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the Sylvia Hotel

Writing to you from bed in my tiny room at the ivy-covered Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver’s West End. I’ve had many a drink in their famous bar, which overlooks beach, water, and mountains, but have never stayed here. It was built in 1912; there are marvellous pictures downstairs of people lounging just in front on the beach, the women in long dresses and giant hats and the men in suits but with their shoes off, toes in the sand. I love that it’s so old-fashioned, the room have keys, not computer cards, and the windows open. The first thing I did was open both windows for that bracing sea air.

Had the most painless travel experience: an Uber to Union Station, the UPS train to Pearson, going straight to security since I had my boarding pass already – no one checked my vax status or the weight of my carryon bag and backpack, heavy with books. I was as usual far too early. The plane left exactly on time. Since I’d booked the flight on points, I paid a bit extra to be in a special row with slightly more room; I had the window seat, and there was an empty seat next to me. The lady on the aisle was a friendly companion. Of course, all of us masked all the time, the new surreal world of seeing only eyes.

Someone had left “A Great Reckoning,” a Louise Penny Inspector Ganache book, in my Little Free Library, so I brought it to read on the plane, and how fun a read it is. I do not usually read murder mysteries but now understand the appeal. She’s a masterful writer who creates vivid characters with a few swift strokes, has done a huge amount of research on all kinds of subjects, recreates meals in mouthwatering detail, and includes a meaningful subtext – here, how the police are trained for good or ill. When I looked up, we were landing, 15 minutes early. I have a Compass card from earlier visits, so walked off the plane onto the Canada Line and was downtown half an hour later and thence to the Sylvia. If only travel were always like that! 

Though until now I’ve always stayed with friends, I appreciate that in a hotel, I’m not bothering anyone, not creating laundry and hassle, and can do whatever I want, whenever. 

It wasn’t raining. My friend Tara came over and we walked on the seawall, sitting on a bench for a long time watching a shaft of rain pouring onto UBC on the other side of English Bay, and then we had dinner at the Sylvia, at a table by the window, watching glorious cloud formations, the occasional burst of sun gleaming gold on the water. Seafood chowder, crab cakes, calamari – I’m going to eat as much fish as possible while here. Tara is the most interesting woman who knows everyone who’s anyone and is trying to save the planet. I adore her.

One thing I marvelled at on the way: we flew across the US midwest – Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana – and honestly, it looks like there’s nothing and nobody there. I guess there are far-flung ranches and farms, but from way above, it looks like a vast flat expanse of green and brown with no human habitation. I kept thinking: Trump country.

Today it’s supposed, of course, to rain all day, but I have rain boots and an umbrella. And I just ordered a room service breakfast! Died and gone to heaven. I’ll post pictures when the downloading works. Onward.



4 Responses to “the Sylvia Hotel”

  1. theresa says:

    I love the Sylvia! A perfect place to stay. Do you know this piece? I think you'd enjoy it, if you haven't read it.

  2. beth says:

    It is lovely here, Theresa. I look forward to reading about it, thanks for sending.

  3. Susan Kargut says:

    Oh, the Sylvia! Opening your post with my morning tea was almost like sitting where you are, seeing what you're seeing and nearly smelling the salt air. Thanks for the free and very painless trip. Hope the rest of your holiday is wonderful and contains enough holes for you to keeping posting. Cheers. (And now I'm off to read what Theresa suggested.)

  4. beth says:

    I'm on Gabriola now, Susan, and hope to post some pictures soon. And what a wonderful essay that was by Edith Iglauer about a snowstorm at the Sylvia1

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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