By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
Where in the world can you “borrow” an immaculately restored, bright red Porsche 911, take it for a wanderlusty scenic drive where whispering old-grove giants stand guard and, at the end of it all, manage to score yourself a coveted reservation at one of just two Canadian resorts with the prestigious “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” designation?
Now part of the GAIN Group of Companies, Vancouver Island’s Villa Eyrie—a patchwork-chic boutique resort built in 1991 by Maria Schuster—is our “on-tour” destination. Easy to find, Eyrie is comfortably nestled into the rugged mountainside where its stunningly romantic backdrop, painted by the Pacific coastline, delivers awe-inspiring sunsets. (Selfie-stickers and Instagrammers, this one’s for you.)
With eagles silently soaring on the thermals, Villa Eyrie’s gardened acreage delivers a quaint, almost spiritual tranquility and charm. Guests are invited to reinvigorate themselves with morning walks (or trail runs), afternoon tea in the fresh mountain air and the chance to dive into a historic novel on the verandah before a pre-dinner massage at the Tuscan Spa. No complaints department needed here.
Inspired by Lake Como, the original designers chose a Tuscan-inspired theme. The Italian vibe is enhanced by contemporary touches along with soaker tubs, rain showers, in-room fireplaces and private balconies offering both wilderness and garden views. There are three main sites on the complex, known as Villa Cielo, Villa Aquila and Villa Vista. Villa Cielo, on the resort’s highest perch, is our home for a few days…it’s often used as a mountainside retreat for friends or family so we have ample room. But if you need more then the Cielo penthouse, the resort’s most spacious accommodation, comes with its own library and three balconies—one of which is almost 600 square feet—to entertain guests.
But here’s the twist…In the midst of the solitude and organic island vibe, Eyrie marries its unique sense of place with g-force, steering angles, brake points and throttle positions with farm- and wharf-to-table fine dining. From classic car exhibitions to adrenaline-pumping track days, the resort’s concierges work with top chefs and world-leading motor-
sport instructors to create exclusive experiences for automotive aficionados.
From the esteemed Coachwerks Restoration facility in downtown Victoria, where prestigious collectors jostle for the team’s coveted workmanship, to the resort’s “drive a classic car” program and driving experiences on the year-round Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit, it’s a motorist’s dream come true. While friends and family convene to enjoy splendid golfing, kayaking or deep-sea fishing, why not pick your favourite from a selection of high-performance cars (from marques including Porsche, Alpha Romeo, Mercedes
and BMW) and take it for a spin.
Lapping it up
The state-of-the-art, meticulously drawn Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit is a rare place to book hot laps as a passenger, put the pedal to the metal in your own vehicle or sharpen your driving skills with a professional instructor.
During the day, conquer the pedigreed 19-turn, silky smooth, 2.3-km track like a veteran. Or put your steering and braking talents to the test as you race into a West Coast rainforest on the track’s exciting off-road simulator. Later, as the sun goes down over the mountains, drop into the elegant track clubhouse, before heading back to the GAIN Group’s recently acquired fishing lodge or Villa Eyrie’s Alpina Restaurant and Driver’s Lounge—the finest places on the island to enjoy Executive Chef Mario Gross’s locally inspired cuisine and share heroic stories.
Cruise through Vancouver Island’s stunning scenery in one of Villa Eyrie’s soul-satisfying Italian vehicles and enjoy a full day of driving/instruction on the circuit. Packages include two nights at Villa Eyrie, plus gourmet breakfasts and dinners. Capped at six vehicles per tour. Rates start at $845 per person, per night (two-night minimum).
Love at first roar
It’s hard not to be enchanted (read, gobsmacked) by the stunning pre- and post-war automobiles on the shop floor at Coachwerks’ 30,000-foot in-house restoration facility in Victoria. On our private tour we learn that each year, handpicked teams of artisans, schooled in age-old techniques, take on just on eight to 10 limited-edition classic automobiles to bring back to perfection.
Delivered from collectors from around the world, in any state of decline or disrepair, they come to have new life breathed into them—every part, every curve and every stitch. Whether the owner has the vehicle for play or as a much-coveted investment, each project becomes a true labour of love and a work of art.
Under the guidance and laser-sharp attention to detail of Coachwerks’ general manager, each of the selected cars is gracefully taken apart and, with sincere effort and expertise, brought back to its original splendour. The process can take several years but the result is worth the wait—a car that is once again sensational and that performs as precisely or better than the day it left the factory. No wonder Coachwerks is known as the place to have your work done. Moreover, cars restored here consistently fetch higher than industry-standard prices at world-renowned automobile auction houses and win first place at concours.