Published: August 14th 2009August 5th 2009
A great place for afternoon tea!
Oh Canada Part I
While my mom was visiting the Pacific Northwest, we decided to get some use out of our passports and head to Victoria, BC, for a girls weekend. We made our way from Seattle to Victoria on the Victoria Clipper and I have to say it was a pleasant experience once I got the tip to pick up our boarding passes as early as possible to avoid the cattle drive that happens when they announce the boarding groups. In true "first-in-line" fashion, I picked up our boarding passes a full 6 days early, so that we were in the first boarding group.
Of course, this meant that we were able to head upstairs on the Clipper and grab our choice of window seats for the best view. A few minutes later, a group of four men came over asking to share our 6 seats. Now they CLAIM that they chose the seats based on the fact that two attractive women were sitting alone, but I think it was more likely that Jerry, John, Jeff and Ray chose the only four seats left together. The group of guys (all between 55-75, btw) were from Florida and on
The Victoria Clipper takes about 3 hours to/from Seattle and Victoria.
their way to Alaska for a fishing adventure. Don't worry, Courtney-- I figured out which ones were Gator fans and which were 'Noles fans first and foremost. While I am definitely a talker, and mostly a fan of adorable old men, three hours is a long time to talk to anyone that you don't know. However, I got digits. That's right... Ray, who was at the upper end of the age bracket, gave me his card and invited me out on his boat if I ever make it to Jacksonville.
We arrived in Victoria, passed through customs and made our way over to the Hotel Grand Pacific
across the street. We read reviews and decided to stay at the HGP because the rooms were a bit bigger than the Empress, with individual balconies while still being within walking distance of everything. I think that was a fair assesment, and the service was great. Plus, I'm a sucker for hotel bathrobes. Our Victoria Clipper package included the round trip ferry, our hotel stay (one night) and reservations at the Fairmont Empress for afternoon tea, so after we checked in and freshened up, we headed over for a spot
Hotel Grand Pacific
Our standard room with a balcony over looking the waterfront!
The Fairmont Empress is the matriarch of the Victoria waterfront; ivy covers the outside walls and you get the feeling that it might look the same as it did when it opened in 1908. After a few refurbishings since then, the inside is just as impressive. While the many hotels in the surrounding area may be more modern, there is something to be said for preserving the history of this place-- something North America seems to be lacking in our tear-down and build again culture. The tea service itself was top notch-- sparkling wine and strawberries to start, then our selection of tea (Jasmine green tea for me) and the traditional finger sandwiches, scones and sweets. Fantastic. I'm always amazed at how full I can get on bite-sized food. Sure, it's three plates full of bite-sized food, but still.
After a break back at the room, we decided to hop on a Grayline bus to see the Butchart Gardens, and grab something to eat while the sun sets. So many things in bloom! The gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada, and we came at a perfect time to check out all of the various
Sparkling wine and strawberries at the start of afternoon tea.
corners (Sunken, Japanese and Italian Gardens are my favorite). We also were able to get reservations for the last seating in the Dining Room Restaurant, which worked out perfectly since we were given a table by the window and were able to watch the sun go down and the lights come up. We lingered over some amazingly fresh food (free-run chicken with spinach ravioli and fresh asparagus) and great BC wine, and then wandered through the gardens in the dark. It felt like the whole place had shut down and we had somehow been left on the grounds-- it was definitely a different feeling than during the day. We finally made it back to the city courtesy of the Grayline, passed the beautiful Parliment buildings all lit up for the night, and collapsed into comfortable beds.
Day two of our All-Things-Girly-Weekend started by checking out of the Hotel, and having them hold our bags (they were happy to do so). A liesurely walk down Government Street brought us to Le Spa Sereine
for massages and body wraps. A little pampering is a perfect fit with a girls weekend, and this spa was a great find. After a
Surrounded by flowers.
full-body salt treatment and clay mask I was wrapped into plastic and left to relax. I lost track of time when my masseuse came back into the room and treated me to some foot reflexology before preparing a shower and deep-tissue massage. It was a great treatment combination, and the spa was very cute, with an interesting lay out over three floors. Mom had the same set of treatments so we were finished at the same time. We seemed to be the only ones there for most of the morning, so we were able to take advantage of the steam room and the showers before we got ready to head out for our final few hours in Victoria.
Lunch at one of my favorite Italian restaurants in ALL of Canada (fine-- I've only been to three cities in Canada), Il Terrazzo
, and then on to a little shopping to cap off our weekend. Sure, the US dollar is a bit weak, but it's still a favorable exchange rate and a great excuse to buy things. Two cute cardigans, one knit top, one sweater vest and countless gifts later and we were ready to pick up our bags
Mom and me in the Japanese Gardens at Butchart.
at the hotel, and cross the street to the Victoria Clipper for the return trip. Very smooth sailing with less fog than the way up, as well as interesting conversation with some New Zealand natives, made the trip go by quickly, and before we knew it we were catching a cab in Seattle on our way to enjoy Jeremy's famous ribs for dinner.
There was a bit of dissapointment with how lax the US security seemed to be on the way back-- we told them we had things to declare, and they waved us on anyway-- and to top it off, Mom didn't even get a stamp on her passport. I guess we'll have to fly somewhere for our next passport-boosting trip! ;-)
Stay tuned... Oh Canada Part II: Whistler Boogaloo is up next!