on a quiet street in Victoria, a short stroll from the pretty little harbour and Beacon Hill Park, sits a rambling Edwardian mansion. The Beaconsfield Inn, built in 1904, was one of the finest homes of the time. Today, it operates as a gracious bed &breakfast, and illustrates why Victoria is considered one of the most British places outside of the United Kingdom.
My wife, Allyson, and I entered the wrought-iron fence and gazed in admiration at the lush gardens and imposing three-story front. Inside, the Beaconsfield radiated Britishness: dark mahogany paneling, 11-foot ceilings with beams, tea and sherry served in a sombre, elegant library and paintings of polo matches and riders and hounds chasing a fox.
One of the Historic Inns of Victoria, the Beaconsfield is a registered heritage property with a romantic past. Built as a wedding gift to Gertrude, the daughter of the wealthy and prominent Robert Rithet, it was situated close to the parents' home allowing mother and daughter to go horseback riding together. By the 1980s, the mansion had run into disrepair and was slated for demolition. It was saved, however, and turned into a B&B. The name comes from the up-scale Beaconsfield Hotel in London, England, where
King Edward VII was reputed to have engaged in
Our room, the Beaconsfield Suite on the third floor, was spacious with a grand four-poster queen-size bed, a wood-burning fireplace, a stained-glass window and a long window seat where both of us could lounge and gaze down on the garden and tree-lined street. Ally was delighted.
After settling in, we toured. The Beaconsfield offers nine rooms/suites, 11 fireplaces, and a gloriously large library that felt like an exclusive British
club. When tea was served, Ally raised her pinkie and pretended that she was a duchess.
Next morning we awoke to golden sunlight streaming through the skylight. We ambled down for breakfast in the conservatory where white tablecloths, fresh tulips, polished British silverware and the delicious aroma of fresh coffee greeted us. Fruit salad and still-warm
scones preceded the pièce de résistance,
prawns in a
cream spinach sauce over a poached egg and
potatoes latke. Delicious!
It was a struggle to drag Ally away, but we left, fully rested, and happy that we had discovered not only a wonderful getaway, but a little corner of Britain.
Hans Tammemagi has written two travel books: Exploring Niagara - The Complete Guide to Niagara Falls & Vicinity and Exploring the Hill - A Guide to Canada's Parliament Past & Present. He is the environment columnist for the Vancouver sun.
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