Monday, July 31, 2006

The Work-Hard, Play-Hard Month of August

Summer on Cape Cod is great for the license plates game. You know, when kids amuse themselves in traffic by spotting license plates? Here is the most unusual plate I have spied recently. Not that I go out all that much. Now that July is over, I think I will stay home even more. August is traditionally the month for natives to hunker down and wait for the tourists to leave. Why does everyone want to come at the same time? I actually know the answer to that question: summer camps. Children go to camp in July. August has become the chosen month for family vacations. Chez Sven is fully booked, and the phone keeps ringing. Whenever people ask for advice on the best time to come to Wellfleet, I suggest they plan their summer vacation next year in June, July, or September.

If our neighborhood feels different this year, it is because many of the neighbors have decided to rent out their homes. The influx of strangers feels like an invasion. Cars with kayaks on the roof or with a sailboat in tow attempt to negotiate the tight curve at the top of a nearby driveway. Old King’s Highway has become so busy that Judy at Winterwood put up a sign in an effort to preserve our wild turkeys. Tenants raise their voices without taking any of the other people holed up in the woods into consideration. No wonder we locals start looking forward to fall!

The cars in the town hall parking lot come to Wellfleet from accross the nation. Connecticut is a popular state of origin. There are also a lot of New Yorkers. On one recent trip downtown I saw plates from Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, and Florida. Non-resident homeowners often have second cars with plates that boast of their place of summer residence. People who live here year-round would never buy special plates with the name of our town spelled out!

Not all the neighbors have deserted though. This lovely family lives across the road in summer. They do not rent out their second home. And having figured out that the best time to be in Wellfleet is off-season, they make a point of journeying to Cape Cod during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring vacations …

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Charlie Jordan, Wellfleet’s Singing Butcher

Everyone familiar with Wellfleet knows Charlie, the butcher, immortalized by Tracy Harmon Hay in this watercolor which hangs behind the meat counter at Wellfleet Marketplace. Fresh out of school, Charlie headed for the unemployment office back home in Scotland. The officer reached the end of the b’s on a list of jobs and Charlie declared, “You can stop right there. I’ll try that.” He has been carving up meat ever since.

Charlie has almost become a Wellfleet institution, although a resident of P-town, “for the nightlife,” he confides with a wink. His Scottish bur has charmed shoppers since 1973. And we all love the way he breaks into song. His repertoire includes many old standards. Sinatra, however, remains the favorite. This preference dates from 1962 when brother Robert sent an LP called “Songs for Swinging Lovers.” In one week Charlie knew all the words by heart.

Many a customer has paused to chat while grocery shopping. “Hello, darlin’,” Charlie will say with a smile. Even the vegetarians go to the meat counter to talk to him. During the winter months, our butcher remains a bright light shining through the gloom, a beacon for the hungry, as well as the heartsick. Charlie is always ready with a bit of advice: “I tell ‘em you’re not alone. Happens to everybody.”

In summer, he gets a real kick out of the kids who work by his side – “There’s a new set every year” – and you can be sure he keeps an eye on them. Former apprentices always stop back in to say hello. They know Charlie is special.

Wellfleet’s singing butcher loves his customers: “They’re such great people!” After Charlie was in an automobile accident in 1985, everyone sent cards and phone messages. He was touched to receive greetings not only from Wellfleet, but also from New York, Connecticut, and even California.

I’m glad to report Charlie has no plans to retire. He loves his job and can’t think of anything he would rather do. He will continue taking his weekend walk with wife Kathy, up to the East End, and back to the wharf, and come to work at Wellfleet Marketplace on Monday.

Wellfleet’s singing butcher has been butchering for 50 years this August, so next week is an anniversary of sorts. Stop in and say hello. You'll be glad you did ...

Friday, July 21, 2006

A July Day in the Life

The alarm went off at 7:30 this morning. I had breakfast and set the table for our guests inside, not out, since rain was in the forecast. They were gracious as can be and pleased to have seen whales yesterday on their cruise from P-town. The trio came from Japan. We are having quite an international summer here at Chez Sven! I am learning about the customs of people from other countries. Apparently the Japanese leave tips, because I found one on the bedside table, the first tip I have ever received in my whole life. Meanwhile, our almost newlywed couple were opening their eyes. They enjoyed the granola and left feeling healthy, ready to take their vows by Duck Pond. I listened to a new jazz record while cleaning, fielded phone calls and emails. We only have a few more nights available in August and have started booking fall. On my way back from the laundry, I found a delivery from eco-specialists Gaiam. My order included bamboo bedding. I will put the pillowcases on tonight and do a test-sleep. Meanwhile, new guests arrived for Liberty Coin Suite. I could tell right away that they were keepers, people you hope will return. Then it was back to laundry. Three loads! If you are considering opening a bed & breakfast, you need to like doing laundry. Actually, I prefer to look at paintings of laundry drying in the breeze, like this one above our washer/drier. I didn’t need to water the garden because it rained for 10 minutes yesterday. Today Beryl was a no-show. We have been having very strange weather this summer, no doubt the result of Global Warming. In any case, the garden is not as beautiful as usual, and I have not done anything different. Here is a view I particularly like: irises, purple sage, rue, baby's breath, and blanket flower. When I get a minute, I intend to go to the library and check out a recent Time Magazine, all about the Green trend. Can’t wait! …

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Books, Anyone?

Wellfleet celebrated books once again today. The Friends of the Wellfleet Libraries July Annual Book Sale took place from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM outside Town Hall. A large selection of previously enjoyed hardcover and paperback books, art books, children’s books, videos, tapes, games and puzzles were available.

Unfortunately I was unable to go because I was busy all morning with bed & breakfast turnover. However, having attended for a number of years, both as a customer and as a volunteer, I can easily imagine what fun everyone had....

When the hoards descend on the parking lot outside Town Hall, few people are aware of the many hours of preparation involved. Volunteers pick up donations throughout the year and sort books at a shed at the Transfer Station twice a month, rain or shine. Two sales are organized and advertised each summer. The second one will take place August 6.

Prior to each sale, volunteers get up at dawn to transport the heavy cardboard boxes, set up tables, and arrange the books by category. The cashiers arrive at 8:45, as eager customers strain behind a barrier, in an attempt to read the spines of the rare books on display. Other tables offer fiction and non-fiction, including travel, psychology, cooking, art, and children’s books. At the stroke of 9:00, there is a mad dash to be the first to claim personal favorites. Tourists join residents in examining the wide array of books available. Some lucky customers find treasures autographed by a local author. Everyone goes home happy with a pile of reading material. The sale continues for four hours. Finally, unsold books are packed up and removed.

The 2004 book sales brought in $13,351. Last year netted a record $15,042. And today's grand total: $9484!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Searching for Peace? Try Chez Sven!

Here are the Google searches that recently led to this blog:

Slough Pond cottages,
Dyer Pond,
Long Pond,
Gull Pond,
Cahoon Hollow Beach,
Lecount Hollow Beach.

(This photo was taken at Lecount this winter. Sven and I like to walk there because the sand is firm beneath our feet.)

Wellfleet Transfer Station,
Swap shop. (Both searches are surprisingly frequent.)

White Cedar Swamp,
Lyme Disease
(several and I wish there had been more),
Old King’s Highway,
Liberty penny, Liberty coin, Lady Liberty.

Wholesome breakfast.
(I liked this one. I am always glad to have guests who appreciate the benefits of a wholesome breakfast and search out lodging that offers one.)

Secret ponds.
(Dyer Pond is described in this month’s Yankee Magazine unfortunately, so it is not going to be so secret this summer.)

Sandbars, ocean, Wellfleet.
(This person has the right idea. Sandbars, ocean, Wellfleet screams SUMMER VACATION to me.)

Wellfleet condemned house
(This search pulled up the blog about the house that has been moved back from Newcolm Hollow beach. I am not sure this is what the searcher was looking for though. There are doubtless other condemned houses in town.)

Wellfleet peace. Now this was my favorite search.
Our Liberty Coin Suite guests this past weekend commented on how peaceful it is at Chez Sven. Here is what they wrote in our Guestbook: “We had a wonderful quiet and relaxing time in this beautiful oasis with no noise other than birdsong. Thank you also for your hospitality and the delicious breakfast...”

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

4th of July Madness = People Everywhere!

Today I tried to run a few local errands and wherever I went, traffic got in the way. “Oh, that’s right,” I said to myself. “It’s summer, a cloudy day. Everyone's going to P-town.” Now, really, what is the fun of visiting Provincetown with hundreds and hundreds of other people? Once you find a parking space, if you find a parking space, you get jostled on your way to Commercial Street, jostled as you enter the shop of your choice, and finally jostled as you rush towards the exit, overwhelmed by the masses of humanity crammed into such a tiny space. Then you face the crowds marching up and down Commercial Street … Oh, no. I much prefer to stay home. If I had the leisure, I would go for a walk on the beach: Lecount Hollow, Cahoon, or even Newcolm Hollow. I love the feel of sand between my toes.

The Cape Cod Times reported businesses did well this weekend and no wonder. The tourists went shopping. What ever happened to vacations where you actually spend every day at the beach? I was talking to my friend Jane about this shop-until-you-drop mentality, and she reminded me of searching for beach glass as a kid, a fun activity on cloudy days. Beach glass has become rare, thanks to recycling, but what about shiny stones? Stones are great for mosaics. At Duck Harbor you can also find pretty shells. I guess people aren't interested in collecting free shells anymore. They prefer to sit in their cars on Route 6 and think about what they are going to buy.

I actually saw someone steal a parking space in front of Wellfleet Marketplace this morning. I was a bit shocked. The sunburned thief yelled an obscenity at the woman who thought she had claimed the spot first. Such goings-on don't happen in Quiet Season. Irascible Screaming Tourists. Sounds like the name of a rock group. The red-faced man probably wasn't happy with his rental. He should have booked a room at Chez Sven. We guarantee peace and quiet. None of our guests feel like stealing parking spaces.

Here at Chez Sven we had a busy weekend with three different couples all arriving at about the same time. Hectic. Imagine all the laundry! Luckily we air-dry sheets in the garden. What is more “summer” than sheets billowing in the breeze? I say “we” but actually I am doing it all myself right now since Sven is on vacation in Sweden. A bed & breakfast demands a lot of time. I am discovering that it is much harder to blog in summer than in winter, because there are simply too many other things to do. If I weren’t so tired this evening, I would go down to the pier and take photographs of the square dancers. I am pleased to announce that the town has found a new crier. The traditional Wednesday square dances will continue. Hurray!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Wellfleet's Best Bakery: Christine's Oasis

Imagine there’s a massive traffic jam, and you stumble out of your car, throat parched. What could be more welcome than Christine’s Oasis? Bob and Christine Costa started selling homemade cakes back on West Main Street in the early eighties and have never looked back. Business is good at their expanded location on Route 6. The Oasis has become a favorite breakfast retreat in summer. I even know Wellfleet regulars who will detour off their daily routine to eat here and no wonder. When you check out the selection, their choice is understandable. Muffins, scones, croissants, all freshly baked, line up in a row. There are pies and cakes. Biscotti, bagels, breads. The shop sells three different kinds of baguettes. Self-service coffee and a selection of daily newspapers from New York and Boston make out-of-towners feel right at home. Diners can sit at tables inside or out. And there is always a line at the counter.

Christine is in charge of the kitchen while Bob works the deli counter alongside his staff. Service is fast. Since Bob was a former Selectman and still takes an active interest in town politics, visitors can get an earful if they are so inclined. Right now Bob is concerned about the change in zoning downtown and its impact. Bob loves to talk to customers. Topics include politics, life, food, the world situation, and much more. “The customers are more my friends than they are customers,” he explains.

Among the excellent sandwiches available is the all new “Grilled Eggplant Grilled” which consists of grilled, marinated eggplant, fresh mozzarella, tomato. These ingredients are grilled on rosemary focaccia bread. The result is full of flavor and finger-licking good.

While at the Oasis, pick up milk, juice, gourmet treats, prepared foods, cheeses, cold cuts, and specialty drinks. The most popular item is Christine’s Cape Cod cream scones with blueberries and cranberries. We got Sven’s birthday cake at the Oasis. In the crush of summer, when I have a million things to do and little time to bake, I am grateful that I can run down to Route 6 in the morning and pick up great blueberry muffins for our bed & breakfast guests to enjoy.

Christine’s Oasis is open June to September, 7 am to 6 pm, except Sundays when closing time is 2 pm.