Stay clear of this place! A review of English Inn

Shame on me for not going with my instincts. Shame on you if you make the same mistake we did and fall for the English Inn & Resort's blatant distortion of the truth. This place is a scam...and judging from comments we heard from at least three different locals in Victoria, what we experienced is pretty much the norm from the scam artists who own the English Inn & Resort.

A little background: In the Spring of '04, I surfed the net for a charming place for our 2-night stay in Victoria. Since we hadn't been there before, I didn't know the layout of the city over and above what I could glean from a map. From their web site, the English Inn & Resort looked absolutely charming...and the price wasn't bad at all -- in fact it seemed like a bit of a bargain (that should have been my first clue...but since it was in Canadian dollars, I just chalked it up to our buck going a bit further across the border). When I asked them about their proximity to the Inner Harbor, they said that it was a quick cab or water taxi ride -- or a little brisk walk - just across the Johnson Bridge. Sounded and looked delightful.

About 3 weeks before we were set to leave, I tried to find the English Inn & Resort's web site, but couldn't remember the URL, so I went into Yahoo's search. Along with the Inn's web site, I found several other listings, including a few comments on TripAdvisor.com. Several reviews talked about the place being under construction and not all that had been represented. After reading that, I got a bit nervous, so I checked around to see what other lodging options were still available only a few weeks before we were planning to arrive. The new Marriott on the Inner Harbor was still available - at the same price, so I started to call them to make a reservation.

But before doing so and canceling the English Inn reservation, I decided to first give them the benefit of the doubt, and called to ask them about the status of construction. After all, perhaps the comments I'd read were just from an overly disgruntled complainer - perhaps they'd just blown the whole thing out of proportion. So I called the inn directly. The person I spoke with reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. She asked if my concerns were based on comments I'd seem on TripAdvisor.com. I said that that was indeed where I'd read it. She pointed out that those comments had been written last fall and that most of the work had long since been completed. She said that the cottage building where we would be staying looks exactly as it does on their web site. She said that only the main dining room and the reception area were still under construction. And the reception area would be finished by the end of July. Since we weren't showing up until the first week of August, it sounded like only the dining room would still be under construction. I figured that they'd have a temporary area set up for things like breakfast, tea, wine, etc. She assured me that my fears of hearing saws and hammers while we strolled through the gardens were completely unfounded. From her comments, I expected the place to look and feel essentially like it was portrayed on their web site.

When we arrived there last week, by ferry from Seattle, we elected to take the Gray Line tour right from the boat to Buchart Gardens. Gray Line provides a service where they'll drop your bags off at your hotel and then will shuttle you to your hotel after the tour. As we were being shuttled to the Inn after our tour, we told our shuttle driver (who was also the one who dropped off our luggage a few hours earlier) how we had almost switched lodging facilities a few weeks earlier due to what we'd read on TripAdvisor.com. He listened to us and then delicately told us that things still looked like they were in a pretty serious construction mode when he'd been by a few hours before. He said there were plenty of Skil saws humming while he was there.

He dropped us off and we walked up to the main lodge and saw a temporary reception area sign. It was more or less an office that had been hastily converted into a multi-use office, reception area and catch-all. The lady at the desk was very polite and gave us our key and directions to our room. As we wandered around the grounds, we finally got to our building, but not before walking past a myriad of construction workers and an assortment of "Village" buildings - all of which were dark and empty and in various states of disrepair. The grounds near our cottage were very nice, but everywhere you looked, in the distance, you saw piles of lumber or clear signs that things were still very much under construction.

The room was on the top floor of the cottage. The ceilings had sharp angles, so the room itself was quite small. Rather cute inside, but not large enough to do anything more than sleep or lay on the bed and read. There was large chair & ottoman tucked into a corner and looking at the entry bathroom doors. No deck, no patio, no fireplace, barely enough room to crouch. Shaving was fun, too - with the bathroom mirror not over the sink, but rather on an adjacent wall. The literature and their web says that The English Inn and Resort is "a tranquil five acre country estate located moments from downtown and the Inner Harbour" and invites you to "Relax in Four-Poster Canopy Beds and enjoy red brick fireplaces in a romantic atmosphere.." It also talks about a "Business center with high speed internet access, Complimentary national or local newspaper, Porter and luggage assistance, Room service, Night turn-down service, and says that you can "Enjoy our breakfasts, luncheons, afternoon teas and romantic candlelit dinners served in the grandeur of an English Tudor Mansion, overlooking the beautiful gardens (re-opening June 2004)" --- none of which were offered or provided.

If you wanted anything to eat or even drink, you were out of luck, since the dining room was still under construction and since you're located right in the middle or a residential neighborhood. It's a $10 cab ride after tips into the Inner Harbor area, (where all the action is) - a good 3 or 4 miles away and certainly not "moments from the inner harbor," as their web site indicates. There basically was nothing to do at the resort other than sit in your room or stroll around the grounds to enjoy a mix of construction activity and flowers. Not even many areas to sit and enjoy the beautiful gardens. And the Ann Hathaway cottage they boasted about was looking pretty tired and dismal - the roof is rotting and according to our shuttle driver, the owners haven't found anyone who can build a thatched roof so they've pretty much just shut it down. And that's exactly how it looks.

Shortly after checking in, we decided to make the best of it and took a cab into the Inner Harbor to stroll around and have dinner. On the ride into town, the cab driver told us that the Inn had a bit of a reputation for deceiving the public and that they'd been under construction for quite a long time. We started to realize that the reassurances we'd been given about all the construction being almost completed was all part of their carefully calculated plan to dupe the traveling public.

When we got into town, we headed straight to the Marriott and thankfully they still had rooms available for the following night. So we figured we'd spend the evening in town, take a cab back to the English Inn for the night, make the best of it, and check out bright and early the following morning.

We did just that. In fact, as we were walking out of our building, the lady who had checked us in was driving by on a golf cart. We told her we wanted to check out and she said she'd be right back - she just had to deliver breakfast to a room. Breakfast? That was news to us. She had never mentioned any possibility of getting anything to eat or drink nor was there any literature about any services other than a few binders full of menus sitting on a dusty bookshelf behind the front door of the makeshift office. Our irritation level grew higher as we strolled back to the office to check out. Rather than get into it all with her and ruin our day, we just politely said we were checking out and asked her to get us a cab.

We ask our driver to take us to the Marriott and he chuckled, saying that he wasn't surprised. He commented that he's taken a number of people away from the English Inn after only one night. His story pretty much mirrored what the other driver had said. He told us that they've been under construction for over 2 years now and that they're basically trying to become a wedding venue and seem to have no real concern for the people who are staying there while the conversion is underway.

We enjoyed the rest of our trip and had wonderful accommodations at the Marriott. As we were leaving, we had the bell captain at the Marriott hail us a cab. He asked us how our stay was and we told him it was much better than where we'd stayed the night before. When we mentioned the English Inn, he rolled his eyes and told us that he worked there for about 2 months and recounted some the same horror stories we'd already heard. He said that the owners are a very powerful family in Victoria, who own several restaurants and other establishments and they have a reputation for treating their employees and their customers poorly. He said that they always seem to take the "we'll-probably-never-see- these-tourists-again approach."

Everyone we spoke to about the English Inn & Resort seemed only too willing to share their dislike for the place - and with any prodding whatsoever. It was clear that our experience was by no means out of the ordinary. When I called earlier in the month, they knew that the inn was essentially the same as it had been when these other folks made their remarks on TripAdvisor.com last fall. And they knew that the reassurances they were giving me were nothing more than bold-faced lies.

A reputable business would have been up-front at the time I made my reservation and would have also posted information on their web site about the current state of affairs. The place looks like it must have been absolutely gorgeous at one time - but that time was probably 15 years ago - and certainly not today.

If you have any doubts, follow your instincts. Otherwise, just follow the sound of hammers and saws. Don't be misled as we were. Throughout our travels, we've found most travel industry professionals to be very polite, honest and accommodating. The English Inn & Resort is without a doubt our worst travel experience ever. Stay clear of it - unless you like vacationing in a construction zone.

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English Inn
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