Monday, 15 July 2013

Caroline vs. Cities & Typography

I was bitten by the travel bug at a very young age, and since the past few years have been relatively light on the travel front the internet has been great for feeding my wanderlust.  As such, my Tumblr and Pinterest are constantly inundated with photos of faraway places, filling me with nostalgia for places I've been lucky to visit, and giving me a kick in the pants to get my act together so I can discover new places.  A few of my recent favourite travel-oriented photos come from Turkish web designer Gökhun Güneyhan, who has done a really interesting job of marrying photos of European cities and countries with a typographical interpretation of the names of those places.  My hands-down favourite is "Valencia," although I admit to being slightly biased, as the building pictured (the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia) was right across the road from my family's apartment when we lived there.
The Palau is part of the hyper modern City of Arts and Sciences, largely designed by the famed Santiago Calatrava
Some of my other favourites are below, but click through to see the rest!

Prague's distinctive architecture

Saint Mary's Basilica, located in Krakow's Rynek Główny, which is the largest medieval town square in Europe!

View of the Eiffel Tower from Place de la Varsovie

xx, C.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Caroline vs. The Drake Hotel

A few months back I decided I wanted to surprise my boyfriend Clement with a Valentine’s Day staycation, and what better place to do so than the Drake Hotel.  I’d only been to the Drake a couple times, and even then only for drinks, so I was eager to find out what it would be like to actually stay there.
The Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen Street West, Toronto
Thirty minutes after I left my Annex apartment, the Queen streetcar dropped me off right in front of the Drake.  Check-in was quick and easy, and the front desk staff were glad to answer any questions I had.  Because the hotel is in an older building there is no elevator, which was no problem for me and my small overnight bag, but getting up the two flights of stair with a full suitcase would have been difficult had I followed my notorious overpacker instincts.
Our little Crash Pad!  The perfect size for two.
As soon as I opened the door and walked into our assigned Crash Pad (the second smallest offering of rooms at the Drake) I was met with the slightest peppermint scent, which put me at ease right away.  I really enjoyed the fact that the room was scattered with trinkets available for purchase through the Drake General Store, located next door to the hotel entrance, and to which guests receive a voucher for 10% off (I ended up buying a Luckies of London scratch-off map of the world).  The room was by no means palatial, but it was very well organized and not once did we feel cramped.  There was no mini-fridge, but snacks and drinks were displayed neatly on shelves – the constant visibility and the aesthetically-pleasing packaging made the pricy goodies that much harder to resist!  There was a small bag of caramel popcorn beside the bed with a welcome card on it, which sufficed as our snack for the night.
Spoils from Malin+Goetz: cilantro hair conditioner, bergamot body wash, and peppermint shampoo.
I arrived alone, about an hour before Clem did, so I had some time to get myself all made up.  The bathroom lights were bright enough for me to see precisely what I was doing, but they didn’t cast the harsh glow I have come to expect in hotel bathrooms.  The array of wonderfully scented Malin+Goetz toiletries made me feel extra luxurious, and I really wish they had sample sizes so I could take them home without being charged.  In theory, one could pick up some travel-sized bottles from the Shoppers Drugmart down the street and fill them with the products, but unfortunately for me this thought didn’t strike until after we’d left (and shelled out $36 for a bottle of the peppermint shampoo).

The Striploin Maki.  Perfect for sharing.
After primping I glided down the stairs and met the boyfriend for drinks at the bar.  I’d only ever been up to the rooftop Sky Yard, but this time we decided to escape the cold and cozy up in the Lounge.  It was big, but still felt warm and homey; the back wall was filled with books and vinyl and retro record players, which almost made us feel like we were in our own living room.  The Drake has a wide array ofcocktails, so I asked our server which ones he recommended, and I was very pleased with both the Paper Plane and the Paloma (both $13).  Cocktails generally run between $10 and $14, so a bill adds up pretty quickly, but if you’re in the mood for only one or two expertly mixed drinks, the Drake is the place for you.  Clem and I had agreed beforehand that a night at the Drake would stand in lieu of a nice dinner, but we couldn’t pass up ordering an appetizer to go with our drinks.  We ended up with the Striploin Maki ($15.95), which was unbelievable.  I’m not a big fan of seafood and tend to stick with vegetarian sushi, so the beef was a nice change of pace.
Really great touch!
After we had spent some time at the bar, Clem and I left the hotel in search of something more substantial for dinner that would also be easy on the wallet.  We ended up at Poutini’s, just a block away, and immediately chowed down on some poutine.  I HATE gravy (weird, I know.  My family never ate it when I was growing up, so I never got the taste for it), so I opted for the pulled pork, which was saucy enough that my fries and cheese curds weren’t too naked, meanwhile Clem heartily dug into his classic poutine.  The two poutines together came to less than $15, so we left with bellies and wallets totally satisfied.  We then went back to our room, and were greeted with a small plate with two cookies, and a card wishing us goodnight!  One thing I love about boutique hotels is the little touches they have to make guests feel totally at home.  After scarfing down the cookies we changed into the comfy Drake Hotel bathrobes, and settled in for the night with a movie and the clichéd-but-necessary bottle of bubbly – Clem had picked up my favourite, Freixenet Cordon Negro.

I need to eat breakfast in bed more often.
Before we went to bed we decided we would splurge on breakfast in bed.  I mean, why not, right?  We chose the continental breakfast ($26 per person), which was delivered bright and early the next morning.  We had coffee, orange juice, fruit salad, yougurt and pastries.  The coffee was delicious and the juice was freshly pressed, but the rest of the breakfast wasn’t too spectacular.  The fruit salad was very standard, full of melon with very few berries, which was disheartening for me as I don’t care for melon (but LOVE fresh berries).  I mixed the fruit with the yougurt, which I gathered was natural-flavour Greek yougurt; it was good with the fruit, but not so much on its own.  A little honey and I would have been a happy camper.  The pastries were small and almost crunchy, but this was remedied with the cream and jam that accompanied them.  All that aside, however, we got to eat breakfast in bed without cooking it first, which was a special treat.
This little guy from the Drake General Store was so cute!

Check-out was at 11am, and with that the real world beckoned, and our little staycation was over.  We both had a really good time, and even though it's unlikely I'll be able to stay at the hotel again in the near future, it will remain one of my favourite spots in Toronto for eating and drinking.

xx, C.

Credits: First photo from The Drake's Facebook page, all others my own.