I once sat in a meeting targeted at accommodation providers and the speaker twice repeated the words: 'We can not allow ourselves to become too precious about our B&B's'. Well, It took all my self-control not to shout: 'if your B&B is not precious to you, you should not have a B&B.' A fellow guest house owner argues that our B&B's are so personal to us that we often take criticism about as well as we would if we were told that we have an ugly or a naughty child.
I have noticed that guest houses will often set the television to a news channel during breakfast.To me that is just one notch above listening to rap while having a meal - who wants to start his day with bad news, and let's face it, 'news' will inevitably be bad news. For seventeen years my background music of choice at the breakfast table has been light classical music, but I also have quite a collection of 'soothing' background CD's. I think one should be careful with vocals and I prefer to play soothing instrumental music if not light classical.
I have a few friends who also run B&B's and whenever we get together, you can be sure that within minutes we'll be sharing tips, recipes, a joke or a funny incident. Exactly a year ago my friend Liza encouraged me to write candidly about the joys (and frustrations) of running a guest house, categorized on my blog as "My B&B Life". This week I want to tackle tricky issues around accents and cultural differences.
An Afrikaans speaking person will ask for breakfast at 'half sewe' (6h30), someone from England will talk about 'half seven' (7h30) and another person may talk about 'half-past seven' - three different meanings to similar-sounding request, fertile ground for misunderstandings! I'm sure fellow B&B owners will sympathize with my frustration (because it's probably happened to them often!) when a guest who requested breakfast at 6.30 (which requires a wake-up time of 5.30 for the guest house owner) then casually waltzes in at 7.30. The problem is that you've been robbed of an hour of sleep with only yourself to blame as, chances are, you were the one who made the mistake with the half-past six / half six story.
I think I should offer cooking class exchanges officially on my website! I was delighted when Dani, who lives in London, but is of Greek descent, offered to teach me how to make dolmathes using the new leaves from our vine. Last year I exchanged...
Today I would like to share the following, written by our son Alex:
"We headed out from a launch near the Cape Town Waterfront to hunt for snoek, those nasty looking wolves of the sea – to most people the quintessential South African fish. We must have looked rather comic as we chugged out of the launch site, four big guys perched on a tiny, pink rubber duck. After cruising about for a while we spotted a group of boats floating together about two kilometers offshore and we immediately knew they were into the snoek. The adrenalin was pumping, but we had to keep to a pretty moderate speed as the small boat climbed up and down the swells. Eventually, we joined up with the other boats and rushed to get our lines in the water.
I love a good cup of coffee...Remember, we lived in Namibia for 13 years and there we were introduced to a European style cafe culture. Often the coffee there is served with milk enriched with evaporated milk. We could buy imported coffee brands long before our coffee taste buds were developed to the degree that they are today in South Africa.
At the breakfast table, I will often have guests express appreciation at the good coffee I serve. We buy our coffee, freshly ground, on a weekly basis from a local roaster. Which also means that I can order coarser ground coffee to go with the plungers that I put out in the rooms and finely ground for my Bialetti pots - my preferred method of serving the coffee at breakfast.
This December I've had a guest make the booking and then mention as an afterthought that she had a little Yorkie; surely I would not have a problem with that? My reply: " If your little Yorkie can handle my big Bull Mastiff then we do not have a problem... ". I've had guests threatening to sneak our one-year-old Bull Mastiff into the bedroom and I've had guests reeling back in horror at the sight of a dog.
Bull Mastiffs turned out to be perfect guest house dogs: they are non-territorial, not unnaturally aggressive and hardly ever bark.
(Text and photographs by Alex Cremer)
Because it was partly hidden behind high boundary walls, the true beauty of Fairview only became obvious once I drove through the new gates. Then the regal proportions and straight-lined design of the double storey dwelling, built around 1865, could be properly viewed.
To me, the old place had a rather Georgian flavour that was further enhanced by the symmetry of the quite formal front garden, or perhaps I simply sought a scenario where traditional European elegance blended with the typical colonial style of the Victorian era.