At the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, something is abuzz. Fairmont hotels might be synonymous with luxury, but at this one, travelers can take one of the best free tours in Vancouver—a beekeeping demonstration.
Adjacent to the pool, this hotel features a rooftop garden and apiary, where every year the hotel’s 250,000 bees produce more than 200 pounds of honey on-site. In a partnership with Hives for Humanity, the Fairmont aims to educate travelers about the critical role bees play in our ecosystem, especially at a time where honey bee populations are declining around the world. The rooftop observatory hive is open at all times for guests, but from May to September, travelers should take advantage of a tour that runs every day at 2:00 p.m.
Free for guests and non-guests, the tours are run by the hotel’s Bee Butler (or another member of the “Bee Team”), who will walk you through the beekeeping process from the smoker to the collecting of honey.
My tour was led by Julia Common, the hotel’s Chief Beekeeper and a co-founder of Hives for Humanity. In the rooftop garden, a hive was taken out for the demonstration and the hotel provided beekeeping hats for anyone worried about getting stung.
As Common prepared the smoker to calm the bees, the group gathered around to watch her fill the shiny metal can with lavender and other fragrant flowers. “We started using flowers to make a beautiful aroma, and what we found out is that it actually calmed people down,” she told us. “The things the bees need for their good health actually end up being the same things we do—no stress, good diet, nice home, community.”
After the bees had been smoked, Common pulled out the first tray of the honeycomb, teaching us about its intricate systems. From the queen bee to the mortuary bee, she enthusiastically explained all the different roles of the hive, and her passion was contagious; our group inched closer and closer to get a better look at the misunderstood creatures.
Between my growing curiosity and the calming scent of burning lavender, I was eager to step forward when Julia asked who would like to hold the hive. One by one, every visitor who wanted to had the chance to get their picture taken with the hive and a thousand of the Fairmont Waterfront’s smallest employees. At the end of the demonstration, we all grabbed spoons and dug into the comb, tasting the honey fresh from the source.
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Do It for the Honey
Throughout the hotel, you’ll find honey everywhere. It’s for sale in the guest rooms and on the menu at the hotel restaurant, where many of the dishes incorporate it as an ingredient. You can also try tasting it my favorite way—in a cocktail.
The hotel partners with a local distillery that creates a one-of-a-kind spirit made from honey. Wayward Distillation House distills honey into mead and then repeats the process to create gin, vodka, and other specialty spirits. My favorite was the Krupnik, a spiced honey liquor, which is best served as a hot toddy.
Whether you’re getting hands-on with the bees or enjoying the taste of their honey from a safe distance—aka the hotel bar, a visit to the bee-loving Fairmont Waterfront is a must-do free tour in Vancouver.
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More from Smartertravel:
- Vancouver Travel Guide
- 10 Secret Places to Visit in British Columbia
- Watchmen, Orcas, and Matcha Green Tea: What It’s Like on the “Canadian Galapagos”
Jamie Ditaranto visited Vancouver as a guest of Accor Hotels. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.
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