500 Oswego St., Victoria; 877-767-9346; www.oswegovictoria.com. 21 studios from $139; 44 one-bedroom suites from $199; 15 two-bedroom suites from $299.
The Oswego straddles divides: between condo and hotel, between residential James Bay and the hotel-dominated streets that lead toward the legislative buildings, and between the urban sophistication of a busy British Columbia city and the rugged outdoors. A suite-style condo-hotel fully equipped with high-end kitchens, the Oswego is both a home and a destination for visitors to downtown Victoria.
The luxury boutique hotel is a member of the Green Key rating system, so all printed material is on recycled paper, the kitchen has a composting program, the hotel is sourcing pens made of recycled newsprint, and a rate reduction on meeting space is offered to those who arrive by bike. The rooms are equipped with fans - no air conditioning - though management is considering introducing some kind of environmentally friendly cooling system to meet guests' expectations. In seasonable Victoria, though, that expectation is more of norm than need.
Amenities The Oswego brings the outdoors into the bistro, just off the lobby, with an impressive indoor/outdoor stone fireplace. Stone walls seamlessly kiss up to glass walls that, with the exception of bold wood supports, enclose the bistro in a marriage of West Coast craftsman and sleek modern chic. End tables hewn from tree trunks join stylish furnishings in a dining space that equally suits the young families, couples and business acquaintances at breakfast, and the murmuring drinks crowd in the mid-evening. The hotel boasts spa service in your room and a fitness room, but you'll enjoy the Oswego more for its location: it's perfectly situated a five-minute walk from the raw appeal of the coastline in one direction, and the bustle of Victoria's Inner Harbour in the other.
The rooms With big balconies - no need for screens in basically bug-free Victoria - and floor-to-ceiling flanked patio doors in both the living and sleeping areas, the fresh air and inviting sounds of the ocean pour in to greet a weary traveller. That rugged West Coast feel is toned down in the rooms, though the great outdoors makes its presence known in the earth-toned slate tile flooring in the kitchen and washrooms, the polished granite countertop, the weave of the comfy sofa and the old-growth forest prints on the walls. The sum effect: modern, but aware of its natural setting.
The fully equipped kitchen makes it easy to move right in, as do the large washrooms with both glass-doored shower and separate tub - and the cotton, waffle-weave bathrobes and Acca Kappa spa products ready for your use. Use the French press and fair trade organic coffee (cream is in the fridge) if you need a caffeine kick to start your day. The rooms are spacious and smartly planned, though some guests might prefer a chair, rather than a comfy stool, at the desk in the living area, and Wi-Fi would allow guests to move their laptops to the counter. Still, the set-up works and keeps the countertop free from the detritus of business life. Closet and drawer space is ample. As the hotel caters to both leisure and business travellers, sound insulation is key: Even with a wedding party in the hotel during my stay, an evening of work and a good night's sleep were easily had.
Service Staff are quick with a friendly smile, offer of a hand with luggage, directions, arranging transportation - and even accommodating one guest's request for a softer mattress. (The firm mattress suited me all too well.) Wait staff in the bistro are warm and attentive.
Food O Bistro has a small kitchen, and so a specialized menu with limited selection. A new fall menu launching soon will introduce more of a market presence, and wine tastings and jazz nights will add to the local flavour. Thirsty guests returning from a morning jog help themselves to the infused water at the front door - a different blend, such as orange thyme or cucumber lemon grass, daily.
The verdict The hotel is intimate and ultra-convenient; a stay here is a stylish yet inviting experience.