Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Vancouver Olympics. No pain, no gain?

Public events during the imminent Vancouver Olympic Games will include free entertainment, large screen live coverage, family food and drink at two downtown locations. One is a disused parking lot owned by the city. Unfortunately, the other is one of the most important urban green spaces in Vancouver. David Lam Park, in the Yaletown-False Creek neighbourhood, has been closed for conversion into a so-called LiveCity Olympic venue.

Security cameras are up. Construction fences have walled off adjacent children's play grounds, public tennis courts, gardens, benches etc. Workers are laying paving bricks over acres of the former lawns to create this Olympic plaza. According to this signboard, it will be almost eight months in total before the park is returned to the citizens of Vancouver.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vancouver Olympics. Under the Big Top.

Critics refer to the Olympics as the five ring circus. Certainly, here in Vancouver, Olympic preparations involve hoisting a lot of white canvas tents. Pictured above is BC Place Stadium, which has just been closed to the public(and professional football) to fit it up for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. As I walked by the tent structure in the foreground, I could hear rehearsals underway.

That's the Olympic Village in the distance. It was turned over to VANOC just last month to prep it for the arrival of the athletes.

All of this area is rapidly being fenced off and fitted up with security cameras. The City promises to remove all the video cameras from public areas after the Games. We shall see. Until then, they will see....

It surprises Olympic newbies to learn that a lot of money is being spent on temporary international, national, provincial, native people's and corporate pavilions. Sort of a world's fair for the rich and something to do if you couldn't get actual Olympic tickets.

Here, a storefront in the upscale Heritage District of downtown, is being converted to displays by Canada's Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.

Across False Creek, Vancouver's Science World & Imax Theatre(the big silver ball) has been leased in its entirety to the Russian government to show off the next winter games in Sochi in 2014.
But the biggest pavilion of them all is Molson Canadian Hockey House. It will not fit in one camera shot. Just try to picture an 81,000 square foot rectangular, white canvas tent, surrounded by acres of asphalt. At $15,000,000, it is the largest, temporary, freestanding pavilion ever built in Canada. Like at the Super Bowl or a Formula One event, entry to the Big Tent will not come cheaply. Tickets ranging from $99 for a half-day in the "fan zone" to $8700 for 17 days access to an executive lounge area with catering by the renowned chef, Wolfgang Puck, first rate music and comedy performances, a chance to meet the Who's Who of NHL and world hockey and all the beer you can drink. Molsons is planning for the consumption of over 350,000 cans of beer.
***They better have portapotties!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vancouver - something happening...

The 2010 Winter Olympics is not without local controversy. On the other hand, there is no denying locals' growing interest and excitement. The world has been invited and there is now no doubt that we need to rise to the occasion - this very big occasion!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nelson House - Clean, Green B & B

It's great to tell you that this week we have installed an amazing Energy Star qualified, high efficiency gas furnace AND an air filtration system that removes 99.98% of all allergens from the House' air - even the flu virus!

Our bed and breakfast's long journey towards energy conservation and a more healthy living environment is finished - at least for 2009. Blog posts from March, April and September reported on the history of this century-old home's construction and our earlier insulation and eco-renovation efforts.

The culmination of this year-long project is a new central heating system that holds the highest energy efficiency rating of 96.7 per cent. I am told that the old gas furnace was lucky if it converted 60% of the fuel burned into usable heat for the house. Where did the rest go? Into the atmosphere. Oh, global warming. Oh, major fuel bills. No more! We have now lowered our thermostat settings as much as 5 degrees F. and the interior of the House - all of it- is warm, dry and toasty like never before! The variable-speed DC fan motor even uses less electricity while it accomplishes this minor miracle.

Better yet, the air flowing through the B & B, whether heated in winter or simply circulated for mild summer cooling, is now cleaned to 8 times the hospital standard achieved by conventional HEPA filters and 100 times the purity of air blown through the old one-inch thick furnace filters. All of the common triggers for asthma and allergies have been removed. Dust, pollen, spores, even bacteria and viruses of .1 microns or more are now gone.

This is a system that every home should have for the sake of family health. It is a system that my family has fallen in love with after only a few damp, frosty Vancouver nights. I know our bed and breakfast guests will love it too!

If you are mulling over home energy or interior air quality improvements, please feel free to contact me for the manufacturer and contractor's details.

Friday, December 4, 2009

President Obama may visit the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

My photo of the Olympic Rings floating in Vancouver Harbour.

U.S. President Barack Obama may attend the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
As reported by The National Post, David Jacobson, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, told the Vancouver Board of Trade yesterday that he may “bring a friend” to Vancouver in February. Jacobson, a Chicago lawyer, is a personal friend of the President and was his presidential campaign deputy finance chairman.
The Ambassador just spent five days touring Vancouver and Whistler. “I don’t say this very often, but I’m looking forward to snow.” said Jacobson. “I’m looking forward to coming back here to Vancouver, maybe in February and maybe I’ll bring a friend.” If the President does make an appearance in Vancouver, he’ll likely also visit the Richmond Speed Skating Oval. That venue, like several others in Whistler and Vancouver, has been visited recently by U.S. Secret Service officials, who are charged with protecting the First Family.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Starry Night - don't miss it!

One of my favourite nights of the year is the annual flagship AIDS fundraiser of the Shooting Stars Foundation. On Monday, November 23rd - the 24th Starry Night will feature a who's who of Vancouver and Canadian talent appearing in concert and musical variety at the wonderful Stanley Theatre to kick off the holiday season.
Every year, the event brings me to tears, to smiles, to musical warmth and shining joy. I absolutely love it and recommend it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ski Season Starts!

With only 3 months to the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the local mountains are opening with some of their earliest skiing ever!

Cypress Mountain, less than half an hour drive from the B & B, opens today for both alpine and cross-country. During the Games, Cypress will host Freestyle (Aerials, Moguls & Ski Cross) and Snowboard (Half Pipe, Parallel Giant Slalom, and Snowboard Cross). Two stadiums, each with a 12,000 person capacity have been constructed. The huge new Cypress Creek Lodge offers excellent apres-ski dining and lounges. It isn't an Olympic sport but I love the snow-tubing at Cypress. Who can resist a big truck-sized inner tube with safety handles and ropes on a bumpy sliding course built for kids of all ages!

Skiing at Whistler-Blackcomb, North America's largest and foremost ski resort opens tomorrow. It is just an hour and a half from Nelson House, using the vastly improved Sea to Sky Highway. The resort offers 8100 acres of skiable terrain spread over two mountains and the town of 10,000 at their base. More than a vertical mile drop and runs of over seven miles in length. 38 lifts speed you to over 200 trails. The new Peak 2 Peak Gondola breaks records as the highest and longest unsupported span in the world. Travelling from mountaintop to mountaintop in just 11 minutes, the Gondola provides breathtaking views of three glaciers and the valley far below.

In 90 days or so, the Alpine Skiing events will take place on Whistler Mountain and include Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, and Combined. Whistler Olympic Park, the Nordic Competition Venue is complete and will host all Nordic events: cross country skiing, biathlon, ski jumping, and Nordic combined events. The Whistler Sliding Centre on Blackcomb Mountain will host the Sliding events: Bobsled, Luge, and Skeleton events.

Me? I am more likely to be found partying at Whistler's gay ski-week, WinterPride, the first week of March.

For information and links to all of these and more of Vancouver's winter wonderland, please checkout the Attractions and Directions page on our website.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nelson House B & B Video Review

Watch more Vancouver videos at tripfilms.com

One of our B & B guests has recently posted a video review of Nelson House online. Thank you Nick! Let us know what you think.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween at Nelson House B & B

Last night, although I sat home with the flu, the wind tossed the autumn leaves into the air, a harvest moon lit the West End and little spooks overcame their primal fears to enter the Nelson House garden in the search for CANDY!

We warned them that this old house has secrets and stories to tell. On all hallow's eve, no one can be sure that the spirits will not rise from the grave and follow you up the long walk to the big wooden door with the brass knocker.

In fact, the ghosts follow one little girl and hear her Mom say to knock hard so that they can hear you. But who are THEY? The big, heavy door swings open. Looking up - everywhere there are chandeliers hanging with cobwebs. Is that a rat under that chair? Do I hear a wolf howling ?

Maybe - but there is a nice man named Matthew and a lady named Briana - who looks a lot like that boy scout in UP. I liked that movie. ANYWAYS, they are pointing at a table, just covered with every kind of candy!

There is a fire in the fireplace and everyone seems really happy in this house. Maybe it's my fairy princess dress. I smile at the nice witch while I pick a few more of the best ones for my purple bucket. Mom says to say "Thank You". I do and bat my wings right out of there.

I'll remember THIS house for next year!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vancouver's Olympics - getting ready!

Beijing, Vancouver, London, Rio de Janeiro.... Good company to keep.
Vancouver likes to party. The invitations have been accepted and we are working hard to get ready....
The excitement is starting to build....
The athletes are gathering to train at their competition venues....
And soon - the world will be joining them.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

We always knew we were special.

Two very fun things this week.

I received an email entitled "Vancouver Originals - you are one". This is a new Vancouver website where the listings are chosen by a local jury. To be selected, the business must originate in Vancouver, have a unique and original product or service that is recognized, or have all of the above with historical merit in addition. As their slogan states:"Chosen by locals in the know...." It's very nice to be acknowledged. VancouverOriginals is a site to keep an eye on.

And then we had the honour of hosting Nick Vivion, a formidable young film-maker from New York and San Francisco. He was in Vancouver on assignment for http://www.tripfilms.com/, the net's best quality source for member-generated travel videos. Nick, like ourselves, is a traveller in love with life. Check out his work at tripfilms or via his own website. He shot a video review of Nelson House B & B, which we can hardly wait to see!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A green B & B update.

As summer-like weather wanes, the Dalai Lama is in town teaching peace and compassion. Cynics can gripe but I doubt that this man is capable of a harmful thought or utterance. When it comes to religious leaders, I wish they were all so unbiased and openly loving. I say good on Vancouver for lending him an ear.
At home, a number of B & B projects are moving from the background to take centre stage. The greening of Nelson House is still underway. The attic crawlspaces will soon be much better insulated. I have been talking to electricians, furnace contractors and our local utility company concerning a major upgrade of our heating and cooling systems. With a 100 year-old house, I am not surprised that every step of this eco-project has produced differences of opinion, new choices to be made and of course, taken longer than might be wished. Fortunately, in beautiful Vancouver, I have no need to worry about a looming deep-freeze from Old Man Winter.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The dog day of summer.

Sept. 20th, the eve of the equinox, the last day of summer 2009. Those folks over there are departing for Alaska onboard their Carnival Cruise. Me? I am glad to be staying right here in beautiful Vancouver.

Sunshine in the city and the promise of at least another week of it. Down at Granville Island Market, the fresh caught Sockeye salmon, the local berries and Okanagan peaches, plums and cherries lead me to count my blessings. It's a lot of counting.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, there really is no place like home.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A new Cairn in town!

Some weeks ago I mentioned that we had decided to add a second Cairn Terrier to the family and the B & B. I am very pleased to introduce Zack to everyone!
Zack started life in Missouri and came to us through the dedicated and life-saving efforts of a dog rescue organization - in this case, the Colonel Potter Cairn Rescue Network. "Colonel Potter" was a much-beloved Cairn Terrier who died in a car accident. In his name, a U.S. and Canada-wide non-profit network has been established to rescue Cairns from puppy mills and unscrupulous backyard breeders, auctions and animal shelters. In these days of recession, many of these dogs, like Zack, have been given up by their families for economic and personal reasons.
We consider ourselves very lucky to have found a four-year old, fully house-trained, sweet and intelligent young dog like Zack. He has been through a lot - abandoned by his first family after he encountered relatively mild health issues, briefly in a shelter, flown to Seattle, driven to Canada and cared for by a series of strangers. He has been with us only a week but with the help of our resident Cairn, Ozzie, he is relaxing and starting to believe things will be OK. They will be better than OK, Zack. We promise you all the love and care that we can give.
If anyone reading this should be thinking of a getting a dog, please consider looking on the internet for these rescue organizations that are out there helping almost every breed. The dogs will come to you only after a full veterinary check-up, treatment, vaccinations etc. The dogs will have been settled down in a Foster Family to observe and prepare them for your adoption. The dogs are usually purebred and available for a donation to help defray the non-profit's costs. Most of all, these dogs NEED and DESERVE to live a long and happy life. Won't you help? In return, they will love you forever!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vancouver's Fair - the 2009 PNE

I grew up in a small town where the "Fall Fair" was a big deal not only to a town kid like me but to all the surrounding farmers - ready for a trip to town to show off their prize-winning Clydesdales, Holsteins and let their 4-H farm kids parade the favourite calf or pony round the ring in front of judges and an appreciative grandstand.


I thought the 4-Hers were definitely quaint in their pressed white smocks but I was not so hip that I didn't enjoy perusing the quilts, handicrafts, pies, cakes, chickens and rabbits to see if the right one got the blue ribbon. Today, I still enjoy the livestock barns and a peek at the people who work very hard to grow our food and somehow make a living. A trip to the PNE is a reminder of a goggle-eyed youth taking in the sideshows, midway and the carney life. I probably saw my first tattoo on some greasy bad-ass ride-operator.

Photo courtesy of Heritage Vancouver

Times have changed and still they haven't. The PNE offers a whole summer of Playland excitement, rides and amusement. The 1958 wooden roller-coaster is one of the world's remaining classics for coaster afficianados. Only a few years ago, it was a threatened structure but money was found to restore it to its original glory for it's fiftieth anniversary in 2008. Over half a million thrill-seekers take the ride every year.

People go to the fair for the all too cute Superdogs show, for nightly live song and dance performances like Celtic Legends or the pyro-musical spectacular Kaboom. Then there is a roster of scheduled performances from the likes of Al Jarreau, Chris Isaak, En Vogue, Rick Springfield and Canadian rockers, Chilliwack.

Me? I also go to the fair for the mini-donuts, the super-mops and all the latest gadgets. But since it's a rare event, I might once again take in the world-famous equestrian event - the RCMP "Musical Ride".

Vancouver's Fair - 99 years young!

The fair at the Pacific National Exhibition opened under sunny skies on Saturday and runs until Sept. 7th. Vancouver is such a young and forward-looking city that the fair, founded in 1910, forms a major, end-of-summer tradition for generations of British Columbians.
Year-round, visitors enjoy the site at 114 acre Hastings Park for it's landscaped beauty, first-class horse racing and betting track and a variety of city-owned sports and cultural facilities. One of those facilities, Empire Stadium, now torn down, was the site of sporting history's 1954 "Miracle Mile". At the first sporting event of any type carried Live on North American television, England's Roger Bannister defeated Australia's John Landy but both men broke the 4 minute barrier for running the mile! For running enthusiasts, checkout this archival CBC film coverage and watch for Bannister's final spurt. An exciting race even by Usain Bolt standards!
And records may soon fall again at the PNE's Pacific Coliseum, the short-track speedskating venue at the 2010 Olympic Games.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What are we doing these days?

August has been flying by. It is traditionally the busiest B & B month of the year. Briana is back from a trip DownUnder and just in time to be thrown back into the hurly-burly. She has been baking up a storm just to keep up with tables of twelve!

Matthew has borne the weight of daily cooking, cleaning and a "million other things" this summer. As someone who only cooks breakfast on weekends and occasionally cleans, I send out a BIG Thank You to him! It takes heart to find the energy for innkeeping. As our guest, it will most likely be Matthew who answers your phone call or greets you at the door. He is the one who will worry over your dietary limits and be sure to present your breakfast beautifully and done just right.

Me? Well, yes, I do some bed & breakfast laundry, emails, shop, book-keep and make sure the bills get paid. That doesn't touch the other batch of bills and maintenance on the homefront. Then there is the care & rental of the Mexican vacation condo.

Lately, O'Neal & I have been focused on finding a brother or sister Cairn for Ozzie. Ozzie turned nine this week - a happy birthday was celebrated in the park. He is a vigourous dog and usually thought to be much younger. We decided that now is the time to adopt. We discovered a North American-wide Cairn Terrier Rescue Society that is doing wonderful work for dogs rescued from puppy-mills or given up by owners. The stories that we have heard are tragedies of greed, ignorance, neglect, cruelty, just bad luck and failing health.

Anyways, we have passed the screening and home visitation reviews and are now in the hands of a Cairn/human matchmaker. Wish us luck!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Pride 2009 !!

Vancouver Pride culminates this weekend with the parade on Sunday, August 2nd. Since changing the parade route last year to include a portion of Vancouver's main shopping street, Robson Street, then along Denman St. to Beach Ave. and along English Bay to the Sunset Beach Festival Site, crowds are approaching half a million people! The weather is perfect. We are in the midst of a long, summer heatwave setting thirty year temperature records.
The Pride Society has developed a three year theme starting with Educate this year, Liberate next year and Celebrate in 2011. Click on their logo above to be taken to the Pride website and all the details.
Nelson House B & B is proud to fly it's rainbow from the front gable all year long. We are happy to be hosting the world round our breakfast table and heading towards our twentieth year in business serving the community.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The week that was.

What a week! I started off thinking about the hot summer of '69 - forty years ago. I am someone who lives very much in the present and usually resist a nostalgia trip down memory lane. Still the fates seem to have conspired to remind me just how many years I have been on this planet.

A former colleague from the Foreign Service contacted me and the rest of our peer group to mark the occasion of 35 years passing since we were all hired as "the best and the brightest". This number is pragmatically important as most of these former young bucks are now qualified for retirement and the full, golden pensioning off, reserved only for government workers and politicians. Of course, I wish them all the best of luck. Problem is that the email exchange was accompanied by a group photo of these guys, I mostly remember as twenty-somethings in the summer of '74 - now gone to faded government grey. Well, it was food for thought, but certainly no regrets that I took my career into my own hands over twenty years ago.

This weekend, I relaxed at Jericho Beach Park for the Vancouver Folk Festival. The wooded beachside park glories in a panoramic view of English Bay, the sailboats, the city skyline and the north-shore mountains. Among the myriad of performers, I particularly enjoyed Cheryl Wheeler's wit, Roy Forbes peculiar twangy voice, Lester Quitzau's bluesy guitar, Geoff Berner's caustic ironies, Bellowhead's fine English disco/seashanties and Mavis Staple's touch of history. She told the backstory of one civil rights song, written by her father for, and that became a personal favorite of, Martin Luther King. She began her own singing career in 1969 and is still going strong.

Today, July 20, marks the 40th anniversary of Man on the Moon. - July 20, 1969. I was a child who star-gazed and remember the science fiction spookiness of the Sovet Union's sputnik overhead. I remember the fuzzy black and white images and crackly sound coming LIVE from the moon. I went all nostalgic this week as I recalled Walter Cronkite's sonorous narration of this and other great events. The technical feat was,without a doubt, amazing. However, mostly I remembered Walter's American authenticity. He always seemed to represent the best of the USA.

As Mavis sang into the dusk at Jericho, the International Space Station, came out of the western sky - by far the brightest light among the early stars - and glided as swiftly and silently as time through Vancouver's sky. We danced and some of us waved.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Busy as a B & B

Nelson House is in full summer swing. We celebrated both Canada Day and US Independence Day with great conversations between Canadians, Americans, Brits, French, Germans and Danes. While tourism statistics tell us that BC may be missing some American friends this year, the international assortment around our breakfast table proves that the world is still coming to see Vancouver. Add to the mix that our B & B attracts both gays and straights and I lke to call it our "motley assortment" !

All of us have been enjoying the International Jazz Festival under wonderful sunny skies. Two of my favourite concerts were free and outdoors. Both musicians and audience demonstrated the exuberant, astonishing mix that is Canada's multicultural success story.

Vancouver's Delhi to Dublin is a group of five that mashes up Indian Bhangra, Celtic & Dub. The combined sounds of tabla, fiddle, dhol, Punjabi vocals, electric sitar and electronic beats create pure excitement. The soundtrack on their website gives you a taste of something somehow familiar and exotic.

And then there was the Toronto-based flautist, saxaphonist and bandleader Jane Bunnett and her extraordinary Embracing Voices project. Here she mixes top-notch jazz instrumentals with the soulful choral sounds of Cuba and Haiti. Watch, listen and...soar.

Please let me know if you like. There is more of the same - right here in Vancouver.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vancouver International Jazz Festival

Calling all jazz lovers! Vancouver's thriving music scene explodes tomorrow and keeps on shining through the holidays until July 5th. The best local and Canadian talent, a sampling of Europe and Latin America's finest musicians and of course, some well known, Big Name headliners.

I love the festival website. If you are thinking of coming to town, you can explore by date or by artist or by music style or by themed music series or even by instrument. Be sure to check out the artists' sampling of audio files. Here is a link to an alphabetical list by venue. It will give you a peek at Vancouver's live club, cool cabaret and concert scene - much of it within walking distance or a short cab from the B & B. As well, it will point out the many, many FREE events!

As for the big tease names - you can't beat two of the world's greatest saxophonists - Sonny Rollins and David Sanborn. Or one of the best trombonists - Ray Anderson. A guitarist like Dick Dale. A vocalist like Kurt Elling. However, I think the whole point of a Festival is to see and hear the next generation of stars and to be here for the unexpected pairings and live collaborations. It's not too late. Don't miss out on all that jazz.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A bed and breakfast garden continued...

The blue ceanosis or wild lilac beside our front steps is buzzing with happy bees. No wonder, the perfume emanating from this hardy shrub is both head-spinning and delightful!

The pink rose is a bonica. I have three and each stands eight to nine feet tall - covered with blooms all summer long. Many, many more blossoms to come!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Last Minute Special

Nelson House B & B is now offering a Last Minute Special - 20 % OFF - if booked within 48 hours of arrival date.

But please be warned:

- you must mention this special when first booking
- we do not answer the phone after 6 PM & we frequently fill up
- no Saturday-only bookings
- once confirmed, there is no cancellation refund!
- you may not get your first choice of room
- if staying more than one night, you may have to change rooms
- to lock in your discount, it's best to 100% complete our secure Reservation Request Form (with your credit card) and we will confirm within 24 hours

Tick Tock

Monday, June 15, 2009

A bed and breakfast garden.

A bed and breakfast garden often shelters some classic specimens of the plant world. Right now, our Alba Rose is in full bloom and scent. Alba is an Old Garden Rose, meaning that it predates the introduction of hybrid varieties in 1867. In fact, the Alba is one of the world's oldest known roses. It is famous as the "white rose", symbol of the House of York, in the 15th century, English "War of the Roses".

In liturgical symbolism, it represents the Virgin Mary. The simple shape and white colour is associated with the light, innocence, purity, joy and glory of the Madonna. Visions of the Virgin are said to be accompanied by the light, sweet scent of this rose.

The Alba's beauty graces our garden by day and it's gentle fragrance is a blessing by night. I don't exactly genuflect but I do stop and smell the roses and recommend it to all my friends.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog readers ... please speak up ... politely.

My last post on tips for prospective innkeepers, brought a great deal of interest. For one thing, I was able to track the power of Twitter due to one tweet from http://twitter.com/bnbs who has over 12,000 followers!! By the way, the recommendations on this twitter site are bang-on.

My stats counter went bananas but so few of you posted a comment. Shy- are we? Please, I would love to hear from you on any of the multifarious subjects that have crossed my blog.

Also of note, I rejected my first blog comment. And guess who it was from? It was from one of the United States' largest and most prominent B & B directories. You are probably thinking that I should be so flattered that this big business directory is reading this blog. Well that thought went out of my head in two secs when I realized that the author did not, in even the slightest way, acknowledge the ideas in my post or blog. Not so much as a "Nice post!"

It reads - If you're seriously interested in owning and operating a B&B or for seasoned innkeepers that want some extra tips to make their inn a success, consider our Big Boss' new book for Dummies. www.blahnblahfinder.com/

Okay, I deleted the title of the book & website but as you can see - every word is a blatant commercial. And worst of all, their bad manners and poor public relations team overlooked the fact that I am their paying customer! I pay them to list my business on their directory site!! Sheesh - what a lost opportunity to both please me and - politely- inform the public about what they are selling.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Innkeeping - you just gotta Love People

I once read that innkeeping is "the hardest job you will ever love".

I think the author was talking about the long hours and physical labour involved in maintaining a large house. However, the important message is that all of that hard work takes place in a happy and relaxed atmosphere. And all of that work is by your own choice, for your own profit and enjoyment.

If you ever thought you might someday like to operate a B & B, ask yourself if you really do like people, engage with them, manage them and want to know more about them - starting with yourself.

Do these characteristics sound like you?

At the very least - you must be cheerful and optimistic. Well - are you?

To run a bed and breakfast, you can't be afraid of hard work, but it sure is easier if you are self-motivated.

Every day in this job, you are going to meet a wide variety of people. Do you communicate well?

Can you handle more than one thing at a time?

Stay cool when the unexpected happens?

If you truly are a "people person", you will learn from your mistakes and forgive those of others.

It helps if you have an innate desire to keep your home clean and tidy.

It will help more if you don't make your guests uptight over tracking in mud or a spilled coffee.
A bed and breakfast is a home, meant for the living.

Are you flexible?



If you can answer Yes to most of these questions, then innkeeping may be your thing. Most of your guests just want to enjoy themselves, unwind and learn a little about the place they are visiting. Generally, their demands will extend no further than asking for an extra towel, explaining their dietary restrictions or picking your brain for local restaurant recommendations.

As it turned out for me, an innkeeper sets the tone and the guests intuitively pickup on it. Be yourself. Be a gracious host and you will have very grateful guests.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Built Terrier Tough

Thank you for everyone who asked! Don't worry. Ozzie is on the mend and will soon be back at his Front Desk position.
Whatever airport security, jet lag, traffic hassles or border lineups have contributed to your day, he is dedicated to taking the "ouch" out of your grouch. He is very good at what he does. He will quickly have you signed into the bed and breakfast experience and bring back that smile inside.
Please let us know, how have dogs affected your life?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ozzie & Team Nelson House

It is a bright, hot & sunny day in Vancouver but I still feel grey today. The cutest member of Team Nelson House, Ozzie, our Cairn Terrier, is in the hospital, under general anesthesia. Since visiting a Sunshine Coast cottage, frequented by many other dogs, he has developed a stubborn infection in his left ear, that has not been responding to the usual frontline medication. Therefore, it's time for a deep ear flush, some lab work and new meds specific to his problem.

The smile on Ozzie's face has never wavered. Even with one ear limping, he greets our bed and breakfast guests, in fact every human being, with equal love and grace. People always ask if he is a puppy. He is going on nine. If anything, his affection and trust have grown with every passing year.

I have never known him to have a bad day. I have done my best to preserve his canine belief in the kindness of strangers. Everywhere he goes, he catches the eye of young and old, rich and poor. Inevitably, he interrupts their busy lives just long enough to meet his soulful, intelligent gaze and return that happy grin.

How have dogs affected your life?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Top Five Reasons to Love Online Reviews

A recent bed and breakfast guest and subsequent reviewer on TripAdvisor.com posted this photo of Nelson House B & B and captioned the pic: "It-looks-like-this".

His review went on to call us a "gem" and with a wonderful turn of phrase summed us up as "Not for the faint-hearted but anyone with a joie de vivre will love this place - highly recommended."

That got me thinking about the pros and cons of online reviews. Our business predates the internet but reviews themselves are old news. Think of the "blurbs" that authors solicited from other authors. Think of the power and celebrity of old-time theatre and movie critics, whose every bitchy turn of phrase was analysed and agonized over by producers, directors and actors. Now, in this online world, even the humble, homespun B & B experience is open to a worldwide thumbs up or thumbs down.

Here are my top five reasons why you should embrace online reviews:

1. Reviews are human nature. They have been around and are not going away. They are just another form of gossip and face it, two types of individuals gossip, I mean review. You have guests who are so genuinely pleased with their experience that their true nature is to pass along the good news. Gosh - the world needs good news. Then, there is the bane of innkeepers, the guest who may have been very pleased by their stay, but whose nature tempts them to judge, criticize and revel in the authority of telling everyone just how it should be.

2. The proliferation of online review sites is due to those websites' realizing that we all love to read this stuff. The review websites tell hotels and guesthouses that the power lies in the fact that these reviews are by guests for guests. Sort of like reality TV. Yeah - right. I think the enormous draw lies in you reviewing the reviewer. Readers are searching for credibility. Depending on your analysis of the writer, you might take their recommendation of a B & B as valid or just know that the reviewer was having a headache day or tension with the spouse. Those things, we all read between the lines.

3. So I say to innkeepers, don't fear reviews. While the online review sites may wash their hands of the "personal opinion of the reviewer", they also have legal and policy protections in place against reviews posted by non-guests, outright lies and slander. The websites almost always permit the hotel or B & B to post a response to try and balance a particularly nasty slice. Don't worry over your inn's ranking. It's just a number. A highly competitive innkeeper who tries to hardsell guests into becoming instant authors of glowingly positive reviews will eventually face a comeuppance. For what it's worth, even a so-so review is bringing a link and precious eyes to your B & B website. In the long-term, it is far better to put your energy into providing every guest, even difficult ones, with a quality experience.

4. To review readers, I repeat the old adage that you can't please all the people all the time. A top-ranked bed and breakfast might not be the best choice for you. The variables are enormous. Do you want a quiet, adult, even romantic atmosphere(like us -hint-hint)? Then, it would be a mistake to go to the family-oriented establishment with twin beds and cots for the kids. Do you want to be within easy walking distance of downtown attractions, amenities & entertainment(again - that is us!). Then, the place across the bridge and twenty minutes by car from downtown would be best to avoid. Life is all about making the right choices.

5. To reviewers, I love you. I started off this post with quotes from a guest who recently surprised us with a kind and discerning look at our establishment. He got us. His stay was not without incident. A plumbing regulator device got jammed so that he was getting little or no hot water in the shower. Not good. He immediately mentioned it to Matthew, our Manager, and voila, it was fixed! Here is his review in full. So you trip advisors out there, just ask your innkeeper. We are here for you. We care and want you to be happy while under our roof. We promise you that we will listen to your concerns and questions. Life is not perfect but life in a bed and breakfast is as nice as we can make it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Memoriam - Arthur Erickson, 1924-2009

Arthur Erickson, Vancouver's legendary architect died yesterday at the age of 84. This is my photo of his Evergreen Building, circa 1978.

Mr. Erickson's aesthetic exploration of concrete and glass made him an artist among architects. He was influenced by nature, zen simplicity, the horizontal planes of landscape and water. Visionary to the end, his later works push the limits of skyscraper verticality. Each floor of the The Erickson, now under construction on the shores of False Creek, is slightly askew and twisted from the one below. The 72 story condo/Ritz-Carlton, that was started on downtown West Georgia and then shelved due to recessionary pressures, would have carried this pleasing, natural spinal twist to new heights.

For his official biography and portfolio of his worldwide work, please see his website.

For colourful commentary on a life well and truly lived, and more pics of his latest "twisty" buildings, I recommend the forum discussion at the skyscraperpage.com. This website is a treasurehouse for those who care about modern architecture.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Under the lilacs...

French lilacs flank the front gate and overhang the fountain. I believe I spotted a fairy in the garden yesterday. They are said to be attracted by the sound of running water but I believe they might like the scent of lilacs. Our guests certainly do.

Except sometimes after a rain, those romantic, hanging blooms can give you a sweet, wet slap across the face! Duck & cover.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Surfs Up/Back from Tofino

About 5 & a half hours travel time from Vancouver, Tofino and the surrounding area are extraordinarily beautiful. It is not by accident that Pacific Rim National Park and the Clayaquot UNESCO Biosphere Reserve have been created as examples of British Columbia's great temperate rainforests. The geography showcases a series of sweeping ocean beaches and offshore rocky islands, magnificent coastal forests, first nations's people and their ancient culture. Add in migratory grey whales, sea lions, bears, cougars and wolves and you have the place for a wild getaway.

At either end of the series of Pacific beaches lie the lively small towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. The former has become a tree-hugging, eco-everything base camp for whalewatching, ocean kayaking, wilderness education and exploration. Bed and breakfasts, gift shops, gourmet restaurants and multi-million dollar homes rub shoulders with hostels, youth culture and surf schools. In fact, the tides, winds & coldwater waves of Long Beach and Chesterman Beach draw surfer dudes from Australia and Hawaii to test their skills against BC's rip and curl.

Wetsuits, boots and gloves are required year round. Winter storms are so ferocious along this coast that they have become a selling point for winter tourism. No snow here - simply enormous waves and the awesome force of nature.

When we were not running with Ozzie, our Cairn Terrier, on the wet and spring-rainy beaches, we stayed warm and woodsy in a comfortable vacation cottage, called "Shipwreck", at the Gold Coast Retreat. We especially loved the Finnish-style sauna and yes, since it's been a very long time, the sound of frogs every evening. Fresh air, exercise and sweet rest.