The Awe of Albion Manor
I remember how my 7th grade teacher used to caution us on our usage of the word “awesome” – although a slang word for anything pleasing or downright cool, the word is really meant to convey awe. An overwhelming mixed-bag feeling of fear, dread, reverence, respect, admiration, and wonder.
Where Albion Manor is concerned, its ambiance evokes feelings that are more on the side of reverence, respect, and wonder as far as the emotions are concerned, rather than fear or dread. The ticking of a clock. In true Victorian form, amazing art everywhere, acquired from all over the world (and some of it could evoke fear and/or dread, depending on the viewer). Antiques also abound. Muddy boots (and often wet umbrellas) at the door. Various construction works-in-progress. And now, frescoes on the ceilings.
Possibly each and every ceiling, over the coming months and years. (Or so I was told.)
Earlier this year, your Hedonista was invited to stay a couple of nights as a media guest at Victoria’s Albion Manor Bed & Breakfast. Like Humbolt House and Dashwood Manor (the other two VHI’s at which I have also stayed), Albion Manor is an elite member of a 7-member group of B&Bs called Victoria’s Historic Inns (VHI). The goal of the VHI – which is only about 3 years old – is “to offer … all the luxury of a fine hotel, all the intimacy of a bed and breakfast inn.” Members own and operate extremely unique properties and, in some cases, bring them back to life.
Thus far and in my own personal experience, they have remained true to that promise.
Albion Manor makes up the third VHI B&B I have stayed in to-date, dear hedonists. Owners/Operators Don Halton (who hails from Alberta) and Fernando Garcia (who hails from Seville, Spain) are partners in life as well as business; together, they live at Albion full-time (in the basement suite) and offer a yin-yang balance that seems to work.
They acquired the property – what was then known as Ryan’s Inn – back in 2005 when they made the move from Burnaby. They renamed the inn “Albion” after the oldest known name for Great Britain. “New Albion” and “Albionoria” (literally, “Albion of the North”) were historically proposed as names for Canada.
Seems fitting for a B&B in the very British-esque city of Victoria located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia within the boundaries of Canada, no?
The décor is a blessed and fascinating hodge-podge of gloriously whimsical artifacts – everything from unique antique beds to valuable art from all over the world.
In another life, Don was a film production designer, an art director, and a creative director for world’s fairs. Don does all of the breakfast cooking; what’s more, he’s self-taught.
“Yes, just myself … no formal training at all. I’ve never ever taken a cooking course,” Don confessed to me rather matter-of-factly.
Fernando serves the breakfasts, although he also loves to cook as well, for family and friends.
Why this delegation of duties?
“As a good Spaniard, I’m very relaxed,” Fernando admits.
In other words, he doesn’t exactly watch the clock when he cooks.
And the breakfast meals are not only promptly served, but also both artfully displayed and utterly delicious.
And then there’s Fernando’s art (he’s studied ceramics, frescoes, and contemporary art). Hedonistic ceramic busts made up of an array of interesting character creations abound throughout the home, as well as a stunning fresco located on the ceiling of the bathroom in Room 5 of the inn – Fernando’s first at Albion Manor.
I was fortunate enough to stay in this room during my visit; Fernando had just completed this fresco (he’s painting throughout the inn). It resembles a nude baby version of him, in my opinion, upturning a basket or opening a sack of flowers from which sprinkle forth both flowers and petals upon you as you bathe in the clawfoot tub or shower using the rain showerhead. He’s even offering you a red rose. (Fernando informed me that he wanted to add a hamburger to the fresco – for Fernando is obsessed with hamburgers – but that Don vetoed his idea.)
Hamburger or no, it’s like having your own personal heavenly wingless cherub attendant while you bathe.
Room rates range from $109-199, depending on the room and the time of the year, with the summer months the most expensive, not to mention almost already booked up.
If you do happen to grace the doors of Albion, just be prepared to be awe-struck, dear hedonists. I was.
(Just be careful what you touch; as the paint might still be wet from Fernando’s latest project.)