with the suggestions.

@aloftMlps asked me when I would be checking in and out via Twitter, telling me they’d take care of the reservation for me. Better still, they got me the “Friends and Family” rate of USD$89 a night! Score one for aloft, and I hadn’t even set foot in the place yet.

Many alofts are near the airport, but the Minneapolis one is in the Downtown East area. As the cab drove into the neighbourhood, my hipster senses started tingling. This area is a former industrial zone, full of old factories and warehouses converted into offices, shops and places to live, new condos, and many other signs that spell the early stages of gentrification. Given that Minneapolis is on the verge of out-hipstering Brooklyn (just visit Uptown to see), it’ll be interesting to see what this area will look like in five years.

My room was on the third floor and split into two sections. The main section was the bedroom area, shown below:

The main part of my hotel room, as seen from the head of the bed

That’s a mini-couch or mini-chaise lounge below the TV set. The box on the left side of the desk is a “jack pack” bristling with power outlets, usb chargers and audio and video inputs of all sorts (composite, VGA, HDMI) so that you can plug your computer, video and audio players and have them play on the TV and in-room sound system.

Here’s the main section as seen from the other side of the room.

The main room, as seen from the foot of the bed

The bed and sheets were comfy. We’re talking almost-Hyatt comfy, and at a Four Points rate, that’s not bad.

You can’t see it very well in the photo above, but there’s a storage niche to the right side of the bed. That’s where the iron and ironing board are tucked away.

The smaller section of the room is the bathroom and closet area. It’s just to the left as you enter the room, with the passageway leading to the main section on the right. The closet doesn’t have a door; instead, it has a curtain:

Closet area of the room, featuring curtained-off closet, magazine rack, coffee maker, ice bucket and safe

Here’s the other side of the small area. It’s your standard hotel bathroom except for the designer sink (the sort that’s always in the bathroom of restaurants where they stack food vertically and do “sauce painting”) and the “spa style” shower with built-in dispensers for shampoo and soap.

That glow you see in the shower is actually coming from the main room. The shower has a translucent window facing the bedroom. It’s clouded enough so the show you get from the bedroom is PG-13 rather than R. It’s the kind of feature that makes this place a good one to spend the night with a “special friend”. I suppose I should go find one.

Sink and shower

Here’s another look at the closet, this time with the curtain drawn aside. No, the jacket doesn’t come with the room.

Another look at the closet, with the curtain drawn aside to show my stuff hanging in it

Here’s a closeup of the magazines, safe and other goodies. The “what’s going on locally” magazines are typical for a hotel; SPIN and dwell are not.

Closeup of the magazine rack, beverage shelf and safe in the closet

The 1950s-style alarm clock beside the bed was my favourite hipster detail in the room.

Closeup of 1950s-style alarm clock

Here’s what the lobby looked like on Friday night from the bar. It was happening:

The lobby and front desk, as seen from the bar

…and there was a DJ spinning some pretty good mashups. I give her bonus points for the Polaroid leggings:

The Friday night DJ, spinning tunes in the lobby bar

Here’s the bar as seen from the far side of the lobby. It seems as though the designers wanted to make the lobby a place where people — well, aloft’s intended audience, anyway — would want to hang out. I like it — during the day, it’s got a sort of “cafe” feel to it, and at night, the feel become more lounge-y:

The lobby bar, as seen from the far end of the lobby

Here’s a closer look at the bar:

The lobby bar, closer up

I didn’t get a photo of the re:fuel cafeteria on the other side of the lobby. It’s a self-serve deal that’s open 24 hours and features sandwiches, salad, soups, drinks and snacks. It’s decent and convenient. To the side of re:fuel is a hotel shop that has stuff you may have forgotten at home (toiletries and all that) as well as stuff you might not have even though of (mini-board games, for example).

The staff were friendly and helpful, and as you’ll see in a later post, tolerant of late-night accordion-driven carousing in the lobby.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay at aloft Minneapolis. I’d gladly stay there again!