One Last Time
I was on my way to work early on Monday morning, January 4th, and with time to kill, procrastination slowing my step, as well as the need for a washroom, I made my way through the Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC. I, along with everyone else, was getting back to my usual routine, post-holidays and was dragging my feet at bit. Even though foreboding about returning to work gnawed at my gut, at the same time I felt a sense of ‘new beginnings’ in the air; self-reflection and plans for self-transformation are on the minds of many at that time of year.
I slowly made my way through the grand hotel I make every excuse to meander through; and yes, they have a lot more to offer than the use of their washrooms,
The outside of the hotel has been under wraps for a while – but it’s not a secret. With the recent change in ownership came time for a face-lift for the old hotel – not to CHANGE the historical structure, but to give it’s apparently softening, sagging joints a bit of a lift (I know how it feels – could use one myself). The scaffolding on the outside of the building has been covered with tarp, but not the ordinary blue tarps. These tarps have been painted to match the exact exterior of the hotel with red bricks, columns, lighted windows, the whole bit. I love it.
Inside, however, there are to be changes as well, as I would soon learn. But I was on a mission you see, and as I bee-lined my way through the hotel straight for the washroom downstairs, I passed the tea lobby – the roomed famed for serving ‘high tea’ since 1908 to royalty, dignitaries, celebrities and nowadays-commoners like me. I stutter-stopped at what I saw in the tea lobby, but my urgent mission had me promising to return.
And I did.
The sun had barely started to make its daily appearance. It was still dark outside and the overhead lights cast questionable shadows in century-old corners, warning me to hurry along. The hotel was still asleep and on her hardwood floors I felt I should tip-toe, the church-like atmosphere suggesting I whisper should I dare talk and interrupt its moment of just ‘being.’ Empty and not at-the-ready for once – no expectations, demand for ritual, or need for order – she could take a deep breath and sigh her secrets tighter within her walls. Without any furnishings save for the two pictures over the fireplaces and the heavily tasseled drapes, it was her chance to show everyone what else she could be – herself, simply as she was.
Yes, I know that all sounds over-the-top in giving the old room human-like attributes, but something about the grand space had me honoring it like a person. I felt as though I was in the presence of a great woman with lifetimes of experience in her walls. I was invading her time, space, and moment of just being alone. I had to respect her.
A passing hotel employee broke the spell I was under, and we exchanged pleasantries. I said I was enjoying taking a few pictures of the rarely-empty room and she, too, agreed there was something eerie yet magical about the space. We stood in silence admiring the room that although empty of furniture, was not truly empty. There really was a lot to see in the seemingly empty space - if you looked hard enough.
But I’ll be back....
(I was later assured that the work involved is only maintenance and upkeep to ensures the graceful hotel stays in tip-top shape - the architectural and historical integrity will be maintained. I look forward to going back and seeing her again.)