I still remember calling my parents to let them know I was engaged. This was before cell phones were invented. I was still in college, I didn’t have a real job, and I was young. My mom wanted to know how we were going to afford to live and I told her, “We are going to live on love.” I thought it was pretty funny at the time, and even today I think it is pretty funny. I don’t think my parents thought it was as hilarious as it was.
My soon-to-be wife and I cobbled together enough money to put on a wedding and survive the first few years of marriage living on love and cheap food.
This week we celebrated 25 years of marriage. I am not the greatest romantic in the world, but I do know when I must be romantic, and 25 years of marriage is one of those times. After some discussions about how to celebrate I was put in charge of figuring out how to get it done in Victoria, Canada.
My wife made one demand: High Tea at the Empress Resort. This demand came with a price tag that almost equalled the amount we spent on our wedding (which will come as no surprise to those who attended our budget wedding) but when your wife says, “I want to have High Tea at the Empress” and you are about to leave on a vacation for 28 days that is commonly known around town as “The Summer of Jon” you don’t say, “High Tea? Who do you think I am Bill Gates?” Nope, you get online and book your High Tea and make sure that everybody at the Resort knows you are celebrating so you get a good seat.
Victoria sits across the Strait of Juan De Fuca from our homestead and is a great city for visiting on regular occasions, but it has a couple of bonus factors for romance: 1. It is in Canada so you have to use a passport to get there. Unless you are already in Canada in which case you don’t have to use a passport. 2. These Canadians are very British/Irish/Scottish and not the French-speaking Canadians on the other side of the country. I’m not sure why this factors into the romance equation but it is on the list now. 3. The downtown area is very walkable. 4. There is good food.
We did not stay at the Empress Resort. Instead we stayed at a small boutique hotel called the Hotel Rialto. I like the smaller hotel because they make a big deal of people celebrating anniversaries and other such events. The Empress also cost 12 million Canadian dollars a night (about 11 million US dollars). The Rialto was perfect.
I won’t bore you with our ramblings around town, but here are a few photos of our time.
High Tea is a big deal at the Empress. There isn’t a dress code, I saw two guys wearing shorts, but most people dress up a little. I don’t own a suit coat and I wear ties about three times a year so when I say “dress up” I mean wearing a collared shirt. I could dress up more often, but I live on the West Coast where dressing like you are doing yard work is acceptable in most establishments. We arrived, they took our jackets, wished us a happy anniversary (guys when booking reservations tell them it is a celebration because they will make a big deal out of it) and then took us to the best seats in the room.
The whole tea thing is not complicated. You have two choices: What kind of tea you want, and if you want to spend 60 dollars more for a little cheese plate and a visit from the Chef who brings a honey comb to your table. I decided that we didn’t need to talk to the Chef, the table next to us paid for him and we just listened in on his little “this cheese is from here, and this honey is from here” speech. I went with the Empress tea and my wife, rebel that she is, ordered the Kea Lani Orange and Pineapple tea.
Next was the little glass with strawberries and cream. I like this combination and was well-behaved, but I noticed that two ladies were seated not too far away from me who were wearing Hijabs covering their hair and one of the ladies had her face completely covered. This distracted me because I wasn’t sure how someone would eat with their mouth covered and because I am an American and rude, I spent the next ten minutes trying to see how this lady was going to eat her strawberries. Eventually I saw that she pulled the scarf from below her neck with her left hand, moved it away from her face and then put the fork and strawberry behind the curtain and got the food to her mouth. It was a lot more complicated than what I was doing. She would even tuck everything back in when she was done. I’m not trying to be a racist jerk, but there must be a better way of doing this whole thing.
Anyway once that mystery was solved the big tray of food arrived.
On the bottom of the tray are the savory sandwiches: Salmon roll (5 stars), cucumber (3 stars), ham pâté (2 stars), chicken curry (5 stars). The good news was that we did not have to fight over who got which sandwich since there were two of each. The ham pâté sandwich reminded me of the canned devil’s food stuff my mom used to put on our sandwiches when she was too tired to cook, but the rest was very good.
The scones on the second tier were next to bite the dust. I was hoping for clotted cream, but regular cream with the jam was sweet enough. I suppose clotted cream isn’t fresh enough for the Empress, but it is nearly impossible to find in the US because it has a very short shelf life and is about 99.999% fat. One would think that in the US we would be manufacturing clotted cream for school lunches.
When we got down to the last plate I started to get a little rambunctious. It is difficult for me to behave myself and not do something immature for more than an hour. So when I looked down at the dessert plate I had a funny idea. It wasn’t a very mature idea, but when I am shelling out the big bucks I am allowed to act like an idiot for three minutes.
There was something about the pink marzipan dessert that made me think about lips and it was just another moment until I was doing this…
I think the little kid sitting at a table nearby saw me acting like an idiot, but I believe no one else witnessed my behavior. Well, there is the picture (my wife was a willing participant, another good reason to love her) and this blog entry, but I don’t think I spoiled anyone’s High Tea.
Was High Tea worth it? Well, if you are celebrating something special, then absolutely. It is as much of an event as a meal. Why not blow some hard-earned money on some little sandwiches and treats? You only get to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary once (well, I guess you could get divorced and then remarried for another 25 years, but that is highly unlikely) so live it up and go to High Tea at the Empress, no matter who you are they will treat you like a big deal for an hour or two.