Monday, June 30, 2008
This last day of June began early for me, since I always rise an hour before breakfast. Our current Liberty Coin Suite guests are attending the Cape Cod Institute and therefore need to eat early. It rained last night, so I set the breakfast table inside. I served fruit salad, homemade yogurt, granola, and Dancing Deer coffee cake. Then I showed my Green Room guests some Assessor's maps of Wellfleet and described various hikes through the National Seashore. I did not clean, I did not iron, I did not make beds, I did not wash linens. I did not even go to the beach, although I did hear it was beautiful there this afternoon. Instead, I devoted several hours to BY BEA'S BEDSIDE, the first time I have worked on the manuscript in months. Then I wrote a query letter. I answered a lot of phone calls and several email requests for rooms in July, of which we have none. The only time I went out was to shop at Hatch's, behind town hall. Fortunately, the strawberry farmer had just pulled his truck into the parking lot, allowing me to purchase native strawberries, which I will serve for breakfast tomorrow. While waiting in line, I observed a woman's request for organic broccoli, "the only thing" her children would eat. A good sign when visitors to Wellfleet request organic products! It means we may have more year-round.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:20 PM
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Check out this photo of one of my hanging baskets. I took it down to water more efficiently and, surprise, surprise, inside found a nest. I had seen a bird flitting in and out, but did not think the bird would really use the flowers as shelter. The bird is a type of wren, which Sven and I call "The Spiller." She has earned this name by knocking seeds out of the feeder, as if on purpose. We are surrounded by birds here in the woods. Often, early morning, I hear them singing. My favorites are the catbirds, because of their special melodic song, when they choose to offer it up. Here is a recent comment from our guestbook, written by a lovely woman who grew up in Wellfleet and noticed the difference of waking up surrounded by nature: “Such a treat to get up in the morning with that beautiful birdsong and fresh Cape air. Lovely, lovely garden. Delicious breakfasts. Thanks for a wonderful stay!”
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:57 AM
Friday, June 27, 2008
This morning I discovered yesterday's post was summarized here. I went down to the library to fetch some books and learned the ZBA was obliged to pass the project since there had not been enough time to create new laws to prevent, or at least limit, such monstrous buildings, totally out of scale with the rest of town. I do not have a photo of the proposed house, but there is a whole article on the subject in the latest Cape Cod Voice. Think about the heating bill! I hope the owners are concerned about climate change and use high R quality insulation rather than put in central air. Here in Wellfleet the temperature usually falls at night in summer, and there is frequently a breeze.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 1:53 PM
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Typical summer dwellings in Wellfleet used to be two or three-bedroom cottages. These cottages were well hidden in the woods. Since cottages were used less than four months a year, the buildings were not winterized. Then developers entered the picture in the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties. They bought up woodland and built communities with windy two-lane paved roads. The general aspect of these communities reminds me of the suburbs of any American city. Wellfleet has several with attractive names such as Wellfleet Woods. The new houses were bigger than the cottages, but not out of proportion to their surroundings. You like them, or you don't. If you don't, you have the choice to stay away. It is possible to drive around town without entering any of the developments. Times have changed again and more property is up for sale, including some of the original summer cottages. The term "tear down" has crashed into our vocabulary, as has "McMansion." With the construction of these mega houses, Cape Cod will change forever. Tourists used to come here in search of something different, a reminder of what the simple life used to be. They stayed in small motel cabins or rented a cottage and enjoyed the quaint landscape, beaches and ponds. In 2008, summer tenants from the city have become even more demanding. While on vacation, they want air-conditioning and cable and an outdoor shower. They cannot live without wide-screen TV. It seems absurd to be able to impose such things but it is happening. Landlords can say no, but the tenants simply take their dollars to the next rental option. Once these folks have summered in Wellfleet for a couple years, they want to own property here, too. However, none of the existing housing will do, too small. These folks, with cash in hand, buy a house, tear it down, and rebuilt. Bigger. Much bigger. The change will destroy the very quality that attracts people from all over the world. The McMansion craze has reached such proportions that the town and the National Seashore are joining forces to oppose a house on a dune across from the Herring River Dike. The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on the subject will take place tonight. The McMansion in question is a large, sprawling edifice that will replace the torn down "Billboard House" and sully the incredible view of National Seashore wilderness, precious to Wellfleetians. I feel lucky to have our old Cape Codder, built in the 1700s. It is plenty big enough for me.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 1:14 PM
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I love lavender season. Cape Cod has a lavender farm in Harwich. There is a beautiful bouquet of lavender in front of the Blue Heron Gallery downtown. I also have lavender in my garden. Our current Green Room guests were taking photos of the garden and telling me how much they enjoyed visiting Wellfleet's galleries yesterday when it was cloudy. Today the sun is out and they are heading to the beach. I bet Blue Heron was one of the galleries they visited!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 2:35 PM
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Winslow’s Tavern is a great place for a quiet lunch or dinner. We parked in the lot behind town hall, right in the center of Wellfleet. I had heard from guests that the bistro fare was excellent at Winslow’s. We were not disappointed. As I peered around at the pale yellow walls and wide pine boards of what had once been Aesops’ Tables, my daughter commented that the place seems bigger now. Indeed, the restaurant was gutted three years ago and what an incredible renovation job! Pillars and plants divide the various sections of the dining room. It is also possible to dine outside. I noticed the fresh flowers on our table as I perused the spring menu. Our waitress described the specials with a smile. After a yummy Gazpacho, I enjoyed blue fish with potato salad. My daughter ordered Grilled Shrimp and Scallop Skewers with Greens and Pea Salad. I had heard from guests that the wines are great, but we opted for a pitcher of white Sangria. From the desert menu, we chose panna cotta and pot de crème. The former was light and delicious. The dense chocolate of the pot de crème would have been the perfect choice for three people who wanted to share. Tracy, the owner, stopped by our table to make sure all was well. I will continue recommending Winslow’s Tavern for its bistro menu, easy parking, pleasant ambiance, and gracious hosts.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:14 AM
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Children love miniature golf. The game was patented by Garnet Carter in 1927 at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. His “Tom Thumb Golf” had a fairytale theme. By 1930 Carter had sold over 3000 franchises. I do not know when the first mini-golf opened on Cape Cod, but the game has been popular here in summer since the Sixties at least. My kids always wanted to play. To their minds, a vacation without mini-golf would not be a vacation. There are fourteen courses listed in the Yellow Pages, including one at the Flea Market in Wellfleet. According to Cape Cod Life, Pirates’ Cove in South Yarmouth is the best miniature golf on the Cape. It has won “Best Kid’s Activity” from 1996-2007. There is a small mini-golf located next to the driving range in Eastham. A game costs $2. The crew at Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar recently renovated their miniature golf, also in Eastham. The setting is attractive with waterfalls, shade trees, and rose bushes. You can even learn trivia about the Cape, like this bit of information on Eastham's windmill, below. A game is pricey at $8/person, money well spent on a hot summer’s day like today. Cedar Banks Links Adventure Golf, beside Arnold's, is open 10 am to 10 pm.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 2:42 PM
Friday, June 20, 2008
We no longer hear coyotes howl at night. They have moved further up the Cape, or into the National Seashore. The positive thing about coyotes was that they ate the rabbits. Now the rabbits are back. Mother Rabbit even sent Baby Rabbit into my garden with a recommendation to eat the morning glories and correopsis before the stems became too tough to chew. She also advised that the fresh young cosmos sprigs are especially tasty, with a flavor similar to feathery carrot tips. How happy she was when I planted beans! My daughter Stephanie helped me with the trellis. The beans are for Juliette, my granddaughter, who is coming here in a few weeks. I have not grown pole beans in a while. They quickly sprouted. Mother Rabbit saw the purple leaves poking out of the ground and quickly sent Baby Rabbit into the vegetable patch where my sister-in-law had planted peppers. My sister-in-law had shrugged when I asked if rabbits liked them. Well, they do. So, this morning, I transplanted the peppers into the fenced garden by the road. I also moved every single bean plant and relocated the trellis beside the bush beans, several weeks ahead of the pole beans and getting ready to produce vegetables for little Juliette.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:40 AM
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Sunbathers were enthralled by the surfers at LeCount Hollow Beach this afternoon (above). By the time we had walked down to Marconi, storm clouds were rolling in and the vista had completely changed, but the surfers were still out there, enjoying the waves (below). To continue from yesterday's blog with more details from the library's calendar, the Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries' Annual Distinguished Speaker will be Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard and author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, July 17 at the Congregational Church. I also noted that my friend Selectman Dale Donovan will speak about lighthouses July 9, an event sponsored by the Historical Society of Wellfleet. David Wright will discuss his forthcoming book on the shellfishing industry, also a Historical Society event, September 10. There are lots of great lectures and events to attend, so do check the calendar.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 6:16 PM
Monday, June 16, 2008
I was admiring the wild roses on my drive to Wellfleet Public Library where the latest book by Margot Livesey awaited me, obtained through CLAMS. There are wild roses here at Chez Sven, along Old King's Highway, but they do not climb as high as along the road from the dump to the library. The blossoms were literally up in the trees. At the library, Elaine McIlroy gave me a copy of the summer program and told me Margot Livesey will be reading from The House on Fortune Street July 10th at 8 pm. I whooped with joy, not having expected to have the opportunity to get my copy of her earlier book, Eva Moves the Furniture, signed. There is always so much going on at our library in the summer. I noted other speakers, including Ruth Nemzoff who will read from her new book Don't Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children (July 28), one lecture I should certainly attend, and Daniel Heyman, who will discuss his work making portraits of Iraqi torture victims as personal political statements and as part of a long tradition of printmakers who recorded wars in their art (July 22). Finally, there was news of the popular annual Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries book sales, July 13 and August 10.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 5:23 PM
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Yesterday evening our guests went to Duck Harbor to see the sunset, but a front rolled in and no sunset was to be seen, so I thought I would post this photo for them from last year. I was sitting outside, yesterday morning, talking life with two of our other weekend guests, and more specifically discussing my hope to install solar panels in the not too distant future, when it occurred to me how pleased I was that Roland, from Germany, and his fiancée, Caroline, from England, had chosen Chez Sven. I will send them an article that was awaiting me online this morning, sent my son Paul. Our Liberty Coin Suite guests, also leaving today, told me they had photocopied an article from one of our Green Guides. What's more, they intend to subscribe and will tell all their friends about this wonderful publication, now published by National Geographic. A most successful weekend!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 11:35 AM
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Tomorrow the Wellfleet Historical Society will hold its annual Strawberry Festival on the lawn behind Preservation Hall, formerly the Wellfleet Catholic Church, in the center of town. This is an event which I always seem to miss, since I am either waiting for guests or tidying up. The time is 2:00 o'clock to 4:00. We have a full house this weekend, and I told them all to check out the event. Guests are emailing every day now for the Fourth of July. Unfortunately - for them - we are fully booked. This year folks seem to be booking more in July than August, an unusual phenomenon which I have never experienced before. Here are the organic strawberries which I served this morning, ripe and flavorful, straight from Barnstable via Hatch's fruit stand.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 9:42 AM
Friday, June 13, 2008
According to I Love Inns, every guest is looking for an authentic experience. What is happening during their visit in Wellfleet? What is like to live here? Well, just read this blog to know that! We bend over backwards to provide an authentic experience and are happy when our guests are happy. The two people who stayed in Seagull Cottage last week were among our most enthusiastic guests. Here is the note they left: “Our three-day weekend was blissful. We felt like we were cherished guests of a dear friend or cousin. After a warm welcome, we were on our own to enjoy the comforts of home. Seagull Cottage is indeed a little jewel.” While I am really pleased at such positive feedback, I would like to explain why staying in the main house can be rewarding, too. In the cottage, we greet guests and explain Wellfleet. Then we leave them alone. Seagull Cottage is perfect for a romantic getaway. Main House guests – both Green Room and Liberty Coin – interact with me every morning. Through serving them breakfast, real contact is an option. Sven found a Liberty Coin under the Main House floor and loves to tell the history of our old house. Guests remember such a place. Indeed, word of mouth is our best source of publicity!
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:22 AM
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Folks arriving in Wellfleet this summer will notice some changes along Route 6. Behind and left of Shepley's lumberyard, a large wooden edifice is slowly rising, which is to become Wellfleet's Catholic Church. Across the highway, Eric's Seafood is now Monkey See, Monkey Do, a restaurant that serves pizza. Shepley's took the spot that once belonged to Consider the Lilies. Visitors who regret the loss of a garden center will be happy to know Sunflowers Nursery has opened in South Wellfleet, a great place to pick up one last hanging basket. Further down the road, towards Truro, the structure that will become our fancy new fire station is already making firemen smile, while townsfolk shrug as they drive past, aware we need a better facility but none too pleased that our taxes will increase.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 2:55 PM
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Today I had occasion to drive down to the pier, past Mac's Shack, one of my destinations, in order to refurbish our restaurant book with current menus. I snapped this photo from the parking lot of the tide changing at Uncle Tim's Bridge. The Mac's Shack staff was busy preparing food. Seems folks love eating there. We had two sets of guests who refused to go anywhere else. Four nights of Mac's Shack for each set, despite my entreaties. Mac's got a great review in the New York Times last year. In 2008, Mac's was reviewed by Frommer's. Here is what the reporter wrote: "Mac and Alex Hay are brothers on a mission: They want to run the best darn clam shack on Cape Cod. In 2006 they rehabbed the landmark Lobster Hutt building (it's the large building with the boat and fisherman on the roof) and opened to the raves of the summer crowd. Come here for Wellfleet's world-famous oysters from an expert shucker at the extensive raw bar. Standard clam shack fare, such as lobster dinners and fried clams, is served, and there's a sushi bar." (Frommer's content excerpted from Frommer's Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard 2008, Wiley Publishing, Inc.) Clam shack? Pretty sophisticated food for a clam shack, if you want my opinion. I loved the tofu with green mango, no longer on the menu. It is simpler than last year, which is good because too much choice can be confusing. Next time I go, think I'll try the Coconut Curried Scallops or maybe the Wasabi-Soy Marinated Salmon or the Swordfish with Red Pepper Coulis ... Mmm-hmm! Oh! And Mac's serves clams, too.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 7:43 PM
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
As I age, I notice the beauty in Nature much more. Sometimes I wonder why. Was I too busy leading my life as a younger person to take the time required to see what was before my eyes, or have I changed so that natural beauty seems more wonderful than it did before? Here in Wellfleet we are fortunate to be surrounded by Nature. The Atlantic Ocean, from Ocean View Drive, takes the breath away, stretching across the horizon, like an enormous tea cup, full of deep blue. Gull Pond, in the photo posted yesterday, shines like an enormous topaz or opal. Dyer Pond, in winter, crusted with ice, sparkles with diamonds of light. My favorite drive, as I never fail to tell our guests, is up Chequessett Neck. The view across the water towards Great Island is spectacular, especially at sunset. But I do not have to go out to observe beauty. Yesterday, as I peered from the kitchen window, sunshine, streaming through the Japanese maple leaves, stopped me dead in my tracks. And now the Oriental poppies have opened in my front garden. They look almost artificial, like pink tissue paper some clever person has twisted into flowers. Yet, they are real. I want to share their beauty with blog-readers today, both young and old.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 10:24 AM
Monday, June 09, 2008
I just had a potential guest request one night, “since our season has not started yet.” I shrug off such comments and explain we do not do one-nighters as a general rule, that the season at Chez Sven is not just July and August, the way it may be elsewhere. Preparing a room is hard work for the innkeeper. I do the job myself, but if I hired someone, the cost would be around $50/hour. It takes more than two hours to prepare the cottage, which is a total of four rooms. Amenities cost around $10. Organic breakfast for two runs $20 to $25. Then there is the wear and tear on the organic cotton sheets and towels to figure in, as well as electricity, and propane for the cottage. If one does not take the monetary aspect into consideration, there’s this important fact: tourists need more than one night to optimize a stay here. Wellfleet is the perfect spot to anchor oneself and discover Cape Cod. Guests often take a trip down to Provincetown, and another, in the opposite direction, to Chatham. Folks who chose June this year have enjoyed amazing weather, deserted beaches, free parking at town beach parking lots until the 21st, no waiting in lines at restaurants for dinner, reasonable traffic on Route 6. Three nights provide a change of rhythm and time to relax. Guests leave Chez Sven feeling refreshed. As innkeepers, we would not have it any other way.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 12:56 PM
Saturday, June 07, 2008
The Orleans Farmers' Market is a great place to shop for herbs and veggies. I stopped there today on the way home. Half a dozen gardeners had set up stands and were hawking, for the most part, heirloom tomato plants, all healthy and strong. Lots of interesting herbs were also available. I purchased a climbing nasturtium to shield the outdoor shower, since the one I planted does not seem to germinate, and a Mexican bush sage that will provide long purple spires in the fall. The ladies at the library love the bouquets I bring in and always ask, "What is this beautiful flower?" Honey can also be purchased. The farmers' market brochure advertises eggs, but I did not see any. Perhaps they were all sold? You can be sure all the leftover tomato plants will go into the ground and their fruit will be available Saturday mornings from late July through October 11. Open from 8 to noon, the market is located on Old Colony Way.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 5:12 PM
Thursday, June 05, 2008
My brother, Nick Grabbe, is a reporter in Amherst. Seems to me, whenever he comes to visit, the least he can do is guest-blog. Don't you think? "Whenever I come to Wellfleet, I'm impressed at how my sister has transformed the house I've been coming to for 37 years. This time, the room I'd always known as a living room has become a kitchen/dining room, and the old kitchen and dining room have been reborn as a guest room. I can scarcely remember what it was like before. Even though it's been cloudy and rainy for my two-day visit, I've enjoyed hunkering down indoors and reading and talking to my sister and niece. And how many days in June can you go to Newcomb Hollow Beach and have it all to yourself? The rain was also good for the six tomato plants I placed in the garden, and maybe they'll still be there if I get to return in October. I've always enjoyed Wellfleet the most when it's not occupied by vacationers, when I can enjoy its beauty and seclusion without the traffic and noise. I used to think I wanted to retire and run a bed & breakfast, until my wife convinced me that I wasn't temperamentally suited to that kind of work, that I'd wind up insulting my guests like John Cleese on 'Fawlty Towers.' I admire my sister for turning my parents' home into an inn and marvel at how well she runs it."
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 11:05 AM
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I sometimes blog based on recent Internet searches that lead people to Wellfleet Chezsven Blog. The search, which has appeared the most frequently of late, is “ticks on Cape Cod.” As regular blog-readers and former guests know, I had Lyme Disease three years ago. I did not see the tick that bit me. The doctors had the darnedest time figuring out what was wrong. Since that experience, I have learned a lot about Lyme and ticks in general. Here are a few basic pointers for anyone who plans to vacation on Cape Cod this summer. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease and/or bacterial infections, which you want to avoid at all costs. Ticks, carrying disease, exist in all but 13 of the United States. I advise guests that ticks are prevalent on Cape Cod, and have reached epidemic proportions on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. These tiny creatures travel on deer, birds, mice, and other warm-blooded wild animals. They are out there, looking for a blood meal. It is best the meal not be you. One way to deter ticks is to use bug spray while outside. I also do a thorough tick check every night before bed. They say a tick has to be attached for up to 24 hours to regurgitate the spirochetes or bacteria into its victim, but who knows really? If you find a tick, you should remove it immediately. This year Outer Cape Health offers two pamphlets. The first contains general information. The second provides directions on how to send a tick to IGeneX, Inc., a laboratory in Palo Alto, in order to identify which diseases the tick may or may not carry. Each test costs $65. It takes from seven to ten business days to receive the results. The flyer suggests tick removal with tweezers. “Grasp the tick mouthparts close to the skin. Avoid squeezing the tick, which may spread infected body fluids. Pull the tick straight out. Do not twist. Do not attempt to burn the tick. Wash your hands with soap and water. Apply antiseptic to bite site." This month’s issue of The Cape Cod Voice contains an article about chronic Lyme and the problem that some local doctors are slow to identify Lyme disease. When in doubt, seek second and third opinions, which is what I did. Once the flu-like symptoms had passed, I felt total fatigue, which lasted for months. It is best to get the antibiotic into your system fast, as it is toxic to the spirochetes. If Lyme is diagnosed early, three weeks of treatment should suffice. My case was not diagnosed for two months, so an infectious-diseases doctor, who happened to be an old friend, advised six to eight weeks instead. After a Lyme specialist told me I was cured and I knew I was not completely, I consulted a doctor at Whole Health New England, who said we simply do not know because the spirochetes can hide in your cells. He gave me Transfer Factor Basics and an herb called Cat’s Claw. I do feel better now. This year the Massachusetts Health Department created a sign, which was handed out to local businesses. I display the sign in our kitchen and discuss Lyme disease prevention with every guest, warning them all to take precautions.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 5:08 PM
Monday, June 02, 2008
On busy weekends, the parking lot at PJs is always crowded, a sign of affordable food. The restaurant has been in the Reeves family for 38 years. Located on the corner of Cahoon Hollow Road and Route 6, an easy walk from Chez Sven, PJs used to be just another burger joint. When my kids were small, we always walked down for ice cream. Last year guests reported favorably on a lobster dinner from PJs, so I decided to check it out. Sven tells me the sandwiches are great, too. There's certainly an enormous selection of seafood dishes from which to choose. Guests can eat inside or out. Here a couple waits patiently for their order. A seafood dinner runs around $15. If you are looking for a quick meal, PJs is a good place to stop once you reach Wellfleet.
Posted by Alexandra Grabbe at 8:38 AM