Friday, December 29, 2006

A December Day in the Life

December is a sleepy month for bed & breakfasts. The first week of December is even known as “dead week” since everyone has just been somewhere for Thanksgiving and people want to stay home. With the Christmas holiday around the corner, emphasis shifts to shopping, not stopping in Wellfleet for a romantic getaway. Innkeepers use the free time to take stock of their business. I am pleased to say we have done remarkably well. (Chez Sven was even featured in the travel section of the Guardian earlier in the month, now linked from our Web site.) I then put together a budget for the coming year and discuss with Sven plans for a totally “green” room, which will feature an organic mattress. We beachwalk Lecount Hollow at low tide, where holiday surfers are out enjoying the ocean. Finally, I sift through 2007 reservations and realize Seagull Cottage is already booked July 1-September 15. One couple signed up for their fifth year, another for their fourth, two couples for their third. The slots go fast, since the cottage books by the week. We also have three weeks booked by new guests who were here for only a fall weekend. I note that Liberty Coin Suite also has a few bookings and confirm all these reservations in letters, which I will mail tomorrow. Finally, I spend two hours at the computer, sending holiday greetings to everyone who chose Chez Sven during the past year. Thank you for making 2006 our best yet!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Men in Trees & Winter Sunsets

This week we had some of the trees behind Seagull Cottage removed. We always enjoy watching the men climb up and slowly hack away limbs. The garden will have more light next summer. I look forward to the second step, removal of the stumps, which is to take place in January.

December is a very quiet month in Wellfleet, if you are to believe the Chamber of Commerce. We have twelve nights booked, which is not bad when you consider I closed the bed & breakfast the weekend of the memorial service for my mom. In December, Sven likes to go to Duck Harbor and admire the sunsets. “I’ve seen many sunsets up in the north, but these are remarkable,” he says. “There is such peacefulness walking on the beach. At this time of year, we are basically alone. No one there.” We did see Selectman Dale Donovan and Steven, out enjoying Duck Harbor as well, and waved. My dad used to love to watch the sunsets from the Mayo Beach parking lot. Here it is, the view that screams, “Peace! Wellfleet! Peace! ”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What the National Seashore Has Become Under George Bush

One of the Wellfleet facts I always tell guests is that 61% of our town is located within the National Seashore. President Kennedy was instrumental in the creation of this wonderful nature park in 1961. It includes pristine land in Wellfleet, Eastham, Truro and Provincetown. People who owned recently built homes, on parcels smaller than 3 acres, either sold them to the government in the 1970s or negotiated a sale that provided life use of the property or 25-year leases. The last leases have now come to term. At article in the New York Times of November 9, entitled “In Cape Cod’s Dunes, Something’s Growing besides Scrub Pine” describes how a change is occurring at some of the 600 private plots, where houses had been built prior to 1959. Brazen, rich, homeowners decide to teardown and rebuild on a grand scale, since they have realized no one will sue over such behavior. Sven and I saw one such house on a walk to Slough Pond last winter. We followed a path that led to an attractive mansion. Up on the deck, we realized the new, taller, house has a view of the ocean. We have also come across lovely confiscated homes, like this one to the right, that now belong to the government. They have not been removed, as the Seashore plan provided, perhaps due to a lack of funding. They sit in ruin, some obviously used by squatters in summer. Flashlights, old newspapers, empty wine bottles litter the floor. A sign tells us we should not be there: "US Property: No Trespassing." Some houses offer incredible views of ponds. Decaying deck boards, rotting beams, plants in gutters indicates no one has done any maintenance here for years. These houses are like old men on execution row: they sadly await termination. As we stand by the lakeshore and look back up at one confiscated home, I can only imagine how upset the owners must have been to lose such precious property. Had a similar experience happened to me, I would be absolutely furious at the new construction in the National Seashore, a place that was meant to be construction-free. It just goes to show what money can buy under the watch of the present administration ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Midnight Blue and Green ...

Our recent days have been midnight blue, dark, dark, and cold here at Chez Sven because my mother, Beatrice Grabbe, our resident guest, passed away November 29. We all miss her. For more information, see my other blog, By Bea's Bedside.

Today Oprah featured Al Gore on her popular program. Sven and I finally got to see his documentary this week and recommend it highly. Oprah’s Web site has information from the show, for anyone who missed it. Here is one segment about a family’s going green ...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

During Quiet Season ...

On the way to Dyer Pond, I have seen emerald moss and bright yellow fungus. The colors are incredible. Today Dyer Pond lies still, framed by the deep, dark woods. “Oh, look!” Sven exclaims. We walk down to the shore and realize the western sky, above the pond rim and trees, has turned fuchsia. This spectacular view lasts only a couple minutes. How lucky we were to have witnessed such beauty!

In Quiet Season, Nature is always on display at Cape Cod. Sven and I love to take long walks. Here the wind sculpted a miniature village into the side of a cliff at Duck Harbor. The power of Nature takes our breath away.

For those of you out there who plan ahead, a very special weekend will take place at the Wellfleet Wildlife Sanctuary this February: Yoga, Nature & the Stillness of Winter, Saturday February 3, led by therapist and yoga instructor Jackie Corso, emphasizes the healing quality of nature. Registration is recommended.

Another good reason to visit Wellfleet in winter? Our Atlantic Ocean beaches, which you will have to share with seagulls, a seal or two, and the occasional surfing fanatic, zealously diving into the cold water.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Climate Change

Whoa! On Cape Cod? You bet. The Provincetown Banner informed us this week that a rise of only ten feet would submerge Provincetown. What a shame that would be! Here is Sven, this fall, enjoying Provincetown with cousin Xavier, from France. I just discovered a new program that is worth a look: The Climate Code with Dr. Heidi Cullen on the Weather Channel. Today’s show featured Richard Branson, who is contributing 3 billion dollars towards the development of alternative fuels. What can the rest of us do? Recycle. Discuss global warming. Use environmentally-friendly products. We do all three, here at Chez Sven. Try your best to support alternative energy. Wind energy? Why not? Wellfleet erected a tower this week to evaluate the possibility of the installation of a wind turbine at White Crest. Sven and I saw the wind turbines at work off the coast of Germany and Denmark. How majestic they were!

Friday, November 10, 2006

A November Day in the Life

This has been an exceptionally busy day, hardly what one would expect for November. This morning I raked leaves and hauled them off to the dump. I have almost put the whole garden to bed now. The UPS man brought a package of samples form Rishi Tea, which I discovered when cottage guests left an empty tin several weeks ago. I answered emails, sending regrets to three different people for the coming weekend. Then it was off to the Box Lunch for a guacamole sandwich. Sven and I decided to take advantage of the incredible weather and set off for the beach. On the way, we stopped in at the Codder Antiques and purchased a beautiful old chair for Liberty Coin Suite. The ocean waves were exciting! There is nothing quite so invigorating as a brisk walk in the sea air. (If you look carefully, the dot in the middle is a seagull!) Once back home, I planted the rest of the daffodils and helped Sven prepare Seagull Cottage for our guests tomorrow. Pillowcases always look nicer when ironed, so that’s what I did next. For dinner, Sven and I decided to try renovated Finely JPs. We loved the brand new building and color scheme. The menu remains the same. The service was a bit slow, but we enjoyed our dinner, although I regretted not ordering my favorite: Cataplana with lobster, delicious! Since so many of Wellfleet's restaurants close in winter, we are glad Finely JPs merits recommendation.

Friday, November 03, 2006

November Begins ...

November means longer periods of darkness and the arrival of colder temperatures. Sure enough, the weatherman predicts our first freeze tonight. Sven saw our last Monarch butterfly yesterday. We have already brought in the last tomatoes and done our best to put the garden to bed. Most of the autumn leaves were brought down by the wind at the beginning of the week. The pink chrysanthemums still adorn the front lawn, so let’s take one last look. Aren’t they beautiful?

With the coming of winter, Seagull Cottage received two new propane tanks from Days' in Provincetown. Both Sven and I were impressed by the efficiency and patience of Days' employees. At first, placement seemed an issue, simply because I could not make up my mind. We finally settled on the corner between the kitchen and the main bedroom, where the tanks could be hidden away. Seagull Cottage offers both propane heat and a fireplace.

Although cold, the upcoming weekend will boast bright blue sky. Guests have already taken possession of the cottage. More arrive tonight for Liberty Coin. Sven and I have been enjoying our free time to walk Wellfleet’s beaches. We love the way the sandbars reveal themselves at low tide …

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fall Splendor in Wellfleet

This short path leads from one kettle pond to another. Today I read in the newspaper that September and October have been banner months for tourists. More and more people are choosing to visit Cape Cod in the fall. This choice is not surprising. Here at Chez Sven we have long proclaimed our appreciation for autumn's empty beaches, lack of traffic, and quick grocery shopping, none of which characterize summer. The restaurants do not require reservations, and it is possible to obtain tickets for WHAT. What more could you ask? To anyone who may think the foliage on Cape Cod is not worth a second glance, just take a look at the photos I snapped this week, in the National Seashore. It is such fun to be exploring a path and suddenly see blue pond through the trees! Sven and I also like to go walking on Wellfleet's deserted beaches ...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An October Day in the Life

Here is a photo of reeds at Great Pond. This close-up resembles an impressionist painting, don't you think? .... But back to the daily grind: I prepared a Swedish breakfast for our Liberty Coin guests, as requested the night before. After their departure, dishes and towels and sheets occupied my time for an hour or so. I made a mental note to do a linens inventory once things settle down, which should be now but isn’t. The season for most Wellfleet bed & breakfasts has already come to an end, and Chez Sven is still going strong, which must indicate we are doing something right! As if to illustrate my point, the phone rang and a young lady from England reserved Liberty Coin Suite for this weekend. During the rest of the morning, I cleaned Seagull Cottage thoroughly and carried over the Christmas cactus, already in bloom, for our new honeymooners to enjoy. After lunch, off I went to Orleans to shop. Upon my return, Sven convinced me to walk to Dyer Pond and beyond where my thirsty eyes drank in the beauty tourists come here to enjoy. Nice to be able to appreciate it myself for once! Upon our return, I went out to work in the garden while Sven lit a fire so the honeymooners would feel all cozy as soon as they got here. Uh-oh! I forgot to request an arrival time. Sven feels “anytime after 2:00” is a bit too open-ended. Therefore, I will request arrival times on the Web site for 2007, since I do not always remember to ask. Waiting for guests all day is no fun, it is true. Finally, I typed up our latest comments and sent them to my son for posting. We have met such great people this year. Receiving them has been a pleasure … but it certainly keeps me busy!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Quiet Season Begins ...

Seagull Cottage is booked for the next two weeks!!

Quiet Season finally arrived. It blew in on a cold wind from the north last night. We had to bring in all the blue cushions from the yard furniture and madly eat the tomatoes. Frost is expected by Tuesday, so I have been putting the garden to bed, quite a chore. Sven built a trellis for the raspberries and dug the final potatoes. Only parsley and leeks still hang out together in the otherwise deserted plot by Old King’s Highway.

We have had guests all week. One couple brought a kite, a great idea for Quiet Season. Two ladies worked at a large bed & breakfast located at the other end of the Cape. They were delighted to relax and be served for once. Their note in the guestbook made me smile: “Thanks for being green!” We also had a couple who read the blog about Oysterfest and came down Sunday. And then there was our visitor from London, a journalist writing a piece on organic bed & breakfasts. She came to the right place! Unfortunately, the weather was not ideal. But now the sky is gloriously blue once again. It is a bit too cold for swimming, so people are out with surfboards. Hang-gliders also swing past Ocean View Drive. And what could be more invigorating than a brisk walk along the Atlantic?

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The weather is ideal: crisp, clear blue sky, warm temperatures. Wellfleet is in absolute glory, and all the bed & breakfasts are full. Here at Chez Sven, autumn leaves parade amazing color. The action, however, is downtown where Wellfleet is celebrating its annual Oysterfest. Each year the crowds increase as the renown of this great street party and fair spreads. Daytrippers have streamed into Wellfleet all morning. I have never seen so many pedestrians on Long Pond Road before. I bet the attendance record will be broken today.* The parking lot behind town hall is packed with people, shoulder to shoulder in some spots. Oysterfest has something for everyone, from the disco dance at the Lighthouse Friday night, to road races Saturday and the oyster-shucking contest on Sunday. Main Street is closed to traffic so visitors can shop at their leisure. Vendors set up booths and hawk their wares: paintings, t-shirts, pottery, one-of-a-kind items. The star of the party is, of course, the Wellfleet oyster. The longest lines form at the stands where mounds of oysters await consumption. Slurp, slurp, slurp. A plate of oysters quickly becomes a plate of empty shells. While over at the bandstand the band plays on, guests and residents alike revel in more (OYSTERS!) as Wellfleet’s high season officially comes to a close.

*The Cape Cod Times reports 12,000 visitors, but locals claim there were as many as 16,000 people at Oysterfest this year.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Changes ...

For children, even the trip to a favorite vacation spot can be memorable. I remember, as a child, keeping my eyes glued to the road, eager for signs of arrival. Often I would also notice differences from previous years along the way. This summer, anyone with similar behavior, must have noticed two major changes on Route 6, a mile or so up from the turn into Wellfleet center.

The first happened in August: there was a ground–breaking ceremony for Wellfleet Harbor Actors' Theatre. Excavators moved sand around, leaving mounds here and there. A chain-link fence now isolates the work site. Over the winter, a new venue will be built on the lot beside the post office.

Another major difference started over a year ago. Across the state highway from Cove Road, pine trees were cut down, in increments, not all at once. Someone was doing something. But what? Tomato plants were placed in the ground. Then a large floppy scarecrow started watching over the vegetables. This year a firewood stand appeared with an OPEN sign. Anyone curious enough to explore has discovered Rose’s Farm. Jim Rose is a shellfishman who decided it was time to farm the land as well. His operation is small but merits encouragement. Jim is using manure and compost, rather than chemicals, on his crops. This summer he offered Wellfleetians the best sunflowers around for the incredible price of just 50 cents each. So far the weather has not been cooperating. Cape Cod had the worst growing season in 40 years for tomatoes. Still Wellfleet’s newest farmer perseveres. This week an excavator cleared more ground. Last fall fresh eggs were advertised. Next time you drive to Wellfleet, check out what Jim is offering for sale ….

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Mushroom Season: Wild in Wellfleet!

When most people think Wellfleet, spectacular seascapes come to mind. In fall, however, our little town has other worthwhile vistas to discover, the National Seashore Park, for instance. This week Sven and I took a walk through the woods to Dyer Pond and beyond. Everywhere wild asters were in bloom. Here is a peek at Turtle Pond, tucked away behind Great Pond, alive with birds and…. mushrooms.

Mushroom season is here! Everywhere you turn in the forest, chanterelles and bolets peek out from the underbrush. I am not a mushroom expert, but my Russian cousin Alexandra Kalinine is. Every fall, she goes wild in Wellfleet. Alexandra learned mushrooms from her father in France. My father never taught me, unfortunately. Still, on walks to Dyer Pond, I am always reminded of the enthusiasm of my French friends, all mushroom fans, who would concoct a whole meal from a day’s mushroom harvest.

I have heard say that Russians still come down from Boston to pick the mushrooms that grow wild in the woods of Wellfleet. The more enterprising among them sell their harvest at open air markets. Today our Russian guest Natalia, here for respite from New Orleans, was delighted by the variety of mushrooms she found on a walk back from Cahoon Hollow Beach with her husband …

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wellfleet, Glorious in Fall

Fall is here, a couple days early. The sky is brilliant blue. The crisp air makes everyone happy to be alive. Empty beaches appeal to anyone in search of peace. What glorious weather for Wellfleet visitors!

It has come to my attention that the local Chamber of Commerce Visitors’ Center is only open on weekends now. Shops are beginning to close. It is not easy to run a year-round business in a town that caters to summer guests. Wellfleet is wonderful in spring, fall and winter, too.

A stroll down Main Street shows hardy souls still operating businesses. Abiyoyo is open. Wellfleet Marketplace is going strong. There are galleries to explore and clothing shops with great sales. The flea market receives lots of visitors. I also send guests down to Provincetown where they can wander through the quaint shops in search of the perfect gift to take home.

The parking lot next to Hatch's is half empty. One reason Wellfleet businesses close early is paid help. Many restaurants import workers from abroad. They come for a certain number of months, then return home. Bulgaria has been well represented this year. Here a couple of young girls delight in the waves at LeCount Hollow Beach, one last swim before heading off to school. As a bed & breakfast owner who must regularly provide dinner suggestions, I am grateful to the restaurant owners who do welcome diners. Hurray for Finely JPs, the Bookstore, and the Wicked Oyster, just down Old King’s Highway, a few minutes walk away from Chez Sven. They are all open year round.

Today I made the decision to join the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, which publishes a winter guide. Businesses need the “shoulder” seasons to survive. We look forward to receiving guests who want to hide away in the woods in our Seagull Cottage by day and journey down Route 6 to enjoy Provincetown by night. Soon I will post our availability calendar for 2007. We are now accepting reservations ...

Monday, September 18, 2006

A September Day in the Life

Just as we were beginning to feel the season winding down, a young man knocked on our door at sunset, in search of accommodation for his parents, from Italy. Of course, we could not refuse. Sven settled the group in the garden with glasses of wine, an unusual occurrence, while I turned myself into a green tornado. Soon Liberty Coin Suite sparkled in the last rays of summer sun. This morning our guests set off for a cruise in Provincetown harbor. I had called Wellfleet cruises, but they have all closed for the year. It is frustrating to see the tourism industry shutting down when people are still flocking to our town. This morning I did laundry. This afternoon I worked in the garden. Our Seagull Cottage guests called on their cell phone to say thank you for the granola and cherry tomatoes. They also appreciated the wireless Internet, a new feature and quite a success. Chez Sven has had a wonderful summer, and we have made lots of great new friends, many who plan to return next year. Both Sven and I are glad the rhythm is slowing a bit. We even got to go to the beach together today since the weatherman has said a cold front is on the way.…