Hotel Grand Pacific - A Grand Getaway
By Judith Lane
Contributor to Travelink Publishing
Victoria has a new jewel on the Inner Harbour. Originally opened in 1989 with 148 rooms, The Hotel Grand Pacific has undergone a complete facelift with a new wing, and a total of 308 rooms and suites, all with balconies and views.
The new driveway leads to a new entry and gives the hotel a desirable Belleville Street (read harbourfront) address. Location doesn't get much better than this: on the Inner Harbour next to the Parliament Buildings, looking out on the stately Empress Hotel, sailboats, luxury yachts, ferries and seaplanes. The Hotel Grand Pacific certainly lives up to its name and seemed to be just the remedy for an overworked couple of Vancouverites. Our plan was simply to park the car and be tourists in this gracious city.
After a relaxing ferry trip from the mainland, we opted for the scenic route into Victoria via West Saanich Road, winding past bucolic farms, many with roadside stands selling seasonal flowers, fruit and fresh corn. The road skirted the water, at times offering tantalizing glimpses of fish boats and islands beyond.
Everything moves at a more leisurely pace in Victoria. People - and drivers - seem to live in the moment, taking time to enjoy their surroundings and the company they keep. Before long, even we found ourselves moving slower, driving slower, and smiling.
From the moment we saw the Grand Pacific, we were impressed, its landscaped grounds with bubbling fountains a mere prelude to the courteous welcome to come.
A speedy elevator zipped us up to our 10th and top floor room. I immediately opened the curtains and stepped onto the balcony and drank in the view of the inner harbour, the city skyline and Parliament Buildings.
Over my shoulder I could see Juan da Fuca Straight and Washington State's Olympic Mountains and below us, visitors strolled, while bicycle rickshaws and romantic horse-drawn carriages moved past at a gentle pace; whale-watching zodiacs unloaded rosy-cheeked adventurers and small harbour ferries zipped to and fro.
But back to basics, although there is nothing basic about this four star property. Our room was beautifully appointed with king-sized bed, high-speed internet access, coffee maker and other amenities including a computerized security system that signals maid service and privacy.
If you are looking for things to do, the concierge has a wealth of recommendations. Cuda Marine, located on the Courtyard level of the hotel, offers whale watching and sport fishing. The nearby Parliament Buildings, the Royal British Columbia Museum (a must-see for adults and kids), and the Crystal Gardens are all worthy contenders for your time. If shopping is more your cup of tea, check out the tourist spots on Government Street, the eclectic mix of Old Town and adjacent Chinatown.
Dining out? Well don't until you've checked out the hotel's The Mark, a superb, intimate 28-seat fine-dining restaurant, and the more casual Pacific Restaurant and Terrace. Breakfasts here range from healthy and hearty to a daily deluxe buffet while lunch and dinner offer a globe-spanning range of entrées sure to please every appetite.
Knowing that Victoria has some excellent restaurants, I started each day with an early morning visit to the Grand Pacific Health Club. Open to Club members and hotel guests, this is, hands down, the best equipped fitness centre I have been in: free weights, every machine you could want and a sunny 25-metre indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna and squash courts. I loved it, especially the natural light.
A few of my favourite Victoria eating spots include Barb's Fish and Chips, a floating fish and chip shop at Fisherman's Wharf; Zambri's, a casual but fine Italian spot; Rebar in Bastion Square, deliciously organic and vegetarian; Pagliacci's, a crazy and fun sort of Jewish-Italian spot and Café Brio, simply superb. Then there's always tea at the Empress!
As one of the best R&R getaways we had experienced in a very long while, we wondered how it could get any better. Then we learned that The Spa at the Grand was only days away from opening. Styled as a full-service Japanese inspired facility, it promised the ultimate in pampering and was just the excuse we needed. We vowed to return, much sooner than later, for the ultimate in R&R, Grand Pacific style.
If You Go:
Hotel Grand Pacific
463 Belleville Street
Victoria BC V8V 1X3
Tel (250) 386-0450
Fax (250) 380-4474
Web site: www.hotelgrandpacific.com/
Vancouver and other Lower Mainland travelers: BC Ferries accommodates travelers from Tsawwassen terminal to Swartz Bay. General Information for sailing schedule is 1-888-BCFERRY (223-3779)
From Stateside: Either the Victoria Clipper, The Coho ferry from Port Angeles, or the Washington State Ferries will meet your needs
Regularly scheduled airline, floatplane and helicopter service is also available from Vancouver and Seattle.
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