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Rule Victoria - continued

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The Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, B.C. Tourism Victoria

Anchored by the venerable, 100-year-old Empress, Victoria is adding hip vitality to its tearoom gentility

That said, back at the Bengal Lounge Jeffery is enjoying his Empress blend. He speaks with mock seriousness about days of yore, when the hotel was more British than the British. Ever since the well-heeled aristocrats of 1908 first checked in, travellers and locals have flocked to the ivy-dressed icon to garner the sense of distinction and legitimacy that imperial roots can lend. Jeffery once stood in the brass-and-mirror elevator with a pair of ladies who discussed in very British tones the daily news. "What part of England are you from?" he inquired.

"Actually, I'm from Oak Bay."

"Ah."

Jeffery takes another sip of tea and rolls his eyes. "But all that affectation's fading away now," he says. "It's not a bastion of British-ness anymore-those people are all dying off." Barbra Streisand was once refused admittance to the tearoom because she was wearing jeans. "Now we just ask guests to not wear muscle shirts and hoser hats. Those are the last rules."

With handsome rooms and suites going for up to $1,500, and with its dependably immaculate service, the Empress retains an air of quiet, well-appointed regality. But, like the tradition-steeped city she anchors, she's let her hair down. On her centennial, the grande dame may finally be relaxed enough to be called a true Victorian.

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