Don’t we all crave a little magic amongst all this madness? A bit of a breather from the holiday rush, the hustle and bustle (which, frankly, isn’t always as fun as the Christmas carols make it out to be) and the fact that yet again this year, the world is still not quite, well, normal? Victoria’s Fairmont Empress seems to have created its festive offerings with careful thought and much magic in mind when it comes to what visitors are seeking this year. Whether you’re just popping in as a local for the day or need a few-days-away B.C. staycation (STAT!) here’s where you need to be: the castle on the coast.
The hotel’s grand exterior leads you right up to those front doors with a twinkling lighted pathway. Book your stay on the Fairmont Gold floor even just for the private lounge access, meaning serve-yourself-safely breakfasts with delicious hot and cold options, and evening canapés with a full bar, all in an inner harbour-facing setting with décor worthy of a magazine shoot.
If you’ve never experienced high tea, it’s high (pun intended) time you did and the Empress’ Festive Afternoon Tea has been Victoria’s most elegant ritual for 113 years. The hotel’s lobby tea lounge is open Wednesday through Sunday, is stunningly decorated, and sipping special Winter Palace Marzipan tea from the Queen’s own bone china while you nibble Downton Abbey-worthy finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, plus holiday-inspired pastries is magic indeed. Gluten-free? Done, just ask. Get extra fancy and add a flute of Veuve Clicquot champagne, too.
Sigh. It’s been a year all right. And if there is an over-the-top way to spoil yourself, this may well be it. Christmas Cocktails in Q Bar has created the Last Train to Paris cocktail, a luxury spin on the 1920s Parisian classic “sidecar”. This version is a blend of very top shelf Hennessy Paradis, Champagne and Grand Marnier, finished with an Armagnac spritz. Served on a full tray of custom gold-plated cocktail equipment with gold-dusted macarons and honey pearls perched on an Eiffel Tower spoon. Super splurgy at $399, but life is short, right?
Christmas dining at the Empress is lovely and a nice break from spending all that time in the kitchen at home. Christmas Day buffet in the Crystal Ballroom feels traditional and classic; Q restaurant has four-course menus for both Eve and Day, and an entire turkey dinner to-go is easily arranged.
Special Holi-Stay (cute, right?) packages are available until December 31 with great room rates. Treat thyself, you’ve earned it. If it’s some warm, holiday magic and TLC you’re craving, not many hotels do it better than Fairmont Empress. —Catherine Dunwoody