I have always loved being immersed in history.
One of my first summer jobs during my bachelor degree was working in a store in Barkerville Historic Town.
While no one lived on the site itself, I would come early for work and lay by Williams Creek in the sun on warm mornings, or take my time to leave the site after we closed, when all the tourists and most of the other workers had already filed out.
The empty streets and buildings seemed to give a completely different experience of the town, with no modernity to spoil the scene, and I truly felt as though I had stepped back in time.
Being surrounded by history in this way makes me think I can feel the energy of the place, and it ignites my imagination.
I get a sense the buildings hold remnants of the lives they once sheltered, the struggles, successes and failures they once bore silent witness, and I try to imagine what it would have been like.
So I was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to experience the Fort St. James Historic Park’s bed and breakfast program.
The bed and breakfast offers guests a night inside the Murray House, the most luxurious residence on the site, with large rooms, a kitchen, living room and a dining room table they set with Blue Willow china.
Unlike most bed and breakfasts, the experience includes dinner, which is prepped but not cooked, and carefully set in a cooler, ready for the final stage.
We opted for steaks, but the menu offers a range of options, some just introduced, including homemade stew if you don’t want to cook anything yourself, salmon, and even rack of lamb.
Our steaks came with a fresh salad, using greens from the on-site garden, a selection of salad dressings, home made apple pie (which was to die for), some fresh fruit and cookies to snack on, and baked potatoes we cooked on the fire as well.
The table was set, the food prep was explained and the keys were handed over, and it was all ours.
The staff had even laid out the period appropriate games of badminton and croquet to really give us the complete experience.
It was incredible.
If only I had been able to experience more of it.
With a structural fire on the horizon as my friend and I arrived after an evening volleyball game, I rushed off to take photos of the event for the paper, missing out on some valuable croquet and badminton time, but we made it back to enjoy an amazing sunset dinner, made more authentic by the fading light outside.
But we did luck out with the weather, as Monday was by far the nicest day the area had seen in ages, and the evening light and sunset are probably appreciated from no better spot than looking up Stuart Lake from the Fort.
The glow on the buildings was beautiful, and while it isn’t quite as period-authentic as Barkerville is, because it offers a few more comforts and amenities, it was still a historic experience.
Stuffed eagles in the hallway definitely add a slightly ghostly aura at night and the sheep walking on the boardwalk occasionally and the sound of rain on the rooftop do take you back and give an authentic feel to the place.
After our incredible meal and some photos, we retired to our rooms, each with authentically short double beds, but with modern mattresses for guest comfort.
The beds are even made with Hudson’s Bay blankets, with the warm wool separated from the guests by cotton sheets.
I slept in the Murray’s bedroom, which was beautiful, and looks out onto the back yard where the sheep were grazing during the night.
I woke up once to the sound of the rain on the roof during a particularly fierce downpour, and then heard the sheep on the boardwalk once before falling soundly back to sleep until morning.
While we awoke in the morning to a dreary rainfall, we were comforted by the coffee brewing in the dining room and the wood stove warming the kitchen and upon which our costumed hostess Rene was already cooking our breakfast while we asked her to divulge her secrets on making perfect apple pie.
We sat down to full service pancakes, sausage, orange juice and coffee, once again served on Blue Willow china in the large dining room.
It was a fantastic experience, and while there were some glimpses of modernity to break the historic spell from time to time, it was a phenomenal way to feel as though I took a miniature step back, to when things were simpler.
Next time I think I’ll turn off my cell phone, take a deck of cards in case of inclement weather, and pretend I’ve travelled right back in time.
The historic park is offering the bed and breakfast for $100 per guest per night or $300 for four people from mid-June to the end of August, but it must be booked in advance.