BY: Christina Butterfield

With three major projects ramping up and summer, suddenly and inexplicably, already halfway gone, vacation prospects were not looking good. Even the idea of taking a day or two for a staycation seemed futile because at home, the temptation is always too great to log on, check emails, do a little work here and a little work there.

And then came an invitation to participate in a little excursion. Save the date, July 22, for an urban travel experience. Prepare to stay the night. Itinerary to follow.


Soon enough, details were revealed. Check in at Toronto’s SoHo Metropolitan Hotel with cocktails to follow at Senses Bakery. From there, a private gallery tour at Neubacher Shor Contemporary followed by dinner at Lai Wah Heen and a nightcap back at Senses Bar. The next day's agenda featured breakfast at Senses and a guided graffiti walking tour.

Leading up to Friday, the ‘trip’ began to seem like an ill-timed indulgence. With so much to do, was cancelling an option? After much deliberation, came clarity. A dinner out, a night at the SoHo Met, a break from the routine ... it was probably exactly what was needed.

nsc_wilfordbarrington.jpgSure enough, I arrived at the hotel for check-in, having left my laptop at home. My plus-one was arriving later, so I kicked back in my well-appointed room, wondering if there was time to take advantage of the spa-like soaker tub, and began the process of unwinding. Looking out the hotel window at the street below, there were hurried people, lots of red brake lights in slow-moving traffic, the general bustle of a Friday afternoon in the city that otherwise would have been my Friday afternoon. I was just three floors up but felt well insulated from the madness.

Champagne and all manner of sweets awaited us at a private reception at Senses Bakery where we learned about – a newly launched website affiliated with and offering "unique getaways within reach." Each week, offers curated travel experiences, urban and otherwise, partnering with high-end hotels, restaurants and spas, initially targeted to Toronto and Montreal, but expanding to Ottawa and Vancouver. Seizing on the growing popularity of group buying, excursions are discounted. This week, you too can sample the "Sweet Suite" SoHo package that includes a one-night stay, two sweets, two signature cocktails and 20 per cent off spa services for $249.00 (50 per cent off the regular price). Like most group buying services, the offers are time sensitive; buy now, travel later. With, you purchase vouchers for each experiential package, and can earn credits for sharing.

Along for the introductory tour were other media types, women who brought girlfriends to mark birthdays, couples happy to experience Lai Wah Heen for the first time and parents with young kids looking forward to the prospect of a rare moment to sleep in.

laiwahheen.jpgAfter we sipped champagne and exchanged greetings, limos shuttled us to a beautiful gallery space in Parkdale for a guided tour with owners Manny Neubacher and Anya Shor, who shared the story of the Winnipeg artists currently on exhibit.

The contemporary Chinese cuisine of Lai Wah Heen was the perfect end to a pretty amazing day since my plus-one and I begged off the “milk and cookie” nightcap and then slept too late for breakfast and the graffiti walking tour.

Instead, we lingered at the SoHo to savour brunch at Senses before heading home. The effects of our staycation lingered, not worrying about time for the rest of the weekend, sleeping late again on Sunday.

Mission accomplished. A getaway, well within reach.


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