|Having a conversation with the Octopus in the lobby|
Anyway, this past long weekend, we decided to do a last-minute getaway for just a night. Since we were being spontaneous, we didn't have a hotel booked or a destination selected. I was cruising Google for deals to whichever of Whistler, Bellingham, or Victoria would come up with the best offer first. To be honest, I didn't think Bellingham would have an appealing option, because I've done the online search before in past months and their hotel selections are usually limited to low-mid-range La Quintas and Best Westerns, or else pricey luxe resorts that are usually totally booked up. To my surprise, however, I came across a blog post and a listing on Booking.com for the Oxford Suites, and from what I was able to gather from their mobile-unfriendly (and ugly) website and the blog, this was a pretty nice and super brand new hotel. A few clicks later, I booked us into a Family Suite room for under $200US. I later learned that this pricing was because the hotel has technically not had their grand opening yet, but they've soft-launched to iron out the kinks.
A deal's a deal. I wasn't about to pass up the chance to stay at a brand new hotel where I might be one of the first (if not the first) guests to occupy their rooms. The pictures I saw on TripAdvisor were pretty compelling, too.
|Fresh delicious cookies. I ended up enjoying one too!|
So off we went, across the border, and to our hotel. Their 3:00 pm check-in time was very appealing to me, although in the end we didn't arrive until after 4:00. The plate of delicious, soft sugar cookies greeting us at the check-in desk were a bonus for Little L and Hubbs.
|Pay no heed to the mess. That's what happens when a 3-year-old plays on it.|
|Weird place for a lamp, right? And the mirror was so pretty, too!|
When we entered the room, we were very impressed with its size. The "living room" portion contained two queen-sized beds, a loveseat and coffee table, a wardrobe, a dresser (with the TV on top of it), plus a desk with two seats. There was also a mini "kitchenette" area with a microwave, a mini-fridge featuring a separate, good-sized freezer, and a coffee maker. An A/C and heating unit was also installed along one wall, giving us an easy way to cool down or heat up our room; I've always found those little wall switches questionably effective, so I was glad to have this beast of a unit for us to control our room temperature. While the walls did still seem a bit sparse, I loved the dark browns and grays and the clean lines and contemporary decor of the suite. The only weird part was that the floor lamp was situated such that it obscured the one decorative mirror that hung on the wall in the sitting area.
|The most important part of a hotel|
The bathroom (with a sliding door!) had a separate shower and tub, plus their toilet was contained inside a tiny room inside the bathroom (for additional privacy, I assume). I loved that most of their toiletries were not freebies, but full-size wall-mounted amenities that we could use; there was a travel-size lotion that we were permitted to take, however. I'm sure some folks would rather have all the little bottles to take home, but I've always found that practice to be quite wasteful in the end (because really, who among us actually uses hotel shampoo)? Their soaps were paraben-free, though, which I thought was a nice touch.
|Comfy king bed. We jumped in right away, just to test it out.|
Connected to the living room was a separate bedroom that housed a king-sized bed, another dresser-with-TV and wardrobe, and a bag rack atop another one of those heating/cooling units fixed into the wall. The two nightlights installed on the headboard each offered an A/C outlet plus a USB outlet for device charging. This, I thought, was another really nice touch.
|She ran down the hall chanting, "Light after light after light..."|
The beds were super comfy to sleep on, and we found the general vibe of the room to be very pleasant and relaxing. Little L kept herself busy running from the door to the desk on the opposite end of the room, staring out the window at the mall parking lot across the street, climbing on and off the bed, and playing with stickers. She felt really comfortable being there, which was a huge sell for us.
|The small pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room|
The amenities were also quite good, although there were still some kinks to work out with execution. Our key cards (both sets) couldn't access the pool area or the fitness room due to malfunctions with the locks on both doors. We had to get the front desk manager to let us into the pool, which was fitted with a small pool, hot tub, steam room and sauna. They even had one of those chair lifts to help mobility-challenged folks in and out of the pool! However, the water in the pool was a bit cold, and we couldn't get the switch for the hot tub's jets to trigger. Hubbs, however, could have spent the entire evening inside the steam room, the one amenity that sold him on the entire property.
|Entering into the bistro/bar/breakfast area|
|The bar of delicious Caesars|
Oxford Suites is apparently known for their hospitality, so in addition to the cookies, we also got free drinks (2 per person) for wine, beer or cocktails during their evening reception. Hubbs had the best Caesar/Bloody Mary of his entire life that night, and Doug the bartender will always have a special place in his heart because of it. Besides the drinks, the hotel also provided food during the evening reception. When we were there, they had a salad bar set up, plus some yummy soup and crackers - for free! Little L had her fill of oyster crackers and tomato bisque that night. The bistro also served up a small menu of dinner entrees, and Hubbs ate the best black bean burger he's ever had. My panko-crusted mac-and-cheese was also hearty and satisfying. The free breakfast was also very tasty; they scrambled eggs to order, had an oatmeal station, a coffee/juice bar, fresh fruit and cottage cheese, a toast station, roasted potatoes and bacon. Mmmm, bacon.
There were some things that could be improved, however, such as:
- understaffing the bar/bistro during reception hours; poor Doug was working his tail off
- malfunctioning toaster and an unclear procedure for how the free breakfast was supposed to work; we totally thought they made omelets to order!
- unclear communication about which alcoholic drinks required two tickets vs. one
- a really spotty WiFi connection
But these are small potatoes in the big picture, really. Oxford Suites was an enjoyable stay for us, made moreso by the fact that our room smelled like new paint and furnishings, and everything was clean and so much was free. Parking on the property was free, as was the WiFi, and of course the drinks and food. The hotel felt a bit classier than your typical low- to mid-range hotel chains, and I really felt like everyone working there was trying to go that extra mile to help us feel special and heard and tended to. Customer service was definitely a strong suit for these folks.
We will definitely be back. We're happy to know that there is a hotel option for us in Bellingham now, and look forward to our next Oxford Suites stay. In fact, the hotel made such an impression on Hubbs that he is planning to do an Oxford Suites tour one day when we finally go on a family road trip down the West Coast.