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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Guest Blogger - Day 1

I am honored to introduce Phyllis Barkey as a guest blogger today! Phyllis is a tea specialist from Michigan, and a graduate of the UK Tea Council's Tea MasterClass.

I first met Phyllis in 2007 on my Tea in London tour. Since then, we seem to have become connected in other ways - both professionally and privately. Most recently, I had an opportunity to meet with her and her husband over tea in Charleston, when they were on holiday in South Carolina. What a treat!

Phyllis loves travel, and especially loves travel when tea is involved! She recently returned from Victoria and TeaTime magazines' An Occasion for Tea event in Victoria, British Columbia and shares her thoughts with us below.


PART I of II

My trip to Victoria was fabulous. I was there in 2003 with my husband, so I tried to focus on different places to visit this trip during my free time. For me, Victoria, B.C. is second only to visiting England. As was stated at the first session of An Occasion for Tea, "Victoria is a city of romance, flowers, culture and tradition." You have to see it to fully appreciate it --the Inner Harbour, the Parliament Buildings lit up at night, and the beautiful flowers that are everywhere - in landscapes as well as hanging from the lamp posts. It is an incredibly clean and well manicured city. It is also a tea lover's delight because there are many lovely places to take tea besides the Empress Hotel.

My girlfriend and I flew to Seattle and took the ferry -- the Victoria Clipper -- to the island, a 2 hour 45 minute ride. It was a beautiful day so the ride was very pleasant and there was no extra charge for the "tummy ticklers" we experienced when other ships passed us! About mid-way through our ferry ride I noticed two ladies sitting near us flipping through TeaTime andVictoria so it was a pretty safe guess that they were also going to attend An Occasion for Tea. We discovered they were sisters from San Diego and we became good friends during the course of our three day stay at the Empress. Tea is such a connector!


Hoffman Media couldn't have selected a better location for their event than the Fairmont Empress Hotel. It is indeed, "A Grand Old Lady" -- celebrating her 100th birthday this year. Their tea lobby is large and impressive, and they have been serving Afternoon Tea since the hotel opened. During our time there they offered three seatings: 12:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Attendees of An Occasion for Tea were given a choice of the 1:30 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. seating on Saturday. My girlfriend and I chose the 3:00 p.m. seating so we would have longer to shop!

There were 200 attendees and the tea lobby was full to capacity with many gentlemen in attendance. Ages ranged from mature children to senior citizens. The Royal Afternoon Tea (which included champagne) was part of our event package. If walls or teacups could talk, wouldn't they have tales to tell about the many conversations they've been privy to over the last 100 years?!

From the time we registered until our last session lovely gifts were continually presented to us from Hoffman Media. At registration we were given a gift box containing a signed and numbered piece of hand printed artwork by Sharyn Sowell. It was trimmed with authentic pieces of a late 1800's Harper's Magazine. Each attendee was also given a packet of tea themed note cards with envelopes that artists at Hoffman Media created specifically for this event. (There have been so many requests from attendees about where they could obtain more that Hoffman decided to make them available in Tea Time and Victoria magazines. Keep an eye out for them! They are blue and white and quite lovely.)

Fresh floral arrangements adorned all the tables where we ate as well as the speaker's platform. They were in beautiful silverplated vases and created such elegance. I remember hearing Alda Ellis say at one of her seminar sessions that, "Silver is the table's jewelry." Isn't that so true? The floral arrangements and vases were available for sale at the conclusion of the event.

Tomorrow I will continue my report with details about the speaker sessions, and some closing thoughts about the event. See you then!

Thank you, Phyllis! Can't wait to read Part II tomorrow!
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