Go behind closed doors at some of the swankiest hotels in Toronto
What better way to get into the TIFF spirit than some high-end hotel hopping?
The view from the Park Hyatt roof
MSN Canada's Joan Porter and Jackie Burns packed their party dresses and toothbrushes and checked out three of the most exclusive Toronto hotels during opening weekend of the festival. Their stay-cation fit for a star is chronicled below:
Location: 550 Wellington Street West in heart of King West village
TIFF inflated price: $560/night for one king bed (on 3rd floor with view of back alley)
Decor: Sleek and modern
Room's swankiest features: luxurious marble bathroom with heated floors and 400-thread count linens
Hotel's bragging right: The ultra chic rooftop pool bar, exclusive to hotel guests and lounge members. On the evening of our visit a private TIFF bash was being held there, featuring a performance by rapper Ludacris and appearances by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and comedian Russell Peters. The eclectic party had long wrapped by 2 a.m. when we arrived to throw back a tequila shot and a French martini while admiring the skyline and debating whether we'd just seen "Moneyball" actor Chris Pratt breeze past us.
Celeb-friendly food: The hotel's Scarpetta restaurant is a magnet for A-listers; on TIFF's opening weekend Fox Searchlight hosted a bash there attracting a slew of famous faces including George Clooney and new squeeze Stacy Keibler, Bono, Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten Dunst.
Regular folk food: The hotel also boasts a 24-hour diner called The Counter which was jam-packed at 3 a.m. with post-club revellers getting a much-needed grease and milkshake fix (ourselves included).
Lasting impression: While there was a definite energy of excitement the moment you entered the swank boutique hotel, it was tempered by overly tight security, insisting guests show their key before entering the elevator, something other high-end hotels don't require. And even when you've got your key, you still might have problems! When trying to head out for a different TIFF bash, we ended up standing outside an elevator with Ludacris in it - and his security telling us we weren't allowed in.
* * * *
The Park Hyatt
Location: 4 Avenue Rd (at Bloor)
TIFF inflated price: $760/night for two doubles beds and view of the skyline from 15th floor
Decor: Refined, elegant
Room's swankiest features: The luxuriously large marble bathroom with ample counter space and his and hers sinks was a dream for girls getting beautified for a night of celeb spotting. However, a relaxing bubble bath was interrupted by the subway passing underneath.
Celeb friendly food: Morton's the steakhouse
Hotel's bragging right: The breathtaking views from the roof lounge on the 18th floor have been enjoyed by an abundance of stars stopping by for a nightcap over the years including Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson and the Brange. The extended 4 a.m. bar license combined with the hotel's exclusivity has made it one of the "it" spots for A-listers to congregate in the wee hours of the morning, but on the night in question, revellers hoping for a George Clooney spotting (or any other celebrity for that matter) left disappointed.
Lasting impression: While the handwritten welcome note, bubbly on ice, fruit and nuts certainly made you feel like a VIP upon arrival, we left unsatisfied we didn't spot any real ones. (Except for "Up in the Air" director Jason Reitman, arriving as we were checking out.)
* * * *
The Spa at The Hazelton by Valmont
Location: 118 Yorkville Avenue
Treatments: Manicure, pedicure and mini-facial
Vibe: There is a definite aura of exclusivity about the spa, which a concierge escorts you to upon entering the 5-star hotel. The stress of everyday life seems a world away thanks in part to the "no service" signal on clients' smart phones in the quiet underground retreat.
Celebrity clients: While Bono's stylist and publicist found time for treatments over the opening weekend of the festival, the A-listers themselves have apparently been too busy to take a break from their hectic promotional schedules to enjoy any down time. Last year's celebrity clients included Megan Fox, Jennifer Garner and Elton John (who was said to be extremely upbeat while enjoying a manicure and pedicure). However, before you book an appointment with the hopes of bonding with the stars over the hottest nail colours, you should know most enjoy their treatments from the comfort of their hotel rooms.
Our hosts for an afternoon of star-worthy pampering: Glaceau Smartwater, the exclusive Valmont skin care line from Switzerland and the warm and friendly Stillwater staff who seem to go out of their way to make all clients feel like a VIP.