After numerous trips to Kingston as our go-to “out of town” trip, we decided to try something totally different this week, and head west… to Guelph. Lured by the best looking google result for “ontario romantic hotel jacuzzi” (once somebody gets their mind set on something…), we settled on the Norfolk Guest House (check their site for photos).
I’ve stayed at a few Bed and Breakfast places, mostly awesome, and one horrible one (Hello “A Pillow and Toast” in Niagara-on-the-Lake, you are the horrible one… two single beds pushed together do not make a king), and I would put “Norfolk Guest House” in the AWESOME side of the scale.
Like any B&B, staying at a place like Norfolk is a little pricier than a regular hotel; but when you factor in things like breakfast, personal service and a unique experience, places like this one shine, especially in terms of value. We ended up staying in their “Grandview” suite, which came with a queen sized bed, jacuzzi hot-tub, “custom” shower w/ multiple heads, separate office, usual TV & DVD player, fireplace, available internet, and a wrap-around balcony. It was seriously nice.
Janet, the owner and operator of the house, was very friendly and very enthusiastic about Norfolk: you can tell from her passion that she’s in it for professional service, and not a retirement hobby. She gave us great suggestions for eating in Guelph, and was very helpful whenever we had questions, and has elegantly decorated the entire place.
Despite our many picky food requirements, breakfast was great, and served at a table spread with a subtle jungle theme (cheetah plate, leather ostrich place-mats). Personally, I’m not a fan of eating breakfast with strangers, but the table at Norfolk was big, so when others joined us, we didn’t feel like our space was invaded.
Because I’m suspicious of any overtly glowing review, I’ll mention a couple things that I didn’t like. We spent a lot of time in the room, and while it was housed in a gorgeous antique wardrobe, the flat-screen TV could have been larger, and I would have liked to have had proper HD in the room. There were lots of strange “signs” all over the place, explaining every light switch and other functions, which while I’m sure prevents having to explain them all the time, detract from the overall classiness… especially when the most confusing thing, turning on the fireplace, had no “guide.”
As for the city of Guelph… it’s a small campus town. It’s not very large, but it has a quaint little downtown core that’s within a 10 minute walk of Norfolk, and can be traversed in about 15 minutes. There’s a large amount of bars on MacDonell street and the area around it… Jimmy Jazz is the notable rock club, but your typical college circuit bands pass through many of the core’s other venues.
Sadly, some of the places I’ve heard about before and went to check out, like the “Daydream Nation” record store seems to be long gone, as well as a few other places, which look like they have been replaced by much more upscale places.
However, my own highlights while visiting Guelph included:
- Bin 23, hands down the best restaurant in Guelph. The owner, Gus, is extremely friendly and serves up a well-rounded, fresh menu with a strong local flavour. If I was in the area again, I’ll go back.
- Planet Bean Coffee, which I assumed would be teeming with student life, but wasn’t, made great coffee they roasted in-house, and had some awesome merch for sale, including ceramic mugs with the shop’s logo. In my opinion, the only place to get coffee in you’re in Guelph.
- The Soccer Fanatic, a well-stocked store with everything football related you could ever want. Jerseys, flags, keychains, totebags, mugs, pins, plush Manchester United sneakers, everything. I knew when I saw the custom stain-glass TFC logo in the window that I would find some kindred spirits inside. The stained-glass logo wasn’t for sale, but I would imagine if you wanted to procure one for yourself, they could put you in touch with it’s creator.
- This antique/curio store that opened a few weeks ago had just incredible objects, mostly toy-focused, but also had lots of outdoorsy items procured from estate sales. I picked up a couple things for a great deal, which I’ll blog about in the future… but a couple things I didn’t get but still found awesome was a vintage Granada fake SG and amp set (only 200 bucks!), a vintage Gibson electric lap steel (no amp, but a steal at 450), screen printing blocks from a funeral home (morbid, but awesome), and lots of cool x-rays. I would do a road trip to Guelph next summer just to check this place out again, a lot of their stuff matches our light industrial/messy apartment style.
- We had another dinner at the Albion hotel, which was a little overpriced for it’s decent pubfood, but the atmosphere was nice and comfortable, very worthy of some hang time.
As for other things we never got around to, we never did get to have a decent look around the Bookshelf Cafe and Cinema, or eat at restaurants that also sound amazing, like Ein-stein’s Cafe, Other Brothers, Diana’s Downtown, Bistro Six and the Red Brick Cafe.
Because the weather was lousy when we were in town, we took a lot of cabs back and forth between downtown and the Norfolk, but each trip was only around 5 bucks, which wasn’t bad. If you found yourself in Guelph, don’t bother waiting for a cab on the street… just call. They’ll come quickly.
Overall, I would describe Guelph as the kind of place Belleville could be if it really wanted to. If Belleville cleaned up it’s downtown core (ie maybe moving the strip club more than 20 meters away from downtown city hall and farmers market), then a Guelph-type potential might be in it’s grasp.
So that’s about all I have to say about Guelph. If you’re looking to take a short vacation outside of the city, I can’t recommend the Norfolk highly enough (it even has online booking!!) as a great place to stay, with a handful of interesting options in the city to keep you entertained.