Tulips in April. Three words that translate as “paradise” to a Canadian prairie dweller like ourselves. As soon as we glimpsed green rolling hills from the airplane windows, our hearts felt light. When we arrived at The Empress hotel in the heart of Victoria, surrounded by colorful tulips- in April!-perfection had been attained.
Victoria is a beautiful city – clean, quaint, relaxed, and renowned for the flower gardens in its public parks and in private yards, immaculately kept. The Fairmont Empress is a stately English manor rising from the harbour’s edge of this elegant city. With ivy covered walls, hidden courtyards, and flourishing flower beds, The Empress has a charming rather than imposing demeanor, but promises luxury nonetheless.
Our stay at The Empress was restful and rewarding. Our room was spacious and comfortable, appointed with furniture that suggested the elegance of the Victorian era. The hotel itself fulfills its outside appearances; you feel as though you are strolling through the interior of a sophisticated country manor. The main dining room, The Empress Room, is perhaps the most impressive space in the hotel. With beams and other details in rich, dark wood, walls covered in elaborately woven coverings, and a massive fire place, The Empress Room is opulent and at the same time, somehow cozy. We took most of our meals there, with the sense that we were dining in the middle of history.
Afternoon Tea at The Empress is an experience that you should not leave without. A famed tradition at The Empress Hotel for over a century, taking High Tea in the Tea Lobby of the hotel overlooking the harbour is worth the price tag. The tea itself, a “secret” blend made exclusively for the hotel, is indeed delicious. A refreshing fruit and cream dish follows. Then, the famous tiered tray of luscious finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and various mouthwatering bite size desserts are served. A true parade of flavors ensued-cucumber, of course, but also the delightful carrot & ginger with cream cheese, and curry mango chicken salad. As for the delicate desserts, my heart is ever devoted to the delicious lemon curd tarts with glazed berries. Afternoon Tea was a highlight not only of our stay but of our vacation. I would recommend it to anyone staying in the Victoria area, not only guests of The Empress hotel.
Only a few detractions can be noted about The Empress. First, mornings at The Empress were incredibly noisy as the sound of the loading and unloading of massive metal cargo boxes boomed through our open window. Of course, this is the result of the otherwise convenient city location, but something to note nonetheless if you are looking for serene, lazy mornings. The lack of air conditioning in the building is also likely to be a concern in the hot summer months.
Despite these minor things, Victoria is a truly lovely city to visit, and The Empress is a stately and welcoming place to stay while you are there.