Published September 22, 2016 by Luci’s Morsels
If you were following our stay in Victoria, British Columbia on Instagram, you may have seen our amazing Bike Tour around the city. On Friday morning of our trip, we borrowed bikes from The Magnolia Hotel where we stayed (more on its fabulousness below). They outfitted us with bicycles, helmets, and a selection of maps to take in the city as best suited us. We opted for the Bikes, Beans, and Blooms tour since we couldn’t get enough of the gardens and of course needed to check out some coffee and tea offerings in the city…
After stopping at Picnic for coffee and breakfast, we headed up to Government House. Rather unassuming from the entry gate, the property is loaded with gardens, a waterfall, and meandering paths that bring breathtaking views at every turn. I fell in love with this structure below. Doesn’t it just scream garden party in all the best ways? Straight ahead was the rose garden, so it really was ideal!
The temperatures in Victoria were high 60s with practically clear skies. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. I opted for button down tops and jeans everyday we were there, throwing on a sweater at night when we went out for dinner. The city is fairly casual, so you can wear comfortably, chic outfits morning to night.
Our next stop was Afternoon Tea at the Teahouse at Abkhazi Gardens. You can see the amazing array of goodies offered. The savory cheddar scones were my favorite, but it was all delicious. My husband particularly enjoyed the salmon profiterole bites – so cute!
There are more famous high teas in Victoria, but the one at the Abkhazi Gardens was delicious, comfortable, and much more reasonable at $30 per person. We heartily recommend it.
I loved the teacups and teapots – a variety of patterns and prints. The afternoon tea left us quite satisfied and ready to continue on our trek through the city on our bikes.
Sometimes you see the darndest things when you don’t expect it. We took an extra turn around the block to see a bit more of the neighborhood. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two deer enjoying lunch at a garden in the middle of an intersection. I pulled over and started snapping photos. Before I knew it, the mom and baby deer proceeded to cross the street… in the crosswalk! I’m from a place with deer and I live in a place with crosswalks, but seeing the two together like this was a highly entertaining. I took so, so many photos!
My mom decided to walk while my husband and I rode bikes. Because her pace was obviously a bit slower than ours, she was able to catch a bit more of the beauty than we were. She noted these perfect apple trees she saw in a number of yards. I tried looking up a bit more often after she noted all the great sights she was seeing. Next time, I’ll have to give her the camera!
At this point, we took our own detour from the map to climb the hill back to Craigdarroch Castle. The castle was actually a home of a wealthy coal entrepreneur. The richest man in western Canada, he had the four story home built on a hilltop in Victoria with an astounding 360 degree view. The castle is interesting with historical signs that share all kinds of drama about who married who and then who remarried who. A lot of fun shenanigans! Be sure to make it to the top, so you can see the wonderful views of the city and the straight.
After all the fun of the bike tour and our other daily adventures, we found ourselves yearning to go back to the hotel before dinner. Yes, we wanted to rest our legs, but the rooms at The Magnolia Hotel were just so nice. We tried to grab a bit of time each day in these chairs by the windows. I caught up on emails and read my book, enjoying the Nespresso I made in our room. I did find myself distracted by the view, however. The British Parliament Building was beautiful day and night. And it was so much fun to watch the coming and going of traffic around the harbor.
When the time for dinner finally came, the walk was never too far. The main shopping street and a great selection of coffee and food were all within a short walking distance. And the restaurant in the hotel – Catalano was also delicious. We enjoyed dessert and breakfast there on a few occasions. See where we ate in Victoria for full details and photos.
We didn’t have time to take advantage of their spa, but we certainly will next time.
Thank you to The Magnolia Hotel for a wonderful stay and to the Abkhazi Gardens for our delightful tea.
Throughout October, Magnolia Hotel & Spa will be offering guests the new Room with a Boo package, it was announced Sept. 7. Guests begin their Halloween hotel experience from the moment they arrive and are greeted in the lobby by a display of carved pumpkins and a cup of pumpkin spiced tea. Treats continue in the room with amenities ranging from deep-soaker tubs to views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
“Magnolia is always proud to play a part in Victoria’s famous Halloween celebrations,” says Bill Lewis, general manager of Magnolia Hotel & Spa. “We are all about the treats, from our themed lobby welcome, sweet turn-down treats and guided ghostly walks – and we love welcoming guests that are returning to their favourite old haunt.”
Room with a Boo packages include a guided ghostly walk for two with Discover the Past Walking Tours, led by one of the City’s foremost storytellers, John Adams. Having had collected over 500 ghostly encounters himself, each year he selects a few of his most fun and frightful tales to guide guests through Victoria’s most historic and haunted sites in a spooky stroll through town. After the tour, it’s just a short (and well-lit) walk back to Magnolia where guests will enjoy a treat from local Roger’s Chocolates as part of the package’s nightly turn-down service.
Room with a Boo packages are available from Oct. 1 to 6 and from Oct. 10 to 31.
Published August, 2016 in enRoute, by Sarah Musgrave
At this 64-room boutique hotel you’re a quick stroll to the city’s beautiful copper-domed Parliament Buildings. What We Loved cooling down after a jog along Victoria’s Picturesque Inner Harbour with a refreshing glass of lemonade. If You Only Have One Night hit a note on the lobby’s glossy baby grand piano on your way to the new Venetian-style Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar. Start with a happy-hour glass of Prosecco and the white-bean crostini with parmesan. Bonus bottles of Vivreau filtered water are replenished daily in guest rooms – the program eliminated 40,000 plastic bottles in its first year of operation. 250-381-0999, magnoliahotel.com
Published July 2015 in Canadian Lodging News
Magnolia Hotel & Spa, in Victoria, B.C., has beefed up the services it offers to its corporate clientele and in June, introduced this expanded package of Business Class perks.
“Corporate guests deserve to have a Business Class experience from the time they takeoff until the moment they leave Magnolia Hotel & Spa,” said general manager Bill Lewis. He added that the hotel aims “to be at the forefront of our corporate guests’ minds when it comes to business travel.”
Business Class summer rates start at $249 from July through August. This includes Business Class benefits such as a complimentary hot breakfast and in-room use of an iPad fully loaded with Press Reader (a ‘digital newsstand’ featuring thousands of newspapers and magazines from around the world).
Also included is high-speed Internet in each guestroom; unlimited long-distance calling within North America; and fax and photocopy business services provided by the front desk, with up to 100 pages for free, according to Lewis.
New services featured in the Business Class offering include priority early check-in (“many of our business travellers arrive by sea plane from Vancouver, so early check-in really works for them”) and late check-out (“those extra hours of work time really make a big difference to our business clients”).
Late check-out also includes vehicle parking for up to 36 hours on a one-night stay — key for businesspeople who drive to the hotel, noted Lewis.
In addition, the Magnolia has added room service to the Business Class breakfast, a big convenience to corporate travellers doing business in their rooms during the morning hours. Business clients order their room-service breakfast the night before via the door-hanger menu.
Catering to corporate guests is nothing new for the Magnolia. Indeed, since the 64-room property opened in 1998, near Victoria’s Inner Harbour, its “goal, from the beginning, was to be a boutique-style, business-oriented hotel,” said Lewis.
That commitment to serving a corporate clientele spurred the hotel to install, two years ago, individual Internet hubs (outfitted with lines delivering 15 megabytes per second) in each guestroom. Business travellers have enthusiastically embraced in-room wired and wireless Internet, said Lewis. “Guests love it.”
On the hotel side (excluding the onsite restaurant), the Magnolia employs 45 staff, delivering a service ratio of 70 per cent to its 64 guests, said Lewis.
As an additional service, the hotel holds back one to two rooms (even on peak, sold-out days) that it reserves for business clients who may request last-minute reservations. “It’s a matter of relationship building,” noted Lewis.
Meeting facilities include the Magnolia Room (which accommodates up to 50 people, reception-style; 22, boardroom-style; and 50, theatre-style); the Orchid Boardroom, ideal for groups of 10; and the Yarrow Room, accommodating groups of 12 to 30. The hotel’s Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar provides catering to all meeting spaces.
Victoria, BC (June 2016) – Douglas Magazine
Victoria, BC (June 2016) – The Toronto Sun
Victoria’s Magnolia Hotel & Spa is teaming up with the Loden Hotel in Vancouver to offer the ‘Best of Two Cities’ package this summer. This unique travel deal offers a combined four-night experience with two nights spent in each city, at each hotel with a seaplane flight transporting visitors between the two. The package also includes daily breakfast for two, late check-out and a 35 minute Harbour Air flight to and from Victoria. Both properties also offer complimentary bikes. This package is available now through Sept. 30, 2016. Rates start at $459.50 per night in May, June & September and from $509.50 per night in July and August. For more details or to book, visit theloden.com. (Courtesy Magnolia Hotel & Spa).
The B.C. isle may be relatively small in size but it packs a wide variety of attractions for all tastes.
Victoria, BC (May 2016) – The Globe and Mail By Alyssa Schwartz
Victoria, BC (May, 2016) – Miss 604 By Steffani Cameron
I had the good fortune to live in Victoria for 3.5 years, so when I had the opportunity to enjoy some promotional time in Victoria on behalf of both Tourism Victoria and Miss604.com, I leapt at it.
One of two places I stayed at, the Magnolia Hotel, gave me much-needed rest and relaxation. The suites are designed to completely pamper you. The hotel being in an older building means the rooms are perfectly sized, not large or spacious, but just right for a table, desk, some chairs, and most importantly, wonderfully indulgent beds.
I was pretty excited to be staying in a hotel with a nice TV since it was the big release weekend of House of Cards 4, and I was desperate to see what Frank Underwood was doing now. Midway through my first episode, at the terribly late hour of 9:30pm, my king-sized bed looked so inviting I decided to interrupt my “marathon” and have a “nap.” 11 hours later, I got up. I never even finished the first episode.
There’s really no higher praise I can give a hotel than “all I wanted to do was relax.” Luckily, I didn’t just want to relax, I actually became relaxed. In the middle of a crazy month of non-stop location-changing, I fell into a deep and satisfying sleep, and nearly overslept for my morning appointment. A fire in the hearth, rain pattering the window, a belly full of wonderful hot chocolate provided as a turn-down treat, and my face buried in fluffy, glorious pillows – all of it gave me the recharge I so desperately sought.
When stepping away from a crazy life, that’s what we really, really want—a place where problems and woes fall away for a day or three, and relaxation finds us. Enter Magnolia Hotel & Spa.
With full-service concierge, every need anticipated, free coffee and tea throughout the hotel, travel day plans on offer, complimentary bikes available to reserve, and so much more, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa is as much geared at the solace-and-recharge-seeking traveller as it is the business-class traveller who needs a place free of distractions when sneaking work into a hectic schedule in a town that beckons you to explore. I had to balance work and solace, and I have to mention how grateful I was that every room in the Magnolia Hotel has its own WiFi connection. It was so speedy! That would’ve been great for a House of Cards marathon, eh?
Tourism Victoria is constantly wooing travellers with the promise that there’s so much to do here (because there is!), but part of Victoria’s appeal is that it’s a wonderful place to just be. Now that I’m back after five months spent in Europe, I like to think that Victoria was my primer in how to live like a European. Sit and soak in at the wonderful world around you. Enjoy a patio lunch. Park yourself on a bench and just enjoy your space. Stroll aimlessly until a restaurant’s lovely aromatic cookery wafts out and seduces you to dine with them.
Magnolia is perfectly situated for that “just be here” approach to Victoria. Just a couple minutes from the Inner Harbour, a little further to Beacon Hill Park, and both attractions and restaurants all around it, you can have any kind of Victoria visit you want. If dining out is part of your travel passion, definitely check the list of recommended restaurants from the main desk. With over 40 local haunts to choose from, as a former resident, I can tell you they aren’t steering you wrong with any of the choices, and they’ve made sure to include all budget levels in their offerings. Be sure you talk to the front staff too, because they’re really excited to help you enjoy your stay. I found them great to chat with.
If you’re looking for the full indulgent experience that I had, it’s the “Diamond” Suites you’ll want at Magnolia. On the top two floors, Diamond Suites come with gas fireplaces, views, and a full hot breakfast in Catalano Restaurant. I used my coupon for the best waffles I’ve had in ages – bacon & Emmenthal-stuffed waffles with vanilla whipped cream and maple syrup. Many weeks later and I’m afraid they’ve wrecked “normal” waffles for me. Such tasty goodness.
But if you plan to walk around all weekend to enjoy museums and buskers and brew pubs, and you don’t need the “view” rooms or a fireplace in the hot days of summer, don’t fret, because the included continental breakfast offered by Magnolia is really super too. From cottage cheese to adorable Mason jar yogurt-with-fruit portions and oatmeal with cereal-topping choices, it’s a large selection of healthy, help-yourself fulfilling options. No matter what your “stay” is, you get access to the small fitness centre, but if you need a big workout or a swim, ask at the front desk for their complimentary day pass to the nearby gym and pool at the Y.
Something evident to me during my stay is how genuinely satisfied the staff seem to be They’re helpful, happy, and focused on ensuring you have the relaxing stay you deserve.
As a case in point, I arrived early for check-in and my room wasn’t ready, which was fine with me, so I just left my luggage and went out to breakfast with family. This isn’t the first hotel I’ve done that at, but Magnolia staff ensured my luggage was in my room upon my return, placed on the suitcase stand.
When I needed documents printed, it was no problem and no charge (within reason). Even housekeepers greeted me with radiant smiles and waved me off when my elevator stopped for their floor.
I’m told the secret is that the local owners and in-house management know the value of their employees and work hard to keep them happy. Like when recent extensive refurbishments were completed in all common areas, management thanked staff for their patience through the seven weeks of messy renovations by serving everyone a four-course meal. Today, renovations are complete throughout the hotel.
Looking for a luxurious getaway close to home? Visit the Magnolia Hotel & Spa for a perfect location in the midst of Victoria’s great Harbour lifestyle. Check out their maps of walks and bike rides that the staff have put together on handy travel cards, like their three recommended bike routes for taking in everything from the beaches to the art galleries, or the “Tapa Trail” walk for foodies, including nine great spots for tapas and cocktails.
Renew and re-connect at the Magnolia with a 2 night Girls’ Getaway Package. Catch up over a bottle of wine in your elegant room before heading out for a bite to eat – check out Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar’s specials or take their Tapa Trail for a walk. After your continental breakfast, visit some of Magnolia Hotel & Spa’s team members favourite shops, listed on their Beautiful Boutiques Trail. Later, indulge in 2 hours of pampering with Spa Magnolia‘s Self Renewal package, a 60 minute customized facial and transformation pedicure!
Your Girls Getaway starts at just $399 per night & includes:
Two nights in an elegant Superior Room with 2 queen beds
Self Renewal Package for two – 60 Minute Customize Facial & Transformation Pedicure
Bottle of wine night of arrival
Continental breakfast for two each morning
Pricing is per room, per night for 2 nights and is exclusive of taxes and gratuities. Available for stays May 1 to June 19, 2016 with the exception of May 20-22 & May 27-29 and subject to availability of both accommodation and spa. Advance reservations required for Spa Magnolia.
Victoria, BC (May 2016) – By Kelly Bai
Victoria, BC (April 7, 2016) VOGUE – By Alyssa Schwartz & Photo courtesy of Fol Epi
From Seattle’s ’90s grunge scene to the coffeehouses and food trucks that made Portland one of the most influential food cities in the country, the Pacific Northwest has for decades been America’s capital region of cool. Just north of the border, Vancouver, with its drizzly weather and craft breweries, is a Canadian cousin to those hipster havens. But Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, has traditionally been left out of all that cool talk.
Maybe it’s that the mountains and water that lie between Victoria and the mainland push all the clouds and rain and existential moodiness back toward the east (with an avera
ge of 2,183 hours of sunshine a year, Victoria is one of Canada’s sunniest cities); until recently, Victoria seemed more like the kind of place you’d visit with your granny than hit up for a girls’ weekend.
While Victoria’s long-held nickname refers to a place suited to the “nearly dead and newly wed,” those demographics are being overshadowed by an influx of creative, entrepreneurial types, largely driven across the Strait of Georgia by Vancouver’s skyrocketing real estate prices. Vancouver’s loss is Victoria’s gain: Today the city has about 900 tech companies and counting—it’s becoming known as Tectoria—and lots of gorgeous old brick warehouses, which now house stylish indie boutiques stocked full of local designs along with great bars, bakeries, and restaurants.
So lace up your walking shoes or hop on a bike—there’s really no need for a car in town—and discover how quaint, quiet Victoria has grown into the perfect spot for a cool Northwest getaway. Here’s the best of what to see, do, and eat while you’re there.
Eat and Drink
Cliff Leir built his first brick oven in his driveway in his teens; today he’s famous for the tangy, chewy baguettes and rye country boules he pulls out of the wood-fired oven at Fol Epi. Check out the bakery’s Yates Street location at night for dinner at Agrius for seasonal dishes such as roasted brassica shoots with pickled cipollini onion and egg yolk vinaigrette, and albacore tuna with oyster mushrooms and watercress. The bread plays double duty come dessert, after steeping in sweet milk for hours to infuse the flavor of toasted sourdough sorbet.
Inspired by old-time speakeasies, Little Jumbo feels both historic and thoroughly fresh, with its constantly changing cocktail list (try the Tiki Fizz, spiked with local producer Sea Cider’s Rumrunner) and shareable plates such as charred Humboldt squid with a kimchi and XO sauce kick.
Located in the attic of another restaurant, Perro Negro is the perfect hideaway “para picar”—to pick or nibble—on tapas such as croquettas, octopus with chorizo, and Spanish boquerones. Wash them down with a frothy Oaxacan sour (mezcal, tequila, citrus, thyme, black pepper syrup, and egg white) before moving on toBodega for more tapas and classic cocktails like a whiskey sour or negroni, reinvented with sherry.
What to Do
Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour is the starting point for a delicious day at sea with The London Chef Dan Hayes, Canada’s answer to Jamie Oliver. The chef’s newest offering, “West Coast, Best Coast,” is the tastiest way possible to explore the island coastline: After crabbing and fishing for wild salmon, Hayes prepares an at-sea lunch of ceviche and sashimi using your haul. (There’s also an on-board mimosa bar—not your typical day on a fishing boat.)
Venture over to the LoJo district: blocks of restored warehouses, shops, and hotels built during the gold rushes of the 1850s and 1890s. Today those brick heritage buildings are home to beautiful independent boutiques (look for the green “we are local” signs). Among the musts: Tonic Jewelry, where owner Honor Cienska crafts delicate earrings and necklaces out of silver, copper, and gold at the back of the store while you browse the collections of other local makers; stock up on small-batch anise fennel and rose-geranium soaps from local producer Soap Rebel at lifestyle emporium Nest & Cradle; the well-edited selection of designer fashion and denim at Bernstein & Gold lives up to the store’s tagline, “beautiful things and spa,” and then some.
New Victoria may have swapped her high tea for an Earl Grey–infused gin sour, but the super-British vestiges of Old Victoria are still enchanting. Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress is an elegant, century-old tradition worth keeping. Less than two miles from the center of town, Government House is the official residence of British Columbia’s lieutenant governor, the queen’s representative in the province (yes, the monarchy has a role in provincial and national-level government in Canada). Wander the grounds to explore the 19th-century stables, carriage house, and other service buildings, or just enjoy the beautiful gardens and views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mountains.
Where to Stay
Tucked away on quiet Courtney Street, the Magnolia is an elegant 64-room boutique hotel steps from the Inner Harbour. It’s a tough call whether the best amenity here is the onsite spa or Curated Trails program, a collection of themed insider guides that will point you toward Victoria’s many hidden gems. Book a complimentary bike and head out on the “Bikes, Beans, and Blooms” route, which meanders through romantic local gardens and also visits a number of local coffee roasters. To sleep where the royals stay, check in to the Fairmont Empress, the city’s 108-year-old grande dame. Slightly further afield is the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, a posh waterfront resort in Victoria’s ritziest residential area, about four miles from town.