CASTLE ON THE COAST
A luxe family vacation in Victoria, BC
During the celebrations of Canada’s 150th last year, our kids came home from school after a visit from the consulate asking if they had ever been to our Province’s capital. We thought about it and realized, no! Before having kids, Todd and I enjoyed renting scooters together in Victoria, visiting all of our old haunts, (we both had stints living on the Island in the past), so we added the journey to our list of things we wanted to do with the kids.
The opportunity for a royal weekend presented itself when I was invited for the first time to join Todd as co-emcee for the SHINE Fashion Tea, a fundraiser for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation being held at the harbor front Fairmont Empresss Hotel.
The event, the hotel and the general feeling for the whole weekend was one that evoked nostalgic hankerings for a romantic era gone by. As a bonus, we were able to fit the whole trip into one weekend, without the kids missing any school thanks to a 30 minute Helijet ride and limousine shuttle service to and from Fairmont Empress via their BMW car. The more we travel, the more we find these little things which speed up travel time and maximize time spent at our destination, well worth the added cost.
With so many opportunities for making memories, resting and relaxing right at our hotel, we had to make sure we took a couple of excursions to see the city. We took a drive around the harbor to see the parliament buildings and into Cadboro Bay where people were out enjoying the shoreline and walks down the spits. The kids were especially thrilled with a couple of hours at the Royal BC Museum, seeing the whales and going on the pirate ship before an evening stroll down Government Street to experience quaint little shops fit into historic old buildings. Back at the hotel, being a guest for a couple of nights felt like a gift. The rich history of the Empress Hotel has recently been revived due to a $60 Million dollar renovation. We were able to enjoy a relaxed prince and princess afternoon tea on couches in the elegant Lobby Lounge and a visit by tea sommelier, Christian Elsing. We were lucky to sample many
of his recommendations later in the Fairmont Gold lounge, a serene room outfitted in dusky blue fabrics and gold accents gleaming in the sunlight that streamed through the large windows overlooking the harbor.
A few dips in the warm “Mrs. Bosa’s” pool (as the locals referred to it) wore out the kids before dinner at Q at the Empress restaurant. Floor to ceiling portraits of the Empress herself, Queen Victoria, are hung on one wall of the restaurant to perpetually assess the great gatsby inspired dining room. In a hotel that begins with service and ends with Art Deco inspired nods to royalty and history, I have to assume that the austere expressions captured on each of her faces are looks of approval. And for commoners like us, it gave us a taste of nobility for a day or two.