Saturday, January 24, 2009

Time keeps on slippin...

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico sometimes seems like one golden sunset after another. The sound of the waves is hypnotic and soothing. The tequila is fine and the flowers pack a fluorescent punch against a turquoise pool. In this state of Jalisco, folk commonly meet your gaze and surprise with a "Hola" to a stranger.

Visiting only once or twice a year, I notice the differences and the dissonances. Worldwide recession has slowed the luxury real estate flipping but has perhaps created an opportunity for regular buyers. 2008 seems to have been the year in PV when OXXO declared that "This year, we take Vallarta!" Suddenly the 7-11 lookalikes are on every corner. Also, there are more open offers of drugs and commercial sex - sometimes ALL on the same corner. Our little sleepy village is growing up.

Still, as I live-blog the sunset(pale apricot deepening rapidly towards fuschia), I forgive Vallarta it's little flaws. WOW - a sexy red cat's eye wink from the sun as it gleams over Yelapa and under a heavy-lidded cloud. Where else can I enjoy such a cool, retro 80's radio sound as NOVENTA PUNTA TRES with my "sundowner"? And then head out to dine on Imperial Prawns that can live up to the name. Maybe dance until dawn at Manana. A little shallow? I think not. It is Deep Vacation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Puerto Vallarta - beauty, fun & sensuality

Sorry to be away from the keyboard so long but if there is anything more addictive than blogging, then it is vacation. We are staying in Alondra, our Puerto Vallarta getaway home. It is a one bedroom, ocean-view condo, overlooking Los Muertos Beach. And it IS for rent, when we are not in residence!

The last few days have been oddly split between taking care of business(renewing Mexican immigration documents, meeting the accountant, shopping) and partying like there is no tomorrow. Friends and other owners in this small building dined, danced and drank until past 4 AM the other night. We called it a meeting of the condo executive.

Having recovered from the meeting, we took in our very favourite drag queens in the whole world at The Dirty Bitches Show last night. I think that City Hall should give these girls a medal for representing PV. As an ensemble, the Bitches are a force to be reckoned with. Their whole is far greater than the sum of their parts(and they do have some very nice parts!). The fun of Diva, the beauty of Jacqueline and the sensuality of Angelica are just like this wonderful town. Long Live the Dirty Bitches!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Off to Vallarta!

Adiós a mis amigos. Vamos a nuestro lugar en Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Próximo - de la playa....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Keep the B & B dream alive - 5 tips for dodging Burnout!

If I've learned anything in 19 years of innkeeping, it's to be hospitable to the innkeeper. Here in the downtown, West End neighbourhood of Vancouver, there have never been more than half a dozen bed and breakfasts. Amongst my innkeeper colleagues, it was only a matter of a few years before my status changed from new kid on the block to the ancient innkeeper of the West End. I have since learned that this phenomenon is widely true across bed and breakfasting. There is rather horrendous burnout in what should be a very happy profession. Why? And how to avoid it?

1. Self-employment is a risk. Not everyone is cut out to handle that kind of uncertainty. It's easy, even a comfort, to gripe with your co-workers about the boss from hell and the inane company strictures, when you know that your salary will be deposited in your bank account every two weeks. Being an employee may be as boring as a clock but not knowing if you can pay the bills in two weeks can be an alarming wake up! Never open a bed and breakfast if you are fleeing the stress and headaches of a 9 to 5 routine. You could be trading that for a 24/7 nightmare. I would suggest that you are ONLY in a position to consider innkeeping if you have already succeeded as a dependable employee, a trusted co-worker, someone the company would be glad to rehire.

2.Plan. Plan. Plan. There are great books, online advice, consultants to hire and local college courses to help you decide if innkeeping is really for you. For me, the definitive guide that asked me all the thought-provoking questions was a book called "So - You Want to be an Innkeeper" by Mary Davies. It is still out there, now in it's third revised edition. The point of planning is to look at finances, locale, zoning etc, but ONLY AFTER you have looked in the mirror. Do you have the disposition to be hospitable? Ask yourself: Am I a warm person? Am I neighbourly? Am I concerned for the well-being of others? Be honest. Much can be learned but some things have to come from the heart.

3. So if you have decided you like people, are you still going to like them inside your home? The greatest downfall that I have observed in innkeeping is an underestimation of one's own primal need for privacy. Even saints need some private time for solitude and reflection. How much do you need? Is the B & B schedule that you have planned conducive to meeting your own needs for rest and recuperation? Is the physical layout of the B & B able to provide you and your loved ones their own "space"? Privacy is often about the psychological separation of the different components of your life. Work and home are symbolic of many things to each person and juggling them both under the same roof can be more than some can manage.

4.Okay, so you are ready to invite the world. It's because your heritage home has now been beautifully restored to museum condition. The design work and decorating details have absorbed and delighted you for months. That is well and good but most guests don't want to vacation in a museum. After the renos are cleaned up and the fun of shopping for the perfect antique armoire fades, you will then have to face the prospect of visiting with your guests, meeting their needs as paying customers, cleaning, cooking, marketing and the thrill of grocery shopping. And did I say cleaning? Only so much can be delegated before you are running a hotel. A major reason for burnout is the dawning realization, that maybe you should have focused more narrowly to become a self-employed contractor or designer or decorator or florist or even that museum curator. Personally, I believe that there is enough variety and multitasking to innkeeping to keep the mind active and the body engaged. Beware if the homebody housekeeping has become a bore. Ultimately, the best antidote to the isolation of working from home is the guest who accepted your invitation, chose your establishment in a crowded marketplace, took a chance on your hospitality and decided to share his/her own time and conversation, wisdom and insight. Just be yourself. Meet your guest as an equal. Communication is two way and over a shared cup of coffee can be surprisingly rewarding.

5. These days, it takes only a mouse-click to find so many beautiful bed and breakfasts on the market that have a proven track record of producing a fat income. Ever wonder why they are for sale? If it wasn't for lack of security or planning or disposition or the love of the actual day to day work, it is probably because a couple decided to do it all together! In other words, the business succeeded just as the relationship failed. Constant togetherness, night and day proximity can bring a relationship into very sharp focus indeed. All too often, it is only one partner who is romanced by the dream of bed and breakfasting and the other goes along - but only to a point. My suggestion is that life partners would do better if they kept some separation in their careers. It gives them something to tell each other at the end of the day. But if you both really want to be full-time innkeepers, try to work out clearly defined areas of expertise and management where you don't trip over each other each and every minute. And remember, be hospitable to the innkeepers! Give yourselves a vacation too!

The List of Lists

OK now, all you other list lovers(would spellcheck make that "Lizst"?), I know you are out there. If you crave some post-holidays light and entertainment, be sure to check out the list of lists compiled by this self-described "narcissistic dilettante". I am convinced that he would make a wonderful breakfast conversationalist - say around 4 PM.

These are the best and worst and top tens, multiple lists of everything from advertising, architecture, art, autos, books( I think I am glad that bed & breakfasts missed the cut) and on it goes through business, comedy, comics, dance, design, dvd, fashion, education, film, food/drink, gadgets, games, ideas, media and be sure to explore the wonderfully eccentric miscellaneous, music, online, paranormal, people, photos, politics, religion, sports, science, sex, technology, theater, toys, travel, TV, videos, words/search.

Set aside the rest of the winter before clicking: The List of Lists:2008

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top 5 Reasons to Open a Bed and Breakfast

At the the turn of the year, I like(besides Sydney's fireworks) all of the Top Ten Lists, the retrospective Best Of ... Lists, and the look ahead to What We Might See in the New Year.

If you have ever thought that it would be nice to open a bed and breakfast someday, these are five good reasons to pursue your dream:

  1. Self-employment is a challenge to yourself with the potential for great personal satisfaction.

  2. Innkeeping is a particularly flexible form of self-employment that allows you to define the day to day details of earning your livelihood.

  3. You can bring a wide variety of life experience and skills to the bed and breakfast table. A love of cooking might be equally as valuable as a love of home renovation.

  4. Owning and operating a B & B is a multitasking delight. Each day is not necessarily like the last. Done right, it should not quickly grow stale.

  5. In hospitality, your customers bring the world to your door. B & B guests are not only in vacation mode but they are often very seasoned travellers, who have purposefully chosen the personal touch of a guesthouse over the anonymity of a hotel. They are smart, considerate, genuinely interested in the the place they are visiting and as such, more likely to leave a positive impression of themselves behind them.