Do you miss Downton Abbey? I really do! We could watch it and be transported back to an era when afternoon tea mattered to people. No screens to obstruct conversations with friends and family; just the enjoyable interchange of ideas.
During the summer of 2015, my husband and I, 15 year old daughter, and my parents traveled to San Francisco and then to Vancouver, British Columbia. The Vancouver part of the trip was for a business conference for my husband but my daughter and I tagged along just so I could take her to have high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria.
Eighteen years prior, I’d been at the Empress Hotel and had enjoyed high tea there (complete with my hat and sundress) and I knew that if I ever had a daughter, I would need to get her there. It was on my bucket list.
Because of our love for all things British, this was an opportunity not to be missed. It took some planning ahead because of a tight business conference schedule but we finally worked it out. We took a float plane from Vancouver over to Victoria, B.C. It was pretty amazing to use the ocean as a runway and landing zone. The view from the little plane was spectacular as well—all varying shades of blue from the ocean below us to the sky above.
When we landed on Victoria Island, it wasn’t very far to walk to the Empress Hotel for our 1 p.m. reservations. Of course, I wore my hat that day with joy.
We entered the lovely ivy-covered Empress Hotel and found our way to the tea room. After being seated, we gazed in awe at our sumptuous surroundings—rich Persian rugs, fancy silverware, shining silver teapots, Corinthian pillars surrounded by ferns and palms, not to mention all the other ladies who’d decided wearing a hat was the thing to do. I found myself admiring their hats as well.
Our waitress greeted us warmly and gave us the information we needed to make a proper tea selection. Of course, we soon had a bounteous assortment of savory and sweet things in front of us to choose from as well from buttery scones to dainty, pink & lavender petit-fours. The Empress Hotel china plates and tea cups and saucers are legendary. Apparently, the original pattern with the stately royal crown was used in 1939 for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and again in 1951 when Princess Elizabeth returned for her royal tour a year before her inauguration.
Sipping tea with our pinky fingers extended made us feel quite elegant that day. It was truly enjoyable. If you ever have the chance to visit Victoria, British Columbia, please, by all means, make a reservation (ahead of time) for afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. You won’t be disappointed.