Imagine for a moment that the Brady Bunch took a vacation to quaint, old-fashioned Victoria, BC. Then imagine that Austin Powers was their set decorator.
Hotel Zed is the motel they would stay at.
Thanks to management, I got a free overnight stay and tour and interview and about my own body weight in coffee in the lobby and I think I found my new spiritual home. My photographer Lori Dunn is already plotting a getaway to the hotel, and she LIVES in this town.
It’s an authentic, original 60’s motel, but better. stronger. faster. We have the technology. This is what we did with it.
We used it to make rotary phones work with today’s pulse phone lines. Lest such technological retrophilia confuse and confound the guests, management have thoughtfully provided instructions on how to operate a rotary phone, right on each room’s low-fi cork board, along with stickers (one adorns my laptop right now), free coffee notifications, and various instructiony pieces of information.
Yes, that’s a QR code for those who simply cannot follow written instructions unless they’re expressed in pixels. And yes, that’s free coffee all day in the lobby. Oh, the lobby? Shall we start at the lobby?
So, that’s the reception desk. In the distance you can see the conversation nook, one of the two chairs at the vinyl listening station (headphones attached, of course), and a sofa in the main area. These chairs and their popsicle cushions face the sofa.
Backing on to the swank chairs are a double desk with some very special occupants.
And there are free postcards on the left, and paper in the middle, in case you forget (or never knew) that you had to put something IN a typewriter before you could type on it.
If even WITH the doodle art you still can’t find anything to do, what you do is you head downstairs to the party room. This is in my opinion the most Austin Powers-y room in the Greater Victoria Regional District.
At the other end is a huge screen, a furry rug, and a herd of beanbag chairs in primary colours. All it needs is a bar cart!
Yes, that’s a spiral staircase leading to a water slide; at the top, a closed circuit tv camera so you can see what mayhem may be mayying or hemming at the bottom of the slide, and decide whether to go for it or wait till they fish Cthulhu out of the shallow end or whatever.
The pool itself is technically indoors, but surrounded on both sides with glass-paneled garage doors that can be rolled all the way up in the summer time, making this mauve and turquoise spot yet another great social space. Just outside the walls on the left is the Starlight Hot Tub, open all year round outdoors, and quite a treat it is when it’s snowing; you and your date can roleplay Japanese hot springs monkeys.
If that’s, like, your thing, baby.
The hotel belongs to the BC-local Accent Inn chain, a very moderately-priced and generally pretty mild-mannered group of properties that’s been around for 28 years. When I’ve been in town for Social Media Camp every May the other Accent Inn in town is where I’ve generally stayed, and very nice if somewhat nondescript it is, too.
The Hotel Zed? Is very, very descript indeed.
The renovations took about a year and a half, because they didn’t actually close for business while changing over, a room at a time, from its previous incarnation as the Blue Ridge Inn. It was all Mandy Farmer’s idea: she’s the CEO and President of Accent Inns, and even so it took her ten years to make it happen. The restaurant opens in January.
According to John Espley, whose business card lists his title as “Mountain Man,” the company originally expected to see guests primarily in their late 20’s to early 40’s, but that’s not who they get. They get everybody. A family with kids, an elderly couple, and two hipsters all checked in while I was in the lobby; they were followed by an organizer of the annual Vespa scooter meetup, who wanted to book it at the hotel, and a local middle-aged fellow asking if they rent by the month (they do). So, it’s an eclectic group. Apparently the kids are thrilled with all the technology from before they were born; the rotary phones and typewriters get a LOT of use from kids.
Well, actually the laundry is sort of boring, it’s just the picture that’s cool, but at $2 a wash and $2 a dry it’s cheaper than the machines in my photographer’s building!
And now, would you like to see some rooms? Sure you would!
First, we have the Bachelor Pad, a compact room mostly occupied by the Queen bed, and shower and toilet in separate cubbies.
Then there’s the King for a Knight, where I stayed, which is larger, has a proper full bathroom with counter space and a tub and everything (thank god; after four months tubless I was craving a soak); mine even had a wee balcony overlooking the car lot next door, although no Automotive Romeo showed up to offer me a chariot.
The Thuggie, naturally, fit right in.
Some of them are double-bedded, in case the King and the Knight wish to roleplay Dick and Laura from the Dick Van Dyke Show. Or something.
And this is for when they get bored: a full media centre ie you can plug in all your own entertainment devices and display it on the tv screen. They have cables for everything at the front desk. This is instead of a hundred channels you’ll never watch and four porn channels you might; that’s the old hotel entertainment model. Nowadays, people bring their own stuff, and all they want is a way to connect it, so Hotel Zed has that covered.
The desks you may note are the good old-fashioned metal ones you see in 40’s movies in those scenes where the grey-suited bureaucrat screams at the proles about shutting up and taking orders before collapsing in self-loathing and tears. And the dressers? Are metal filing cabinets, painted glossy, funky colours.
Behold the Sweet Suite. The sofa on the left is a sofabed which sleeps two, then there’s the Queen bed on the right, and through a doorway…
These suites have a kitchinette, with sink, two burners, and fridge all one unit, and very handy they are. I had one of those in Deep Cove, and they’re awesome. Because the hotel is right across the street from a mall and handy to any number of stores (with a KFC in the parking lot) getting ingredients isn’t an issue.
Now let’s meet the mascot: an authentic VW Westphalia of the old skool. If you’ve got a place to be and need to get there faster than the bus (stop is on the corner) or bike (they have five free rental bikes with helmets you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in) or feetses (it’s a 20 minute walk downtown) can get you there, they will chauffeur you to your destination in the bus, which is locally famous. Don’t be surprised if strangers wave at you when you’re toodling around town in it.
While riding in the bus it is permissible…heck, understandable…hell, inevitable, to pretend to be part of a teenage rock band that tours the country solving mysteries. Kitten ears, jug-eared straight man, or Great Dane optional.
(confession time; when I was little I thought that you had to be 13 to order a Teen Burger at A&W, and that once you were old enough to drive you got a van and joined a rock band that toured the country solving mysteries. That’s just how it was. I was sure of it. You have no idea how badly I wanted to be a teenager for this reason. Then I became one. Life is fucking cruel sometimes, you know?)