So where was I?
We woke up on our second day in Victoria to find that the rain was coming down hard and the temperature had dropped about twenty degrees - exactly the weather we were promised from the weather report when packing for the trip. Hooray! While some people get upset when it rains on their vacations, I really don't mind. What's a little water going to do to you? (The exception to this is beach vacations.)
We lazed around the room a little bit, getting caught up on our reading, before ordering room service for breakfast. I've ordered room service at places like Sheraton, Marriott and other big name chains and it always comes on a tray and you have to figure out how to eat in your room on your bed without getting dirty and it's general a mess and not worth the effort (or cost). Not so at the Fairmont. Our breakfast was delivered with a white cloth-covered table, vase with flowers, food on beautiful plates - the whole nine yards. Color me impressed. (It takes so little sometimes.)
After breakfast we got dressed and headed out to the Royal B.C. Museum, which is considered to be one of the best small museums in North America. I was really interested in the museum because of it's native peoples exhibit as I really love the First Nations artwork and am fascinated by how resourceful they were with the native plants and animals. The museum was just the right size, but unfortunately because of the weather outside, was really busy (creating a lot of extra body heat) and they had the heater turned up pretty high so I was sweating so badly almost immediately in my cold weather clothes. We ended up skipping some of the bug & plant life sections because they were super crowded with kids and just moving to the sections that were of the most interest. We really enjoyed the Haida art and the examples of how the people really lived from day to day.
After the museum we had tea at the Empress. Alan had had tea served as a lunch in the bar at Ashford Castle back in November, but on that occasion I had opted for seafood chowder and Guinness. I'd had tea once before for a bridal shower, but it's not something I was overly familiar with. Before going, however, we went back to the room to change our clothes as the information in our room had talked about it being a formal affair and what types of clothing were permitted and not. I'm hear to tell you it's all poppycock and they will let any tourist in just about no matter what s/he is wearing so go ahead and go in whatever clothes you find most comfortable, provided you look presentable. I was in black slacks and a cashmere sweater and I squeezed my still swollen (from the flight) feet into adorable little pointy toe flats. Boo, hiss. There were people there in shorts, fanny packs, hoodies & sweatshirts, jeans and everything in between. And there is apparently no rule about decorum because I sat at our table both fascinated and utterly disgusted while I watched a young women (mid-20s maybe) chew with her mouth open, talk overly loud and obnoxiously and then PICK HER NOSE AND REACH FOR A SCONE with her tainted booger finger. You can imagine how I felt about that one.
Tea starts off with you selecting which actual tea you want. Given that we were at the Empress we went with their special blend. We could have also gotten the Kea Lani blend but chose not to even though nostalgia was a strong pull. (Anyone who remembers February 16, 2002 will understand that statement.) We had a pretty good table - not the best, but what's a girl to do - but had a very strange waitress who seemed like she didn't quite know what was going on at all times and had a different process than the other waiters and waitresses around us. People who had other servers were getting their tea service much more quickly and efficiently while she was wandering around doing what I don't know. She also decided that because we ordered the same tea we would share a pot, while other people each got their own regardless. I think she was probably trying to save on tea but when you want to refill your cup it's really hard to reach around the tower of tea sandwiches and cakes to find the tea pot, bring it back around and pour. It would have made better sense to each have our own - which other waitresses seem to get. It was all just a really awkward way to go about it. The sandwiches were really tasty and inventive in ingredients and what was mixed with what. Unfortunately I found a giant piece of gristle in my chicken curry salad and that made me kind of wretch. Blech. Alan reports no such issue. The tea was very tasty and for your visit they give you a box of 10 tea sachets each. I should figure out what we did with ours and take it with me to work since I don't have time these days to even leave my desk to get coffee across the street.
Later in the day we took a walking tour of Downtown Victoria that ended at the adorable, and absolutely tiny, Chinatown section of the city.
We also took what amounted to a private water taxi tour of the Inner Harbor on one of the cute little Popeye-looking boats. Our captain was a man in his mid-60s or so who gave us the inside scoop on all the areas in the harbor. Those new luxury condos? The penthouse went for $4.5 million to a Microsoft executive who flies into Redmond three times a week on a floatplane. That little houseboat right there is for sale for $179,000 and there's no way anyone is going to pay that for 650 square feet. That other houseboat there was used in the filming of Sleepless in Seattle and is for sale for $379,000 and ain't no one going to pay that either (unless they're from out of town). That little food stand has the best fish & chips in Victoria. So on and so forth. We also learned that apparently a ship had come in to dock the other day carrying hundreds of Sri Lankan refugees and they were currently being held at the Naval base to determine if they were actually fleeing or if they were Tigers trying to get into the country for other nefarious means. I had forgotten we were in the province's capital until that bit of discussion happened.
We closed out the day with beer and food at a newish Scottish pub that was housed in a beautiful building with an equally gorgeous interior to match. We were at first put at a pub table and when we asked if we could have one of the snugs the waitress was surprised. She said people don't usually want to sit in them because then they can't really watch what is going on in the bar. Who are these people who wouldn't want a quiet, private dinner in a beautiful little private room? I sometimes think Alan and I are the weirdos since everything we seem to want and to enjoy is completely counter to what everyone else does or expects to do.
That night we tried to go to bed somewhat early as we had a long day ahead of us with a drive to Tofino.