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This Canadian Hotel Has a Unique Confessional for Guests — Here’s What It’s Like



On the night table in my room at The Dorian, an Autograph Collection hotel in downtown Calgary, Alberta, was a QR code with instructions on how to scan it. When I did, it launched an app that prompted me to reveal my sins:

“Free your conscience,” my screen tells me, “and anonymously confess a solemn secret. Moments of weakness, evenings of debauchery, lingering lies…

We’re all collectors of guilt and mistakes, just like Dorian Gray.”

In Oscar Wilde’s 1891 novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the handsome, narcissistic title character is granted his wish. He’ll remain forever young, while only his portrait will age. As the pleasure-seeking Dorian dives into debauchery, he retains his beauty, yet with each of his sins, his picture grows more grotesque.

Courtesy of The Dorian Hotel


At The Dorian, a digital portrait of Dorian Gray hangs in the lobby. That picture reflects the hotel’s contemporary twist on Wilde’s tale of decadence and self-indulgence by offering guests an unusual and anonymous way to admit to their past transgressions.

After check-in, as I found, scanning a QR code prompts guests to confess something they’ve done wrong. Each person who has confessed can then rate the revelation that another guest has made, ranking them from one, which is minor, to five, which is completely deplorable — the kind of secret you can’t believe the person just divulged.

Based on how these admissions are rated, the portrait of Dorian Gray in the lobby begins to change. When the confessions acknowledge good deeds, the picture turns younger and more handsome. When the disclosures are more malevolent, the image becomes increasingly gruesome.

“People have a lot on their chest, and they like to get it out,” said one of the property’s staffers who has the intriguing task of reviewing the confessions before they’re released to other guests to rate.

“They’re all anonymous, so I can’t see where they come from,” he explained, “but I have to ensure that there is a filter. Some people test it out and put in anything random or admit to something innocuous like ‘I enjoy my pizza with olives.’” But others, he said, “share their deepest, darkest secrets.”

Making these anonymous admissions “is therapeutic for some people,” he noted. “You can tell that these aren’t things they share with their friends and family.”

Guests, who can submit one confession for each night of their stay, have admitted to speeding tickets, ruining their diet, and engaging in a variety of clandestine liaisons. One acknowledged that their spouse’s engagement ring wasn’t a diamond but a cubic zirconia. Another wrote, “My wife is here with another man, and I know it.”

As I look at the screen by my bedside, I consider my own past. I once misled my mother about where my high school boyfriend and I had gone until the wee hours. Does that count?

But while this confess-your-sins angle is entertaining, there’s more to The Dorian than admitting to a night you regret. Here’s our full review of this urban hotel in Calgary, the gateway city to the Canadian Rockies.

The Dorian

  • From the lobby to the 137 guest rooms, the modern-Victorian design channels the Dorian Gray era while creating a contemporary feel.
  • The Wilde on 27, the hotel’s rooftop lounge, overlooks downtown Calgary’s office towers, a perfect sunset setting for sipping a Hanky Panky or other eclectic cocktail.
  • Conveniently located in Calgary’s business core, The Dorian is also a short stroll from the Bow River Pathway, the walking and cycling path that hugs the riverbank around the city center.
  • Where else can you enjoy a comfortable boutique hotel stay while you get your sins off your chest?

The Rooms

Photo Fusion Media/Courtesy of The Dorian Hotel


All The Dorian’s guest rooms feature blue and gold patterned wallpaper, adding a Victorian touch to the sleek white furnishings, which include a brass-fitted armoire containing robes and slippers. A lounge chair or loveseat is done in the same pattern, while a round bucket-style armchair upholstered in golden-beige velvet sits under the white counter that serves as a desk. A dressmaker’s form stands in the corner as if waiting for a tea gown or poofy bustle dress.

Each room has a Lavazza coffee maker, electric tea kettle, mini fridge, and stocked bar cart that includes gin that the local Eau Claire Distillery custom brews for the hotel. The baths with walk-in rainfall showers feature Aēsop bath amenities.

A copy of the novel sits on the nightstand in each room as inspiration for guests who might not have read the novel or who last cracked it open during high-school English class.

Room options start with the standard king, measuring 323 square feet, and the 355-square-foot double queen. The “city view” versions of these units are the same size but located on higher floors. The Dorian’s eight 689-square-foot suites have a separate living room, a king bedroom, and a spacious bath with a deep freestanding soaker tub.

Food and Drink

Photo Fusion Media/Courtesy of The Dorian Hotel


The Dorian has two food and beverage outlets: The Wilde on 27 and the Prologue Café.

On the hotel’s 27th floor, The Wilde on 27 serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday, its inventive menu drawing on ingredients from around the region — bison, trout, locally raised pork, and Alberta’s signature beef. On select Sundays, The Wilde hosts a bountiful buffet dubbed “The Wildest Brunch.”

With views across the city, the rooftop terrace — with glass panels to protect against Calgary’s changeable weather — is especially popular around sunset for cocktails and bar bites, from charcuterie and cheese plates to fancy corndogs. In The Wilde’s adjacent lounge, a stained-glass peacock glows turquoise and lime green from the wall, adjacent to a clubby bar area with velvety gold and coffee-toned chairs.

With a mix of communal seating, round café tables, a lounge-like corner with a sectional sofa, and chairs along the bar, the Prologue Café on the lobby level starts your day with coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. Midday brings panini and snacks, while in the evening, burgers, pasta, and salads pair with wine or cocktails.

Prologue offers afternoon tea between noon and 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, fusing classics like scones, tarts, and petit sandwiches with new creations like smoked salmon on a black sesame waffle.

Activities and Experiences

The Dorian was designed to “infuse a splash of flamboyance to Calgary’s downtown hotel scene, blending British sensibilities with Calgary’s western roots,” explained Patricia Phillips, chief executive officer of PBA Group of Companies, which developed the hotel. The bold carpet in the hallways combines a deep blue tartan print with vibrant pink Alberta roses, the official provincial flower. In the lobby, bold floral wallpaper contrasts with the angular freestanding gold-toned reception desk.

The hotel has a business-standard fitness center, open 24/7, with cardio machines (including Peloton bikes) and weight machines, but no swimming pool or spa.

Accessibility and Sustainability

The Dorian has accessible guest rooms and can provide in-room visual smoke detectors on request.

Location

The Dorian’s central Calgary location is convenient for business and leisure travelers. You can walk to the Calgary Tower, where on a clear day, from its 360-degree observation deck, you can glimpse the Canadian Rockies. The hotel is handy to the city’s light rail system, free within the downtown core, where you can ride to attractions such as the National Music Centre at Studio Bell is a multimedia museum highlighting Canadian composers and performers and hosting concerts and other music events.

Calgary has one of North America’s longest urban pathway networks, with more than 600 miles of pedestrian and cycling paths. From the Dorian, it’s a short walk to the Bow River Pathway that follows the river around the city.

Downtown Calgary is a 90-minute drive or shuttle ride to Banff National Park, gateway to the Canadian Rockies, and the most visited destination in Canada’s national park system. Traveling the same distance east of the city takes you to the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a hub of Canadian paleontology research, documenting where dinosaurs once roamed. From Calgary, you can also join a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, the luxury train that travels between Vancouver and the Rockies.

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

A Marriott Autograph Collection property, the Dorian is part of a complex that includes a Marriott Courtyard, which opened at the same time as the boutique property. The building connects to the Plus 15 network, the elevated indoor skyway that enables you to walk through the city center without going outdoors, particularly during Calgary’s often snowy winters.

If you’re renting a car to travel to the Rockies or other destinations beyond Calgary, consider waiting until you leave the city to pick it up. The Dorian doesn’t have its own parking lot but offers valet parking for around $40 per night.

Courtesy of The Dorian Hotel


At the Dorian, the digital picture of Dorian Grey adds some of Oscar Wilde’s eccentricity to the otherwise standard hotel experience. Because, as the guest room instructions explain…

If he looks young and picturesque, your fellow guests have not transgressed.

If he looks ancient and grotesque, imagine what our guests confessed?



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