What a gem Victoria, Canada is!
We took a ferry from Tsawwassen, in the Vancouver area, into Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. The ferry was almost like a mini cruise ship and the 1 hour and 35 minute journey through the gorgeous Gulf Islands passed by very quickly.
Our destination was The Empress Hotel in Victoria.
The Empress Hotel was built between between 1904 and 1908 in the Château Style. It faces the inner harbor of Victoria and is now a National Historic Site of Canada.
It is famous for it’s architecture, gorgeous gardens and High Tea...
… and is Edwardian elegance at its finest.
The hotel is currently undergoing extensive renovations. As such we got a tremendous rate.
The room was outfitted with everything one could need to include plush robes and soft slippers.
Our view of the harbor was magnificent.
After dropping our luggage in the room we headed to the lobby lounge.
This room is just breathtakingly beautiful.
Dark carved wood is accented with light walls.
The columns and crown molding are a work of art.
Not to mention the stained glass dome in the adjoining space.
I believe we were given the best seats in the house. This was such a treat as Mr. Decor had never enjoyed high tea before.
The chairs were soft and plush and the view of the harbor was spectacular.
The Empress was offering a special “Royal Afternoon Tea” to celebrate the recent visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children. The menu featured favorites from members of the Royal Family. As our room had also come with a dining credit this is what we selected.
Tea at the Empress has long been enjoyed by the Royals. In 1939 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth’s II parents) had the honor of being the first to have tea using the Empress Tea China pattern which was originally presented to King George V in 1914.
The infamous pattern is still used today and produced by William Edwards for exclusive use at the Fairmont Empress.
I loved the timer which allowed you to brew your personal pot of tea to the strength you prefer.
From the top, clockwise, we enjoyed several finger sandwiches:
Roast Beef with Golden Beetroot and Horseradish Crème Fraîche (Princess Diana’s favorite and mine.)
Smoked Salman with Suèdoise Sauce
English Cheddar and Tomato
and in the center Jam Pennies (a favorite of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret as children and cut in the size of an old English penny.)
After the savory came the sweet:
Warm Scones with Clotted Cream and Fraise des Boise Compote
Raspberry Tartlets with Lemon Cheese
Vanilla Bean Shortbread
Chocolate Biscuit Cake (Prince William’s favorite and mine.)
Caramel Banana Cake
We continued our leisurely afternoon by picking up few Christmas gifts in the gift shop and mailing out a few postcards.
The clear afternoon skies then beckoned us outside.
The wharf is lovely and we enjoyed watching a sea plane take off.
Across from the Empress, on Belleville Street, is the Parliament of Victoria.
The Neo-Baroque building was begun in 1893 and completed in 1897.
It features a long façade made of grey Haddington Island Andesite, a type of volcanic rock. There are two end pavilions and a central dome.
Romanesque Revival rustication was also combined on parts of the building and 14 notable figures grace the top portions.
Free tours are offered. They last approximately 30-45 minutes. It truly is worth your time.
Inside, the central dome is impressive.
The artwork and gold gilding is spectacular.
The dome reaches a height of 30.5 meters (100 feet). Architect Francis Rattenbury chose an octagonal renaissance-style dome to distinguishes the Parliament Buildings from the several circular neo-classical domes used on American state and federal capitol buildings.
The British Columbia flag is comprised of the Union Jack, to show colonial origins, wavy blue stripes for the Pacific Ocean, the white stripes for the Rocky Mountains and the setting sun represents B.C. as Canada’s western most province.
In the center of the room is a traditional inland river canoe known as a Shxwtitostel. Shxwtitostel means “a safe place to cross the river” and this represents the idea of a bridge between all people.
The real stars of the show are all the glorious stained glass windows.
There are a set of stained glass windows shown as you climb the stairs to the Memorial Rotunda.
They display quotations from 17th and 18th English writers and thinkers.
The windows and quotes are meant to inspire legislators and spectators as they approach the chamber.
My favorite window was located in the Reception Hall.
The Diamond Jubilee Window was commissioned in 1897 for Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the sixtieth year of her reign. The left side features the date of the 18 year-old Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837 and to the right is the date of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
At the top portion of the window is British Columbia’s original Coat of Arms adopted in 1895. It contains many of the same symbols still in use today. The flowers are several of the emblems of the United Kingdom: the pink Tudor rose of England, the purple thistle of Scotland, the green shamrock of Ireland, and the yellow daffodil of Wales.
On the opposite wall a window commemorates Queen Elizabeth’s II Golden Jubilee in 2002. In the top portion you can see Her Majesty’s Canadian Royal Standard. There are also various B.C. symbols, including the provincial bird, the Steller’s Jay, the provincial fish, the Pacific Salmon, and the provincial gemstone, jade.
In the center is the British Columbia Coat of Arms adopted in 1987. It features a crowned lion standing on the crown representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Crest. On the shield the blue stripes represent the Pacific Ocean while the white stripes represent the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. The setting sun indicates B.C. is Canada’s western-most province. On the left, the wapiti stag (elk) represents the former Colony of Vancouver Island while the big horned mountain sheep on the right represents the former mainland Colony of British Columbia. The motto at the bottom — “splendor sine occasu”— is written in Latin and essentially means “Beauty without Diminishment “or “Beauty without End.” Located around both the lion’s neck and the bottom of the Coat of Arms is a dogwood garland—B.C.’s provincial flower since 1956.
The Legislative Chamber measures 12 by 18 meters (40 by 60 feet) and is paneled with brown Italian marble. It is decorated with 22 columns of green, white and purple Italian marble.
The gorgeous pale blue ceiling is accented with gold leaf and features four domed stained-glass skylights. The wrought-iron lamps are replicas of those hung in the Chamber in 1898.
Truly no detail was overlooked. Even the door handles featured a “B.C.” for British Columbia.
Thank you Your Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, for a grand tour.
Portrait by Canadian artist Phil Richards to mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Her Majesty is shown wearing her Canadian honors.
After this glorious tour we drove along Dallas Road and Beach Drive admiring the sea views and glorious sea side homes. Upon our return to the hotel we found Parliament beautifully lit up just for us. :)
The tour will continue on Friday,