When Thandi Williams was given the news that Prince William and his family would be staying at Government House this month, she anticipated her shopping list would have some difficult items to fill.
But as the days tick down to the royal couple’s arrival in Victoria on Saturday, so far nothing has been out of the ordinary — aside from the buzz amongst staff preparing the house for their stay.
“I was quite surprised that it wasn’t anything really huge that we had to do to make the arrangements for our visitors. You would think with the royal family coming to visit that it would be pretty outlandish or something that we’re not accustomed to, but it really wasn’t,” said Williams, director of operations at Government House.
“You can feel the excitement, you can feel the desire from the team to really put their best foot forward. If you think about this being the centre of hospitality for British Columbia, we really have a responsibility to showcase the best of our culture.”
Located in Rockland, Government House is the office and official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, who also provides accommodation to distinguished visitors like international royalty.
According to Williams, the house hosts more than 100 events each year so staff are continually making sure the rooms are up to par, polishing the silverware once a week, dusting the furniture and manicuring the extravagant grounds.
No major upgrades were done for the royal visit, but the worn out carpet in front of the building has been replaced and renovations were recently completed to make the washrooms accessible for wheelchairs.
Staff have also been child proofing the house to some degree for the couple’s young children — Prince George, age three, and 16-month-old Princess Charlotte. It’s rumoured a sandbox will be on hand for the children to play, but Williams was tight lipped on any details and how many people will be part of the couple’s entourage.
“We’re just trying to think what they might like to do while they are here if they do intend to stay within the grounds and what would be amusing for children of that age, so that’s where we started our planning and preparation,” said Williams, who’ll be placing local snacks in some of the 13 rooms.
When it comes to what will be on the menu for the royal family, Aleks Kornat’s lips are sealed. But the executive chef at Government House for the last two years has been busy this week, sourcing local products for meals that celebrate the best of B.C. Some food will be gathered from the orchard, vegetable gardens and beehives on the grounds.
Kornat anticipates a lot of late nights in the kitchen during the few days the couple are here, but he and his staff are already tingling with excitement about cooking meals for the biggest guests of his career.
“You don’t get that chance every day. It’s a great opportunity,” said Kornat, who’s cooked for a royal visit before and isn’t feeling too much pressure thus far.
“You always hear about the royals coming to Canada and you hear about other chefs in other cities getting them. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase B.C., showcase Victoria, showcase the house and have some fun with it at the same time.”
The royal couple, who will be in Victoria between Sept. 24 and Oct.1, have a number of things planned for their first trip to city, including visits to the Cridge Centre for the Family, tea at Government House with children and families from the Military Family Resource Centre, and sailing a tall ship with the Sail and Life Training Society before making their departure at the Victoria Harbour seaplane terminal.
During their week-long visit to B.C., the couple will also stop in Vancouver, the Great Bear Rainforest, Bella Bella, Kelowna, Whitehorse, Haida Gwaii, the Yukon and Carcross.
A welcoming ceremony will be held at the B.C. Legislature at 5:05 p.m. on Saturday. The grounds of Government House will be closed to the public from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.