Sunday, September 28, 2008

Season Ends Early on Outer Cape

With all the rain, leaves are beginning to turn. The season has screeched to a halt with this miserable weather. Provincetown was deserted Thursday when my guests from Germany feasted on lobster in one of the bayside restaurants. The whale-watching boats are stuck in port, unable to journey forth with rough seas. I called Terra Luna to make a reservation for our cottage guests, and although an earlier request had brought the news Terra Luna was open mid-October, now the plan had changed: their kitchen is only in operation weekends this fall. The Blackfish is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tourists, less numerous than during the summer, flock to the lower priced eatery options. As for the locals, they are hesitant to dine out, what with the uncertainty of the economy. I saw Steven Russell at the post office, and he said theater attendance is also down. Here at Chez Sven, I must finally admit the season is ending sooner than expected. While we have a few guests booked into the cottage, the main house is only full weekends. We still get phone calls, but people are requesting one-night stays, something Sven and I will not do …

Saturday, September 27, 2008

“Green” B&B US = "Eco-Conscious" B&B in Germany

One of the questions on our sign-in sheet asks guests, “How important to you is our being green?” They must circle 1, 2, 3, or 4. Most people hesitate between 3 and 4. I have had a few American guests, however, who were not even sure what green meant (!!!). Our current guests, in Wellfleet for two days of rain, unfortunately, felt challenged by the question and were good enough to explain why. In Germany, “green” is associated with a political movement. They said that I must mean “eco-conscious” and that the question seemed strange because practically everyone in Germany is eco-conscious. The waste basket has four compartments. Germans do not see walking simply as sport. They recycle and are willing to go out of their way to deposit glass at collection points in the city. Everyone cares about the environment. Cars have seals to show their pollution factor. Consumer surveys are held in high regard and people pay attention to which products are more ecological. Bio-fields are regulated so crops do not risk cross-pollination, as in England, for example. My guests explained the waste elimination program in detail. I told them the United States is not as advanced in practice or theory, although we have made great strides over the past couple years, and feel hopeful for the future, especially if Obama is elected. I was grateful to learn about how eco-conscious Germans are and will change the term on the check-in sheet!

Friday, September 26, 2008

International Travel Promotion Bill Passes the House

This week the House of Representatives passed the “Travel Promotion Act of 2008,” introduced by Barnstable County’s own William Delahunt, among others. Let’s hope the Senate will quickly follow suit and act on this bill, which will increase the number of international travelers coming to the USA, Cape Cod, and ...Chez Sven. To read the full press release, go here. The bill “establishes a public-private partnership to promote the United States as a premier international travel destination and communicate U.S. security and entry policies." Sven and I love receiving international guests. Sometimes Sven even gives them a special little tour of Wellfleet's beautiful beaches, or walks them to the pond. This past season approximately 15% of our guests have been from abroad.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wellfleet in September

The beauty of September in Wellfleet is "a secret treasure," according to my friend Steve Durkee. I was over helping with his garden this afternoon. The sky was bright blue. There was a crisp breeze over the harbor. Unfortunately, I cannot show Wellfleet's beauty today yet again because blogger will no longer let me post photos. No photos, no blog. Photos inspire me to write. I hope regular readers will be patient. Hopefully, the problem will eventually be resolved. Update 10/17: Problem solved, one month later! Comcast finally agreed to send a technician who changed all the Comcast equipment, modem, splitters, etc. The speed is now normal, and I can again upload photos. Hurray!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why Chez Sven Offers Organic Cotton Sheets

For an innkeeper, receiving a UPS shipment of new sheets is like opening presents at Christmas. I absolutely lo-o-o-ve new sheets. The idea that my guests will soon be experiencing such luxurious comfort makes me very happy. Organic cotton is especially soft, as well as being so much better for the environment. Once one has slept in organic cotton, polyester is out forever. When we started Chez Sven five years ago, finding organic cotton was a challenge. I eliminated many options and went directly to Coyuchi, which has a fantastic Web site and goes into detail about the chemicals involved in the fabrication of regular cotton (For instance, 100 chemicals can be applied to a single plant in one season in the USA; 1.25 lbs. of agricultural chemicals are used in California to produce the cotton for one set of queen-sized sheets; if all cotton were grown organically, the use of pesticides worldwide would be reduced by 24%.) Coyuchi no longer sells its organic cotton sheets retail online, but the Coyuchi brand can be found here. As innkeepers, of course,Sven and I are entitled to wholesale pricing on bedding, and quickly discovered sheets need bi-annual replacement, especially white sheets. We have been such good customers over the years that a Coyuchi rep called with a special 20% discount, no doubt due to the slow economy, on some new inventory. I was delighted to oblige and now can contemplate opening all these wonderful packages, which arrived last week. Another great bedding source is Cuddledown. All our duvets come from this Maine manufacturer. Cuddledown makes incredible stuff. Pillows, too. The company carries eco-friendly sheets, and, da-duh!, starting in 2009, will offer organic cotton as well. Finally, for those on a budget, last month Costco made organic cotton sheets available through their Web site. The queen set goes for $109.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What Makes a Good Bed & Breakfast Guest?

A recent comment to the blog from another innkeeper about our beloved green guests set me to thinking about what makes a good bed & breakfast guest. After five years of experience, I have decided the problem with guests from the United States is that they are not accustomed to staying in a person’s home. Rather, they behave more as one might at a hotel. Europeans have years of experience staying at B&Bs. Our guests from the UK are respectful and show real gratitude that we are sharing our house with them. Of course, one cannot generalize, but Sven and I have sometimes been faced with behavior that makes us wonder what people are thinking. Some guests act as if we were servants. (We aren’t.) And, this type of behavior is sure to draw a negative response. Innkeepers do provide a service, true. And, try to always do so with a smile. When guests book rooms, I ask for an approximate arrival time. Knowing when people plan to arrive helps me schedule other events during my day. You can bet that if someone says they will arrive at 2 and does not show up until evening like today, any innkeeper would not be pleased. Everyone has cell phones in this day and age. If one is delayed, it is simple to give a quick call. Changing an arrival time on the spur of the moment may work at a hotel, but it is not ideal for establishing the type of relationship we try to foster here at Chez Sven. Such behavior gets us off to a bad start. People who change their arrival time without warning, or arrive much earlier than expected, before we have finished preparing the room, for instance, do not win our hearts and minds. Part of the experience of staying at a bed & breakfast is the exchange of information that transpires between the hosts and the guests. I do not go the extra mile for guests who disrespect me. That being said, about 98% of our guests this summer have been wonderful, including the Americans. They have loved the experience of being here, and we have enjoyed their presence. These are the guests who know they have a home away from home here on Cape Cod and plan to return ….

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Environmental Concerns, Past, Present, Future

This week came news of a study in the United Kingdom, indicating that the BPA in our systems can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Here at Chez Sven, we no longer provide water in plastic bottles. Instead, I draw well water through a three-stage PUR filter and provide a glass pitcher of filtered well water in each room. I realize the filter is no guarantee, but drinking filtered water is certainly better than water that sat in plastic for days. Above is a photo of some of safer bottles guests brought this summer, decorated with great decals. It would be hard to live without plastics. Who knows how daily interaction with plastic, even the plastic in inner tubes, effects children? When you think about it, we have all been used as guinea pigs. I am hopeful that more attention will be paid to the environment after Bush leaves office. I am, of course, voting for Barack Obama. This morning, one of our summer guests emailed me her feelings on the upcoming election. I could not have expressed it more eloquently: “As far as the candidates for office go, I'd like to see someone elected (including senator, representative, pres/VP, etc.) that really care about preserving the environment. I want our decisions to be sustainable for our children and grandchildren and generations to come. I want the FDA to stop looking the other way while additives, dyes and preservatives are put in our food. And I want them to get serious about coming up with a solution that gets medical services for children who have autism or other medical conditions. I am concerned about Palin because she has a very young child with Downs Syndrome and I think she should be caring for it. But, then I am a stay-at-home mom who sees value in raising my own child.” For more information on Obama’s environmental plans, go here. I sought out McCain's position on the environment and learned about his "environmental wishi-washiness" here, after being dissatisfied with what I found on his official Web site.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A September Day in the Life

Sven and I cleaned Seagull Cottage and the Green Room during the morning, doing multiple loads of laundry. Then we waited all afternoon for guests to arrive. There were only a few cars parked downtown when I finally could dash into Wellfleet Marketplace to buy French bread to go with the Brie Sven loves. I swung past Hatch's in search of native strawberries from Canada for breakfast, and the veggie displays were already being dismantled. I saw seniors walking around shopping, but walking slowly, in time to the new pace Wellfleet adopts in late September. When you talk to shopkeepers and restaurant owners, you get the same response. Everyone feels the "season" has ended early this year, due to the economy. Here at Chez Sven, we continue to receive guests and feel lucky to have bookings for the next few weeks. Guests love the quiet, interrupted only by occasional birdsong. Our Green Room has won raves from our guests this summer, and I challenge any bed & breakfast owner to show me a prettier bathroom!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Great Guests, Great Photos!

One of the surprise benefits of being an innkeeper is getting to know the charming people who choose to spend their vacation at bed & breakfasts. On this breezy late-summer day, our current guests are off to the Atlantic. Over their Swedish breakfast, they reported masses of seals at Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro. Sven and I will have to head up that way as soon as we can, at low tide probably, when the seals congregate close to shore. In the meantime, we are enjoying photos sent by past guests who enjoyed Cape Cod so much they extended their stay. Here is the message these new friends sent with the great photos: "Hi Sandy & Sven, Hope things are fine and dandy on the Cape. We have extremely happy memories of our holiday and particularly good ones of our stay with you. You even managed to arrange for other pleasant guests to be around at the same time, how thoughtful of the hosts is that! We have been praising Chez Sven to our friends although that probably wont translate immediately into a traffic jam of guests along the Old King's Highway. We took quite a few photographs at Chez Sven but I don't want to overload your mailbox by attaching them all at once as they are 300-400K
each. So here are just two, depicting the proprietors themselves which we think are rather nice - hope you do too."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What To Do on the Beach in Cloudy Weather

Even when the sun refuses to shine, there are plenty of things to do at the beach: build sandcastles, swim, play with a boogie board, surf, read, relax, take a nap, walk, run, jog, walk a dog, fly a kite, collect pretty stones, look at seals, swim with the seals, look for old shipwrecks, chat, have a penetrating discussion, discuss life, picnic, do crossword puzzles, people-watch, take photographs ...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Surfers Make Headlines in Banner

A headline in the Provincetown Banner caught my eye this morning. During the summer of 2009, surfers will no longer be able to ride the waves at LeCount Hollow, otherwise known as Maguire Landing. They had chosen LeCount as their beach of predilection this year, creating problems for lifeguards whose job of protecting children suddenly became much harder than usual. White Crest is the beach where surfers used to go and probably will soon have to go again. The Selectmen will hold a meeting October 6 to consider this issue, as well as others related to our beaches. Personally, I hope the 2008 parking hours will also be changed, so that in 2009 guests can wander Wellfleet’s beautiful beaches until 10 am, rather than 9, and show up at 4 pm, rather than 5, the way the rules for sticker-less cars used to be when my kids were growing up.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Desperately Seeking Green Guests

I checked Plenty Magazine's “State by State Guide to Green Hotspots” and was delighted to find Chez Sven under Massachusetts. We hope this listing will bring us more green guests. We do not receive as many as we would like. They are certainly lurking out there in Cyberspace, but where?

Oh, how we do love our green guests! They recycle water bottles and turn lights off while they are out. They spend special care reading past issues of The Green Guide. They walk to town and back. Then go out again to eat at Wicked Oyster, five minutes away. Many of them hail from England or Germany, which makes me wonder why we receive so few from my own country. Why do Americans who care about the environment not come?

We tried membership or advertising at:

• Mother Earth News

I have come to the conclusion that although more people worldwide care about the environment, should they want to spend a few days at an intimate bed & breakfast run by green innkeepers, considerable effort is required to find us. Once we are found, however, our green guests tell all their friends. Apparently, the best green advertising remains word of mouth. They go home to Leeds or Liverpool with happy memories of Wellfleet, a place where beauty greets you in the most unexpected places, as illustrated by these photos of Duck Creek, taken yesterday, from the far end of the Mac's Shack parking lot.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Our B&B Serves Organic

The Seventh Generation Newsletter today brought a warning about irradiated foods,now that the FDA has decided irradiation is the way to go with more veggies, including lettuce and spinach. In their Quick Guide to Food Irradiation, the authors recommend eating organic and shopping locally, among other things, which is fine if one has that option, not always the case in winter. I learned that irradiated eggs lose up to 80% of their Vitamin A, and green beans, 95% of their lutein. In two weeks, one of my favorite local shops will close. Lauren, at Hatch's on the town hall parking lot, always tries to offer organic fruit and veggies. Here at Chez Sven, we serve as much organic food as possible simply because it is so much better for you. Recently, I discovered a great blog about eating local. It is called Diary of a Locavore and offers lots of good advice and recipes. The young writer is one busy woman, with a regular job, a time-consuming blog, and now a weekly radio gig at NPR’s Cape & Islands!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Time to Smell The Flowers ...

Yesterday we had what I call an orphan, a day without guests, except for Seagull Cottage. The house was quiet with just the two of us in residence. No coughs, no footsteps overhead, no requests for information. Time to watch the butterflies and hummingbirds, out in the flower garden, smell the flowers, and catch up on some favorite television shows.

I said to Sven this evening, after our new guests had moved in, “How different the house feels! I mean, yesterday, we were by ourselves, and now …”

“Imagine people who do this all year!” he exclaimed, not realizing that all year is what we actually do, although, it’s true, people don’t come to Wellfleet in the dead of winter, so it does not feel that way.

“You can’t give out the same energy when you do it all year,” I concluded.

Indeed, part of being a successful innkeeper is greeting new guests with enthusiasm, making them feel welcome, and remaining available at all times to answer questions during their stay.

Monday, September 08, 2008

LeCount Hollow: Surfers' Paradise!

The surf was up after Hanna rolled through, churning the ocean yesterday night. The parking lot at LeCount Hollow filled up fast today, perhaps one of the last truly hot weekend days of the summer. There were surfers everywhere. Sven and I went down to watch, as did many other folks, Wellfleetians and tourists alike. The wet-suited men and women hovered out on the Atlantic, awaiting that perfect wave. When it came, they took a ride. What they were doing looked like a lot of fun. Sven and I watched for a while, then walked down the beach to record evidence of Hanna's passage.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Love Nest"

This weekend novelty hit Chez Sven with a booking of our Green Room as a wedding gift. The donors descended Friday afternoon and decorated for over an hour. Check out the "Love Nest" they created! The newlyweds were to arrive last night after midnight in a limousine. Talk about a dramatic first night, with the wind whipping through the maple tree, thanks to Hanna! Needless to say, I did not wait up. They were to slip into the room and crash. Breakfast was to be served at 10. Did they make it to Wellfleet? Are they asleep? Is the room still empty? It is a mystery that I will only discover later in the morning ….

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Despite Great Press, Tourists Shun Cape Cod This Fall

Wellfleet was surprisingly empty yesterday evening as Sven and I drove through on the way to the library. After last month's crowds, the emptiness feels jarring. My proclamations of what the off-season is are being proved erroneous this year. September bookings are down, especially since I missed a double week-long booking mid-September from some folks in Germany due to a computer malfunction. People are not traveling as much, at least Americans aren't. We still have couples from England and Canada staying with us this week. Guests who went to The Juice on Tuesday found it closed. This was as distressing for them as for me. The weather is beautiful. The empty beaches are pristine. The back roads are easily navigated, except for Commercial Street, still blocked off due to construction. All the travel magazines tout September as the best time to visit Cape Cod. There is even an article about Cape Cod in Endless Vacation, which did not report correct rates for that other inn in Wellfleet, by the way, a mystery I have not yet figured out. So, where are the tourists? Not in the Baltimore/Annapolis area, according to a Twitter communication from The Wayside Inn. Their bookings are down, too. Here at Chez Sven, we were hoping for ecotourists, after an August write-up in the Ecobookers Newsletter, but apparently ecotourists are staying home this fall as well. What a shame! Wellfleet is amazing in September. Check out the many activities possible in nearby Dyer Pond: swimming, making sand castles, boating, dreaming, chatting, in sum, enjoying life ...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Why We Do Not Do One-night Stays

Over the last week, requests for one-night stays have rained down on us like last month’s hail, cold and sharp. While I understand that folks are looking to save money with gas costs so high, the fact remains that one-nighters are not something that interest Sven and me. We believe that, for a bed & breakfast experience to be rewarding, an overnight stay falls short. First off, there is so much to see and do in the area. Second, sleep-eat-and-run is not what Chez Sven is about. Think slow food, relaxation, comfort. (For instance, this morning we both joined the conversation around the breakfast table, an experience that was as stimulating for us as for our guests.) Third, if I were to book one night, it would diminish the options for guests desiring longer stays. (I feel especially frustrated by requests for Saturday night alone. It would be loony to book Saturday because that orphans Friday and we lose half the weekend income from one of our three rooms. Yes, this is a business, not a hobby!) And, of course, fourth, one-night represents more work, not desirable since Sven, a retired history professor, has reached the venerable age of 70, although it does not show. Guests, who are in a rush, do better at one of the local hotels, and this is what I tell them.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Brief History of Uncle Tim's Bridge ...

According to my stat counter, a frequent Internet search is Uncle Tim’s Bridge, which extends from Commercial Street to Cannon Hill. Uncle Tim’s Bridge is a special place for Sven and me because we were married at the foot of the bridge ten years ago. How beautiful it was there this morning! The wooden footbridge was constructed in 1844. For years, residents of South Wellfleet used it as a shortcut into town. David Wright of the Wellfleet Historical Society informed me that the structure was simply called “the bridge over Duck Creek” back then. No one called it Uncle Tim’s Bridge until the 1940s. And, yes. Uncle Tim did exist. He was one Timothy Daniels, a man who lived at the bottom of Whit’s Lane and supplied the ships that docked nearby. Mr. Daniels also took people out on fishing excursions and, quite the self-promoter, referred to himself as “Uncle Tim.” He died in 1893, but his name lives on.

Every dozen years or so, our beloved bridge needs repair of some kind. David told me that, at one point, the question arose of whether to keep the bridge open at all. Of course, the folks of Wellfleet voted with their hearts. The scenic bridge had already become a favorite destination, viewed with nostalgia by residents and non-residents alike. It is now time for a total makeover. Thanks to the Community Preservation Act and funds voted at Town Meeting, Uncle Tim’s Bridge will undergo reconstruction, starting tomorrow. Commercial Street, from Main Street to Whit’s Lane will be closed through Thursday while the contractor brings in equipment and materials. The bridge will not open to foot traffic until the work is completed in late October.