Old-World charm sets the scene for romance
By Marguerite Cleveland
The Old-World charm of Victoria, British Columbia, is the perfect settling for a romantic getaway. The Coast Salish First Nations Peoples settled the area with communities up and down the coast. Named for Queen Victoria, it is the capital city of British Columbia and was founded in 1843 as a British settlement. Over the years it has become a popular tourist destination and is inundated with crowds during cruise ship season. In the winter months, crowds dwindle, making this low season the perfect time of year to visit. Just 62 miles from Seattle, Washington, you can travel by airplane from the Seattle-Tacoma International airport, Seaplane, or the Victoria Clipper fast ferry. It is just 25 miles from Port Angeles, Washington, on the Blackball Ferry. Known as the “Garden City,” Victoria is an easily walkable city with a section of Government Street transformed into a pedestrian-priority zone. Completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the zone includes picnic tables, seating, planters, and artwork installations featuring local talent.
Where to Stay
If romance is the goal, there is only one choice, the iconic Fairmont Empress. This stately building dominates the inner harbor front and has been a favorite of visitors since its founding in 1908. If you can swing it, book a harbor front suite on the Fairmont Gold Floor, which is like a small boutique hotel amid the larger hotel. It gives you the best of both worlds, a separate check-in desk, concierge, and the use of the elegant Fairmont Lounge, while still having use of the larger hotel’s restaurants, shops, fitness center, pool, and the luxurious Willow Stream Spa.
When splurging on a luxury hotel, take time to enjoy all the amenities. The Fairmont Gold Lounge is a fabulous perk. Enjoy a scrumptious breakfast buffet each morning with delectable hot and cold dishes as well as some of the best croissants in North America. Enjoy great coffees from a high-end machine. In the afternoon, pop back in for the Fairmont Empress’ famed scones and Lot35 Tea, Fairmont’s proprietary brand sourced from premium ingredients. Evening offers appetizers and an honor bar for cocktails. Late evening, pop in for dessert. The outdoor veranda is open, weather permitting. Keep warm with outdoor fire pits and blankets while watching a romantic sunset over the harbor.
The Fairmont Empress - Fairmont.com/empress-victoria
Where to Eat
No trip to Victoria is complete without enjoying afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress. This luxury experience is extremely popular, so reservations are a must. Sip your choice of teas from a selection of over 20 premium teas. Afternoon tea is a leisurely event. The atmosphere is set as you enter the lovely Lobby Lounge and are seated in this historic space with a modern refresh. Classical piano music from Fairmont’s baby grand piano fills the air, just adding to the ambience. The menu changes with the seasons, but your tea tray will always include freshly baked Empress Raisin Scones that are served warm with house-made clotted cream and strawberry vanilla preserves.
If you are unfamiliar with the food scene in a destination, take a food tour. Off The Eaten Track offers a variety of tours—both guided and self-guided—to experience the food scene in Victoria. The Downtown Food and City Tour will take you on a walking tour of downtown Victoria to discover culinary gems. Guests will eat where the locals do as well as see some of the historic sites such as St. Andrew’s Cathedral and the Royal Theater. Enjoy samples from seven local foodie stops, which includes unique dishes, pastries, wine, cheese and macarons.
Tea at the Empress - TeaattheEmpress.com Off the Eaten Track - OfftheEatenTrackTours.ca
What to Do
Enjoy a Winter Wildlife Tour with Eagle Wing Tours. There are plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities during the winter months. Whale sightings are hit or miss in January or February, but you won’t miss seeing them when you head out to the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Naturalists onboard will educate your group on the different types of mammals living there. Tours regularly include sightings of harbor seals, elephant seals, and Steller and California sea lions.
The Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Empress is a lovely oasis to enjoy some couple’s time. Conde Nast Traveler ranks it as one of the top spas in Canada. Book a variety of treatments or a luxurious package. Arrive early to take advantage of the Spa Ritual, which helps remove toxins from your body and enhance your spa experience. Start with a traditional Finnish Dry Sauna, then follow with the Steam Inhalation Room. These are in the men and women locker rooms. Join your significant other in the Thermal Mineral Pool. Afterward, you’re sure to be fully relaxed and ready for your treatments such as an opulent facial or a soothing massage.
Eagle Wing Tours - EagleWingTours.com The Willow Stream Spa - Fairmont.com/empress-victoria/spa/willow-stream-spa