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Where to eat, stay and play on your weekend getaway to Victoria, B.C.
PLAYThe worst thing about visiting Victoria? Nobody ever wants to go to Miniature World with me. Fortunately, there’s other activities my accomplice and I can agree on—The Pedaler bike tour, for one, a spin around the city that hits both hidden gems (the Guild, run by Peter Zambri protégé Sam Bendetto, serves up platters of Pacific Northwest craft brews while impersonating a cozy English pub) and old favourites (Silk Road treats visiting cyclists with pairings of rich chocolate and signature tea blends). Your best bet for a good time on two wheels? The company’s Beans and Bites tour, an espresso-fuelled ride from coffee shop to coffee shop, or Hoppy Hour, an introduction to the city’s best breweries (Phillips and Hoyne are among the rotating roster of pitstops), but whichever you choose, pairing it with a stay at the sophisticated, recently refreshed Magnolia Hotel is a smart move.
EATThough the Magnolia’s continental breakfast is as good as far as continental breakfasts go, I’m looking for something a little more substantial (what’s a weekend getaway without an elaborate brunch?). Jam Café is worth the lineup—we wait our turn with the hip locals and weekend warriors for a big plate of pulled pork pancakes topped with jalapeno sour cream, pickled red cabbage, and plenty of maple syrup, and the slightly more constrained buttermilk biscuit sandwich, a flaky homemade masterpiece packed with scrambled eggs and fresh, sweet tomato jam. Dinner brings us to Catalano, where we sip on Rasputin Bucks—a twist on the Moscow Mule (our current summer cocktail of choice) that pairs ginger and lime with herbal notes and an oversized ice cube—before ordering from the locally minded menu of small share plates: crunchy, gooey truffle risotto balls; local octopus lightly grilled and served up on a bed of smoky chorizo, confit potatos and preserved lemon; fluffy spinach and ricotta dumplings tossed with pine nuts and braised tomatoes.
UNWINDIt’s tough to pull myself away from our perfect people-watching perch at the harbor, but The Spa Magnolia awaits. The spa specializes in oncology esthetics—relaxation and skin therapy for those fighting cancer—but offers organic treatments to the (gratefully) healthy population too. Lying under fluffy blankets, dappled in the sunlight that spills into the brick-lined room, I may have dozed off a few times as the sweet therapist melted away my editing-induced shoulder knots (Inbalance Vibrational Zone Massage, 60 minutes, $110), but that’s the sort of involuntary feedback a masseuse probably hopes for. Before you pad back to your room in a mellow daze, take a minute to explore the shelves full of paraben and phthalate-free bodycare products: lauded brands like Intelligent Nutrients and Comfort Zone make a beautiful souvenirs for girlfriends stuck at home for the weekend (or for your own home beauty stash—we won’t tell).
GETTING THEREThe Harbour Air seaplane has spoiled us for life. A gorgeous 35-minute ride from downtown to downtown—and no traffic to deal with when you disembark, either. wl