It’s hard to top a birthday spent sipping champagne and enjoying a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France, which is exactly how I rang in my birthday last year. So when it came time to blow out the candles on my birthday cake this time around, I decided to do the next-best thing: book a staycation at a luxury hotel founded by a French family, complete with a relaxing spa treatment, bottle of bubbly and dinner at one of the city’s top restaurants. And it was perfect.
When the big day arrived, I packed up my overnight bag and drove into the heart of downtown Calgary, pulling up at the swanky Le Germain Hotel. With an envious position across from the iconic Calgary Tower and just steps away from bustling Stephen Avenue, it’s the perfect location for business travellers, sightseers, urbanites and staycation-ers alike.
The smiling valet attendant had my bag and keys in hand in a flash, ushering me inside to the modern, spacious lobby in no time at all—good thing too, as it was hovering below -30 degrees outside on this December day. Check-in was quick, and before I knew it I was opening the door to my Privilege Room, ready to kick off the celebrations.
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Groupe Germain has built quite the reputation for itself since the family-run company opened its first boutique hotel in Quebec City in 1988. They currently have six Le Germain hotels scattered across Canada, as well as nearly a dozen eco-friendly, modern properties as part of their Alt Hotels brand. Germain has come to be known for providing stylish, spacious accommodations, having detail-oriented staff and offering lots of perks—think free breakfast and Wi-Fi, Lululemon yoga mats and videos for those who’d like to exercise from the comfort of their room, and no check-out times. Perhaps the best feature however, is their beds.
The first thing I did in my room was plop down on the king-size bed, and was immediately enveloped by the soft bedding that smothered me in comfort. Le Germain’s signature sleep sets are specially made by Quebec-based Simons, and include goose down duvets and sheets made of an Egyptian cotton and bamboo blend. The experience is so luxurious that guests frequently ask how they can recreate the experience at home, which is why everything including the mattresses can now be ordered online (which I plan on doing as a birthday present to myself!).
I then set off to explore the rest of the 500 square foot room, which included storage space that gave me serious closet envy, a massive bathroom complete with a rainfall shower and plush robes, and a fully stocked mini-bar and Nespresso coffee machine.
But the real treat wasn’t for this birthday girl—it was actually for my two little pups. Le Germain is pet-friendly, which is a great perk for staycation-ers as it means you don’t need to track down a dog sitter. Staff had tucked an oversized dog bed beside mine, along with food and water dishes and a pack of treats for each of my bulldogs. Talk about creature comforts!
Now that I’d sussed out my room, it was time to explore the rest of the hotel—starting at the spa, naturally. Santé Spa is located on one of the hotel’s top floors, and is a popular spot even for those who aren’t staying at the hotel since valet parking is included. Boasting three treatment rooms, an area for manis and pedis, and a couples suite complete with a fireplace and private seating area, there are no shortages of experiences to choose from.
Along with esthetic services, guests can enjoy hot stone, therapeutic and relaxation massages, as well as personalized facials to restore and revitalize skin. I was booked in for the aptly-named Traveler’s Reprieve, which is a 75-minute treatment aimed at rejuvenating busy travellers. The massage portion targets areas affected by travelling such as the neck, back, shoulders and feet, then finishes with a cooling eye treatment to reduce puffiness and a relaxing facial massage. My massage therapist Monica was fantastic, and I quickly fell into a state of total tranquility, savouring the feeling of the hot towels wrapped around me like a warm cocoon, and the invigorating sensation of the tingling eye treatment.
To say I wasn’t ready for it to end is an understatement, but there was another surprise in store worth pulling myself off the massage table for. My friend Gemma had joined me at the spa, and as we relaxed in the lounge area in a blissful state, a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne arrived for us! I still don’t know who sent it, but as you can imagine we were delighted and very grateful. I mean, is there anything better than champs?
I eventually made my way back down to my room where my family had since arrived, and we had a mini-celebration while getting ready for the main event of the evening: dinner at famous CHARCUT Roast House, conveniently located at the base of Le Germain Hotel.
The trendy restaurant was founded by chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa (who was a Top Chef Canada finalist) and has been critically acclaimed since opening in 2010. On this night, DeSousa was hard at work on the line, but found time to come around to each table and chat with diners. When she dropped by ours, she offered recommendations about what to order (including the tuna conserva starter and roasted beet salad, both of which she made on Top Chef Canada) and shared stories about the inspiration for the menu, such as adapting her father’s Portuguese sauce for some of the dishes.
We would be remiss to not listen to the chef’s own recommendation, so we started the evening with a serving of the tuna conserva mixed with lemon pickled potatoes and served with buttery sourdough. As dishes can be served family style or individually, we opted to share the escarole salad, which was sprinkled with grana padano and topped with boar bacon and a soft egg. I’m still salivating over it.
My husband ordered the hearty bison brisket while I opted for the rotisserie chicken, which is brined for two days then cooked to perfection. Our attentive waiter kindly offered to buy dessert when he found out it was my birthday, which we politely declined as the delicious dinner had us rightly stuffed. However, he wouldn’t take no for an answer and surprised us with a plate of warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies on a plate where “Happy Birthday” had been artfully drawn in chocolate.
It was a memorable way to end a special celebration, forever convincing me that Le Germain Hotel is the perfect place to enjoy a staycation in Calgary.
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Globe Guide experienced a Calgary staycation in collaboration with Le Germain, CHARCUT and Sante Spa. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.