Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Documentary Airs on 21st Century Artists in P-town

In the photo to the right, Rose Ireland paints at Chez Sven in 2007. We exchanged accommodation for a painting. At Chez Sven, we believe artists should be encouraged. They have so much to contribute to society. It is not easy to survive in today's world by selling art. Indeed, being an artist who lives on the Outer Cape has become a challenge. Today NECN ran a great documentary on this subject. ArtSpirit beautifully summarizes contemporary living in Provincetown, where artists may hold three jobs during peak-months in order to pay rent and create art the rest of the year. To watch the trailer at Triumbrant Productions, click here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pleasant Memories of Wellfleet, 2008

Often, at the end of December, we like to think back over pleasant memories from the past year, and more specifically the last six months, the seasons of summer and fall. April saw the completion of our renovation project. The northern wing now boasts the most beautiful bathroom for miles around and a very green bedroom with vintage beams of yellow pine. In town, Uncle Tim’s Bridge was reconstructed. Here is a view of the original, creaky and weatherworn. At the ocean, an amazing shipwreck turned up at Newcomb Hollow, drawing tourists from all over New England. I especially enjoyed my trip to the Atwood Higgins House in the National Seashore and can now recommend the experience. We were graced with lovely guests in 2008 and feel grateful they chose Chez Sven. One recommended a local masseuse. Sven and I checked her out and made a new friend. We made a second friend when we received fellow elderblogger, Ronni Bennett, and enjoyed sharing the beauty of Wellfleet with her. One couple invited us to visit them in York. Another left us some great wine to express their appreciation for Seagull Cottage. A third showed me how to make lavender wands. All enjoyed my new organic scones. We were busy through Thanksgiving, when the economic crisis put an abrupt halt to reservations and even produced some cancellations for 2009. Now, as we close the book on 2008, let’s remember how delicious Wellfleet is, sparkling in the summer sun. I love the photo below because these carefree folks walk with such abandon, possible only on vacation. Where are they going? Down Newcomb Hollow Beach to visit the shipwreck!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

End-of-Year Gifts

It’s end-of-year gift time again. When you consider which charities to support for 2008, please listen to this short message from Gillian Caldwell at 1Sky who emailed to thank me for caring: “In just a matter of months, by standing with more than 125,000 other climate advocates and more than 330 allied organizations, you've helped put climate, clean energy, and green jobs on the top of the agenda for the president-elect and the next Congress.”

End-of-year movies are also here. Visit Sven’s Distant Mirror blog to see which movie we actually saw in a theater this weekend.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

When Sven and I walked through town, which sparkled in the Christmas sunshine, we noticed this lovely wreath, decorating a Main Street real estate office. We hope your Christmas is merry and bright!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dyer Pond, in Winter

Walking to Dyer Pond ahead of Sven, I felt like the icebreaker, crunching along, past broken branches, deeper and deeper into the forest. Footprints indicated other beings had gone before, both human and animal. Deer, surely, from the paw size, or perhaps coyote? There were straight lines, too. Ski tracks? The lines could also be evidence of all-terrain bikers, out on a joy ride. Puddles had frozen, here and there, so the path proved quite treacherous. Hugging the snowy edge, I proceeded with caution, from time to time flinging my arms out for balance, like a tightrope walker. Down by the pond, as evening descended, ice formed in crisscross lines, cracking the surface in a vise-like grip, freezing the western corner for this week of holidays. If I could wrap a big red ribbon around Dyer Pond and present it to blog readers as a present, I would. Instead, here are two photos from yesterday's excursion.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Statistics Show Increase in International Tourism

No white Christmas for Wellfleet in 2008! The snow that fell, earlier this week, is almost all gone. Not much happening downtown. The fence posts beside Preservation Hall are adorned with Santa Claus caps, so Christmas cheer is on display, although there has been a call for help from local food pantries, and the mood remains glum at the grocery store, where specials are now posted by the door. The temperature may be frigid but the statistics, released by the Commerce Department, are heart-warming. 39 million visitors from abroad traveled to the United States during the first nine months of 2008, an increase of eight percent over the same period in 2007. The United Kingdom was well represented with 37% of all Western European arrivals. German arrivals increased 20 percent, French arrivals 28 percent. Swedish arrivals increased 21 percent. May these trends continue through 2009 and beyond!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Arrives in Wellfleet Ahead of Schedule

Wellfleet awoke to a winter wonderland. The branches are loaded down with at least an inch of snow. Flurries still fall and a second snowstorm is expected tomorrow. The snowplow has not yet descended Old King’s Highway, one of the last town roads to be plowed. We are grateful to be snug and warm inside today. With such low temperatures, the ponds may freeze early. Long Pond does not usually freeze until late January. Some years the ponds do not freeze at all. We have one returning guest who has asked me to let her know as soon as the ponds freeze so she can head out with ice skates. Below is a photo of social life on the ice, barbecue and all, taken several years ago at Long Pond. With this early winter, skeptics will soon be chattering on again that climate change is not happenning. Make no mistake. Global warming is a force we need to take very seriously. A CNN article about melting ice caught my eye this cold, cold morning. Once the ocean rises, Chez Sven might have beachfront property. But, then again, we may also be totally underwater ….

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Reflections on Truro ...

Sven and I went walking in Truro this morning. We drove to Head of the Meadow Beach, in the National Seashore, hoping to see seals at low tide. Instead, all we got to admire was the savage landscape. The Truro artist’s palette in late autumn must include burgundy, beige, green, silver, white, and blue to capture the beauty of the windswept hills. As we headed off towards the dunes, clouds rolled over the sun. Truro feels wilder than Wellfleet, and should really be seen by tourists visiting the Outer Cape since it is so very different. The Pilgrims stopped here in 1620 but decided the land was not suitable for a colony. Europeans settled Truro in 1700, as a satellite community beyond Wellfleet in what was still called Eastham. Truro was incorporated in 1709. The first census in 1754 counted 954 souls. The year-round population now is 2000, but that figure jumps to 20,000 in summer. Early industries were fishing, whaling and shipbuilding. To quote Wikipedia, “Today Truro is one of the more exclusive towns on the Cape, noted for its affluent residences and the rolling hills and dunes along the coast.” These photos show some of those rolling hills, interspersed with abandoned cranberry bogs. Edward Hopper lived on the bayside (see October 11, 2008 blog for photo). Near Ballston Beach sits a great international youth hostel, dating from the 1970s. Truro shines through its art community, associated with Castle Hill. Real estate prices have become even more outrageous than in Wellfleet. Summer residents include Ben Affleck and Sebastien Junger. I was surprised in reading the New York Review of Books Classifieds last week to note that two ads mentioned the town: An “uncommon woman” looking for an “uncommon man” boasts of having a garden in Truro, and a “beautiful Boston intellectual” admits addiction to the dunes of Truro near her beachfront home …

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WCEC Holds First Meeting

Wellfleet is a playground for thousands of tourists in July and August. How can we encourage people to come to our little town in the other months as well? Yesterday I attended the first meeting of the Wellfleet Citizens Economic Commission, tasked by the Selectmen to come up with recommendations for economic development and report back in six to eight months. Assistant Town Manager Rex Peterson was present for reference and advice. Committee members rapidly chose Paul Pilcher as their chair. Paul already has experience with the Local Comprehensive Planning Committee and a firm grasp of the subject matter. He did a great job of moderating our discussion. Members first decided to address the period after Labor Day and through June 15th. Later, we focused in on the months of April, May, June, September, October, November, December and identified four main questions to study: 1.) How to turn Wellfleet into a more popular off-peak destination? 2.) How can Wellfleet attract young entrepreneurs and green jobs? 3.) Which groups of visitors should be targeted in priority? 4.) What events similar to Oysterfest might be organized? Alex Hay of Mac's Seafood kept reminding the committee of what he sees as a desperate need for an improvement in infrastructure. Alex and his cousin Sam Bradford were the youngest members present. I shared an email from a blog reader in New Jersey. Our brainstorming session lasted almost two hours and, to me, seemed worthwhile. We will meet again in January.

Monday, December 15, 2008

David Wright Speaks on Cape & Islands Radio

This morning Mindy Todd interviewed Wellfleet's own David Wright on Cape & Islands Radio. David discussed his book, The Famous Beds of Wellfleet. This book makes a great Christmas present and is available from the Wellfleet Historical Society. Another great present? Oysters! Mac's Seafood will send Wellfleet oysters anywhere for you. Check out the information on Mac's Web site.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Would You Visit Wellfleet in Winter?

Yesterday Sven and I watched the sunset over Wellfleet Harbor, (above and below). Today we walked briskly to Great Pond as the sun was going down. Unfortunately I had left my camera at home and cannot share the beauty of the soft pink light as it spread across the surface of the water, nor the bright orange rim at the Dyer Pond tree line, visible on our way back. As we were returning home, I realized people who love Wellfleet would have enjoyed the experience today as much as we had. Yet, folks do not think to journey out to Cape Cod in the winter. Since I will be attending a meeting tomorrow on ways to develop more sensible economic policies for the town, it occurred to me that perhaps blog readers would be willing to comment on what would make you want to visit Wellfleet in winter? (Anyone who cannot post comments to Blogger, please feel free to email me at chezsven AT

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Great Green Gift from EWG!

Still looking for a great present? Support the Environmental Working Group by purchasing a few of their Pollution Solution bags. Mine came today. It has lots of goodies, including a book on going green, which makes a great present for a friend who is still clueless on the environment, and Pyrex containers for the fridge to replace the plastic ones we all discarded in 2008. The deadline for Christmas delivery was December 12th, but I would think your order, submitted today, would be happily accepted in these tough economic times. For more information, go here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Cookies and Other Bits & Pieces

Wind and rain this morning in Wellfleet, but no ice so far. We still have power and are reminded to get the generator hooked up, sooner rather than later. Today’s blog will be bits and pieces:

• Rumor has it that a real French chef is looking to acquire a restaurant in town.

• For follow-up on the ceremony to honor Elaine McIlroy and nine other librarians, go here.

• One of our favorite Boston companies is having a sale. If you are not familiar with Dancing Deer, do check out the Web site and use code SAVE10 for 10% off through Monday. The Christmas cookies, above, are scrumptious!

• While reservations for next summer are beginning to trickle in, we have no guests at all scheduled for the next seven weeks. I have joined a new town committee, the Wellfleet Citizens Economic Commission, to “examine initiatives" the town might undertake to "increase year-round economic opportunities for Wellfleet citizens without creating significant adverse impact on our community character or natural environment." Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chez Sven Becomes a Sawday's Special Place to Stay

Chez Sven is proud to be the first “Special Place” in the United States featured on Britain’s popular travel Web site Sawday’s Special Places To Stay. It is a great site for anyone looking for green accommodation. Our listing, a Web site exclusive, can be found here. Alastair Sawday has awarded us two ethical stamps, one for Environment, and one for Fine Food. Chez Sven offers natural amenities and uses only green cleaning products. We serve as much organic food as possible, including homemade granola, and provide water that has passed through 3-stage PUR filters. No plastic bottles here, although we recycle any that turn up in the trash. Sawday started his famous travel guidebook series a dozen years ago and has sold over one million books worldwide. Each “special place” – 5000 in all – receives a full write-up after a visit from a Sawday’s representative. Chez Sven was fortunate to have Em Sawday as one of our guests last year. We are very pleased to be featured as a Sawday's Special Place. Our former guests already know how special Chez Sven is. We are lucky to live in a fantastically beautiful town, with the Atlantic Ocean, above, two miles away, and Dyer Pond, below, a quick walk through the woods.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Elaine McIlroy Earns National Honor

Now the rest of the United States has learned a secret Wellfleetians have known for years. The Wellfleet Public Library is graced with one of the best librarians alive! Congratulations are in order for Elaine McIlroy who has won a Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award, and is one of only ten people to receive a $5000 cash prize today in New York City. In the 1970s, Elaine supervised raising money for a new building and moved the library from above town hall to its present location on West Main Street. She has always been in the forefront when it comes to improvements and implements these improvements with style: when computers with Internet access arrived half a dozen years ago, Wellfleet’s library named the machines Hope, Mercy, Harmony, Desire, Truth, Honesty and Patience. More recently, Elaine spearheaded a campaign to raise money for solar panels and marched in the Fourth of July parade to spread the word. What I find the most impressive about Elaine is that she manages to inspire her staff year after year to welcome library visitors by name and with a smile. She has turned our public library into not only a valuable resource but a pleasurable destination for thousands of visitors summer, winter, spring and fall. Bravo, Elaine!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wellfleet's Preservation Hall Holds Craft Fair

Snowflakes may have been falling this afternoon but they could not dampen the spirits of the townsfolk who turned out for the annual craft fair organized by Wellfleet Preservation Hall. The event was held in the basement of the former Catholic Church this year rather than on the Main Street sidewalk, due to the inclement weather. I was greeted at the door with an offer of Christmas cookies and cider. The basement room was decked out with wreaths, created by Wellfleet citizens. Christmas trees were also on sale. I admired the gingerbread house raffle prize and purchased some handmade beeswax candles. There were plenty of handicrafts to admire, including woven purses and gloves from Georgia. Wellfleetians were also selling art and photography. I especially enjoyed the collection of wreaths, some whimsical, others more traditional. What a great event to benefit Preservation Hall!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Numerous Restaurants For Sale in Wellfleet

For anyone on vacation, a night out at a restaurant is a must. “As long as I do not have to cook the food, any place will do,” responded one guest when I asked what type of dining experience she and her husband would prefer during their weekend away from the kids. In summer, Wellfleet offers lots of choice for dining out. Unfortunately for bed & breakfast owners, most of the town’s eateries close after Oysterfest. This year two of Wellfleet’s year-round restaurants are closed in December: The Wicked Oyster will open again for business at the beginning of January; the Bookstore will be closed for two months, from December 14 to February 15. There are a slew of restaurants changing hands, so 2009 may bring fresh options. Let's hope some of the future owners decide to run year-round businesses. Monkey-See, Monkey-Do, formerly Eric’s Seafood, is up for sale after a total renovation ($650,000). The owners of the Lighthouse, in the center of town, are open to offers. Like to cook pizza? Consider D’Italia’s ($249,000). Rookies, also on Route 6, has a For Sale sign in the parking lot ($950,000). The world-famous Martin House in Provincetown is available as well ($1,399,000). With the economy tanking, who knows how many of these businesses will find takers? Down by the harbor, Captain Higgins will open in the spring with a new name: Pearl. A crew of carpenters is slowly transforming the building, which will soon sport what appears to be a second-floor deck (above). I’ve heard Pearl will serve organic food. Not in the market for a restaurant? How about a former chapel? Our Lady of Perpetual Help in North Truro is back on the market for $449,000.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Why Chez Sven Chose an Energy-Efficient Water Heater

The above photo shows yet another beautiful sunset over Wellfleet this afternoon ... As a green bed & breakfast, we opt for greener alternatives whenever possible. Our renovation last winter showed us that an innkeeper who prefers greener options must also have deep pockets and that sometimes dreams cannot translate into reality. Recently the water heater in Seagull Cottage died after almost two decades of faithful service. It was the type that keeps water in a tank at a specific heat. Whenever the temperature of the water fell, the system would turn on automatically, using energy. We could have replaced the tank with a similar model but chose a more energy-efficient system: the Rinnai 75LSi.
From the manual: "The Rinnai is one of the most advanced water heaters available. It provides a continuous supply of hot water at a preset temperature. There is no pilot light consuming gas while the heater in not being used." The Rinnai was installed by the gas company, which required six hours of labor, a gas permit, and an outlay of an initial $1300 for the beautiful machine itself. The first issue was pipe-sizing. These new heaters require ¾ inch piping, rather than ½. Since the cottage dates from 1970 and its laundry area was never renovated, we had to have an electrician install a new outlet and a Carbon Monoxide detector ($350). Once the new Rinnai was in, the plumber had to reconfigure the water pipes ($673). I understand why some businesses hesitate to adopt modern energy-efficient appliances when the bill ends up being three times as high!