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How to be a loner in Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC (October 2014) – Vitamin Daily By Adrienne Matei

When you tell people you’re going to Victoria on Vancouver Island alone, in all likelihood they won’t be enthusiastic for you. But so-called “mainlanders” are downers, and you can tell them we said that because we’re close and they’ll know we’re kidding. Better yet, don’t tell anyone at all. Just go, disappear for a weekend. Once you get to Vancouver, Victoria is both close and far away enough to do that.

depart: If you’re from Van, or here for business, leave work early on Friday afternoon. Say you’re going to the bathroom and never come back. Find yourself in Coal Harbour applying red lipstick. We like NARS Rita, because of Rita Hayworth, obviously. Wear a trench coat. If you’re not boarding your late-afternoon seaplane in red lipstick and a trench coat, you’re not picking up what we’re laying down.

arrive: Deplane and look at Parliament and think about how the last time you were here you were almost definitely 13. Book a room at the Magnolia Hotel because it sounds decadent, the kind of place that would leave leaf-shaped peppermint chocolates on your pillow, wrapped in green foil, and be super helpful about mailing back your favourite paper-thin T-shirt and black bra after you doofily forget them in the bathtub. Stunning views and a spa that offers rosemary-scented, butter-meltingly lovely massages in exposed-brick treatment rooms round out the luxury.

eat: Head to Fish Hook, a new venture by esteemed chef Kunal Ghose, with white-and-pale-wood décor and really old, really good Arcade Fire and Beirut over the speakers. Order fish curry with coconut-poached salmon, roasted cauliflower and kale saag—it’s Oceanwise and incredibly delicious. Listen to an exchange in which the young waiter calls a table of septuagenarians with leopard purses “girls,” and they tell him “Nathan is a lovely name.” Or, try Foo Asian Street Food, which is sort of weirdly in a parking lot but, at this point, so are you, and their red curries and fried noodles are perfect with piney-citric local Driftwood Pale Ale. Breakfast is at Jam, where life is buttermilk biscuits.

explore: Wake up while it’s still dark and take a jog through the old apple-rhododendron gardens of Beacon Hill Park and down to the beach to see the sun rise amidst wild bunnies and broom-scrub. Then, loop back to The Pedaler for a Beans & Bites tour. You’ll start with a breeze by Ross Bay Cemetery where Emily Carr lays and, if you’re up to it, an easy clamber up Moss Hill, which affords you Pride Rock views of all Victoria (you can spot the spires of Craigdarroch Castle, and maybe Mount Baker all the way in Washington state).

Then the treats begin—barista championship powerhouse Fernwood Coffee spoils you with a tasting that includes the best latte of your life, Silk Road Tea matches top-tier chocolate with redolent brews and, just when you think you’ve tried every macaron flavour in existence, Bon Macaron offers up bacon, salty white truffle and chocolate-pear. Make a note to watch out for Fernwood Coffee’s new carbonated cold-brew, to be sold imminently at Vancouver’s Bump and Grind café.

sip: Smitten with the cafe culture and well-oriented thanks to your bike tour, explore some of Victoria’s cutest spots to grab a drink. Armed with reading material from well-stocked, page-scented bookstores like Munro’s, Russell and Renaissance, drop in to Hey Happy for a subtle, well-balanced lavender-honey latte. The Bubble Tea Place is like a build-a-bear workshop of drink perfection, and Wild Coffee is open late and full of girls explaining their vegan grocer business plans to warmly supportive friends.

After thoroughly basking in the historic charm, improbably ubiquitous chocolate shops and generally warm, restorative atmosphere of Victoria, take a stunning sunset seaplane ride back to Vancouver. When friends ask where you were all weekend, say you went out of town, and it was really nice.

Culture Dose: Vancouver Island’s Culinary Trail

Victoria, BC (October 2014) – By Corinne Whiting

Feasting our way across some of BC’s hidden gems

The challenge of visiting any island: Often, it takes work to get there. As a traveler, there’s not much
within one’s control; choppy seas and foggy skies can lead to schedule delays that can’t be contested. Sometimes Mother Nature just wins.

Yet this unpredictability also defines the beauty of island hopping. You must simply surrender, go with the flow, sit back, and enjoy the journey. Arriving at the destination comes to feel like an accomplishment, and what you find on the island often feels like a hidden treasure, an insider’s find—a place where the pace is slower and the people kind.

We recently dove into the thriving culinary scene unfolding on nearby Vancouver Island, and we came away feeling happy, full and mightily impressed. We learned that a strong sense of community there pervades amongst restaurants, bars and local businesses, and loads of passionate talents are in the midst of creating delicious dishes and drinks with ingredients that are regional, seasonal, sustainable and fresh. Here are suggestions for some of the best spots to taste the flavors of the island:

If you’ve somehow saved room for more food in Victoria, grab appetizers at the Catalano Restaurant and Cicchetti Bar, where we’d recommend the Artisanal Salumi and Cheese Board accompanied by the refreshing Catalano Coastal Gin Tonic (any cocktail that features spirulina, of all things, piques our interest). You won’t soon forget your dinner across the street at 10 Acres, where you can enjoy the perfect-10 ambience and dishes showcasing the islands freshest meats, cheeses, seafood and seasonal produce coming straight from the restaurant’s own farm. Next to a fireplace in the heated garden courtyard, enjoy fried heirloom green tomatoes, quinoa fritters, Sooke trout, Salt Spring Island mussels and the steak and frites platter, featuring some of the best truffle fries you’ll likely ever encounter.

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Magnolia Hotel & Spa organizes pedal-and-pamper package

Victoria, BC (July 2014) – Toronto Star By Kathryn Folliott

Plenty of properties in bike-friendly cities offer free wheels for sightseeing. Now Victoria’s Magnolia Hotel & Spa has taken things up a notch with its Pedal & Pamper package, combining a two-night stay with a choice of themed bike tours around B.C.’s Garden City. Offered through local bike rental outfit The Pedaler, the tours include the three-hour Beans & Bites, the two-hour Castle, Hoods & Legends and a craft beer tour called Hoppy Hour. New this year, there’s also a four-hour Eat, Drink, Pedal trip that showcases everything from handmade pizza to chocolate truffles to artisan ice cream. The Magnolia’s package includes a tour for two with bicycles and helmets as well as accommodation and continental breakfast. Prices start at $289 per night, double occupancy and based on a two-night stay, for travel July through September. Tour choice must be specified in advance. See the Specials link at


7 Hipster Spots in Victoria

Victoria, BC (June 2014) – Westjet Magazine By Kait Kucy

No longer just a hot spot for retirees seeking Canada’s warmer climes, the newer, younger Victoria is full of trendy boutiques, vibrant coffee shops and a cyclist-friendly infrastructure. While the city’s old-world British charm still exists in spades, Victoria’s underground culture is bubbling to the surface in a variety of intriguing ways. And the best way to explore it? On two wheels, of course.

Thanks to Victoria’s many bicycle lanes and pathways and its general awareness around bike safety, tourists can take to the streets with confidence. The Pedaler, a local bicycle tour company located just minutes from the Inner Harbour, offers bike rentals and guided tours at reasonable prices. Try the City Glider bike for an easy ride ($28 for five to eight hours) through many of Victoria’s coolest neighbourhoods.

Whether you choose to explore on your own or join a guided bicycle tour, pedalling along the city’s winding and scenic roadways in the fresh ocean air is bound to put a smile on your face. Here are a few hip and memorable spots to visit along the way.

The Spa Magnolia

After dropping off your bicycle, make your way to The Spa Magnolia, where you can soothe your tired muscles with a variety of massage options. If you’re looking for a snooze as well, the Magnolia Hotel & Spa runs a special Pedal & Pamper package with the Pedaler for a two-night stay, plus city bike tour.

Drifters: The Magnolia Hotel & Spa

Victoria, BC (April 2014) – SIP Northwest By Treve Ring

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that The Magnolia Hotel & Spa has been a landmark for decades. Just a few steps off of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the boutique hotel’s stately presence, elegant architecture and understated but confident attitude has the air of time-earned authenticity. That’s what the local owners had in mind when they built the 64-room hotel from the ground up, 15 years ago. At that time, The Magnolia was Victoria’s first upscale boutique hotel as we know them; an independent, full-service property with personalized service, well-appointed public and private areas and knowledgeable, helpful staff.

Last year’s stylish guest room refurbish is just one way that general manager Bill Lewis and his cohesive staff kept the property feeling fresh and modern. Elegant and timeless pearl and silver patterns in the thick carpets, drapes, textured walls and bedding set off the local art found in each room. Every room has a deep soaker tub and ample Aveda toiletries, while the top two floors feature fireplaces alongside striking sight-lines to the regal Parliament Buildings or active waterfront.

Refillable glass bottles of filtered Vivreau water are delivered daily to guestrooms (sparkling or still and more bottles immediately upon request), a hotel decision that has saved 30,000 plastic water bottles from the landfill or depot yard. Everything at the hotel feels purposeful and well planned. One short block from the hotel and you’re in the thick of tourist central, complete with horse-drawn buggies, charming buskers and throngs of seasonal visitors. Here, though, in the calm serenity of The Magnolia, the bustle seems miles away.

The serenity is exponentially enhanced when you walk through the lobby and into Spa Magnolia. Believing that pampering and peace should be accessible to all, the spa has become the first in western Canada to provide a specially designed range of safe and effective treatments for people who have, or are recovering from cancer. On staff is an esthetician certified in clinical oncology esthetics, specifically for individuals with heath-challenged skin. Spa owner Paula Veenema was already hyper-conscious of the healing affects of spas (she is the Canadian distributor of Intelligent Nutrients, a certified organic salon and spa line) and she wanted to welcome everyone to experience some kind of healing serenity at her spa. Oncology treatments are priced at 20 percent less than standard treatments, because in her view, “our patients have enough to deal with already.”

Another outlet at The Magnolia that is welcoming to all (all who enjoy good food and drink, naturally) is Catalano Restaurant & Cicchetti Bar. Dave Craggs and Tom Ferris, the proven team behind Victoria’s institution Ferris’ Oyster Bar, took over the airy corner space last year and transformed it into a casual small plates/tapas centric spot, inspired by bites around Italy, Spain and the Mediterranean. The cicchetti are offset by mains for lunch and dinner for those looking for larger plates. Cocktails are fresh and imaginative, reflecting well the cuisine and welcoming menu. I enjoyed a trio of crostini (whipped ricotta with honey & spiced walnut, tuna crudo with preserved lemon mascarpone & pickled onion, pork rillette with dried fig, port & onion conserve) sitting at the bar on a sun-filled afternoon, talking Barcelona with Dave behind the bar. The First Train to Jerez caught my eye—a long refreshing sipper of amontillado sherry, elderflower, lemon and soda. Between 4-6pm and after 9pm, cicchetti are half price—huge incentive for ordering everything on the menu (twist my arm). I plan on returning soon for Catalano’s newly launched weekend brunch. Healthy continental choices like Mambo Italiano (melon, prosciutto, baguette with melted provolone) and Santé (scrambled egg whites, quinoa salad, Lebanese homous, grilled bread, olive oil) are worth getting out of bed for. But truly, it would all be about the local Flight of Bacon for me (whole beast maple rosemary, double smoked, two rivers lamb bacon, house made peameal, maple bourbon glazed). Brunch of champions indeed.

Maybe The Magnolia Hotel hasn’t been around for decades, but it certainly is a cornerstone property, standard-setting boutique hotel and a new Victoria classic.

The Magnolia Hotel & Spa || 623 Courtney Street, Victoria ||

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Track on Twitter: @MagnoliaHtl

Victoria, BC: The Girl’s Getaway Guide

Victoria, BC (February 2014) – Vancity Buzz By Lesley Mirza

Previously known as the land of the “nearly deads and newlyweds,” Victoria had a reputation of being…how shall we put it? Boring. But that’s certainly not the case anymSignature Corner Room at Magnolia Hotel & Spaore. Victoria is one hip city! For a small place, it packs a lot in: Multiple luxury hotels, great restaurants, amazing shopping, and of course, a rich history.

We recently learnt from the Destination BC website that Victoria was established in 1843 by Sir James Douglas, a fur-trader and a British colonial governor on Vancouver Island, as a fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company. This would explain why Victoria always has had a British feel to us: The double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal gardens and tearooms. Perhaps we don’t need to travel to the U.K.

An easy and reasonably short trip across the Georgia Strait, Victoria is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. So grab your gal-pals and plan a weekend trip to B.C’s capital for a little retail and spa therapy!


Just steps from Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour, stands the award-­winning boutique hotel, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa (623 Courtney St., 250-381-0999). The chic guestrooms were recently refurbished, anchoring this luxury property as one of Victoria’s must-stay spots. Throughout the newly decorated rooms, the decadent colour palette of taupe, smoke and pearl adds a sense of opulence and timeless elegance. We thoroughly enjoyed lounging by our fireplace; so much so, we almost didn’t want to leave the room!

Another favourite hotel of ours is the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel (721 Government St., 250-384-8111) that sits majestically at the edge of the Inner Harbour, welcoming all to Victoria. If you love luxury mixed with old-world charm, this is the hotel for you. A fabled Victoria landmark, The Fairmont Empress has played host to royalty, celebrities and guests from around the world since 1908. This grand chateau-style property offers 477 luxuriously appointed guestrooms and suites to suit every taste. Due to the hotel’s immense size, we were offered a map of the property and directions for getting to our room! The Fairmont Empress is truly a one-of-a-kind place to stay.


Located in Victoria’s Old Town is a funky diner dedicated to our fave meal of the of the day, breakfast. The Jam Cafe (542 Herald St.,778-440-4489) offers incredible homemade fare in a rustic-city atmosphere, and we loved it! Open daily from 8am to 3pm, tuck into mouthwatering dishes such as Huevos Rancheros, Pulled Pork Pancakes, The Angry Bird (hardboiled egg wrapped in meatloaf and topped with bacon served on a bed of the house sausage gravy), and our pick, the Brioche French Toast with caramelized bananas. The portions are huge so we guarantee that you won’t be hungry for the rest of the day.

A visit to Victoria is definitely not complete without experiencing The Fairmont Empress Hotel’s world-renowned Afternoon Tea. We felt like royalty as we sipped our delightful tea (created exclusively for The Empress by the Metropolitan Tea Company) from dainty William Edwards china, and nibbled on delicate finger sandwiches and a selection of the tastiest sweet treats we’ve ever had. Of course, our favorite goodie on the three-tiered cake stand was the majorly yummy, hand-made signature Empress scones. Slathered with Wilkin & Sons pure strawberry jam and a generous helping of Empress cream, these scones will have you oohing and aahing with every bite. We’d personally like to e-hug Joga (Yogi) Kaler, who arrives in the wee hours of the morning to begin his day preparing scones in the pastry shop at The Fairmont Empress. He makes an estimated 300,000 of these tastebud-tastic scones each year!

For dinner, Café Brio (944 Fort St., 250-383-0009) is the place to go. Just a short walk from the downtown Victoria core, this restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike. Serious foodies will appreciate Café Brio’s West Coast contemporary menu that focuses on fresh, regional products from land and sea, along with their hand cut pasta. Try the delicious Pan Roasted Rockfish with garlic-sauteed spinach, polenta fries, local clams and putanesca broth or the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads in a seductive ragout of smoked bacon, mushroom and potato.


As this is a girls’ getaway guide, we have to talk about Victoria’s shopping, right? It’s pretty darn good. We enjoyed exploring this walkable city and browsing the boutique stores, local markets and the quaint shops. Whether you’re looking for antiques or a trendy outfit, Victoria has it all.

Johnson Street is a must to checkout. Beautifully restored heritage buildings house unique boutiques with exclusive wares. We picked up the most fabulous necklace at Suasion (552 Johnson St., 250-995-0133). We’ve received multiple compliments about it since arriving home, and kind of wish we’d bought more bijoux from them. Still Life (550 Johnson St., 250-386-5658) also had our heart racing–oh what to buy?! Owned by the savvy husband and wife team of Matt and Kim Jensen (he’s a furniture designer/builder from Vancouver and she’s a former product developer for a major retail fashion chain), their vision was to fill the store with quality modern retail brands from smaller, international fashion labels. We definitely approve of their merchandise selection.

Other areas to peruse are Government Street: Home of Rogers’ Chocolates’ original location, and Trounce Alley–one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets–where European fashions and gift shops await.


The two best spas in Victoria are the Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Empress and the Spa Magnolia. Recognized by Condé Nast as a Top Resort Spa in Canada and Spas of America Top 100 Spas of the Americas, the Willow Stream Spa is truly a beautiful oasis in the heart of Victoria. Choose from over 85 authentically local aesthetic and spa treatments customized to your needs, and you have to spend some time in their inviting Hungarian Mineral pool.Entrance of the Spa Magnolia in Victoria, BC

Find calm and balance at Spa Magnolia, adjacent to the lobby of The Magnolia Hotel & Spa. The Spa Magnolia merges luxury with organic health and beauty treatments designed to revitalize skin, hair and body with the best nature has to offer backed by scientific research. Relieve all of that shopping tension with a Swedish, hot stone massage, or treat yourself to a soothing facial, designed to address your specific needs and desired outcome. Recently, the spa introduced safe and effective treatments for cancer patients, and is the first luxury spa and the first hotel spa in BC to provide such a special offering.


BY AIR: Departing almost every hour and just a 20 minute flight, Air Canada offers 121 flights between Vancouver and Victoria on weekly basis. Once you arrive at the Victoria International Airport, it’s a short 20-30 minute drive into the heart of the city via cab or the airport shuttle. Float planes depart every 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and touch down about 35 minutes later in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Visit or for further float plane information.

BY FERRY: The BC Ferries Vancouver mainland ferry terminal is in Tsawwassen and provides access to Victoria with a crossing time of 90 minutes. From there, the drive into downtown is approximately 30 minutes.