Many of us have airport horror stories from the past year, especially as it applies to Pearson International Airport – cooped up in airplanes sitting on tarmacs, flight delays, lost luggage. Ours was standing by a broken luggage carousel at Pearson, at 3:30 a.m., waiting for hours, after several flight delays with Air Canada from Vancouver. Never before has a hotel staycation in our own city made more sense than now.
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We get it. It’s been a long two years. You want to go somewhere – Las Vegas, New York, Florida, the Caribbean. Anywhere. But the objective is to re-charge your batteries, right? It’s about R+R in fresh, new surroundings, good food, maybe sitting by a nice pool, a drink in hand, next to a loved one. But airports these days are trip wires of incompetence and extreme headaches. There isn’t a lot of R+R going on standing by a luggage carousel at 3:30 a.m., after paying top dollar for business travel, looking into the blank faces of airport employees, most unwilling or ill-equipped to help out.
Hotel staycation: Avoiding airports at all costs
So we went in the other direction. We started to focus on staycations in Toronto where the only challenges getting to our room was the timing of our Uber car ride. There’s so much to be said these days for taking a vacation in your home city. And Toronto has a wealth of choices, one of those being Bisha Hotel & Residences on Blue Jays Way., right by King St. W.
“For me, it’s a lifestyle hotel,” says Bisha Hotel general manager Aaron Harrison. “We are pretty centrally located already, for a staycation. You have the entertainment district nearby. If you want to go see some sports the venues are very close. At the same time you don’t have to leave the building, from a staycation standpoint. Relax in the room, hang out by the pool. The cuisine is phenomenal.”
Hotel staycation: Bisha is a luxury hotel in the centre of the action in Toronto’s downtown core
For the luxury hotel connoisseur, there’s so much to take in when you walk through the front doors of Bisha. Lush, cool, hip front lobby, leading to the decadent Mister C Bar Room to the left, the hotel lobby bar for a starter drink.
Bisha has three restaurants, all busy, none giving off a “rushed” vibe at all. KŌST is perched on the hotel’s 44th floor, next to the rooftop pool and sun deck, a bright, open, airy dining and chill-out destination serving cocktails and colourful dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. People in bathing suits are sitting on lounge chairs, dipping into the pool. Drinks are brought to you, just like if you were in Miami or another southern locale. And the views of Toronto from up there are unparalleled.
That’s where we sat with Harrison, for a chat, on a warm Saturday summer morning.
Luxury staycation: 44th floor pool
We got in on a Friday at 6 p.m., after an almost-three hour drive from Picton, with two young nieces in tow. Right off the mark we made a beeline for KŌST. There we sipped summer drinks and dined on grilled calamari as the sun set. The girls had Shirley Temples.
Michelin-starred Chef Akira Back opened his first Canadian namesake restaurant in the Bisha Hotel, featuring a blend of modern Japanese cuisine and Korean flavours. It’s a sexy and sleek location that has been attracting the celebrity set. Mister C Bar Room offers snacks like grilled shrimp, chicken wings and smoked salmon to go with your drinks.
French Made is a Parisian cafe-style coffee shop on street level, where pastries are home-made, perfect for a morning java run to take back to the room.
No need to leave your room
We have stayed at Bisha several times now. The rooms and suites there are a premium luxury experience, right down to the little touches – Byredo bathroom amenities, Frette linens and a Nespresso coffee maker, to name a few.
From the entry level Nina rooms (400 square feet with a king-size bed) through to The Oscar, at 455 square feet, and private outdoor deck, to The Andy, at 580 square feet, the rooms are artsy, relaxed sophistication, plush bedding with marble bathrooms and walk-in showers, deep soaking tubs and heated floors.
“If you’re still looking for the basic standard room, you still get that luxury bathroom, luxury linens, everything in the rooms translate to the rest of the hotel,” Harrison says.
Rock ‘n roll, art vibe
There’s enough space in all the rooms to spend time together. Or you can Chromecast a movie, splayed out on the king bed while your wife has a soak in the tub, or lays out in the sun. The modern, slick aesthetics throughout the hotel are consistent. The suites at Bisha are a whole other level, including the 2,000-square-foot Bisha suite, over two luxurious floors. The large Marilyn suites all have private patios. That’s unique to the city.
Studio Munge handled the interior design for most the rooms and suites in the hotel – geometric carpets, lacquered woods, tactile surfaces like velvet. Suites on the seventh floor were handled by Kravitz Design, the creative design studio founded by Lenny Kravitz in 2003.
Bisha Suite living room
Luxury staycation: Marble bathrooms, large walk-in showers and deep-soaking tubs
“This hotel has an art, rock and roll vibe to it,” Harrison says. “The seventh floor designed by Kravitz Studios is unique. Velvet walls, very dark. Real pops of colour in the rooms. The rest of hotel with the Andy Warhol quotes, the unique photographs in each of the room. Each of the rooms are named, themed over that art culture as well.”
Our six-year-old niece right away responded to the piece of art showing Michael Jackson. “Art is what you can get away with,” says an Andy Warhol quote on one of the floors.
In the end, we all have our own definitions of what “luxury” means. Toronto of course has fast evolved into a true international cosmopolitan luxury market. Bisha Hotel has only been around five years. Harrison defines “luxury” as a personal thing, defined by comfort, not price, feeling like this is where I belong, that I am being taken care of. When our six-year-old niece took a tumble outside the hotel lobby, scraping her knee, it was Harrison who walked up to give both a visibly upset six-year-old and her nine-year sister a chocolate chip cookie each. Even kids belong here.
The Bisha Hotel is a fabulous place for a weekend staycation. Batteries re-charged, we were good to move on. One night was good. We would look at two nights next time, to really do the job.
Bisha Suite bathroom