At the Inn at Laurel Point, dead people will improve your next Victoria stay …
My hotel had dead people helping manage it. I’d heard Victoria was a great place for the newly wed and nearly dead. But I hadn’t heard the already dead were helping the not so newly wed enjoy city sights.
Staying at the Inn at Laurel Point is very pleasant – each of the 200 rooms has a harbour view and balconies from which to enjoy a crisp Pinot Grigio on a sunny day – but its the hotel’s social conscience that sets it apart.
There are no ghosts roaming the halls (at least none that I found) but you can feel the influence from beyond the grave on the Inn. Owner Artie Arsens, who built the hotel with her husband Paul (who passed away in 1997), placed the hotel into a trust in 2008 before she died, creating a social enterprise and leaving three trustees with a clear vision of how she and her departed husband wanted the hotel operated.
Rather than cash in on Victoria’s booming real-estate market, all profits are reinvested into the hotel and staff programs with a priority on work-life balance. In a competitive employment market this allows the hotel to keep valuable staff. It seems to work as everyone I met had a smile handy and was extremely keen to answer my many questions.
One of the people overseeing the trust is Managing Director Ian Powell who is also an Anglican priest. I didn’t ask if he could absolve me of my sins if I overindulged on dessert, but he can marry guests and leads services at the Anglican Church of Canada Thursday and Sundays. Powell sees a lot of similarity between his roles as a priest and a hotel manager, “Caring for people is caring for people – whether it is food and shelter or spiritually, the motivation to serve is the same.”
This hotel with a conscience does more than recycle your pop cans. Worn sheets are turned into first aid bandages for use in developing nations. Over $179,000 has been donated to Habitat to Humanity from their annual gingerbread showcase and more than 3,000 cancer patients have stayed with them on their “courage rate”.
The hotel has been carbon neutral since 2009 – British Columbia’s first – with a Vancouver-based company, Offsetters Climate Solutions offsetting emissions from the hotel.
Sitting in the AURA dining room where only ethically harvested and locally sourced seafood is served I enjoyed my Eggs Benny while watching the city come to life in Victoria’s inner harbour.
Turbo-prop planes taxied by from Harbour Air – North America’s first carbon neutral airline with 10,000 honey bees living on their hanger roof. There were no orcas in the harbour this day but sometimes pilots must yield the runway to whales. If I wanted to go looking for those orcas I would only need wander a few steps from the inn to Eagle Wings Tours – British Columbia’s first carbon neutral whale watching company and a company committed to preserving Victoria’s whales for future generations.
A few meters from the restaurant is a large cement monument to the Songhees people. The monument and the inn sit on a peninsula at the entrance to Victoria’s inner harbour. The Songhees along with the Esquimalt were Lekwungen and the original inhabitants of this area. Laurel Point, like much of the harbour was important to the Lekungwen people. At one time potlatch ceremonies were held here. Wanting to know more about the deceased who were the city’s first inhabitants I booked an afternoon tour with Florence Dick of the Songhees nation to see Victoria through her ancestors’ eyes.
Dick wrapped herself in a black cape with two purple embroidered wolves and placed a cedar bark band over her black hair. “I do this because I speak with the guidance of my ancestors,” she said solemnly. Dick pointed at murals lining the wooden walkway, recalling with pride her aunt that used to deliver mail to Vancouver Island by poling her canoe through the water. She was a legend among her people (and perhaps to others eager for a letter from home). “It is our way when we die to let the canoe return to the earth.” But people at the Royal BC Museum felt the canoe was a significant cultural asset and it was added to its collection.
It seemed not all things can be controlled from beyond the grave, but I enjoyed knowing ancestors’ wisdom was influencing some tourism amenities in one of Canada’s most popular destinations.
If you go:
Stay at the Inn at Laurel Point (ranked one of the top 25 hotels in Canada by Condé Nast Traveler)
To take one of the walking or canoe tours offered by Songhees Nation, call 250-590-2495.
Look for killer whales with Eagle Wings Tours. $2 is added to your ticket price to fund killer whale research and conservation.
Visit the Royal BC Museum and check out the First Peoples Gallery.
See Tourism Victoria’s website for info and ideas about the area.
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