Just a short walk from my workplace in downtown Victoria BC, is the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Besides being a world renown hotel, it is one of a chain of Fairmont Hotels across the globe that takes beekeeping very seriously.
In 2011, 10 hives were set up at the front of the property, in an area known as the Centennial Garden. Located on a small plot of grass, against a backdrop of boulders and foliage, the area is low-traffic and not visible from the surrounding roads. There are no signs pointing visitors to the location, but those lucky enough to catch on, are treated with a little piece of heaven that 500,000 Italian and Carniolan bees call home. It is really quite Empress-ive.
Victoria is known as the City of Gardens and the Fairmont Empress Hotel certainly lives up to that reputation. In addition to the Centennial Gardens and the very impressive Rose Garden, the groundskeepers work year-round to ensure continued seasonal plant and foliage growth – these lucky bees have it made.
The 3,000+ pounds of honey harvested each year is used in the the various dining outlets throughout the hotel, served with the famous Empress Afternoon Tea, is packaged and sold in the hotel gift shop and they have even crafted a wheat and honey beer with a local brewery, Hoyne Brewing Company! I haven’t been fortunate enough to visit when the beekeeper is tending to the hives, but one of these days I’d like to see him in action.
As an aspiring beekeeper myself, I can’t think of a better way to spend my lunch hour, than wandering through the gardens of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, peeking inside the observation hive and marvelling at the buzz of activity.