B&B or hotel – are they created equal? Many of you who have never stayed in a B&B before might wonder what this trend is all about. Some of you might be die-hard B&B travellers and swear by them. So I thought perhaps it is time to compare the two options and see which one comes out on top. Who better to help me with the task than Maria? So once more we gathered round the well used dinning table over a steaming cup of java to compare the two…here’s what we came up with.
- Fixed or Flexible Arrival and Departure Times: If you have a fixed itinerary with arrival or departure times that might be outside of normal business hours, you may find the 24 hour capabilities of a hotel are better suited to your needs. While B&B owners try to bend over backwards to meet the needs of their guests, they also have to balance the needs of other guests in their homes. Sometimes noise considerations may limit their ability to accommodate late night arrivals or early morning departures. Having said that, if your arrival and departure times are more flexible – you might like to try the friendly and casual atmosphere offered by B&B’s.
- Anonymity or Looking to Mingle: Sometimes you want a getaway to include a getaway from people. Maybe you are looking for a quiet and intimate couples retreat, or maybe you just need to recharge in isolation. While I wouldn’t suggest B&B’s don’t offer tranquility and the opportunity to recharge, or a beautiful environment for a romantic encounter with that special someone, they don’t provide the anonymity of a hotel. B&B’s are a great environment for a little chit-chat with others who might share similar interests and to get some great tips on how to enhance your getaway as you exchange traveller reviews over breakfast. Certainly the environment is one which fosters a community of travellers and many friendships have formed at the breakfast table.
- Standardized Accommodations or Unique Architecture and Décor: As a former business traveller herself, Maria can appreciate the value of standardized accommodations. When your travel arrangements and business meetings include an ample amount of unexpected change, it is often nice to know when you check in to the hotel brand of your choice the service you receive is one that you are familiar with. When traveling for leisure however, Maria encourages you to try the novelty of a B&B. Given you are staying at the home of your host, B&B’s offer a variety of styles, décor, environments and personal touches that you probably won’t experience at a hotel chain. In fact, getting to know your fellow B&B guests as well as your hosts is probably the most rewarding element of a B&B stay and may become the highlight of your trip!
Of course, like hotels, there is a wide range of accommodation and services offered at B&B’s and Maria encourages you to do a little research in advance to ensure you are selecting a B&B that suits your style and expectations. Speaking to the B&B owner is a great way to learn about the property as well as visiting websites, like Trip Advisor, that allow visitors to post reviews.
We’ve just highlighted a few of the differences between a hotel stay and a stay at a local B&B. Perhaps you have some you would like to share?
Like many of you, I’ve lead a rather busy life lately. And while I had been raised to think of others and contribute to social goodwill, over the past few years that meant less and less active service and more and more cheque writing. In fact, every time I wrote a cheque for another worthy charity, I felt I ought to be doing more. So, I said to myself, what about working for a not-for-profit? That way your business skills can go towards helping a charity become even more efficient, enabling contributions to go directly towards the cause….”good idea”, I thought.
So while I looked around for the right not for profit in need of my particular area of expertise, I ended up in the B&B business. And, after the first few weeks of helping people connect over coffee and make new friends, plan how they will spend their much needed vacation in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and generally create a welcoming atmosphere, I thought….could this be public service?
Is it trite and demeaning to compare the hospitality business with other public service such as charitable organizations and service clubs? Or is there something in this business that can be said to contribute to the overall health of our society?
I have to admit, when I help a new visitor to our town discover our local beauty and regain the spark that was perhaps dulled by the weekly grind, I do get that glow inside…you know the one that comes from knowing you have reached out and touched someone. Even if it is on a much smaller scale, is it fair to compare making someone’s holiday remarkable with helping someone learn to read, or leading a boy scout pack week after week?
Tell me, is helping someone plan their vacation the same as helping out your fellow man?
We got into this business thinking it was a logical way for my husband (a former Executive Chef) and I to transition to retirement. And while we understood the commitment it would require, we were surprised at the diversity of our guest demographic.
When I say B&B’s are a travel trend, many might say…”Hey Nancy, what are you talking about, the B&B idea has been around for years!” And you’d be right. However, it isn’t just for the retired and near retired silver-haired generation.
Based on our experience to date, many of our guests are under 35 and looking for a getaway that feels like home. In fact, as one of my guests explained to me, since they are only able to rent a smaller apartment in the downtown area of their city, getting away to our B&B gives them more space with a lovely outdoor patio on which to unwind with a glass of their favourite local wine. Add to that the king sized bed, soaker tubs and lack of toddlers, and many of our newly married guests find a brief break from home to be the perfect size vacation for their budget and timeline – without giving up the comforts of home.
Now that demographic group I can understand. But it is the number of guests that are under 30 that shocked me! I mean, while we are happy to have them join us at Maria’s, when I was that age, I think I was camping, using a hostel or sleeping in my friend’s car when I travelled. I guess the trend in travel is that younger folks have a more sophisticated appetite for creature comforts and are willing to part with their hard earned money for an experience that offers the kind of luxury and quality they have come to expect. Instead of saving for a car, new wardrobe or even their first home, today’s 20-year olds are ready to invest in an experience more than previous generations did at the same age.
What do you think? Are B&B’s a trend, or just an old idea that has been refreshed? And if it is a trend, what demographic is supporting it?
I’ve mentioned before that it is the people stories that amaze me about this business. I’ve met parents of dying children who describe themselves as blessed to have met their heroic child; a child who doesn’t question their fate but knows they have a limited life-span and puts every ounce of living into the time they have. I’ve met survivors of illness and injury, including a mother of 2 who was determined to walk up our stairs to her room every night and down again for breakfast, despite having to use a wheelchair at home as she recovers from an injury expected to leave her unable to walk again.
However, this past week, we met an amazing young woman from Russia who had been adopted by a US family just 3 years ago. She was just like any 12 year old girl you may know in your neighbourhood. Having spent time this summer at camp, she was eager to teach my husband how to make smores over the gas fire pit in our back yard and she thrilled at the opportunity to show us the new top she bought her last night here.
What makes her a hero to me is how she doesn’t bat an eyelash at the trials she has survived. Apparently life hasn’t been so good to her in the past – but instead of asking for sympathy or using it as a crutch, she is very proud to tell us about life in the Russian orphanage and how she learned to work hard and do her part to keep the orphanage clean.
You see that’s what makes a hero….the ability to rise above our challenges and keep focused on what is important. Perhaps children are natural at it – more resilient than adults, but I choose to think that we all have the ability to be heroes. And better yet, there are heroes all around us that can help to inspire our own inner hero!
Have you met any heroes lately?
Many of you have asked for the recipe for our famous cherry scones. Well, here you have it directly from Chef Kent’s Kitchen. Let us know how they turn out!
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried cherries
Egg wash, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water, beaten
Sugar and sliced almonds, for sprinkling
Preheat oven: 325 degrees F.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter to flour, mix with hands or pastry blender till crumbly. Combine wet ingredients and mix into dry just until moistened. Add cherries. Mixture will be very sticky. Turn onto floured surface and knead 4 to 5 times with floured hands. Cut ball into halves and cut 6 triangles from each half. Brush tops with egg wash. Sprinkle tops with sugar and sliced almonds. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
Serve with preserves and Devon cream as desired.
Many of the guests at Maria’s B&B have actually never stayed in a B&B before, so I sat down at the dinning table with Maria to ask her about a few B&B do’s and don’ts. Here are some of her tips for those of you new to B&B etiquette.
- Be sure to arrive on time or let the B&B owner know when you might be arriving if outside of the posted check in time. Remember, unlike a hotel, you are staying someone’s home and they likely need to run errands like the rest of us.
- Observe the check out time and try to stick to it. Like tip #1, the owner needs time to get ready for their next guests and while you might be on vacation time, they probably have a tight schedule to get all their chores completed before welcoming their next guests.
- Food allergies? Be sure to let the owner know in advance if you have any special dietary restrictions. Most B&B owners will go to great lengths to accommodate allergies or dietary restrictions but you can’t be sure that substitutes are always kept stocked. It is better to let them know at the time of booking and then confirm on arrival. Letting them know that you are allergic to eggs as your omlette is set in front of you is not a great way to ensure good relations.
- Make yourself at home, but not too at home. B&B owners are proud to have you enjoy their home and are pleased when you make yourself comfortable in the space provided – afterall, that is the benefit of staying in a B&B. However, it can be a fine line between making yourself comfortable and encroaching on their private space. If you aren’t sure – just ask! The owners will let you know what areas are reserved for their personal use.
- Need something – ask. The charm of staying in a B&B is that it is a personal residence. As such, if you find yourself in need of something it is likely the owner has what you need and is happy to lend it to you. But please ask; no one likes to know their kitchen drawers have been rifled through if only to borrow something as innocent as a pair of scissors.
- Introduce yourself. When you see other guests at the B&B, be sure to introduce yourself. I know many of us are a bit shy until we know we have common ground to talk about, but hey…you do! You are both staying at the same B&B. And aren’t interesting conversations wtih other vacationers the reason you choose to stay at a B&B?
Are we crazy? Some days I think so…Right now, with only one month of the busy season under our belt I definitely think so. When was the last night I didn’t have a guest in the house or enjoy the luxury of wearing my PJ’s at breakfast?
But then, I meet a new guest and hear them telling a bit about “their story” – because as you know, everyone has a story – and I tell myself how cool this B&B stuff really is.
What is so wonderful you ask? Well let me tell you, I was prepared for the cleaning, laundry and dishes, although some days I admit it wears me out. And I knew my husband would turn out amazing breakfasts with his usual flare for food. But what I wasn’t expecting was the magic that often happens at the breakfast table.
I’ve never really been a fan of cocktail parties, I find them a bit tense even after the first glass as my inner wall flower always seems to emerge…but put people together over a cup of coffee and a bowl of homemade granola and voila! Friendships are forged, the generation gap disappears, in fact I’m certain with enough java, world peace could be obtained. With tea towel in hand, I eavesdrop on the most amazing stories as people share their daily trials and tribulations, victories and defeats at Maria’s breakfast table.
We North Americans are so voyeuristic, aren’t we? We love our gossip mags and entertainment shows because we think the celebrities lead such special lives and we love to watch from the sidelines. But I tell you, we are surrounded by special people. Your neighbour, child’s elementary school teacher, mechanic…these are the people who stay at Maria’s and they have amazing stories to tell, if we only take the time to listen.
I hope to use this blog to highlight some of those amazing people and their spirit. Perhaps you will join me in sharing stories of some of the amazing B&B’ers you’ve crossed paths with during your travels?
Until then, happy trails…