Wednesday March 17, 2010
Field Trip to Texas
Here's joke we heard at the PAII conference (national innkeepers gathering) in Austin last week:
"The government is doing a safety study on full size 4x4 pickups. They installed a black box to determine what happened right before a crash. In 49 of the 50 states, the driver's last words were "Oh, sh**t!!!"
In Texas, the driver's last words were "Hold my beer...watch this!!!"
Teri and I had a GREAT time in Austin and San Antonio. It was a business trip, after all, and we got a ton of information at the conference to keep our inn-keeping approach fresh and our web-marketing cutting edge. But, hey -- it was Texas, so we had a good time as well.
In Austin we stumbled on a day-long musical benefit show at the Continental Club. Rockabilly, tejano, country, acid rock and burlesque dancers. (Hey - it was Texas). The big surprise was an appearance by Jimmie Vaughn for a 6 song set.
Teri also tried some cowboy boots on for the first time...and hasn't taken them off since. EEE-HAAH.
The hospitality and food in Austin are abundant and flavorful. Lots of tex-mex and BBQ, naturally. But if you go check out a stellar restaurant called Wink...as good as any fine cuisine as you'll find in Boston. We stayed at one of Austin's top rated B&Bs Kimber Modern. Very cutting edge and stylish with great bathrooms.
After the PAII conference we drove down the road to San Antonio to check out the Alamo (shown above), the Riverwalk and more great restaurants. If you go, try Mi Tierra in the public market for a great Mexican style breakfast. We stayed at La Contessa on the Riverwalk. Very comfortable, festive and a great location.
Each off season we hit the road a couple of times to see what other top hotels and inns are doing. If something impresses us, we adapt it for The Bass Cottage Inn. Now, we just have to think up another reason quickly to return to Texas - a big state with a big personality.
Monday March 1, 2010
Twenty-five and going strong
It's been a while since I've blogged to you all. Sorry about that. I had a creative block, I guess, but bouncing along the Mount Desert Island roads and their frost heaves have jolted me back to the blogosphere.
Have been getting lots of reservation calls and online bookings over the past few weeks so it's clear that everyone's starting to think about summer. And why not? It's been a crummy winter for many of us (weather-wise). We did get away to the warmth of the Virgin Islands for a while but came back to the snow, ice and slush of a Maine winter. And that's nothing compared with our friends in the Middle Atlantic states and the snow they've been getting. So, everyone: Think warm thoughts and remember what it's like in Acadia when the lupines are in bloom and the sun it dancing on the Atlantic.
Speaking of the Atlantic, it was putting on quite a show this past weekend along the Maine coast, with giant storm waves breaking over seawalls sending seaweed, rocks, fish and shells everywhere. We were in Kennebunk to quietly celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary at an inn I actually used to manage back in the 1970s. ("Manage" was a euphemism for 'do all the work and not get paid much'.)
The treasure trove of shells and sea critters along the beach was heaven-sent for Teri, who has been a beachcomber since she was 6 year old. We spent hours on the beach collecting interesting shells, stones and even starfish (see left). Teri believes that you can get great decorating cues from the colors in nature. In fact, this influenced her decorating approach for The Bass Cottage Inn 7 years ago. But, I think she was more driven by childhood memories of shell hunting with her grandmother in Florida 'back in the day'.
Even after 25 years of marriage and lots of professional success, she can still seem like a cute little girl to me!! It puts some warmth back into winter....
Soon we'll be off to Austin, Texas and the Professional Association of Innkeeper's International (PAII) conference. We go to the PAII conference every 2-3 years to keep our inn-keeping approach fresh. Plus, the allure of BBQ and music in Austin ain't bad either. We'll share what we learned in this blog when we return. Adios!
Monday January 25, 2010
Appreciation and Reflection
I was driving back from a getaway weekend in Portland and I started thinking.... Many folks don't think they could handle the Maine winter. We love it. It's a time to embrace the slowing-down of life and to savor time to think about things. Winter is a time for us to regroup and reflect. We're so busy and occupied running the inn during the season we welcome the opportunity to better appreciate life's little pleasures here on Mount Desert Island. Here's a few things I appreciate just about now:
* Four wheel drive ... gotta have it if you want to get out and about ("oot and aboot" for our Canadian friends)
* Locally-harvested Maine diver scallops ... sweet and fat and pan-seared. Yum!
* Catching 'A Prairie Home Companion' on public radio...because you have nothing else to do.
* Online reservations that magically appear in our email
* A great historical espionage novel and a glass of Cabernet
* A great pair of sturdy warm boots...with ice creepers for good footing
* Gulf of Maine shrimp...caught in Frenchman Bay, sold by the side of the road, and on top of my risotto
* Listening to some classic Richard & Linda Thompson albums as the dusk gathers
* The overall response by the USA to the crisis in Haiti...from individual donations to the honorable service of our military - this is who were are
* Realizing that pitchers and catchers report to spring training in about 3 weeks!
Stay warm my friends!
Tuesday January 12, 2010
Downeast Holiday Planning
TIME TO START MAKING PLANS
I must admit that the phone and online reservation activity in November and December was unusually quiet. Other innkeepers told me they had the same experiences. I guess everyone was busy with the holidays, work at end-of-year and family. Go figure!
With the advent of the New Year, the phone has started ringing and online book activity has REALLY picked up. Once it warms up in Florida and other areas of the US Deep South, folks there will start thinking of escaping the coming summer heat. DON'T WAIT TOO LONG TO MAKE YOUR PLANS FOR THE SEASON IN BAR HARBOR AT THE BASS COTTAGE INN. Last year we had several 'regulars' who waited too long and were sadly shut out of the dates they wanted. Don't let this happen to you. Call us at 866-782-9224 or make your bookings online via our secure website: www.basscottage.com.
TRAVEL PLANNING ADVICE FOR COASTAL MAINE FIRST TIMERS
If you really want to sample the stunning beauty and diversity of the Maine coast, allow yourselves 7-10 days and don't rush. So many people on their first visit to Bar Harbor and Acadia only plan on one day...what can you really see?? Here's my advice --
Bar Harbor / Bass Cottage Inn (3-4 days) -- start here and work your way down the rocky coast. Spend a couple of loosely-structured days in Acadia National Park. Get out on the water with a whale watch or kayak excursion. Poke around Mount Desert Island and see the quiet villages and lighthouses. Be sure to have 3 great dinners and the ultimate lobsterbake experience.
Camden/Rockland (1-2 days) -- not as much to do here as in Bar Harbor, but definitely worth a visit. Camden has a lovely harbor and quaint shops. Rockland has the Farnsworth Museum with its extensive Wyeth collection as well as nearby Owl's Head Transportation Museum (planes, trains and automobiles!).
Kennebunkport/Ogunquit (3-4 days) -- southern Maine (often referred to as "Northern Massachusetts" by wise-buy downeasters) has a dramatically different coastline (wide sandy beaches) and quaint villages. You can actually swim in the ocean down there. Who knew? Some of the Northeast's best restaurants are to be found in K'port, Ogunquit and nearby Portland's "Old Port" district.
We're happy to make recommendations for elsewhere in Maine when you call to book at The Bass Cottage Inn.
GETTING HERE AND GETTING AROUND
Many folks fly into Boston and, as discussed above, shoot up to Bar Harbor and bounce down the coast. It's an easy 5 hour drive from Boston to Bar Harbor. Taking Rt. 1 along the coast is not a scenic as you'd think since that road is 3--4 miles inland.
You can also fly into Bangor (BGR) which puts you only 48 miles from our front door. OR, connect through Boston on US Air Express to Bar Harbor Airport (BHB) which is only 8 miles from the inn. Both airports have all the 'mod cons' like car rental counters.
Some folks fly into Portland or Manchester New Hampshire and are surprised to find themselves still 3-4 hours away from Bar Harbor, so be advised!
WHEN TO COME
Each month during our 6 month operating season at The Bass Cottage Inn has its own appeal.
May - the quietest month with the lowest rates of the season. Be there to see the trees bud and turn green overnight. Mostly all restaurants and area attractions are open...but this is a good time to come for a quiet romantic weekend!
June - quiet in the first half of the month with good weather. Everything in Bar Harbor and the national park is open. We usually fill up starting in the second half of June so plan now.
July, August -- the peak of high season and the Inn ends up being 99% booked because this is the best weather of the year. While this is the busiest part of the season, don't expect much hustle and bustle at the Inn thanks to our peaceful location in The Field.
September - the big secret is that the most glorious weather happens in September. A great time to come. Leaves usually start to change in the last week of the month with peak color in....
...October -- the first half of the month usually still has very balmy weather, the reds and golds of autumn foliage set up nicely against the crisp blue sky and the Atlantic. In the last couple of weeks before we close on October 31 you can enjoy great room rates and romantic peace and quiet.
See you in Maine this summah.
Thursday January 7, 2010
Through the Maine Woods....and other happy new year musings
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM DOWNEAST MAINE
Teri and I just spent a wonderful and quiet holiday season on Mount Desert Island. We enjoyed hiking in the snowy woods, reading, listening to lots of music and spending some recreational time in the kitchen --- all a part of an innkeeper's off season regimen.
After a great New Year's Eve spent in Boston with friends, we've retreated to winter semi-hibernation as the cold and snow are settling in. Of course, post-holiday means going on a diet (something I've needed to do for a while....now I'm serious -- Day 6 on Weight Watchers and doing great, thank you.)
The off season gives us time to plan improvements for the upcoming season at The Bass Cottage Inn. You'll see some changes in the rooms, on your plate and amongst the staff...but more details on all those topics in upcoming blogs. So stay tuned!!
The New Year means, among other things, lots of lists. So, here's a round up of what we've been listening to at home during the past few months:
Neko Case "Middle Cyclone" -- The new darling of the 'alt-country' set, her lyrics are anything but rote. Her music challenges you with notes you don't expect. Backed by Assembly of Dust and Calexico. This one is on may critics' best of lists of 2009 and we know why.
Levon Helm "Electric Dirt" -- Formerly of The Band, Helm had to learn how to sing all over again after a bout of throat cancer. On this album, his voice is powerful, unique and so American. Lots of great cover versions. Check it out.
Stefano Bollani Trio "Stone In The Water" - Bollani hails from Italy (where he's also a comedian of all things). His sidemen come from Denmark. This piano jazz trio produces some lovely, crystal note jazz. Highly recommended.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "The Live Anthology" - I've never seen a bad live show...this album captures LOTS of great concert performances from over the years. The recording is top notch, the band is tight. They even cover Booker T's Green Onions and the theme from Goldfinger.
Buika (with Chucho Valdes) "El Ultimo Trago" - Chucho Valdes is the outstanding classically-trained Latin Jazz pianist from Cuba. But who is Buika?? She's from Africa, sings in Spanish and once performed in Vegas as a Tina Turner impersonator. Intrigued? The album is like a smokey night club performance.
Pat Metheny "Upojenie" -- recorded a few years ago with Polish vocalist Anna Maria Jopek and just recently released in the US. Since I don't understand Polish, I view Ms. Jopek's voice as an instrument - a very good one at that. Pat is excellent as usual.
Sting "If on a Winter's Night..." - the alternative Christmas album. This one played over and over for during the holidays. (Teri LOVES Sting)
Allen Toussaint "The Bright Mississippi" - the reknown New Orleans R&B maestro puts together a great album of straight-ahead jazz. (Jeff LOVES Allen Toussaint)
See you next time!
Tuesday December 15, 2009
Last mimute gift idea: Bass Cottage Inn Gift Certificate
Give A Downeast Maine Escape This Holiday Season
Instead of a a tie, sweater or basket of fruit why not give your friends and family something truly unique and special: A stay at Bar Harbor's premier luxury inn.
If you've stayed with us before you know what it's like to wake up relaxed and restored in your elegant guest room, ready to enjoy a gourmet breakfast and a day exploring one of the most beautiful places in America - Acadia National Park.
Giving a Bass Cottage Inn Gift Certificate couldn't be easier but time is running out if you want it to arrive for the holidays. Simply call us at 866-782-9224 or visit our website to order:
Here's wishing you and your family all the best during this holiday season and the new year to come.
Tuesday December 15, 2009
A great holiday cookie recipe from The Bass Cottage Inn
Recipe: Chocolate Peppermint Snaps
One of our more popular new afternoon treats this season were these wonderful, chocolate-y, minty cookies. Chef Chris is always looking for new recopies and found this one in the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion. (King Arthur unbleached flour is the official flour of The Bass Cottage Inn, by the way.). Make 'em for your holiday treats! Makes 6 dozen.
- 1 1/2 cups butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp pure vanilla
- 4 tsp peppermint extract
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chis OR white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare two baking sheets with cooking spray. Cream together the butter and sugars in a large bowl. (Use a stand mixer if you wish). Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Mix in vanilla and peppermint extract. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, beating to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Using a spoon, drop a spoonful for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until slightly dark around the edge. Remove from oven and cool on rack. ENJOY!
Monday November 30, 2009
The Sugar Mill, Tortiola: An Innkeepers's Peaceful Escape
(Periodically during our off-season we'll share with you OUR travels and give you tips about some great destinations. Check back from time to time.)
Each year after we close we escape work and cold weather and (usually) visit Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We love Tortola because the weather is great (better than Maine in November, to be sure), the island is welcoming, the snorkeling is fantastic and the atmosphere is sleepy.
This year we took a week of rest, relaxation and restoration (after a busy year at The Bass Cottage Inn) in Tortola at the casually elegant Sugar Mill Inn on Tortola's West End. Many of the attributes we love about what we created at The Bass Cottage Inn, Bar Harbor can be found at the Sugar Mill.
If you're looking for a Caribbean vacation that involves gambling, discos, organized beach activities, jello shots or other such nonsense you are advised to select another resort on another island.
The Sugar Mill is a small, luxurious, quiet boutique hotel with an award-winning restaurant that was created many years ago by Jinx and Jeff Morgan, culinary and travel writers. The atmosphere is "old Caribbean". Rooms are tastefully furnished, spotless, with great attention to the little details that matter (OK Bass Cottage Inn guests....do these qualities sound familiar??). The helpful staff are gracious and friendly, but not instrusive.
Dinners at The Sugar Mill were gourmet quality, but we also went to some of our local island favorites, such as the Jolly Roger at Soper's Hole. The Sugar Mill has its own little beach with a casual lunch restaurant, but we usually went to nearby Smuggler's Cove - almost deserted in the week before Thanksgiving. Nothing like a "Painkiller" on the beach! We also recommend booking a day charter out of Soper's Hole for outstanding snorkeling.
We're tough graders but nothing but high marks for The Sugar Mill, Tortola. We will be back. (http://www.sugarmillhotel.com/)
Monday November 9, 2009
Bass Cottage History
When we bought the Bass Cottage Inn in 2003 we knew its orgins, having been built by Joseph Parker Bass of Bangor in 1885 as a summer residence for his family. The innkeeper before us was Anna Jean Turner, who was well -known in Bar Harbor and has family here still.
Out of the blue, we received an email from Kimberly Rogers Lopez from New Jersey that explained her family's history with this marvelous building. She even sent pictures (see left - Bass Cottage circa 1936 with the Ocean Cottage located with the Bar Harbor Bank and Trust is today).
Ms. Lopez writes: "My Great Grandmother Addie F. Maddocks had two sisters Anna and Ruth and all three bought the Bass Cottage. Once the three sisters were older, the Bass Cottage was inherited to their children, one being my grandmother Virginia Moore. My Grandma sold her portion of the cottage to her sister Adele. I suppose there must have been other children who did the same because in the end, the daughters of Ruth Maddocks - Dorothy 'Dottie' White, Barbara Brown and Anna Jean Turner - were the owners you bought the Inn from. ... Anna was an artist who owned a gift shop in town."
We are pleased to have rescued this building from the wrecking ball - not just for us and our guests, but for Kimberly and her extended family as well.
Friday November 6, 2009
Closed for the season
Sometime just after 11am on Sunday November 1 we wished our last guests of the season farewell, locked our front door and broke our a bottle of champagne. Our 2009 season was a great success. Of course, with the economic gloom we were worried last spring. Still, while lodging revenues in Maine were off for the year, we had our best year ever (knock on wood!). Many thanks to guests who returned for another visit this season and new friends who found us in our quiet enclave here in Bar Harbor.
Many folks have asked what happens after we close for the season. Well, everything is scrubbed, cleaned, polished and organized while the building is still warm and we still have energy. The yard and landscaping get a final pre-winter clean up. Chris tears the kitchen apart to ensure a pristine condition come spring. Any leftover food items get donated to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry. The office gets cleaned up, punch lists for improvements and repairs are drawn up. The signs are tucked away and the shades are drawn shut.
Early next week, the plumbers come to drain the pipes, shut down the heat and turn off the gas. The lights are switched off the Inn is locked. In short, it becomes a ghost ship. When I'm here in the winter I can hear echoes of summertime guests having breakfast, talking about their hiking plans...or maybe I hallucinate.
We will take a much needed rest but our reservation office is always open on our website and you can reach us via phone 8am to 8pm seven days a week...except mid November when we will be the islands sleeping and snorkeling.
This blog will be active throughout the off-season. Subscribe to our posts or check back from time to time. We'll have details about some new amenities and offerings for 2010 at The Bass Cottage Inn.