One of the great things about being in the Pacific Northwest is our proximity to beautiful British Columbia, Canada, just a few hours north of Seattle. A fun way to travel north is via the Victoria Clipper, direct from downtown Seattle to Victoria's Inner Harbour in less than 3 hours.
While I usually head to B.C. for epic kayaking, hiking, or skiing, sometimes I go for more urban pleasures. Last weekend I had a thoroughly enjoyable day in Victoria, B.C., with my niece Willa via the Clipper, where we indulged in the famous Victorian-style tea at the grand and historic Fairmount Empress Hotel.
It's an early morning start for sure, with a 6:30 a.m. check-in at Pier 69 on Seattle's waterfront, but definitely worth the predawn wake-up. Because we went just for the day, we opted for the 7:30 rather than 9:00 a.m. departure to make our reservations for tea and have more time to explore.
|And we're off! Seattle skyline receding in the Clipper's wake.|
As Willa napped enroute, I chatted up other travelers. Although I heard several languages besides English being spoken, interestingly, most of the people I talked to were fellow Northwesterners from Washington and Oregon.
|Just arrived. The Empress from the Inner Harbour.|
|The impressive French chateau-style Empress facade.|
Even though it's not promoted as such, this was a filling and satisfying lunch for us both. Our über friendly server Jan (yes, everyone who served us all day was gracious) started us off with an impressive tea selection. I chose a delicate, floral jasmine tea, while Willa went for a fragrant mint. (Neither of us are caffeine fiends.)
|The Empress Tea China was first used here for the 1939 Royal visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.|
We're each given our own pot with a timer for steeping, and when I understeep, Jan quickly refreshes my pot so I can get a stronger steep. Because it's about the tea. And the sweets, scones, and tea sandwiches, which are perfectly prepared and decadently delicious.
I've never seen my petite gymnast niece eat as much food in one sitting. Now, Empress, that's saying something about your excellent fare. To quote my niece:
"Canada, you Empressed me."
We lingered over the tea for as long as possible, but it was time to move on and go explore for a few hours. Check back soon for the next post about walking around the Inner Harbour area!
The Clipper ferry departs Seattle for Victoria seven days a week (weather permitting), check schedules and fares here. Because we traveled on a weekend, we got reservations for tea at the Empress in advance. Here is their tea menu. They accommodate dietary needs (e.g., my niece is a vegetarian and got meatless sandwiches), especially if you let them know in advance. They do have a dress code, so basically leave the torn jeans, sports clothes, and flip flops at home and opt for smart casual attire (or dressier if that's your thing). I wore clean jeans and a jacket, which was fine.