A luxurious escape to Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria: BC reopening to local travel! Afternoon tea, Veranda menu, Q Bar.

goth face mask, gothic apocalpyse facemasks

It was supposed to be the Summer of Carmina… Instead, we got the Summer of Covid.

But as you will see — I’m making the most of being at home, and creatively styling Goth outfits with face-masks! I even got to do a little bit of safe travelling once again. 

fairmont empress hotel renovation re-opening lobby design

My province, British Columbia, is officially in Phase 3 of re-opening — which means locals can take part in “smart, safe and respectful travel within B.C.”

In line with the government’s health regulations, I did a majestic local getaway… and spent four nights at the fabulous Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC! (The island capital is a 1.5 hour ferry ride and short drive from Vancouver, where I’m currently located).

the empress hotel victoria exterior building entrance

I know many of us are itching to travel again. In these times, I think we must prioritize what’s ethical and responsible to others, or else we risk causing terrible harm. The right approach will vary, depending on where you are and your particular circumstances — but I urge you to veer on the side of caution.

British Columbia has done an outstanding job at planking the curve, and our case numbers have gone down to single digits. I trust our health leaders, who have currently green-lighted local tourism as long as it’s done with care. (Please stay up-to-date with regulations, as these can always change.)

What does the “new normal” of traveling look like, in a pandemic? What’s it like to stay in a hotel like the Fairmont Empress, which has introduced new sanitation and distancing measures?

My hotel experience turned out to be wonderful, with unexpected upsides! Read on to see temperature checks and plastic-wrapped remote controls…

goth covid outfits, gothic face masks lip service

First, let me share my first new outfit photos since the before-times. When Phase 3 was announced, I went and got my roots fixed.

Grateful to my stylist, Chad Evans, for revamping the purple dye and putting it in 1990s space buns! (For a dose of positivity, check out his site BlameChad; he’ll soon be releasing a clothing line of hoodies, with 20% of proceeds going to the BC schizophrenia society.)

I’ve been wearing Goth brand Lip Service since the 90s, and they continue to be at the top of the alternative fashion game. Love their logo halter tank top, and apocalyptic fabric face mask with skulls and daggers.

leatherology elizabeth bucket bag large leather black purse

My Leatherology Elizabeth large bucket bag arrived just in time for my local trip. The black Italian leather is gorgeous, with a handy shoulder strap, gold hardware and magnetic closure.

Leatherology offers a variety of purses and accessories (from messenger to makeup bags), which can be personalized with your initials. Can’t get over how cool the hand-painted monogram looks: LC, in red with white shadow.

lip service model goth 90s 1990s clothing halter top

My Leatherology Elizabeth bucket purse is lightweight, yet large enough to hold my everyday essentials for traveling (DSLR camera, sunscreen, hat, etc). I’m so happy with the elegant yet edgy look, and delighted to support a BIPOC-owned indie company.

frame chain sunglasses accessories spilt milk eyewera

I’m living in my pink Spilt Milk sunglasses this summer, so I glammed them up with a Frame Chain gold chain.

If you thought these glasses accessories were only for librarians, then think again… Frame creates glasses chains that double as chic, luxurious jewelry. My Donnie in yellow gold has a 1970s disco feeling, which is exactly up my dance floor. The flexible loops at the ends slip onto any eyewear, becoming an eye-catching and unusual accessory (which also has a practical use!)

Intrigued by these stunning glasses chains? See more styles from Frame below:

lola ramona chloe verve polk dot shoes sandals heels

I got new polka-dot sandals by Lola Ramona, my favorite retro-inspired shoemaker. These Chloe Verve sandals have a 70s Boogie Nights feeling with white-on-black circles, an adjustable back strap, and a platform block heel. Plus, they’re comfortable enough for disco-ing all night long.

90s goth barrettes hairstyle purple hair space buns gothic girl

I hope this fashion coordinate introduces you to some fab new brands (and old favorites like Lip Service) — and gives you some ideas for how to style a Goth face mask! (More photos at the end of this post.)

I did my eyebrows with my go-to Dipbrow Pomade in Ash Brown, by Anastasia Beverly Hills. I’m wearing ABH Liquid Lipstick in the purple “Trust Issues” shade.

Find more of my favorite professional makeup by Anastasia below:

victoria luxury hotel fairmont empress outside architecture

All dressed up — but where to go? As I mentioned at the start of this post, any travel decisions should take into account government guidelines, and whether you’re making a net positive impact on the community you’re visiting (as well if they’re welcoming tourists). In BC, we currently have the go-ahead to support our local travel industry as long as we do so with care.

And so, I packed my face masks and hand sanitizer, loaded the car with snacks and water, and only got out when I arrived at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria.

queen victoria rainbow paintings portraits

The historic Empress Hotel pays tribute to British Queen Victoria (who was rather Gothic — she loved her mourning gowns!). Designed in the Châteauesque style, the hotel could easily be mistaken for a castle. The Empress opened its doors in 1908, becoming one of the most famous Canadian “railway hotels” built to serve posh train travelers).

(Tip: if you go to the parking level of the Fairmont, you’ll find black and white photos of the chateau over the years.)

fairmont hotel victoria bc staircase lobby re-design

The Fairmont Empress went through an elegant restoration in 2017. The lobby preserved the classic royal architecture, while adding modern glam. The staircase was one of my favorite photo-spots.

fairmont empress renovation chandelier ceiling lights

Love the chic colors… and epic Swarovski chandelier, which reminds me of glittery Chinese shrimp crackers! (That’s a compliment; those snacks are delicious).

temperature checks hotel guests

The Fairmont Empress shut down for a few months, due to coronavirus. When it re-opened its doors on June 26, I was one of the first guests to check in.

I was reassured to see the hotel had implemented many measures to the reduce risk of contacting the virus. The Fairmont Empress currently allows only 100 guests to stay with them at one time. All the staff wears masks correctly, and they conduct temperature checks at the door.  

temperature check gun infrared thermometer screening

Have you ever been beeped by an infrared temperature gun? The device doesn’t touch you, and reads your temperature in a second.

I felt safe from the moment I checked in, as I knew the Fairmont was taking screening seriously. The hotel also only allows registered guests inside (if you’re going to the restaurants, you use a separate entrance). Instead of valet, the hotel has an easy self-parking garage.

fairmont victoria empress hotel re-opens safety protocols covid coronavirus

The hotel was spotless, and there was hand sanitizer everywhere.

I’m actually pleased that everyone is being more vigilant, as I’m a bit of a germophobe! I always refused to touch handrails, door knobs and elevator buttons, and I wore a mask whenever I flew on a plane. I used to be considered the weirdo… but now everyone acts like me.

hotels hand sanitizer, pleixiglass sanitation measures

The Fairmont’s new Covid protections blend seamlessly with the interior design. Note the clear Plexiglass, and the hand sanitizer in pretty bottles.

hotel fairmont social distancing signs designs

The Fairmont Empress team did a great job at creating elegant signage, such as these physical distancing stickers that kept people six feet / two meters apart. All of these protocols were carefully checked by inspectors, and abide by the All Stay Well #AllSafe initiative for hotels.

fairmont empress vancouver island 5-star top hotel victoria

I quickly discovered that there were a lot of unexpected benefits to traveling locally, in an era when international passport holders are banned from entering Canada.

For instance, there were no longer long line-ups and crowds of tourists everywhere. I could take images like this without anyone photo-bombing me!

harbour view room fairmont victoria empress hotel rooms

Victoria, BC is paradise in the summertime. Since the Fairmont only allows a limited number of guests right now, I got a spectacular harbour view room with this view of the water.

Located at 721 Government Street, the Empress is in the heart of Downtown Victoria, right by the Parliament Buildings. Hip boutiques and restaurants are within an easy walking distance (I’ll show you what I found, in the next story).

empress hotel victoria rooms suites

My 5-star room was enormous and comfortable, with a sitting area and windows looking out at the Inner Harbour.

For now, there is no room service, and housekeeping will not enter your room unless you request a cleaning. The hotel also leaves each room unoccupied for 48 hours prior to a final cleaning and the next check-in.

haunted victoria hotel empress ghost tour walk

I was excited to find hand sanitizer, wipes, and disposable masks in the room. And look… the TV remote control is now wrapped in plastic. (Remotes were my germophobe pet peeve in the past, so this is a most welcome development!).

I enjoyed wandering through the long hallways, and coming across spooky furniture like these curved cabinets. Not surprisingly, the Empress Hotel is alleged to be haunted. Guests have spotted the ghost of the architect, Francis Rattenbury, walking the halls with a cane. (If he’s anything like my dad, he’s probably making sure the building meets fire and accessibility codes).

fairmont victoria pool willow spa swimming

The Fairmont’s polices maintain balance, and let guests have a more relaxed and uncrowded experience. You can ask front desk for access to the swimming pool, which allows 20 people max, or 4 in the hot tub. The Willow Stream Spa also keeps numbers down (ie, 2 people or 1 household can use the steam room or sauna at a time).

fairmont hotel victoria stained glass dome ceiling palm court weddings

Be sure to explore every part of the Fairmont Empress, as it is blossoming with history. The Palm Court, which is now used for weddings and events, is crowned with this magnificent stained glass dome. The Tiffany-style circular ceiling was boarded up and forgotten over the years, only to be re-discovered in 1989 and restored to its former glory.

fairmont afternoon tea room empress gin bar victoria bc

The high ceilings and old-time finishings make my imagination soar… I imagined that I was sitting down for a drink at the bar in Kubrick’s The Shining!  

high tea scones empress fairmont hotel

Even if you aren’t staying at the Fairmont Empress, you should come by for the legendary afternoon tea, a special occasion fit for a royal.

Dress up (I saw some women wearing fascinator hats!) and savor tea and fresh-baked delicacies on a stacked tray. The tearoom offers Prince and Princess options for children as well.

tea room empress fairmont reservations tearoom

Seems like the right place to do an “I’m a little teapot” pose. The doors open at 1pm, and a piano player fills the room with classical music. 

In the past, the Empress afternoon tea was dominated by foreign and cruise ship tourists. Now, there’s plenty of space for locals to relax and enjoy the tradition. (The tables are separated to maintain distance, making it feel more private as well).

afternoon tea fairmont empress hotel victoria british columbia

Cheers to starting the day with sparkling wine! The Fairmont Empress ethically sources tea from top producers, and offers an extensive selection (I went for the creamy Earl Gray).

The staff can cater to food allergies, and the delights are prepared from local ingredients — including honey from the hotel’s bee hives, and lavender from their garden.

fairmont empress tea menu savory sweet desserts tray

Two thumbs up to the warm scones with house-made clotted cream and strawberry lavender preserve. I also adored the cucumber sandwiches, sockeye salmon and chive crème fraîche blini, and coronation chicken curry brioche. And how adorable are the desserts, decorated with cherries and gold foil.

picnic on lawn empress hotel fairmont summer

Since we are encouraged to dine outside to prevent the spread of Covid, the Fairmont Hotel Empress is now offering a Picnic on the Lawn package. The staff puts together a luxury picnic lunch, which you can enjoy on a blanket on the spacious grounds — facing the harbour and surrounded by flowers.

q bar restaurant empress hotel fairmont victoria dining

Guests can also have a meal at Q Restaurant, where the tables sit far apart. One wall is lined with portraits of Queen Victoria, showing her grow from a young lady to the Empress Dowager.

veranda lunch qr code menu fairmont victoria

Rather than handling shared menus, patrons of Q Restaurant and Bar can use their smartphones to scan a QR code at each table. This opens up a menu that you can read on your phone!

As you can see, the Pacific Northwest breakfast was a hit. Try the eggs Benedict and buttermilk pancakes, made from sustainably sourced proteins and fresh regional produce.

q restaurant hotel dining queen victoria royal themed

From the Victorian era to the Covid age, the purple Empress rules. How lovely are the high, cherry wood ceilings with intricate mouldings? (The clear plastic shield is new, but barely visible.)

q bar empress cocktails award-winning fairmont cocktails

I’m still dreaming about the cocktails I sipped at Q Bar, which was deservedly named one of Canada’s best 50 bars. They are known for concocting beautiful drinks with the locally crafted Empress 1908 Gin, which is naturally purple thanks to a pea blossom infusion.

Thumbs up to the signature Q 1908 (above), which pairs the gin with lemon juice, sugar, egg white, and a butterfly pea flower on top. I also adored the Rock Paper Scissors (dark cacao and port), Concord (mezcal, crème de violette, luxardo maraschino, lemon), and Old Fashioned with Czech absinthe and fresh rosemary.

fairmont outdoor patio dining food

After months of eating at home, it was a pleasure to dine al fresco at the Veranda. I enjoyed a veggie-packed lunch on the patio, while looking out at the water.

Treat yourself to an Empress purple gin and tonic, and red wine sangria with fresh fruit. You’ll love the colors and flavors of the heirloom tomato and bocconcini salad, sourced from nearby farms. Veranda’s menu also offers local delights like Coho salmon, Haida Gwaii halibut, and hand-made tagliatelle with fungi.

victoria bc best desserts local berries

The desserts couldn’t be prettier, topped with edible flowers. That’s a bergamot posset cream with raspberry, amaro jelly, and fennel pollen shortbread at the front. Behind: a Saanichton berry shortcake with amaretto sponge, crème fraîche mousse, and Tahitian vanilla.

space buns hairstyle purple hair colour

I hope you’ll get a chance to live like a Queen at the  Fairmont Empress in Victoria. Even if you don’t stay overnight, do come for a meal and to wander the gardens.

So many lush backdrops to shoot my Lip Service Goth halter shirt and skull cross mask.

1990s barrettes two buns hairstyle boho fetival goth hair

Grateful to have my hair looking healthy and violet again, thanks to my stylist Chad Evans of BlameChad (his salon is in downtown Vancouver BC).

lola ramona retro sandals pola dots shoes chloe verve

In an upcoming post, I’ll show you more of what I saw in Victoria, British Columbia. I walked all around in my Lola Ramona polka-dotted Chloe Verve sandals.

leatherology leather bucket bag elizabeth purse shoulder bags

I carried around a Leatherology Elizabeth bucket bag monogrammed with my initials — it’s designed perfectly for local travel.

how to style face mask coordinated outfits

I’m smiling under my fabric mask. It’s nice to feel a sense of normalcy again thanks to local exploration. (Long black skirt by Charli Cohen.)

victoria bc fancy luxury historic hotel empress fairmont

If you’re living in British Columbia where mindful local tourism is endorsed, then treat yourself to a stay at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria. (Or if you’re reading this in the future, and borders are open to international travelers, then I hope you’ll get the chance to visit.)

I can vouch that they did a fabulous job keeping guests safe, and making you feel like a queen.

british columbia phase 3 tourism local travel blogger

You can also see my review of the Fairmont Banff Springs, from last fall. I’m excited to show you more places to visit in beautiful British Columbia soon. (Next up: an alternative guide to Victoria.)

What’s the current situation for travel, wherever you are living? How do you feel about the balance between keeping safe from the virus, opening carefully, and supporting local economies?

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