How about browsing through The Old Curiosity Shop of Dickensian fame? Or wandering furnished in every detail? Or better still, spending the night in a canopied bed once used by a real English king?
Believe it or not, you can enjoy all these experiences without leaving the North American continent. The way to do it is to visit the Olde England Inn and its adjacent village at Victoria, British Columbia.
The inn is not just a place to get a night's lodging, but a genuine vacation spot where it is possible to go back in time to catch a glimpse of the England of long ago.
The compound receives its name from the Olde England Hotel situated on the shores of Lake Windermere in the heart of the English Lake District. The inn is a dream come true for Rosina and Sam Lane, former residents of England. They founded it in 1946 and traveled far and wide collecting seven tons of antiques to make their village an authentic reality.
Olde England Inn is virtually a museum in itself and houses antiques that might be envied by a collector of precious old china, silverware, and other objets d'art.
The paneled and beamed Baronial Hall provides a perfect setting for the Lanes' remarkable collection of antiques. Viewing the suits of armor, old swortd , and huge copper canopied fireplace makes the visitor feel that he is stepping into the Elizabethan period.
Built on a bluff and screened by tall Daouglas fir trees, the inn is flanked by replicas of two of the best-known historical spots in literature -the birthplace of William Shakespeare and the cottage of his wife, Ann Hathaway. While the Shakespeare birthplace is a replica of the outside of the original, the Hathaway cottage is authentic both inside and out.
After establishing the inn as an old baronial English home, the Lanes decided to build a replica of Anne Hathaway's cottage, the original of which is located at Stratford-on-Avon, where Shakespeare courted Anne before their marriage in 1582
The building has been the work of five years, three of research and two on actural building. This project entailed many difficulties, as the original cottage had no definite plans. but with the help of the Shakespeare Trust in England, photographs and information were sent over. Proportions of the walls and fireplaces were taken by counting the number of bricks and calculating the distances. Plans were finally drawn up.
Mr. and Mrs. Lane returned to England personally and took measurements and photographs inside the original cottage. Even the gardens are authentic right down to the gooseberry bush next to the English lavendar.
One construction difficulty was in obtaining the proper wheat straw for thatching.
The Lanes finally rented 13 acres of land and decided to grow their own, nursing it through rain, midew, and mice, but they had to fly in a thatcher from England to do the thatching job.
The cottage was opened in July 1959 to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to Victoria. Guided tours are conducted daily. Visitors may wander through eight authentic period rooms, see a lacemaking device, 16th-century furniture, and much more.
The Lanes have completed a number of replicas of famous places as additions to the village. Exhibits with cultural, historical, and educational values are displayed in the windows of these unit which face Chaucer Lane. Guests will find the Harvard House, home of the mother of Rev. John Harvard who endowed Harvard University. next door is the Garrick Inn in full size immortalized by John David Garrick of theater fame.
In another window is a butcher shop of a hundred years ago centered with a huge boar's head and the typically English Melton Mowbray Pyes with links of sausages.
Guests looking into another window see a Welsh woman in her cottage sitting beside the fireplace with her copper kettle, pouring a cup of tea. The kitchen is lighted by an old oil lamp, and peices of china decorate the mantel. She wears the traditional tall black hat worn by women over a century ago.
Another famous building on Chaucer Lane is The Old Curiosity Shop dated 1594 and immortalized by Charles Dickens's novel of the same name. Tthe shop houses treasures both old and new.
And of course, the village contains a real Tuck Shop filled with old-fashioned humbugs, sticks of rock, and English Toffee.
Dining in the Olde England Inn is a delight. Breakfasts, luncheons, and candlelight dinners are served in the atmosphere of an old English Tudor mansion. And whatever you do, don't miss those charming afternoon teas. If you're lucky enough to get a window table, you're apt to get splendid views of both gardens and sea.
The inn has a variety of quaint bedrooms with antique furniture and canopied beds. The royal suites, or kings' rooms, are the ultimate in decor and luxury.
The King Enward VII room is a spacious period room in Louis XIV style with floor-length button mirrors inspired by the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles. the king-size bed is draped in purple velvet and is surmounted with gold canopy and crown held by cupids. The bed was used by King Edward VII of England in Warwick Castle. The room's balcony overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The Royal Albert room has a 14-foot-high carved oak half canopy bed draped with red and gold velvet. This king-sized bed was used by Queen Victoria and Price Albert in Lord and Lady Dudley's home, Kent, England. The room is furnished with Persian carpets and 19th-century antiques. A picture window overlooks the gardens.
Although the inn contains more kings' rooms, the two described will give an idea of their elegance.
The address of the Olde England Inn is 429 Lampson Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is advisable to make reservations.