Belgravia in the News!

The following article, written by Colleen Cosgrove, was featured in today’s Chronicle Herald Newspaper:

The last decade has not been kind to Nova Scotia bed and breakfasts.

A 19 per cent decline in overnight stays plagued the industry from 2005 to 2009, but numbers have been on a slow decline since 2000.

Nearly 100,000 visitors used a bed and breakfast in 2000 but by 2010, the number dropped to 59,000.

But on a snowy mid-winter day in December, when paying visitors are scarce and the summer tourism season is months away, Nova Scotia bed and breakfast owners are confident there are better days ahead.

Travellers are increasingly on the hunt for an authentic travel experience and a stay at a turn of the century farmhouse or a grand seaside estate can offer just that, said Anne McDonah cctowner of Belgravia Bed and Breakfast. “That’s why people are coming to Canada and to Nova Scotia,” McDonah said from her home in Truro this week.

“By being in a house and not a hotel, guests are getting the inside scoop on places to go and things to see and do in the community. It offers a chance to live like a local and a (bed and breakfast) offer that authentic experience.”

McDonah, who is on the board of the Nova Scotia Bed and Breakfast Association and teaches tourism management at Nova Scotia Community College, said bed and breakfast owners are promoting the authentic travel experience and offering “value-adds” to their operations to combat the downward trend.

Guests at Belgravia, for example, enjoy local produce delivered weekly to the house while guests at the neighbouring Suncatcher Bed and Breakfast can take a stained glass workshop or enjoy a genuine lobster feast complete with a how-to-eat lesson.

Neighbourhood overflow means Belgravia is booked over the holidays, but McDonah is using the slower season to revamp the company website and think up seasonal travel packages to entice guests year round.

There are about 1,100 overnight options in Nova Scotia. Between 400 and 425 of these are bed and breakfasts. The numbers ebb and flow regularly.

Location plays a big role in visitor traffic and the long-term viability of a bed and breakfast, said association president and Suncatcher owner Gerry Mailloux.

“Major cities and towns are more likely to reap the benefits,” said Mailloux, a veteran bed and breakfast owner who has worked in the industry since 1986.

“They seem to draw more business travellers than they used to and I think people are starting to realize the value of a (bed and breakfast).”

The growing popularity among business travellers has spurred many owners to offer amenities like free WiFi and printer and fax access.

The downward-trending numbers didn’t discourage Barbara Dean from opening her first bed and breakfast, Gowan Brae Bed and Breakfast, in Middle Musquodobit in August.

Retired and living in a sprawling 1830s-era home, Dean said her operation is merely a fun hobby and she expects many owners have the same approach.

“We have few overhead costs, just extra food and a bit of extra hot water here and there,” Dean said. “We all live in our bed and breakfast so I imagine it’s a hobby for most of us.”

In its first four months, Gowan Brae welcomed guests from as far away as Switzerland, Holland and western Canada and as nearby as the Annapolis Valley. How these guests decide on spending the night in Middle Musquodobit is something the association is working hard to understand, Mailloux said.

“We advertise here, there and everywhere but part of the problem is tracking where your guests come from and how they ended up with you,” he said. “We only have so many advertising dollars to go around ….. but at the end of the day as long as there are people still coming to stay, that’s what counts.”

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Yesterday marked the ninth anniversary of the first morning we woke up in our home. It was pouring the day we moved in, December 21st, 2002.  I had come to Truro with the moving van and got the boys’ room set up for them. D’Arcy taught, picked the boys up from the sitter, and joined me around suppertime.  We went to a restaurant just down the street, then drove to a local Christmas tree lot where we pulled up beside a tree, paid the man $10 through the window and he put it on the roof of the van.  The boys & I didn’t even get out.

That year, the tree was the only decoration we put up, but over the years, we’ve added three more and now put up four trees each year: one in the living room, one in the dining room, one in the family room, and one in the upstairs hallway.

Earlier this month, when we put up the dining room tree, I posted a photo on Facebook.  Holly Shephard, who grew up in this home, made a comment that her dad loved nothing better than decorating for the holidays and she was happy the tradition was continuing.  I’ve taken a few more photos as the house does look so pretty now. I hope Dr. Shephard would approve!

Even the bathroom gets lights & holly!

Living room fireplace - that's D'Arcy's stocking from home on the right, and one my mother-in-law made for me the year we were married, on the left.

The living room

The dining room fireplace

Dining room window

The banister leading upstairs

Poinsettia in the hallway

Nativity we bought when on our honeymoon in San Antonio, 1997

Upstairs hallway, guest sitting area

Family room tree

Today, the plan is to spend the day in the kitchen baking, so you can just imagine that the house will smell as much like Christmas as it looks!

A Busy Fall

I was mortified this morning to realize that the last time I posted here was on August 23rd!  Needless to say, it’s been a very busy fall…

D’Arcy & I are each back teaching school.  He is at a new school, just a five minute drive from our home, across the Salmon River where guests go to see the Tidal Bore.  He is teaching Grade 7 & 8 Math & Science and seems to be enjoying it, despite having all new preps.  I am back at the Nova Scotia Community College, teaching the second year of the Tourism Management diploma program.  I am with the same students I had last year, and this semester they are taking Law for the Tourism Manager, Financial Decision Making, Service Marketing, Rooms Management, Human Resource Management, Ecology & Conservation, and Meeting & Event Planning.  It’s an intense program!

We continued to welcome guests straight through until the end of October, when things naturally slow down.  My classes are scheduled to start at 9:30 each morning which gives me time to serve breakfast to our guests before running out the door, leaving my parents, Dave & Deanna, to chat, give travel tips, and look after cleanup!  We are very fortunate that they live so close to us and are willing to help out!

We had a beautiful fall and hosted Thanksgiving for our families again this year.  It has become tradition!  This year, we were fortunate to host 36 McDonahs & Clarks at our table.  Our 33lb. turkey came from a local farm, veggies & cranberries from the farmers’ market and carrots from our very own garden!!  We do all the cooking ourselves and ask our family only to bring donations for the Food Bank.  It was a wonderful meal and we have so much to be thankful for.

A hot pepper in our garden!

Some of the carrots we picked for our Thanksgiving Dinner.

Cranberries from the Truro Farmers' Market, about to be made into sauce.

Our fresh 33lb. turkey, ready for the oven. The photo just doesn't do justice to the actual size of this bird!

A trip to the Pumpkin Patch for pumpkins. Doesn't everyone pick pumpkins in a shirt & tie?

The table, set for 36


Cousin fun on the front lawn.

Anne's parents, Dave & Deanna

D'Arcy with his mom, Fran

Three of D'Arcy's brothers and a nephew.

Anne with our great-nephew, Phinn

Giving Thanks for our many blessings!

A hamper full of food for the NSCC Campus Food Bank!

The first weekend in November, we were fortunate to have a night away at the beautiful Colby House Bed & Breakfast in Sydney, NS, while attending the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association (NSBBA).  Bev & Gordon were wonderful hosts, as usual, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I have been the marketing director for the association for the past six years, and stepped down at this year’s AGM.  Bill Monk from A Seafaring Maiden in Annapolis Royal has taken over my position and for that I am extremely grateful!  I haven’t totally stepped away – I will represent NSBBA on the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council which I have a great interest in.  Change is good!

The last week in November, we spent four nights in Halifax attending the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia’s  (TIANS) annual Tourism Summit.  I was luckly to be able to have my students attend this year as well. The conference was wonderful and deserving of its own post – I came home with many new ideas.  One of the many things I learned at the information sessions is that “Less is more”, so with that I wish you a great weekend and promise to update again more regularly!