The stone archways, gilded molding, and monumental oil paintings evoke an aristocratic estate plucked from Rococo France and re-planted in downtown Vancouver. At the etched-glass entrance to Hotel Le Soleil, a doorman dressed in a gold waistcoat ushers guests into the lobby, where red velvet armchairs warm in front of a crackling fireplace.
Upstairs, the regal theme continues throughout one-bedroom suite accommodations. Rooms with damask-striped gold wallpaper are furnished with 19th-century European decor. Crimson and gold brocades cover the bed's down duvet, as well as the pullout couch in the sitting area. In the bathroom, Italian-marble counters resonate operatic arias sung in the showers, and Aveda bath products crown scalps with organic suds.
For those staying in November, an upgrade to a corner suite adds an expanded sitting area, bathed in sunlight from two floor-to-ceiling windows. Alternately, a credit to the on-site Copper Chimney restaurant rewards diners with Indian-inspired small plates, such as a lamb kebab dressed with crushed lentils and mint chutney ($12 CAN).
Despite playing host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver enjoys relatively mild winters; because of its coastal climate, very little snowfall sticks to the ground or slow-moving pedestrians. Along the northeast edge of downtown, the historic Gastown comprises a brick-paved pedestrian mall abutting the waterfront. Once a salty cluster of saloons, the area today teems with coffee shops and nightclubs, as well as an iconic, steam-powered grandfather clock hugging a sidewalk grate. To the south, across the inlet of False Creek, the Granville Island Public Market hosts booths filled with artisanal foods and homemade crafts, and the up-and-coming neighborhood of South Main attracts hip crowds with its progressive eateries and indie boutiques.
Although numerous ski resorts stand just outside city limits, Whistler Mountain, a two-hour drive to the north, boasts the world-class ski trails that hosted the Olympic downhill events. The peak dons a blanket of powdery snowdrifts by late November, when both the slopes and the apres-ski nightclubs come to life.
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