Traveling has been one of my loves in life. I have traveled to many wonderful countries in my lifetime; I still have many stops to make. Prague, Istanbul, the Islands of Crete, Israel, Iceland, and several places in Italy are on my list of places to visit next; life is way too short. Travelling has enriched me so; I have learned so much about how other cultures live, love, travel and eat. Exploring the cities architectures, gardens, city centers, plazas, markets, eateries, highways, cityscapes, churches and most of all their festivities are great ways of understanding the local people. Learning the customs of other cultures is so intriguing to me.
I’ve never been one who has to stay in a 4- or 5-star hotel; the room just needs to be clean, cozy, have a private bathroom, fresh linens, and provide a modest breakfast. I enjoy staying in neighborhoods, city centers or in the countryside with the locals. I book bed and breakfasts, cottages, villas, small boutique hotels or farm houses before chain hotels. Thank God for the internet! When I decide what countries I’m going to visit, then I determine what cities I wish to visit and for how long. I like to move around; get a feel for both the city and countryside.
The perfect example of staying somewhere special is when I took my youngest daughter to France, we stayed in an old Water Mill in the Burgundy region of France. The Mill was turned into a farmhouse for rent. The water ran through the farmhouse’s den, which was totally relaxing when napping on the glorious daybed full of pillows set up for afternoon siestas. The owner of the establishment was so thoughtful! She supplied us with a list of local festivals and markets which we visited. I found some wonderful antiques to bring back to the US. I have used these artifacts in our B&B. I absolutely loved the blue and white pottery, enamel pans, lace, vases and other small trinkets I found in the Antique shops throughout our trip. I also took note of the placement of her garden; the farmhouse always smelled of Lavender. The kitchen windows had pots filled with fresh herbs for cooking or bathing. During that trip to France, we also stayed in Paris for several days in a small boutique hotel two blocks away from the Eiffel Tower; it was the perfect location for walks to the museums, shopping, restaurants, and other attractions. Even though I have vacationed in Paris twice, it’s not enough!
I started staying in B&B’s in the mid 80’s in Key West, Florida. This seaside town was flooded with Victorian homes made into B&B’s. I would spend my winter’s in the Keys selling time shares and real estate to snow birds from the upper, east coast, so staying in a real home was so much better than a hotel. It’s where I got the itch of having my own B&B one day. I remember how special and calming it felt to wake up and shuffle on down to the wrap-around porch for breakfast in the morning. The Host’s always served a very modest breakfast of croissants with strawberry preserves, fresh fruits, yogurt, cereals juices and coffee. These selections always tasted so much better in the Keys than at home. The Host’s also taught me how to make homemade pasta; which I have to say is amazing! During my stays, I would daydream about how I would host my B&B one day. When travelling, I always took mental notes.
Staying in boutique hotels in Spain, Italy, England, Portugal, and Ireland are a much different experience. The rooms are usually tiny, the beds are firm, there’s usually a lack of hot water from tiny little showers and you always have to ask for more toiletries, pillows and towels. I have stayed in many and love them for what they are. I’ve also vacationed in Spa’s in France and Arizona; again, a very different experience; being pampered with lovely smelling toiletries, candles, healthy foods for breakfast, healthy snacks, hiking trails, exercise programs, massage schedules, steam rooms, and lobbies that smell of eucalyptus. I also traveled internationally for work for years and was able to stay in many five-star
hotels like The Ritz Charlton or The Four Seasons and was spoiled by having my bed turned down each night, delicious foods, listening to talented pianists in the warm, candlelit lobby during the evening.
Breakfasts in Spain and Portugal were mostly an assortment of sliced meats, poached eggs and cheeses, breads and yogurt; coffee and juices. In Ireland, you had tomatoes, blood pudding, mushrooms, eggs, bacon and corn flakes offered to you. I wanted potatoes!!! No where to be found for breakfast…at least in all the B&B’s I stayed in. At least I found homemade oatmeal in England! This kept me going all day. Italy & Spain usually have more of a selection of morning pastries; which I love. My favorite thing about travelling anywhere is their coffee and tea service! This is something I incorporated into my B&B. My guests were always taken back by the offer and enjoyed it. It basically slows you down a bit.
My Husband and I were married in a B&B called the Cliveden Inn in Cape May, New Jersey. This stunning Victorian home was perfect for a small wedding. The Hosts offered champaign on the front porch at sundown every night’ we had tea. It’s the little things that mean so much.
Later in years when the children were grown, my husband and I downsized, bought our Victorian cottage in Kansas. We didn’t buy this home with the thoughts of starting a B&B. The cottage was located in a small college town and was in the perfect location for parents to stay when visiting their children. Our home was also perfectly architected for privacy for both the guests and us. The B&B was named The Haven Suite in Old West Lawrence. It was a total success story! People loved staying at our cottage. We made it the most special place to stay in Lawrence, KS. We had to close it down due to the pandemic.
I had so much fun owning a B&B. Here’s some of the reason’s our B&B was successful. We have a very special vestibule; It’s located at the front of the house, before you arrive to The Haven Suite. My Husband and I always greeted our guests on the front porch and then walk them into the vestibule. Always! I always had the vestibule candlelit, with freshly cut flowers (from our garden) in pretty antique vases and the door to their suite was open to welcome them. Then we gave our guests a quick history of the house, told them where to find a map of the town and activities being held during their stay. The Suite was always filled with restaurant menus, flash lights, our web passwords #’s, extra blankets, pillows, linens, keys to the suite, combination for the house and our cell phone numbers. I also had flowers, candles in the room, wine glasses, cork opener, some fresh fruit and small treats.
I always emailed the guests a head of time to ask if they had any food restrictions or allergies. The guests were given the choice of having breakfast on the covered porch or in their room. I didn’t hold back on anything for breakfast…always fresh fruit, yogurt, pastry, bread, homemade omelets or other hot dishes like oatmeal; all severed on china. I also served a vegan menu. Fresh juice, coffee or tea. Steamed milk. Fresh flowers. I offered tea (hot or cold) or coffee service any time; this was always served with a biscotti or homemade dessert).
There was a library shelf of used books that guests had left for other guests to enjoy. People really enjoyed this. I actually got this idea from a hotel I visited in Spain. I actually left four books and took four. We had a young lady stay on a regular basis just to detox and read all weekend long! She had all her meals and tea service on the porch. My husband strategically placed hummingbird feeders, a bird bath, and other bird feeders around the porch area. Guests loved our season of birds.
I encouraged each guest to leave a survey and review after their stay. This taught me what I could do better. It was always a treat to read the reviews.
I enjoyed hosting people from around the world. I made some forever friends that are like family to me. I miss meeting the guests and making their stays special. I sent each guest off with a bag of my family heirloom, Ginger Cookies as a thank you.
Due to health issues I had to close The Haven Suite. Sadly, I couldn’t keep up with my duties.