Not long ago, I found myself in Hamilton, Ontario, midway between Toronto and Niagara Falls. I was excited to discover that this largely industrial city not only has a growing art scene — particularly along James Street North, which is dotted with eclectic art galleries — but it’s also home to an elegant and luxurious bed and breakfast: Osler House B&B.
Owners Gary Fincham (an industrial designer) and Sara Burnet-Smith (a physiotherapist) left Toronto when they found this grand 1848 Georgian-style home in a residential neighborhood in Dundas, west of downtown Hamilton.
While it looks like the sort of place that might have been in their family for generations — full of antiques, crystal, classic books, even an old gramaphone — they furnished the house themselves, scouring local flea markets and antique stores for their finds.
On the main floor, Osler House has a grand parlor with its original fireplace. The Victorian-style settee or the velvet-covered chairs would be just the spot for an afternoon spot of tea or glass of sherry.
Gary serves an elaborate breakfast in the formal dining room, with its Asian-style black and gold furnishings. You might start with fresh fruit, nibble a hot-from-the-oven apricot scone with homemade jam, and move on to a meticulously-plated rolled omelet.
After breakfast, or in the evening, you might head for the billiards room. Somehow, in this gracious environment, it seems rather crass to suggest “shooting pool,” but you could indulge in a civilized game of billiards.
Upstairs, the three guest rooms are all large and equally elegant, with pillowtop beds and carved wood furnishings, like this antique vanity. The marble en suite baths keep you cozy with their heated floors; the largest suite, the Sir William Osler Room, has a big soaker tub.
The rooms also have discretely placed modern conveniences, including TVs, radios, and Wi-Fi.
If you’re planning a romantic weekend, book a meal at Quatrefoil Restaurant nearby, a posh, white-tablecloth dining room that serves fine contemporary fare. It’s a short drive, too, from the Royal Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical garden in Canada, with acres and acres of flowering plants.
But I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to stay in at Osler House, sipping your sherry, lounging about, and even shooting some pool.
Double room rates run CAD$150-175 per night. Check prices online at Priceline.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the new travel guide, Moon Handbooks: Ontario, which features fun and funky attractions and experiences, lodgings, and places to eat across the province. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Osler House, in partnership with Tourism Hamilton, hosted my stay for review purposes.