Saskatoon Staycation (or, My First Night Away From the Baby)
The plan was to go to Vegas. Not because I like Vegas all that much, mind you, but it's a quick trip and well, my husband Tyler wooed me on it by reminding me of Britney Spears' ongoing residency. But when Brit Brit's show schedule failed to line up with our planned travel dates, I threw a new idea out there: what about skipping the plane ride all together and instead opt for a staycation? The idea of staying in Saskatoon was appealing, what with our world-class restos, gorgeous boutique hotel, promising weather ahead, and close proximity to our baby. Not surprisingly, it was being near to our 16-month-old that really sealed the deal (we are still happy co-sleepers with her), but after our weekend staycay, I would recommend the experience to anyone. From zero airport time and one of the most beautiful riverbanks to flank a shopping district to food that rivals any big city (not to mention fantastic seasonal events and theatre productions you could include in your plans), a Saskatoon staycation is where it's at. Here's a peek at mine!
We started with dinner at The Hollows, a place we used to frequent but hadn't been in an age. When I was a little girl, my Great-Aunt Emma used to take my family to the now-long-closed Golden Dragon so when the Riversdale rejuvenation began and The Hollows moved in, keeping the decor, the nostalgia factor was through the roof for me. Of course, The Hollows' upscale farm-to-table food is the real star of the show.
Well, that and their well-made, stiff cocktails. As far as appetizers go, I know you probably don't order hummus on the regular because you make it at home but do yourself a favour and get a plate. The fried bread with which it's served is a DELIGHT thanks to a cornmeal coating and the freshest, chewiest interior texture ever.
After the Hollows, we walked down the street to Drift Cafe and headed up to their Vista lounge for americanos and sides of Bailey's. I was already feeling vacation vibes but the slightly surfy decor of the lounge served to offer relaxation of the beach resort variety.
Being that our baby doesn't get screen time and has a bedtime of whenever o'clock, we rarely get to watch movies, so it was a real treat to take in a show at the Cineplex VIP theatres.
I'm not sure what the best part of Cineplex's VIP theatre is: the assigned seating, in-your-seat service, cozy chairs, swing-around tables, or the legroom. Or wait, hang on... it's the beer. After you enjoy a big-screen movie with a pint in your hand, it's pretty hard to go back. We saw The Jungle Book in which Bill Murray voices Baloo the bear and if you like Mr. Murray like I do (minus his oddity of a Christmas special that somehow got a zillion stars on Netflix), you should put this on your family-friendly to-see list.
In the morning after dropping Petra off with my parents, we enjoyed a two-hour couple's spa experience at the Damara DaySpa (in the Bes). And although the half-hour private whirlpool soak was a little long, the scrub beforehand left me baby soft and my registered massage therapist fixed a few spots that were really tense from this new aerial silks class I'm taking. I'm a massage snob and she was very good. Above is our "after" pic, which shows me with the kind of stupid massage afterglow where you find yourself not understanding simple sentences and maybe walking face-first into a door.
It was time for an afternoon beer and where else to grab one but Congress Beerhouse? Since it's 19+ and I've always got my baby, Congress is rarely on my lunch radar so I hadn't been since they hung a chalkboard menu I'd done. It was cool to see that up.
Though my food photo sucks, the food itself was dynamite. I can't oversell the veggie burger and of course, you should upgrade to the rosemary truffled fries. Ty and I split that and a grilled cheese and pear sandwich (which is an obvious winner, especially when paired with a local brew).
When we checked into The James Hotel, our holiday felt more concrete yet. The mid-century modern decor is still comfortably plush and the room was bright and welcoming. I'd only ever been to the show-stopping penthouse for events and photo shoots so I wasn't sure what to expect in a suite; I was pleasantly surprised by the space and style.
Before becoming a mom, people used to give me the advice "sleep when baby sleeps" but when that opportunity came in the form of naptime, there was always WAY too much to do around the house. In fact, the afternoon nap we enjoyed this day was the first of its kind in my life since having a baby. And oh, it was quite nice indeed.
Our walk also took us to the riverbank, no surprise, where I tried to befriend a goose. However, for a bird that has "Canada" right in its name, it was not very friendly. Whatever, I've already got enough friends.
After hitting some shops and the riverbank (p.s. Do we ever have some great little shops in Riversdale, down 21st, and along 2nd Ave), we skipped over to Little Grouse on the Prairie to catch our reservation. This was my second time at the restaurant and when we neared the door, a couple who was exiting thought we were just walking by and implored us to make a res at Little Grouse asap. "Best food in Saskatoon," the lady asserted, and I told her I'd been and it's definitely up there!
We sat at the chef's bar, overlooking the pasta station. For a two-person party, you can't beat the seats: there's entertainment in seeing the meals built, Chef Jesse is knowledgeable and welcoming, and you get to sit right next to your date.
I'd previously vowed to try ordering family style whereby the chef makes you seven courses of his whim (accounting for dietary restrictions, of course), but I'd eaten so much at lunch I wasn't sure I was gonna make it through. So we began with a perfectly al dente asparagus dish which made me wish to sprinkle pine nuts on everything I'll ever eat again.
Not pictured, because I accidentally wolfed it down before I remembered I might blog about it, was the butter-like burrata cheese with crostini which, with a bit of coarse salt, pepper, and olive oil, is the simplest and most divine pleasure. Then, because I cannot get enough cheese, I had the Mezzaluna di Mozzarella which was topped off with brown butter and poppy seeds.
We then headed to Flint for a nightcap. With movies projected onto the wall, stiff drinks you enjoy by candlelight, and hellos from a people you're happy to see, Flint's vibe is always cool.
And because nightcaps invariably lead to junk food, Ty and I found ourselves at Smoke's Poutinery after a late night walk. There's something about fries, cheese, and (vegetarian) gravy that I find irresistible. Maybe it's the fat and salt. Who knows. But that's where our night ended!
The next morning, we'd planned on going out for breakfast because there are a million fantastic brunching spots in Saskatoon but were curious about The James' complimentary breakfast so we went upstairs to take a peek, thinking we'd just poke our heads in. As it turns out, The James' offering is unlike any other free hotel breakfast I've seen. Not only were there cold and hot items available in a little buffet (including creme crepes) but there is a chef-attended omelet station.
The real draw to stay for breakfast, though, was the pretty space with friendly servers and the river view. I must reiterate, this was at no extra cost. Pretty rad, right?
Our staycation may have been short but for our first overnighter without Petra, it was perfect. Thanks to my parents and to Tyler's mom for their help in making this staycation happen and to the people whose hospitality made the weekend amazing. I'm already looking forward to the chance to explore Saskatoon again like an out-of-towner and I hope this post inspires you to do the same. It really is the Paris of the prairies.