More to Victoria than just the cutesy tourist-heavy inner harbor?

Part 1 of 2: Victoria, BC a.k.a. “Portland North”

August 28, 2013 | 1 Comment.

I’ve been hearing rumors Victoria is undergoing a bit of a culinary/coffee/craft brewing renaissance.  I set out on a long weekend to determine if Victoria is more than that cute little town on Vancouver island only worthy of a day long visit to walk around the inner harbor, hit up Butchart Gardens and high tea at The Fairmont Empress.

Off to a good start with the beautiful view of the inner harbor from my hotel room


Quick, think about the most beautiful capital city you have been to. Victoria has to be near the top of the list.
Afternoon tea isn’t the first desired activity that comes to mind, but I hear the Hotel Grand Pacific’s spin on the English tradition is pretty spectacular. A few steps down from the ivy-covered, esteemed Empress, the Grand Pacific’s “West Coast Tea” rendition seems less daunting than my pre-conceived (and likely incorrect) vision of a “pinkies up” experience at The Empress.

High Tea is all li’l old white ladies and crustless white bread sandwiches, right?

It turns out the quick answer is an emphatic, “No!” I observed zero 90 year old ladies and zero crustless sandwiches.

Started in 2005, Grand Pacific’s afternoon tea has a modern feel with a mix of Asian culture and British tradition. You will definitely get the three-tiered platter of little bites with scones and pots de creme, but they have also infused local elements: salmon and lox, vegetables from the neighboring farmland of Saanich.

If this is afternoon tea, I need more afternoon tea in my life. The cinnamon scone with blackberry jam (top tier) and the tomato goat cheese tart (bottom tier) were worth the trip alone

In addition to the broad selection of traditional teas from Silk Road, tea cocktails and tea sodas are also available by request.

You can try a few different teas to find your favorite, but  if you need a starting point, go for the Angelwater, an herbal that is subtle sweet with spearmint leaves, lavender blossoms, rose petals, elder flowers and red clover, and the freshly brewed matcha.

I ask the hotel’s Director of Operators, a long time tea aficionado, which tea is his favorite: “I’m all about the Chinese Oolongs because like a pinot noir, they are complex.”

I hereby rescind my bad attitude towards afternoon tea. Spending hours eating beautifully crafted petite bites while enjoying loose leaf tea, what is there not to love?  At $38 per person (Empress is $60) for a three-tiered tower of food to share between you and a companion and a sampling of teas, it is well worth it.

With a fully belly, I’m reading to check out the “new” Victoria. And as usual, there’s no better way to explore than on a bike.

Stay tuned for my next post: Exploring the city by bike with Pedaler co-founder Paul Rayman, where he proves Victoria is well on its way to becoming the creative artisan hotspot that Portland is.  We hit up the neighborhoods where locals hang out, drink cold brew served with tonic water, visit a ton of breweries, and scope out the good eats along the way.

Thank goodness The Pedaler hooked me up with a basket to store all of my edible treats (and yes, that is a baguette sticking out of my bag)
After seeing stores such as The Regional Assembly of Text that have stations where you can customize a letter or card to someone, I'm starting to understand the reference to Victoria being a mini-Portland


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