If there were awards for the most luxurious beds that seem to have been gifted by the heavens to earthly mortals, it should be presented to The James, a sleek, contemporary boutique hotel in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in the heart of the Canadian prairies.
What was it about those beds that was so winning? They weren’t too soft, not too hard. They supported my body so I felt like I was sleeping on a cloud lined with marshmallows. The smooth, satiny sheets – softer than 800 thread-count cotton bedding – rounded out the experience beautifully. It turns out they are a huge hit with other hotel guests, too. The hotel is now offering sets (also robes) for sale.
Usually, the first night spent in a hotel is not the best. I’m so aware of noise, new smells and the constant awareness that it isn’t home. The James felt different. Along with those wonderful beds, courtesy of a bed quilted in cashmere and silk, as I learned later, the rooms had a coziness to them that had me napping on the sofa in my roomy, 600 square-foot suite and slipping on the soft chamois microfiber bathrobe to watch the 42-inch plasma television in the living room.
Be sure to request a room with a balcony that overlooks the Saskatchewan River. It’s a cozy place to sit and watch the morning parade of runners tearing along the pathways. The hotel is kind enough to equip rooms with fleece blankets to chase away a chill.
Some hotels cater to coffee drinkers and ignore those of us who don’t drink it. I like a cup of tea in the morning and I was able to make one with pods for the Keurig coffee machine. Tea pods were supplied. I didn’t have to beg the front desk for tea like I usually do.
I was happy with the good bathroom, too. It has to be well lit so I can put on mascara without poking my eye out, be stocked with good toiletries (in this case, L’Occitane), and have a vanity big enough to accommodate all my stuff. Good thick, thirsty over-sized bath sheets are a plus. The James delivered on all counts.
Stays also include a complimentary breakfast. I was pleased to discover that it wasn’t the usual hotel buffet with mini boxes of Kellogg’s cereal, some Pop Tarts and a few pieces of under-ripe fruit. This spread boasted really a good, high-quality assortment of items, including eggs made-to-order, pancakes, Belgian waffles, frittatas, steel-cut oats and fruit. If you don’t feel like socializing in the morning and the small dining room is just too lively and loud for you, the staff will give you at tray so you can take your meal back to your room.
At the end of your day, exploring Saskatoon and some of its hot restaurants, like Ayden Kitchen & Bar with Dale McKay behind the stove and The Hollows featuring chef Christie Peters and Kyle Michael, you just might require some chill time. Plop yourself into a big comfy chair at the hotel bar and mingle with your fellow guests.
For sure, there are a lot of business people who stay at the James, but you can also spot couples bedding down for a romantic weekend and even a celebrity or two. I heard that Carrie Underwood was staying at the property as she swung through town during her fall concert tour. I never saw her, but I was looking. I felt better after sipping away my sorrows over my missed tar encounter with one of the bar’s retro-inspired cocktails. Think gimlets, Manhattans and brandy Alexanders.
It’s not difficult to figure out why this place has such a draw. It’s comfortable. The staff is super friendly in that adorable Saskatchewan, let’s-be-friends-kind-of way that is so endearing. The James also has little competition in the city. Any other upscale properties are under those big-brand corporate umbrellas.
This hotel also has a unique prairie chic style, which is so welcoming. The public areas are bright, light and mostly white, but have luxurious touches like an onyx fireplace and warm wood accents. It’s modern for sure, but not pretentious or so cool that it’s cold. Add into the mix, a 24-hour fitness room, free WiFi and parking.
The James is a great fit for Saskatoon, which is emerging as a destination catering to a savvy set of travelers. Good food, good cocktails, good people and a great bed. This is a hotel that makes visiting the city all the sweeter.
Michele stayed as a guest of The James and Tourism Saskatoon. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of Michele Sponagle and The James.