Friday, April 07, 2006

Victoria, Part Three: Wednesday

Wednesday was another beautiful day. Today, instead of jeans, t-shirt and blazer, I went a little more dressy, in lavender slacks, a white shell and an adorable white jacket I just bought. It has 3/4 sleeves and ties together in the front. And new white flats (adorable!!). But I digress...

I set off a little later than on Tuesday. I'd seen most of the major attractions I wanted to see, so Wednesday morning was for getting the more interesting pictures and touring the little take-'em-or-leave-'em museums.

As you may or may not be aware, I love funny/strange/meaningful/interesting/silly signs. Any kind of sign, really, as long as it either makes me laugh, or has some kind of meaningful quality to me. One of the first things I found on Wednesday morning:

My kind of place. : )

I was wandering along the harbour again, and I saw the Coho leaving Victoria (this is the ferry I took). As you can see, she dwarves everything else in the harbour.

On Tuesday, I took a picture of a pink building and a cherry blossom tree. Here's the same tree, different angle:

Random shot of the Canadian flag:

I decided to call Mom and Dad on my cell phone (I kept in touch with them every day, to let them know I was safe, happy, healthy, and to brag to them that Victoria is beautiful). After we hung up, I took a picutre of the spot I had called them from, so that later I could tell them, "See? I wasn't lying when I told you I was standing somewhere gorgeous!"

The tulips you can make out in the pic above:

Victoria Visitor's Centre (another English spelling):

Some more of the Empress garden:

Artists, musicians and vendors setting up along the harbour to make some money from the tourists:

A lovely shot of the Legislative building:

A Mountie Moose:

I actually made it a bit of a quest to find myself a Canada souvenir with a moose on it. This isn't so hard, really, as every store you walk into has stuff with moose, bears, orcas, etc. on it. But I didn't want anything gaudy, and I hardly need or want anything knick-knacky (God knows I have enough Snoopy stuff to dust already), so it was actually quite hard to find an appropriate moose souvenir for myself. I thought about getting a mug or something useful, but I have a lot of mugs already. I eventually found a great Christmas shop, and I bought myself a moose Christmas ornament that says "Canada" on it. Something I can use each year, but that won't sit around collecting dust. Perfect!

My new boyfriend, Melvin the Mountie:

When I started off from the hotel, it was actually quite late in the morning. I had a 2:15 reservation at the Empress, and while I didn't mind wandering a bit, I didn't want to get too dirty or sweaty. I decided to check out Miniature World, as I've always gotten a kick out of dollhouses and such. That took maybe 20 minutes. So I checked out the Undersea Gardens, even staying for the dive show, in which a diver shows all of us the native sea life of Victoria, including crabs, several fish, and an octopus. That was interesting, though just the slightest bit creepy, as the aquarium is what its name implies--it's underwater.

When I left this, I checked the time on my phone. Gah! Still a couple hours off from tea time. So I went to the wax musuem. It was cute, but definitely has nothing on Madame Tussaud's in London in terms of quantity or quality. Still, it was another way to pass some time.

Finally, it was time to head to the Empress. I used one of the public restrooms (all wallpapered and fancy) to touch up my makeup and brush my hair (it gets so tangled with the slightest breeze) and window shopped a bit. The Empress has designer shops for its guests and the public to use. Then I went to the tea room.


I desperately wanted to pull out my camera and stand there and gawp for a bit, but I do love to feign sophistication in these situations. So I just followed the lady to my table and started taking mental notes of everything. Here's what I came up with in the first few minutes:

1. That's not canned music--there's a tuxedoed gentleman playing a grand piano in the middle of the room.
2. They pull your chair out for you and put the napkin on your lap.
3. The Inner Harbour is even more beautiful when you're sttting on a plump chair in a gorgeous dining room, being treated like royalty.

Here's a picture of the dining room, courtesy of Google:

My server came over very quickly to start me off with a bowl of fresh strawberries covered in a rich cream, and to ask which kind of tea I'd like. I ordered the Empress Tea Blend, which is exclusive to the hotel. Then I started taking dainty bites of my strawberries, hoping like mad that I wouldn't drop on on my white top and white jacket (I didn't, miracle of miracles).

While I waited for my tea, I noticed the ladies at the table next to mine unabashedly taking pictures of their food. So, when mine came, I somewhat unabashedly did the same (without flash, of course!).

The sandwich on the right is a curried chicken sandwich. I also had tomato and lettuce, cucumber, and a lovely carrot and ginger sandwich. On the second tier is the scone, strawberry preserves and clotted cream. The preserves were a brand I am familiar with from England. It's made in Essex, which made me smile. The top tier housed the desserts, which were sinful. There was a Belgian chocolate truffle, a lemon tart, a custard tart with fresh fruit on top, a shortbread cookie, and a chocolate eclair.

I ate every last crumb, and drank that whole pot of tea. And then my server brought me more tea. And I drank a couple cups more.

Did you know that tea, in addition to having caffiene in it, is a natural diuretic?

I ended up staying a little over an hour, watching the people outside and relishing every bite and every sip. I asked the server if the Empress Blend Tea is available in the tea shop and she replied, "Yes, but we'll give you a complimentary box when you go today." Yep, you get treated like royalty, fed like royalty, and a free box of tea. Lovely!

Still, I visited the tea shop. I bought a book of tea recipes that also includes the history of High Tea. According to the menu at the Empress, the tradition we practice today was started by the Duchess of Bedford, early in Victoria's reign. She complained of a "sinking feeling" in the afternoons and thus started having tea, sandwiches and pastries in the afternoon. Pretty soon it caught on with her friends, and boom! A trend was born. One that hasn't gone away.

After tea, I went straight back to my hotel. I was so full! I had planned on the tea being my afternoon and evening meal, and now all I wanted was to change into my comfy (baggy) jeans and hoodie. No more sophistication and adorable shoes. Nope. I was ready for my comfies and a good book.

I found an internet kiosk in the hotel coffee shop, so many of you heard from me when I sent out an email and posted a bulletin at Myspace. After a few minutes reading all of my emails, I retired to a small sitting room off the lobby, and settled into a comfy chair with The Da Vinci Code. I spent a couple of hours reading before racing back to my room for...the natural outcome of drinking way too much tea in one afternoon.

I stuck pretty close to my room the rest of the evening. With all of the walking I'd been doing, it was nice to relax with my book. I also flipped the TV on to watch "You Are What You Eat" (fabulous British show) and give myself a mini-facial.

Then I climbed into bed with my book. And I didn't fall asleep for a long time. First because I was reaching the end of the story (even though I'd read it before, the plot twists still surprised me and I couldn't put it down), and also because...well, I wasn't at all tired. Too much caffiene in my system.

Anyway, it was a long, long time before I fell asleep. And it was early when I popped awake and lay there thinking, "God, no!" I had a lot of "hurry up and wait" time on Thursday.

To be continued...

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