the harbor searched the early morning for food as we boarded the
Clipper for the two hour ride from Seattle to Victoria, on Vancouver Island. As
the capital of British Columbia, Victoria is situated at the tip of Vancouver
Island and is renowned for beautiful gardens, calm weather through all four
seasons, world class museums, quirky art, great restaurants, and British charm.
If a trip to London is not in your budget, then this is the place to go.
Pulling into Victoriaâ€™s sparkling harbor filled me with excitement. There is no
better place for a mini-European getaway than Victoria. With blossom-lined
streets, side walk cafÃ©s, and cobblestone alleyways; Chinatown, water taxis, and
horse drawn carriages, Victoria is a perfect setting for a truly romantic
escape. Enchantment fills your heart from the moment you step off the boat.
Walking up to the ivy-covered
and its promise of the luxuries of a bygone era, both my
husband and I smiled, knowing weâ€™d just entered the gates of our romantic
getaway in what felt like a far away land. The historic Empress was built in
1908, and recently has been beautifully restored to its original
From the moment we entered
the palm-lined lobby where guests from around the globe gathered, we were
embraced by the luxurious furnishings and fine architecture. The Empress has
been host to queens and kings, and we were made to feel as such ourselves.
Our room had a view of the harbor from two high-back emerald green chairs next
to a plush ruby red couch. The fireplace near the four poster bed beckoned to
our weary, romance seeking spirits. We would have been perfectly happy never to
have left the comfort of our room, but our â€˜Lovers Escapeâ€™ package included
dinner in the Empressâ€™s award-winning dining room. So by evening we left our
nest of luxury.
We strolled across the street and along the harbor, which glistened with the
soft white lights from the Parliament building. Jazz musicians played on the
corner. Their dulcet tones filled the night air. We watched as the sun set, then
arm-in-arm walked back to the hotel and into the famous Bengal Lounge for a
glass of wine before dinner. We were swept up in the richness of the room as we
sat under the Punka fans and in front of the huge fireplace. On the wall above
us hung a tiger skin from a long-ago royal hunt in India. We relaxed into the
soft brown leather chairs as our waiter, Wade, delivered our cocktails. Wine
didnâ€™t seem like the thing to order in a room where gentlemen had smoked cigars
and sipped from snifters of brandy. So brandy it would be for us as well.
Thankfully, my husband did not have a cigar. The mahogany lined room with silk
murals depicting Utopian scenes of India warmed us as we sipped our brandies.
Wade made us feel as if we were visiting dignitaries. He shared the history of
each precious artifact in the room and then graciously disappeared until we
needed him again. He seemed to have a sixth sense about our needs, and his
service was impeccable.
Then came the
time when we had to leave our Bengal Lounge for the dinner that awaited us. The
warmth of the fire and brandy awakened our romantic sensitivities as we snuggled
close together and sauntered down the long Victorian hallway, through the lobby,
and into the dining room.
again we found ourselves surrounded by intricately designed wall and ceiling
panels; the room was as grand as any Iâ€™d ever seen. A vintage wooden harp
amidst the elegantly appointed tables served as the heart and focal point of
the Empress Dining Room. We were seated right next to it where the resident
harpist, Elizabeth Ely,
has played for more than thirteen years.
romantic music doesnâ€™t make you want to hold hands under the table, I canâ€™t help
you. The soft candlelight, cozy satin-covered chairs, lushly upholstered walls,
and rich red and gold tapestries continued to excite our senses.
By the time our waiter, Kevan, and his smiling assistant, Nadia, delivered the
fourth course of our several course meal, we were overcome by the delicate taste
experience of each morsel that world class chef, Rob Cleland, had prepared. We
savored every enchanting moment of the evening, and capped the experience with
the perfect glass of wine, chosen by our knowledgeable wine steward, Alexander.
At the heart of true romance is the ability to make one another feel special; in
a place like the Empress you have a world class staff to help you along.
After dinner we went back to the Bengal Lounge for a night-cap. We then toured
the basement archives for a few moments to read of the timeless legacy of
romance the Empress holds within its grounds.
Back in our room by ten oâ€™clock, we were greeted by turned down beds, a tray of
chocolate covered strawberries, and a special surprise: a satin bag with a
bottle of â€˜Silk Roadâ€™ organic passion bath salts, massage oil, and a wooden massage
tool with rollers. A note was attached: "Warning! This love kit may cause romance to
blossom. Use at your own risk."
Our room was such a small haven that we couldnâ€™t bear to leave. Our â€˜Loverâ€™s
Escapeâ€™ package was for one night, but we extended to two.
The next day
we walked the city streets and enjoyed all the old world charm and entertainment
for which Victoria is famous. The hotel concierge gave us a map so we journeyed
from Old Town and Market Square through Fan Tan Alley and all of Chinatown. We
then settled into Bastion Square for afternoon lattes under the blue sky as we
took in the crisp early October breeze. Around us the cobblestone square bustled
with lively entertainment and savvy globe trotters enjoying espresso and sweets.
After our rest we continued to take in the city. Down Trounce Alley, amongst the
fashion and art shops, we found The Tapa Bar. We decided to stop in for a bite.
The walls of raspberry red were adorned with voluptuous paintings of beautiful
women from Latin cultures. Candlelight broke the shadows, and soft sultry music
wafted through the open room. Our waitress, Shelly, suggested the Tapa Platter
for Two. She was right. Thatâ€™s a meal for lovers to share. And then we indulged
in the sensuous chocolate Lava Cake. The Tapa Bar is a sexy little treat in the
middle of the city.
Since it was our last night in Victoria, and weâ€™d indulged in the Lava Cake, we
decided to walk the harbor path while the sun set. The peeling Madrona trees
that haunt the other side of the cityâ€™s harbor are a sight to see. Everywhere we
looked we saw either the grandeur of a historic city or the beauty of snow
capped mountains, waterways, and walking paths. There truly is something for
everyone in Victoria. We were sorry to see the day end.
Early the next morning outside our window Victoriaâ€™s harbor filled with the live
music of the Blue Danube. We rose from our downy bed, wrapped ourselves in the
velvety white hotel robes, and rolled our breakfast table to the window. Outside
we saw what our room service waiter explained was the last dance of the season.
Tiny water taxis lined up in the harbor and prepared for their final
Tourists lined up along the harbor wall, scones and hot coffee in hand. Artists
displayed their crafts along the promenade. The orchestraâ€™s music filled the
cityâ€™s crisp morning air, and the sun warmed the pink petunias that had not yet
succumbed to the chill of autumn. Surrounded by blue sky and the snow-capped
Olympic Mountains, and with their Canadian flags proudly flying, the tiny boats
executed their synchronized movements.
Who knew water taxis could waltz?
Like proud, miniature rainbow-colored soldiers they marched to the beat of the
music. A sizable crowd gathered to enjoy the show. The taxis paraded on,
circling one another in the water with the grace of the Bolshoi dancers. Nearly
eclipsed by the Seattle Coho Ferry and the Victoria Clipper as they pulled into
harbor, still the diminutive boats danced.
Sadly, we knew the ferry had come for us. It was our last day in Victoria, our
romantic city by the sea. We nearly stood and saluted the little soldiers as
they filed off to be put in their sheds for the winter. We knew weâ€™d see them
again. We vowed weâ€™d be back for their preview in spring.
Our romantic getaway had been perfect. Victoria and her water taxis could not
have given us a more sublime send off, nor a stronger desire to return.
But wait, thereâ€™s more! We were able to change our one oâ€™clock ferry to the
seven oâ€™clock ferry. So, again we stayed. We took in the Egypt exhibit at
the Royal BC Museum, and then the final crescendo; afternoon tea at the
Empress. Donâ€™t miss out on this treasured experience. The elegance of
traditional afternoon tea has been lost in American culture, but Iâ€™d sure
like to see it come back.
husband enjoyed the service of tiny sandwiches and delicate pastries, like their
famous mouth watering Chocolate Hazelnut Raspberry cake. Yum! This is a full
meal, with lots of wonderful tea, so go hungry, relax, and enjoy. The Tea Room
has twelve gorgeous chandeliers, hard wood floors, and Victorian furniture that
made the antique lover in me swoon. Portraits of King George V and Queen Mary
hang among other period pieces. Live piano music entertains patrons as they
luxuriate in this tradition. Every seat in the tea room has a full view of the
harbor. Make reservations because it is very popular. People stand in long lines
to get into the tea room. Itâ€™s worth it. Everything in Victoria is worth it.
Budgeting for Romance