B ecause Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, make some serious points with your sweetheart and plan a weekend in Victoria, B.C.
It’s the perfect time to visit – low crowds, affordable hotel packages and the highest exchange rate in nearly two decades at $1.20 Canadian for every American dollar.
Google.ca voted Victoria Canada’s “Most Romantic City” in 2013, and whether you go to indulge in a romantic escape or simply want to slow down and unwind together on “island time,” here are some ideas to inspire you.
Come fly with me
There are many ways to get to Victoria, but the most thrilling is landing via seaplane in the historic Inner Harbour. It costs more than the ferries but saves lots of time – only 45 minutes after takeoff at Kenmore Air’s Lake Union terminal, you’ll be handing your passport to Canadian Customs. Choose from two daily departures, and if the weather’s fine, enjoy breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains and the San Juan Islands along the way. www.kenmoreair.com/Victoria-BC
Sleep by the sea
Venture just 15 minutes outside the heart of the city to the beautiful community of Oak Bay to stay at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel.
Originally built in 1927 as an English manor house along a pristine stretch of rugged coastline, it operated as one of Victoria’s most beloved lodgings until 2006, when the hotel closed for several years and was rebuilt. Recently reopened, its historic past is now blended with a charming lodge that is centered on the indulgent Boathouse Spa and seaside mineral baths, which are open around the clock for guests’ enjoyment – especially fun for a romantic stargazing soak at midnight.
Check into the “Romance by the Sea” spa package that includes champagne, a foot bath and couple’s massage, or the “Rolls Gold Mini Getaway,” and be picked up in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce to begin your luxurious weekend. Every room has views of Mount Baker and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and there are three outstanding dining choices on site. Dinner in The Dining Room is a must, with chef Rob Budlong’s delicious, organic Vancouver Island cuisine served in lovely candlelit ambiance.
If you’re a golfer, enjoy exclusive privileges at private clubs nearby, including the neighboring Victoria Golf Club, with seaside links along stunning Beach Drive. www.oakbaybeachhotel.com
Take a stroll and shop
Back in town, wander the cobblestone streets and find a delightful mix of retail and dining spots.
Here are a few special places not to miss:
• Violette, 1303 Government St., www.violetteboutique.com: Modeled after the cosmopolitan shops found on the Isle Saint Louis in Paris, Violette represents Canadian jewelry designers from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver with beautiful handmade treasures.
• She She Bags & Shoes, 616 and 618 View St., www.shesheshops.com: The place to go for a statement handbag or a show-stopping pair of shoes.
• Still Life For Him, 551 Johnson St., www.stilllifeboutique.com: A wide variety of vintage and modern fashion. Directly across the street, you’ll find Still Life for Her.
• Classic Home Furnishings & Silverware, 813 Fort St., http://classicsilverware.com: One of a handful of antique shops remaining on Fort Street, offering a huge selection of top-quality estate pieces and silver.
• Beehive Wool Shop, 1700 Douglas St., www.beehivewoolshop.com/ pages/about: A knitter’s dream, with a gorgeous selection of yarns, patterns and knitting expertise.
• Fishhook, 805 Fort St., www.fishhookvic.com: Yummy fish curries, house-pickled vegetables, soups and open-face sandwiches are all beautifully presented by former “Top Chef Canada” contender and Red Fish Blue Fish mastermind Kunal Ghose.
• Camille’s Fine West Coast Dining, 45 Bastion Square, http://camillesrestaurant.com: Co-owner chef Stephan Drolet’s multi-coursed menus are not only beautiful but also delicious, served by candlelight with soft jazz and blues in an 1898 heritage building. It’s a romantic and intimate dinner spot. You’ll find outstanding cocktails and an extensive wine list, too.
Tea for two
The tradition of afternoon tea in Victoria has been re-imagined and updated at these two hip teahouses:
• Silk Road Tea, 1624 Government St., www.silkroadteastore.com: Daniela Cubelic is a leading authority on tea culture, hailed as “Canada’s Queen of Tea” by the Globe & Mail and “Canada’s Tea Master” by the Vancouver Sun. Stop in for an informative chocolate and tea pairing or visit her in-house spa for unique body treatments like the Mandarin Manicure or Imperial Dragon Facial for men.
• David’s Teas, 606 Johnson St., www.davidstea.com: Tea here is simply lot of fun! Sample delicious blends like the Sunshine Collection, Sunny Citrus, or Pink Flamingo, all designed to banish the midwinter blues. A great selection of colorful tea accessories is available for purchase.
On the Web: There’s much more to explore in Victoria. To plan your own romantic escape, visit www.tourismvictoria.com.
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