Many years ago, during the height of numerous afternoon tea outings with the family, my mom and I discovered there was a tea at the Empress. That very day we stated our intent to go to Victoria, BC one day to partake in their afternoon tea. Years passed and this dream was placed on the back burner and all but forgotten.
Last Christmas I was visiting my family in PA, as I do each year. While I was there I was struck by the realization that my mom was 68 years old. She turned 68 last November and that gave me pause. If that realization doesn’t make a person stop and take a moment to think, I don’t know what does. Sixty eight. Wait. What? How did that happen? I imagine it happened much like my own age: one day I was 21, the next day I was 25 and giving birth to Juston, and before I knew it <poof> I’m 29. And let’s be honest – I may be 29, but my years of experience are really starting to pile up. In that moment I knew that a trip to Victoria was now or possibly never. If time slipped by and I never made the time to take that trip, I would be consumed with guilt for forever.
If we were going on a trip of a lifetime, we were going big. My first indulgence was on airfare. I purchased first class airfare, which I never do (why?? It was sooo much better & who needs a zero balance on a credit card anyway!). First class was going to be easier on my mom, who has a hard time walking after several foot surgeries. Plus every trip of a lifetime should be spent living big in the moment. Go big or go home, am I right?
I didn’t stop at first class airfare: I also splurged for two nights at the Fairmont Empress. One could opt to stay somewhere else in town and go to afternoon tea, but afternoon tea was that much sweeter while staying on the grounds. If I could have afforded to stay there the entire week I would have because it was amazing!
Newly renovated, this Grand Dame is a glamorous landmark hotel from the glory days of travel, only now she’s refreshed and ready for her next chapter. The moment you enter the double doors flanked by massive golden columns, you know you are in for a treat! The first thing I noticed was the immense, yet delicate crystal chandelier in the lobby. The sunlight streaming in releases a prism of colors in each of the tiny crystals.
The second thing I noticed was the gold decor with aubergine accents and the most wonderful floral smell. I don’t know where the smell came from or what the scent was, but it was love at first sniff. (If anyone knows how they did that, please enlighten me.)
The lobby smelled so heavenly I looked forward to regally gliding down the stairs to the lobby each day, inhaling that divine scent… Who am I kidding? I rarely glide anywhere, unless you consider tripping as gliding, but I did look forward to lobby-time every day.
The Empress has catered to royals and the famous alike for over a century, yet although I’m just a regular girl from the States I never felt that I was ordinary. The staff were friendly and helpful with each and every interaction and they made me feel like a queen.
Our deluxe queen suite was at the end of a long hallway. We pushed open the door to a newly remodeled, elegant room with a posh marble spa bath. The beds were soft and pillowy with crisp, white linens, perfect for a good night’s sleep. They also have blackout shades in the rooms, which is appreciated as Canada has very looooong hours of daylight and I’m not what you’d call a morning person.
Even the Rose 21 toiletries by Le Labo, the signature scent of the Empress, were luxurious amenities. Every morning I lathered up that creamy spicy-woodsy-floral soap in the marble encased shower as rain fell gently from the ceiling.
Although Mother’s Day was a few weeks prior, my Mother’s Day gift to my mom was a pedicure at the Willow Stream Spa. We shared a room and hot tea while chatting it up with our pedicurists Jill and Madeline. Both were from England, yet had lived in Victoria for some time. They were good-natured and utterly pampered us. We could have stayed all day!
Last, but not least, we booked a reservation for Tea at the Empress. Since this was the reason we were in Victoria in the first place, we weren’t going to miss this for anything. Tea in the elegant Lobby Lounge was everything I imagined. Tea was served in the classic Empress Tea China first used for a Royal visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.
The loose tea selection is extensive, but a flavorful black tea is my favorite and they serve an exclusive Empress blend with tea grown in Assam India, Kenya, South India, Ceylon, and China, which called to me. The tea menu offered a large selection of savory and sweet delicacies such as Coronation Chicken on Brioche and the Signature Empress Warm Raisin Scones with clotted cream and strawberry lavender preserve. From the cushy wingback chairs we chatted, nibbled, and sipped the afternoon away until we could chat, nibble and sip no more. Mission accomplished. From there out, everything else in Victoria was icing on the decadent Empress cake.
If you are going to Victoria, BC a stay at the Fairmont Empress is a must. Sure, there are other hotels in the city…but the Empress is iconic. Where else can you stay and have access to the restaurants, the views of the harbor, and the convenience to the city while lodging in complete luxury?
721 Government Street
British Columbia, Canada