Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top Bed and Breakfast Myths

"RULE 1: ALL guests must report for breakfast at 6:00 AM SHARP.! Fingernails and shoes will be inspected before coffee."

Do Bed and Breakfasts have strange rules or a curfew? Not by my experience. Sometimes an innkeeper might post a note that is meant to help a guest figure out a light switch or in a rural situation, might warn visitors against throwing too much stuff down the loo. Since both guest bedrooms and the guesthouse' front door are inevitably locked at night, guests are always given keys or codes to come and go as they like. Maybe the idea of a curfew dates back to the guest's own family home or college dorm. The notion certainly doesn't gibe with any B & B that I have seen.

Yes, a Bed and Breakfast may also be the personal home of the innkeeper. Unless the property was purpose-built of concrete, it is certainly very nice if a guest shows consideration and respect for others when coming in late at night. My experience is that guests very quickly take their cue from the ambience that a Bed and Breakfast conveys. If it's an older home, they do usually speak quietly when in the hallways at night and keep the television to a decent volume. On the other hand, if the B & B has a party room, a pool or hot tub for guests' use, well then, relax and enjoy the amenities.

Most Bed and Breakfasts do everything possible to respect a guest's privacy. It's natural as B & B's are often marketed as "romantic getaways". Hint. Hint. Do not worry, the bed has been tested and will NOT squeak. Chances are that the quality of mattresses, pillows, duvets and linens will be top-notch. Toiletries too.

And speaking of amenities - most modern inns/guest-houses/bed and breakfasts offer a bundle of goodies such as free parking and free WIFI, delicious homebaking and of course, an unusually good breakast that would be expensive ad-ons in many hotels.

But will it be clean? Frankly, some people should look under their own beds for dustballs. The vast majority of bed and breakfasts are sole-proprietorships, where the BOSS inspects regularly, takes a hands-on approach to the business and demonstrates pride in his/her B & B home. Would you invite guests over without applying the shine and polish?

And lastly, there is the myth that you will be forced meet people and talk to them. Maybe this one has some truth to it. But you can choose to read a paper at breakfast or just chat with your other half. No pressure. Maybe listen to the flow of conversation and add your two cents after the second coffee. When was the last time that you really enjoyed a free-wheeling and open-minded conversation with new acquaintances or made a genuine, new friend in a hotel? It happens round our breakfast table all the time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bed & Breakfast - Nestled Coziness?

"Nestled" is defined as drawn or pressed close to someone or something for, or as if for affection or protection, from Middle English to make a nest.

Bed and breakfasts walk a fine line between cloying sweetness and old-fashioned comfort. They don't always get it right. Have you ever read a bed and breakfast ad that doesn't have something nestled somewhere?! This no doubt accounts for one of the great B & B Myths, a fear most accutely felt by the male half of the species, that staying in a Bed and Breakfast is going to be like a weekend at Grandma's. You know, like back when you were 14 and Grandma seemed ancient and had nothing to offer you but ancient humbug candy. Worse - her house seemed cramped, doily, kitschy and smelled of mothballs!

Personally, I swore from the get-go that Nelson House was not going to be dressed up as Grandma's House. Let's take a breath and realize that an innkeeper is usually a professional businessperson living very much in the 21st century too. Sometimes, we just get carried away with painting a picture of relaxation, of slowing down just a bit, of stopping to smell the roses and the fresh-brewed coffee.

I was lucky enough to live in The Netherlands for two years and the Dutch have a word called "gezellig". As I tried to learn the language, I was told that the quick translation in English would be "cozy". However, English lacks a single word that captures ALL of the Dutch meaning. I think that innkeepers and bed and breakfasts are striving for that true meaning of gezellig. We are trying to create a space, an atmosphere or ambiance, something that exists in the company of others, which is friendly, fun, pleasant, cozy, and sociable. Now that's nothing to be afraid of - is it?

Valentines home-baked by Briana and photographed by Matthew at the B & B. The chocolate hearts melted in your mouth....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2010 Olympics - one year to go!

A photo of Vancouver's 2010 Olympics Clock ticking down.

National media are checking the excitement level today. 365 days from now, the world will gather in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. This is the third time that Canada has hosted an Olympiad - Montreal in 1976, Calgary in 1988 and now Vancouver's turn in the spotlight is rapidly approaching!

ALL of the sports venues are ready. World Cup Alpine Ski races and bobsledding have already been help up at Whistler. The Four Continents Figure Skating competition was held here in town just last weekend. The reports on facilities and organization have all been great. Canadian athletes are glad to get a leg-up by being able to use the competition venues over the next year. In fact, the Four Continents' men's gold medal winner was a Canadian whiz kid, named Patrick Chan. If you love figure skating, remember that name. He just turned 19!

The City of Vancouver is responsible for construction of the Olympic Village. The developer has suffered due to the worldwide credit crunch and city taxpayers are now on the hook for a gigantic bank loan, sufficient to ensure that the Village is completed on time, this November. Nevertheless, there are 14 cranes on the site working day and night. After the party, the waterfront, eco-friendly properties will be sold off as high-end condos. So - City Hall says "Don't worry!"

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee(VANOC) released the design of the torch and torchbearer's uniforms today. You can expect to see what look like space aliens running from one side of Canada to the other with a whalebone. But I do like the Olympics colour scheme - all natural green, ice blue and white. The colours capture Vancouver and Whistler, just as red and gold reflected Beijing.

Vanoc and some (jealous) media in other cities are scolding Vancouverites to get with the booster spirit. We are such a laidback bunch here. Sooo... west coast. It takes a lot to get us excited but I think that the goosebumps are on the rise. Our metro population is extremely cosmopolitan. I am sure that it is our immigrant and first-generation Canadians who are most interested in having the world come to call. In the end, good down-home Canadian hospitality is sure to kick in. I can believe VANOC's predictions that the streets of downtown will be filled by up to 250,000 celebrants EVERY night of the Games. We are getting ready. Rain or shine. Here they come!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coming a vacation near you!

So, suddenly everybody’s got a deal for you! It’s a special offer, a sale, a discounted, lowest price. Well, maybe it’s the same old malarkey, designed to help their budget, not yours?

In a world full of financial woe, one Bed and Breakfast stands alone. Nelson House B & B offers you bang for the buck, not frou-frou dressed up as luxury; our first-name attention not a load of anonymous staff; home-cooking and baking, not the buffet line; answers to your questions, not a referral to the concierge. And here we are downtown - right where you want to be.

True hospitality, once experienced, will leave you with the warm and fuzzy knowledge that you picked the best accommodation in Vancouver. Just give us a call. Let’s get that vacation started!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Vancouver in 3D !!!

Well I am back from 2 & a half weeks of Mexican bliss. Yes, I did practice responsible home ownership in Vallarta and painted the entire condo, etc, etc. Somehow, under the tropic sun and with the sound of the waves as background music, the home fix-it projects were easier than usual. Now, it's back to the northern beauty.

Vancouver sure is looking good. I would not want to knock anyone else's hometown but as I listened to the airport announcements for flights leaving Puerto Vallarta, there was not a single destination that could compare to Vancouver. A few sounded downright freezing, boring and depressing places to have to fly home to. I count my blessings. As I tiptoed into the Bed & Breakfast well past midnight to pick up Ozzie, our sweetheart Cairn Terrier, it was apparent that beloved dog and business had been very well cared for in my absence.

It's one of the great fears of parents, pet owners and us self-employed folk that things will go wrong the minute we absent ourselves. Little by little, I am learning that it ain't necessarily so. If you can surround yourself with the right people, responsible & intelligent, and exercise the right planning & preparation, it appears that both the dog and the B & B business have lives of their own! Thank you Team Nelson House! Thank you Matthew and Briana!

Vancouver sure has a lot of a life in it these days. Spring is already budding beautifully. Recession or not, the B & B is busy and people obviously want to come see what all the buzz is about. Vancouver has Olympic facilities to finish and mega projects underway - a harbourside convention centre with the world's largest green, living roof, a new LRT transit line from downtown to the airport & beyond, and a vastly improved mountain highway to Whistler. This year's Cultural Oympiad program, leading up to the Feb. 2010 Games, offers a stunning 122 first-calibre arts events and hundreds of performances. If you want to see one city in North America, that is actively bettering itself, this is the place to be.

Even Google Earth is paying attention. Last week, Vancouver joined New York City as one of world's first cities to be mapped in 3D! Over 1400 buildings have been rendered in three-dimensional colour and detail and set against the spectacular ocean and mountain backdrop of downtown Vancouver. Even Nelson House B & B, our 3-story heritage home at 977 Broughton St., is accurately imaged with light blue walls and silver roof. We are in the extreme left hand lower corner of the downtown image below. If you have Google Earth installed, zoom down and check us out. If not, it's a free download. Fly like a bird over and between the buildings! Vancouver in 3D! It's remarkable computer imaging but nothing compared to the real thing.