Our Fictional Afternoon Tea Party

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Yep. Here we all are, my friends, stuck at home, spring outfits languishing unworn in our closets. And longing to wear our spring clothes. And longing for the company of someone other than our spouses or partners or children… much as we love them. Or maybe we’re just longing for company, period. I know I am. So, what could be better than an imaginary trip to an afternoon tea party in a lovely setting, with lovely food, and even lovelier friends? I mean, I ask you, what could be better?

Well. Let me wave my magic wand and tomorrow morning will dawn sunny and slightly crisp, a perfect spring day. The world will miraculously open up for readers of High Heels in the Wilderness. Women of a certain age all over the world will hop a flight, stow their chic hand-luggage under their seat on the plane, and graciously accept a glass of champagne from the handsome steward in first class. They are off to a very exclusive event. An afternoon tea party at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Canada.

When their flights touch down in Ottawa sometime around noon, these women will make their way in taxis and limos to downtown Ottawa. They will check into their rooms at the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier overlooking the Rideau Canal, and a few steps from Parliament Hill. Some will have a rest and a room service snack, others will go for a walk, to stretch their legs. But around 2 o’clock everyone will freshen up, change their clothes, and make their way downstairs to Zoe’s lounge where afternoon tea will be served at 3 o’clock.

Here’s what I’ll be wearing. I’ve been shopping my closet and, oddly enough, shopping Hubby’s closet too. Ha. Now that’s a turn up for the books. I hauled out and pressed my old Max Mara navy pantsuit. I’m so glad I had the pants let out last year. There’s room to tuck in my shirt and still allow for the afternoon’s indulgences. I’m also wearing Hubby’s lilac pink dress-shirt. I bought this for him years ago when we attended my friend Erica’s wedding. I had a new party dress, and he needed to smarten up his wardrobe. He was a trifle concerned about the colour at first. I’m wearing my collar out as per this season’s trend. It’s not quite worthy of the term “disco collar”, but it looks good, I think. I added this old pink and green silk scarf which I love. I feel spiffy and still comfortable.

What I'm wearing to our afternoon tea party. Max Mara suit, Paul Green boots, men's shirt from Holt Renfrew, silk scarf from Ogilvy's in Montreal.
Spiffy and still comfortable. I’m ready for tea.

Hubby will drive me to the Chateau Laurier; I’ll be way too excited to pay enough attention to things like traffic lights, and cyclists on the road. In fact I’ll be so flappy, as we say in my family, that I won’t shut up for the entire afternoon.

Invitation to our Afternoon Tea Party

Now, let me set the scene. The lobby of the Chateau Laurier is all marble floors, chandeliers, and artfully arranged sofas and side tables. Off to the right as you come in the main door is the lovely, oak-panelled Reading Room.

That’s where my friend Susan always meets me when we go to Zoe’s for tea. I generally arrive breathless and a bit late to find Susan sitting calmly reading her book. And today is no exception .

Passing through the Reading Room at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, as we walk through the hotel to our afternoon tea party at Zoe's.

Susan is wearing her very smart black St. John suit. Well, the jacket of the suit anyway, which she’s paired with her black NYDJ jeans. I love this outfit. As well I should; I was with her when she bought it. We proceed together into Zoe’s where others have begun to gather.

Zoe's Lounge at the Chateau Laurier where we will have our afternoon tea party.
Zoe’s Lounge where afternoon tea is served.

The first person we spy is Wendy from York, who is checking her lovely tweed coat. She’s been out for a walk before tea. I’ve met Wendy before; we had a wonderful chatty lunch in 2017 when I was in England. Coming from Yorkshire she knows how to dress for the capricious Canadian spring weather. Dottoressa waves from just inside the door. She’s wearing her Max Mara dress which I covet. Last fall Dotoressa and I spent a happy hour together coveting all the Max Mara stuff in the stores in Zagreb, before we met Hubby for lunch. It’s wonderful to see them both again. I introduce them to my friend Susan and they fall immediately into conversation… about books.

David the waiter, whom Susan and I both taught, appears with a tray of sparkling wine. He assures me that the tables are ready for tea, but there is no rush as we will have the place to ourselves. I do believe David pulled a few strings for that one. So, there is time for a cocktail and mingling.

My friend and book club buddy Janet waves and brings over her sister Patty who has flown in from Virginia. I met Patty last year when she was visiting Janet and came to a book club meeting. I love Janet’s fascinator. She rolls her eyes, always so self-deprecating. She’s a wonderful artist, you know. Patty is wearing her new birthday dress. Since the lock down she hasn’t had an occasion to wear it. Thank goodness we cooked up this party, eh? David hands Janet and Patty each a glass of champagne.

Oh, goodness there’s Rosie. I wave. Rosie’s no stranger to the Chateau Laurier. She and her husband and son stayed here a few years ago when they were in Ottawa. That’s when Rosie and I met for the first time. We had lunch in the Byward Market that afternoon, and we’ve both been regretting that we didn’t shop together afterwards. I think we might remedy that this visit, eh Rosie?

Rosie has been chatting with Ann from Missouri. They both love to travel. They talk about where they’ve been this year: Switzerland, Korea, Paris, a river cruise in Europe. And about the joys and perils of naturally curly hair. I’m not sure, but I think we might persuade Ann to join us for some shopping later. Miraculously, my friend Liz appears at my elbow. We hug. Maybe she might be able to arrange a little private shopping event this evening at Nordstrom? Liz laughs, “All in hand, Sue.” She’s so great.

And there’s Robin. Robin has been reading my blog since we discovered that we shared the same favourite book as children. Robin has the most gorgeous silver hair. I only hope that mine will look as good when it grows out. Ha. Fat chance. Robin’s son lives in Europe and she and Ellen from The Hague have been chatting about Robin’s trip last year. Ellen looks great in that animal print skirt, doesn’t she?

We chat about travel and clothes as we finish our champagne. And then I nod at David and he announces that tea will be served presently if we’d all like to be seated.

Oh, look. There’s Mel from Vancouver. I think she started her tea without us. Or maybe she has champagne in her teacup. Ha. Mel has flown in from Vancouver with my blogger buddy Frances, from Materfamilias Writes. I just knew that Frances would make it. She already knows several people here.

Mel from Bag and a Beret attends our afternoon tea party.
Mel of Bag and a Beret from Vancouver.

So we all progress to the tables. I see other blog readers: Lynda, Judy, Noreen, Faina, Elaine, Maria, and Ali. Ali and I were almost neighbours, but we never knew it at he time. Lots of my local friends and former colleagues are here. I’ve asked them to mingle and sit with ladies who might be a little shy, not knowing anyone else here. Erica, Arlene, Margaret, Joanne, Liz from New Brusnwick, Peggy, Alicia, and the two Nancys fan out around the room. My sister Connie has managed to find Deborah from the blog Daily Plate of Crazy. They both love poetry.

David bustles between the tables. He brings us all the most delicious complimentary cheese tray. Oh those runny cheeses, with fruit chutney, and crisp crackers go down well with a second glass of champagne. Then onto the main event, afternoon tea. We choose our teas. Steaming pots are delivered and poured. Tiered trays appear at each table. Tiny sandwiches: egg, shrimp with fresh dill, smoked salmon, radish carpaccio. Buttermilk scones, plain or cherry, clotted cream, strawberry jam. Sweets: black currant tarts, shortbread, rum and brown sugar cake, chocolate choux.

We indulge. Chatter dies down for a bit. David brings more hot water to freshen up the tea pots. When the plates are cleared away several people, including me, table hop. We want to chat with as many friends as we can. And after all there is no hurry.

Eventually, I clink my spoon against my cup and announce the second half of the afternoon’s fun. Liz has arranged a two-hour private shopping event at Nordstrom. And for those who don’t want to shop, my friend Erica who has connections on the hill, has organized a private tour of the spectacular Library of Parliament. Books, and more books, and history: I know many of you will be interested in that. Janet and my friend Margaret who is an artist and a former art teacher have kindly consented to give tours of the National Gallery. We will meet back at the Chateau Laurier for drinks and dinner at 8:00 PM. I know, I know… it was supposed to be only an afternoon party… but I could not bring myself to say good-bye so soon.

We divide up into three groups, and head off chatting happily, feeling like old friends already. For even though we’ve only met in real life this afternoon we are old friends, in a way, aren’t we?

Later we’ll freshen up, change into jeans, maybe have a quick nap, and meet again downstairs at eight. So happy to gather together again one more time. We exchange stories of our afternoon, talk about books and travel, and shopping. I think that some are even wearing their afternoon purchases. Good food, and wine, and great conversation make the time fly by all too quickly.

Then sadly, it’s time to say good-night. A few eyes tear up, mine in particular, as we say our farewells. Hugs are exchanged all round. Ottawa friends head out to their cars, or to taxis. Out of town guests who all have early flights make their way across the lobby to the elevators to return to their rooms.

I don’t want to go home, but Hubby has been waiting patiently in the Reading Room with his book for some time now. I reluctantly reclaim my coat from the coat-check. Then I notice that Dottoressa has spied Hubby and has sat down beside him. She waves at the other women in the lobby to come and meet Hubby. They all converge upon him. He loves it. David, who somehow still seems to be on duty, appears with a tray of coffee and brandies. Would we like an after dinner drink?

“Maybe it’s not quite time to go home… just yet,” I think, as I happily join them.

What an afternoon and evening I have wrought with one wave of my magic wand! Sigh. I do wish that all this was possible. And maybe one day it will be. πŸ™‚

If you joined us in spirit, but did not have time to send a picture of your outfit, please tell us in the comments what you were wearing. And what part of the day was your favourite.

Joining Catherine for #IWillWearWhatILike

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51 thoughts on “Our Fictional Afternoon Tea Party”

  1. What a truly delightful day you have conjured up. I would love to join you for your next one – please arrange a next one! I will happily fly over from the south of England, but hopefully sandals and short sleeves will be appropriate for your next party.

  2. Oh, I feel sooo good,my lovely elegant ladies,already! So nice to meet you in person! What a woderful tea party and an amazing place to visit
    Sue,thank you so much for inviting us and for planning such a treat for us all. It is a fantastic idea indeed
    I guess,I’ll have to stop here and go and pack,because I might be late (for a very important date :-)) for my plane.
    See you,
    Dottoressa
    P. S. How could you have guessed? I have to discuss all about history behind An Accidental Death with Stu

  3. Wendy in York

    What a lovely group of ladies & how kind & clever of you to gather us together in this way . There are some very unexpected pleasures in this difficult world around us just now & this has been one of them . I feel just a little bit β€˜ flat β€˜ now after all that excitement . Thanks again Sue – see you all again in the summer ?

  4. Well, that was fun. I meant to send my photo on Friday but…I forgot. And shortly after I was covered in emulsion paint so that rather took care of that. However, I was planning to be of the party in my black chinos, boots, black low-backed t-shirt and geometrically patterned black-and-white bomber. Diamonds and emeralds too. Soz. I think the bit I liked best was meeting, mingling, putting faces to pages and hooking David as he passed each time with the drinks tray. I snoozed back on the plane which, magically, only took an hour! Thanks for the invitation. We should do it again…

  5. It was great to meet all those smart ladies. I enjoyed the conversation about books and the shopping in Nordstrom. And the talk with Dottoressa about Zagreb! I have been there a couple of times with my husband. Thank you for a lovely weekend!

  6. Hi Sue, thank you so much for arranging such a wonderful few days! So much to see and do, and of course, such wonderful company!
    I especially enjoyed that we finally had time together to shop! So kind of Liz to arrange a private event.
    I was so happy to be staying at Chateau Laurier again, with its amazing views of the Canadian Parliament Buildings.
    Obviously my very favourite part was meeting up with everyone. Wonderful to actually meet Frances, Dottoressa and Wendy … always so much to chat about! So interesting talking to Ann, about various places we’d visited … whilst sipping champagne! Also hearing from Ellen about her life in The Hague. It’s one of my very favourite cities! I love to visit, so it’s was great to meet her and hear about her life there. Great that Stu was happy to join us and we could extend our evening with coffee and brandy. So lovely to meet him.
    Thanks again Sue … where should we all meet up next? 😊
    Rosie

    1. Ann in Missouri

      Rosie! What a treat it was to sit with you during the tea party and trade travel adventure stories. I’m so glad Susan put us together. And girl, your hair is gorgeous! As wild as my hair looks right now, it’s looking about as good as it’s going to look between now and June. The good news is I can now strut my inner wild child. πŸ™‚

      Susan, thank you so much for the party. Loved it! And yes … now let’s all go shopping!

      Ann in Missouri

      1. Hi Ann, thanks so much for your kind comment about my hair! So great to be able to put a face to your name now. You have a great smile … and great curls! As Sue said … how wonderful if one day we could all actually meet. Coincidentally, I was actually in Missouri last year, stayed in three cities there. Had a great time! Enjoy strutting your inner wild child and celebrating your curls! Take care, keep healthy!
        Rosie

        1. Ann in Missouri

          Thank you, Rosie for those sweet words. πŸ™‚ And yes, it would be such fun to get together for tea at the Laurier (a hotel I’ve stayed at several times and adore). I can easily imagine flying up to Ottawa for an IRL tea party with y’all. For realz. πŸ™‚

  7. Women know how to have a good time. Your introductions were so much fun. Thanks for letting me dream. I was there in spirit wearing my orchid pink linen blazer with similar coloured tshirt. My long pearl and silver necklace gave the outfit some sparkle. I was wearing my favourite FDJ jeans with my low black boots. Still dreaming.

  8. Hi Everyone…it was wonderful to meet you all. What a special day we had hosted by Sue!
    Sue…this was such fun and a great escape… honestly, I felt I truly was there.
    I look forward to our next one!!
    Stay safe.
    xx

      1. I would so love too… but, there is always a but… my son is moving at the end of the month..as his house sold. They may move here until everything settles, then onward to British Columbia. Timing..right!!
        Ps…we will practice the guidelines for 2 weeks. πŸ˜–

  9. Wow, you certainly did weave magic for us. Thank you. I must admit it has been quite some time since I have been to Ottawa. I only live near Guelph, but never have the chance. I was unable to send a picture due to the fact I had face surgery only last month, and that is not how I want to be remembered. But since this is such a wonderful fantasy, I will tell you about my outfit and experience. I wore my ‘murano glass’ looking midi skirt that sort of flows when I walk, my muted purple cashmere V neck sweater with a statement necklace, my new Geox silver ankle boots and a crystal (diamond?) clip in my hair. Trying new looks for hair now it is growing. Good thing I let it go silver last year. The most fun was getting to put a face with all the names we see regularly and connect with you as well. I appreciated the special shopping trip and Liz was fantastic at helping with the styling. I love my new dress with the 3/4 sleeves and of course more jewellery to add to the collection. All the opinions from everyone was so much fun in the dressing rooms. We really must do this again soon. Stu was so busy with all the ladies, I did not get a chance to tell him how much he is appreciated for keeping you well fed and company for your lovely walks along the river. The room was glorious and welcoming and I could have stayed longer, as a few others also mentioned. You must tell David that he is a treasure with all his attention to detail and warm smiles for us all. After saying goodbye and hugs all around it was back to my drive home with memories to last and cherish. Thanks for this Sue. You are even more marvelous in person if that is possible.

  10. Oh you darling! You were so kind to let me sneak in, when I was too disorganized to R.S.V.P. properly. Like Annie, I never did manage to send you a photo, although I did take one yesterday, finally, as I was running out the door to meet you all. I’ll post it on the blog later and link to your delightful account of a splendid afternoon in brilliant international company. xo

  11. Oh Sue! That was wonderful, and exactly what I needed to read and imagine today. Everyone sounds like wonderful company and conversationalists, which is my favourite thing of all. I think I would have worn some black slacks and a beautiful teal sweater that fits just right and everyone says makes my eyes change colour. But really – I would have been all about the shopping at Nordstroms where I would have looked for a smart jacket and some shoes I think! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    N

  12. Oh, I remember that shirt! Kevin wore one the same colour to Erica’s wedding, and I remember him kidding Stu about it. Thank you so much for inviting me to this wonderful fantasy. Even introverts can come to desire face to face time with more than one person after a while.

  13. I had loads of fun at your tea party and I met so many interesting ladies I would never get to meet under “normal” circumstances. Oh the elegant Chateau, the outfits, the treats, the gossip… and oh yes, the book recommendations. Thank you for inviting us all so we could make new friends and have some fun.

  14. Thanks so much Sue. I soooo needed that respite. I was observing your lovely group from another table and admiring their fashion panache and the incredible value of female friendship.

  15. Bonjour Sue,
    S’il tu plait, have another social gathering soon? It was wonderful to meet new friends and greet my cherished friends and family again! I relished every moment spent in the Chateau! Parfait!!!!

  16. Oh no! I forgot the date. I was so looking forward to it. It has been a rather a crazy week. Maybe all of us who forgot could get a second chance. I would love to revisit Zoe’s.
    I will even put makeup on for this momentous occasion. As someone above said, maybe this introvert can make an effort.
    Ali

  17. Spring outfits languishing indeed! My oh my. By the way, I love your scarf. And Mel! How elegant she looks!

    This was a fun read. (And a terrific idea.)

    xo

      1. So true. (Thanks for including me, by the way… My son in the UK was calling as I was finishing my comment and I exited rapido as he was describing conditions over there – and – his roomate’s bout with the virus and, yes, his own. (Mild, thankfully.) When I asked about testing, he just laughed… ruefully.)

        Please pass the teapot…

        xo

  18. Wonderful and wonderful! — the images, the story, the community — and, yes, the fun. I read it this morning and smiled and read it again just now, and the comments, and smiled more widely as before. Was I there with you all or in the lobby, watching and listening to the laughter and talk of you arriving and meeting and moving on into the tea room (added notes of silver and china clinking) — loving the variety of your accents and outfits and interests and specialities, and the unity of your commitment to dress and tea. What fun! Thank you!

    1. Now I remember! You saw me in the lobby and swept me on in with you all to the tearoom — what a warm welcome it felt, and such glad conversation! How fortunate that I was wearing my grey wool skirt (flares to mid-calf) and new-to-me cropped cashmere cardigan in a lovely iris-blue color. Thank you, again, for the lovely tea.

  19. What a lovely tea party, Sue! – if I remember correctly. That was brandy in my cup and I kept refilling it before I even arrived. Er, or was I there or not? No matter, what a great group of fabulous women. I love your suit, perfect for a genteel gathering. Thanks for the excuse to get out of the house to Ottawa by first class for this do. Wait, it’s coming back to me now. I remember grabbing desserts off everyone’s tea towers. Oh dear. I’ll never be invited again! My apologies.

  20. Thanks for your creative work that lifts our spirits. Can’t wait for the next β€œouting.”
    Thanks for sharing your giftedness with us.

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