Victoria


17
Jan 13

Welcome back: Victoria’s Oak Bay Beach Hotel

I always used to love popping the label on a fresh jar of hot chocolate; the satisfying ‘pop’ that the spoon made when I jabbed it through the seal. I felt that way when I got to stay at Oak Bay Beach hotel in Victoria before it opened. There’s a real sense of excitement when you stay somewhere that’s on the very brink of opening. Last-minute touches are being made, anticipation is in the air, you get a very real sense of looking behind the curtain and seeing what’s going on.

Glorious views at the Oak Bay Beach hotel

Glorious views at the Oak Bay Beach hotel

The Oak Bay Beach is a short drive from the town centre, nestled on a glorious stretch of ocean. The team have carefully renovated and updated the original Oak Bay Beach and – I must say – have done a superb job. I rather loved it. It has the feel of an English manor house with the warmth of a Canadian welcome. From the cute coffee bar to the deceptively-named ‘Snug’ pub (about five times the size of a British pub snug!) I felt at home. I could imagine long evenings curled up drinking gin and tonic, so just to make sure reality matched the fantasy, I ordered one. Good decision, probably one of the best I’d tasted as they make it with the locally-brewed New Theatre Tonic for an authentic flavour – who knew that G&T wasn’t meant to be clear? Lucky locals who’ve had this place on their doorstep since 1927!

Amazing G&T thanks to New Theatre Tonic

Amazing G&T thanks to New Theatre Tonic

The rooms ticked all my ‘Good Things You Need In A Hotel Room’ boxes – no complicated light switches, full-length mirror, easily-available plugs, simple to operate shower, free wifi and water- it had the lot! All that plus a mini kitchenette – perfect for family stays – and oh wow! what a view over that dazzling ocean and perfectly manicured lawns.

I wandered through the grounds to pay a visit to the Boathouse Spa and enjoyed a skin smoothing seaweed treatment. After a hectic day whizzing around Victoria, my therapist gave me a blissfully relaxing massage and I wished I could  have spent the day there, lazing in a sun lounger, watching out for passing whales. Later I took a dip in the warm silky waters of the mineral pool right next to the ocean. I floated on my back and counted stars in the clear night sky. 

How adorable is the teddy bear? Love those small touches.

How adorable is the teddy bear? Love those small touches.

I’m told that Victoria is meant to be the most ‘British place in Canada’ and maybe that’s why I felt so at home. By now the dining room will be fully open for business, the fun dinner theatre events will be taking bookings and dollars will be raised with the sale of every ticket for the David Foster Foundation.  Six years after the hotel closed its doors to begin its renovations they are finally back in business again and I bet they’ll be a storming success, so cheers to Victoria’s newest oldest hotel, the Oak Bay Beach – here’s to many more happy years.

I was hosted by the Oak Bay Beach hotel/Tourism Victoria – however, my views are 100% my own.

Find out more: Tourism Victoria 


19
Oct 12

Cocktail adventures in Victoria

There are few things that make me happier than discovering new ways to get pleasantly tipsy, which means that two days at Victoria’s Art of the Cocktail festival (http://artofthecocktail.ca/) had me walking around with a silly grin on my face the whole time.

 

 

Bartenders, as a breed, tend to be playful types. Get a bunch of them from as far afield as the USA, Holland and the UK in the same city together, then stir in distillers, premium spirit companies, small-batch artisan spirits makers and a gang of devoted cocktail fans and you have a guaranteed recipe for mayhem. Add to that seminars and parties spread over three days in a gorgeous city and you can see why the Art of the Cocktail is my new favourite festival and I’m already wondering when I can get my ticket for next year’s event.

 

Here are the five things I got most excited about…

1. Cocktails and food pairings. Over at the Fairmont Empress Bengal Lounge booth, I tried a superb combo of an Apricot Summer Haze (Apricot puree, Finlandia vodka, Grand Marnier and Stellar’s Jay) served with a selection of Vancouver Island cheeses and the Fairmont Empress’s own honey. I’m going to look out for somewhere I can have a cocktail-matched menu in the same way that you have wine-paired meals. If you know of somewhere – tell me!

 

2. Tea in cocktails. I attended an excellent seminar hosted by Daniela Cubelic from Silk Road Tea (http://www.silkroadtea.com/), and Solomon Seigel, an award-winning bartender from Fire & Water in the Victoria Marriott. For me this was one of the most exciting sessions of the weekend. Solomon is a self-confessed tea-geek and it’s glorious to be in a room with someone who so clearly loves his subject and really goes that extra mile to discover amazing flavours. Tea frozen into ice cubes with vodka, tea made into a simple syrup and blended, tea-infused cocktails that have been forced carbonated… I am so inspired by this and can’t wait to start experimenting at home.

 

3. Artisan small-batch fruit liqueurs. Usually I’m no fan of liqueurs, they either taste syrupy or have too strong a punch of alcohol. Then I tried the Okanagan Spirits (http://www.okanaganspirits.com/) Raspberry liqueur. It was the purest burst of fruity flavour imaginable. Sunshine in a shot glass. I want to visit them and see what else they do. And then drink it.

 

4. Victoria Spirits Oaken Gin. I’m already a raving fan of the brilliant Victoria Spirits (http://www.victoriaspirits.com/) and their gin, so I was excited to visit them to see how they distilled and what new projects they were working on. Their barrel-aged gin is superb. It has a more complex, deeper flavour and it’s another spirit that I really want to experiment with to see how it works in cocktails.

 

5. I was taken out to the Sea Cider (http://www.seacider.ca/) farm in Saanichton for lunch and adored it. It really reminded me of a Basque cider house and the long flight of their eight different ciders that I tried really impressed me with the huge variety of products; from light apple-y blends and cloudy scrumpy-ish brews through to a perfect honey-ish Pomona that will pair perfectly with cheese, like an ice wine.

I travelled as a guest of Tourism Victoria - however, my views are 100% my own.

 

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