Red Chair Travels…From Woods Hole to P-Town, and Beyond.

It all started with a red chair on a frozen pond. Beth Colt, the dynamic and artistic owner of the Woods Hole Inn, is famous in some Cape Cod circles for her intriguing photographs. When she posted a photo of a bright, red wooden chair on a frozen pond one day last winter, the “likes” lit up her Facebook page like a Christmas Tree, and comments started pouring in. Folks around the country felt the need to share with Beth what the red chair meant to them–or simply to let her know that the image somehow touched them.
A year later, with red chair intrigue growing, we got the phone call. “Tom, it’s Beth. I want to take the chair on the road and  need your’s and Ali’s help. I want to send it from Inn to Inn, and get it all the way to Provincetown.” Beth had already created a lovely website entitled Red Chair Travels to chronicle the journey, and we immediately knew Beth had a great idea, advising her that the inns receiving this precious cargo needed to fit he bill. They needed an artistic eye…a sense of fun and adventure…know how to work some PR magic (of course!)…and fit logistically. We quickly compiled a list, and shortly there after, Beth’s Red Chair itinerary was sitting in our inbox.
The following Friday morning, as I returned to the Lamb and Lion Inn after running errands, I was surprised at how excited I became when I pulled into the driveway to see it. It felt like it was Easter morning, and I was a kid again. The red chair had already made it from the Woods Hole Inn, to The Belfry Inn in Sandwich and then the High Pointe Inn, just up the road in West Barnstable. Finally, the red chair was ours! In the spirit of the moment, Ali and I walked the chair to the bottom of the driveway for a warm welcome under the Inn’s Easter Egg Tree.
 
I took the red chair to a few of our favorite local businesses, like Cape Cod Beer and the Barnstable Village Market (could the Old Jail be considered a local business?). The red chair was welcomed with open arms at the brewery (owner Beth Marcus had previously come across the Red Chair Travels site, so she knew our little wooden friend was making its rounds). The folks at the village market were not familiar with the story, but their enthusiasm made me even more excited about the project. I took the red chair to my favorite little bamboo forest along historic Old Kings Highway, as well as the grand marshes and breathtaking boardwalk at tucked away Gray’s Beach. I had some moments of “zen” (a phrase I don’t much care for, but it is what it is), as the places I took the chair were as beautiful and peaceful as I’ve ever seen them. Taking pictures in such spaces always changes me–at least for the time being. I’m not aware of time, or schedules–it is pure meditation, but with an added bonus of having a camera that can capture such intimate moments. With the red chair in tow and my Nikon around my neck, I experienced what I love most about living on Cape Cod. But when I walked down to my basement to put something away that evening, it was 4 forgotten about, unmatched chairs that inspired me more.   I didn’t see this story coming. But here it is, for better or worse, thanks to a visit from a red chair…
“Tell me again!” Office Chair playfully demanded. Flower Seat, a dainty little upright, wiped tears from her eyes, which were still watering from the last time. “I don’t understand it!” Office Chair said, sounding more defensive, but it was hard to hide his grin. They were all looking toward Old Man Cane–a rickety antique who wore his intricate woven features proudly, in spite of a few frays—all waiting for his joke to wind up again from the very beginning. That’s the way they liked it, from the beginning.  It was the joke about the ottoman and the area rug—the one that never failed to keep them in stitches, but Poor Office Chair could never get his head around the punch line.
 
Red Chair knew the overnight in Barnstable Village was going to be a stop along the journey, and a perfect place to get the old gang back together again. “Alright everyone, let’s stay focused” was the shout from Patio Chair, who they lovingly referred to as “Deck”, because that’s where he always hung out. “This has been great, but I have a birthday party to get to today, and I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time under Mrs. Jenkin’s over-sized, cake-loving ass—tell the joke again so I can get home!” Old Man Cane couldn’t contain himself and nearly splintered, and the whole gang erupted in laughter once again—even Office Chair. It was now day break and they had been up all night in fits of playful giddiness, in spite of all their legs being numb from the night’s chill. “That Jenkins, she gonna be the death of you!” shouted Old Man Cane. When the laughter finally subsided, Red Chair thoughtfully spoke up. “This has been amazing everyone. Maybe the best part of my trip so far”. “So where ya headin’ next?” asked Old Man Cane. “I’m heading further east to meet new friends,” said Red Chair, “But I’ll be back–you know we’ll always find each other.” “Amen to that,” Old Man Cane softly confirmed. Then they all quietly sat, and sat, and sat, and sat a little longer, listening to the distant coo of a single morning dove. “All right, let’s get this over with” Deck finally chimed in, rolling his eyes. “OH YEAH!!!” Flower Seat exclaimed, vibrating her feet in the grass with anticipation. “One more time, PLEASE!” she squealed. Old Man Cane gave a slow creak and carefully cleared his throat. “OK! Here goes”, he announced, “But you have to keep it down. I tol’ ya, nobody needs to be hearin’ the ottoman and the area rug joke ‘cept us!” He said. “Beside, nobody ‘cept us would even get it—just like ol’ Office Chair here!” The laughter erupted once again. Office Chair knew when Old Man Cane was setting him up, but it didn’t matter–he loved the chairs–especially the Old Man, and being teased by them was just part of being in their family. “OK, here goes,” Old Man Cane said again, and then he continued to tell the joke about the ottoman and the area rug, and better than the any of the other countless times he told it (and without making it too obvious, he slowed it down, just a tad, for his friend Office Chair). “….So that’s what they mean when they talk about cleaning the carpet!” came the classic punch line. Red Chair was watching Office Chair for a sign—actually they all were, and then Office Chair—finally–got the joke. He started to giggle…and then giggle a little harder…and then he laughed, and laughed and laughed. He laughed so hard that he started to swivel and spin uncontrollably. Flower Seat was chuckling right along, celebrating Old Man Cane’s most perfect delivery. The rest just watched Office Chair’s reaction. The more he laughed and spun, the more they lost it, and round and round, like a game of musical chairs, they laughed themselves to tears—and then the craziest thing that could have happened, happened—Office Chair laughed so hard he bounced off of his wheels and fell back onto the wet, spring grass. For a split second they gasped in disbelief, and then they roared in hysterics until they all gasped for air. Eventually, one by one, each gained their composure, and finally Deck chimed up, “Man, that joke of yours is funnier than an Ikea Chippendale,” he said, quietly shaking his head as he motioned toward home. “Yep, I guess that’s a wrap!” announced Old Man Cane. “Yep, a wrap!” mimicked Flower Seat, who was helping Office Chair back onto his wheels, and they all said their goodbyes and headed toward their perspective homes. But Red Chair wasn’t thinking about home. There was too much to see out in the world. The warm and foggy morning was now dead silent, with the exception of that one distant morning dove singing about its travels. Red Chair, with all four legs planted firmly on the ground, couldn’t help but wonder what the day’s adventures would bring.
 
The End.
 

The Lamb and Lion Inn: The Best Place for Whale Watching?

A common “whale watching” question we get asked often from our guests at the Lamb and Lion Inn is “Whats the best time of the day to see whales?” The stock answer is “whales don’t wear watches”, and they basically don’t keep much of a daily schedule. Well apparently, they don’t own calendars either. This year the whales have been spotted much earlier than usual–the first part of March–no doubt in part because of the mild temperatures we’ve been seeing in New England this year. Recently, researchers at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies reported seeing 15 right whales frolicking just off of Race Point. Unfortunately we didn’t take the pretty ride up there, but a few of our guests did, and they could see the whales from the beach. Just as the economy seems to be lightening up a tad, the inn phone has started to ring again and the flowers are out early, it looks like the whales are going to be coming back home again this year…and in record amounts. Here’s another fact about whales…the whale watching on Cape Cod is considered one of, if not the best hop spots in the world. We’re reminded of this day after day in the summer time from folks vacationing from places like Nova Scotia, Greenland and Hawaii–places where you’d think you’d here “ours is better!” Nope, they’re all mind blown from what they see off of our Cape Cod shores. One main reason is this. In the colder months the whales migrate to warm Caribbean waters (they may not have watches or calendars, but they ain’t stupid) to, well, get frisky with each other (the Caribbean will do that). They spend their late fall and winter there, many of them produce offspring, and like really cool parents, take their new babies (called calves) on a Cape cod vacation. That’s the beauty of our whale watching. Once they get here they aren’t just “passing by” in a migratory pattern. They’re home, which specifically is a natural marine sanctuary called Stellwagon Bank. There the whales spend their summer playing with their new babies, eating tons and generally digging life.
(The area in red is where most of the whales hang. Just off the tip of Provincetown).
OK, so now that we’ve established why Cape Cod has the best whale watching on planet Earth, why then, is the Lamb and Lion the best place to stay when you want to watch whales? GOOD QUESTION!!! There are a two answers to this (we’re not going to beat around the bush here…)
1) WE HOOK YOU UP! Your Innkeeper, Tom, works on the local whale watch boat–which happens to board in Barnstable Harbor, just 2 miles away. “So, does having an innkeeper who works on a whale boat benefit me?” MAN, you are asking all the right questions!! Of course it does. The whale boat does not take reservations which means, a) You may have a long wait to get on, or b) It might be sold out–which happens on occasion. At the Lamb and Lion Inn not only can we make you a “Super Double Secret” reservation not given to the public, but if the boat is sold out, most likely we can get you on anyway*. If that isn’t enough, we can pre-sell you discounted tickets CHEAPER than anyone else on Cape Cod right here at the inn (employees do have their benefits!).
*If you’re surfing the net for other inns, ask those innkeepers if they can offer the same for you–we dare ya. 
 
2) LOCATION X 3: The second reason the Lamb and Lion Inn is your “Best Whale Watching Station in the Nation” is the location. Our local whale watch boat is called the Hyannis Whale Watcher but it’s not located in Hyannis, but actually Barnstable Harbor, 2 short miles down the road! (the village of Hyannis is more nationally recognized, hence the name–It’s all the the marketing, isn’t it?).
“But isn’t Barnstable Village much further from Stellwagon Bank then the whale watch boats in P-Town?” You are sharp–but the folks at the Hyannis Whale Watcher are sharper. They have a brand-new, massive, high speed ferry boat that shoots our guests up to Stellwagon Bank in about the same time the more traditional (yawn) ferries in P-Town get there (they all end up in the same area–but our ride is prettier!).
So there you have it. And we have other inside pointers too, like the best place to be on the boat for visibility, and we’ll even advise you on the best weather to go in. Concerned it’ll be too windy? Let us make the call. Need sunscreen? We’ve got it (but we’re not applying it, sorry). We are also happy to dole out our favorite binoculars, because even though the whales come right up to the boat (they really do!) the view heading out to the whales is spectacular! So make like a right whale and get yourself to Cape Cod!!!
The Hyannis Whale Watcher (above) sets sail just 2 miles down the road!

The Cape Cod Travel Guide is, well, the Ultimate Cape Cod Travel Guide!

Working for the Cape Cod Chamber, or any chamber for that matter, might sound “sexy” to some people. Let’s face it, the chamber is the hub of any area. They’re like concierges and travel agents all rolled into one. Ask any chamber member who serves the best Rum Runner, what beach has the softest sand, which B&Bs have a pool (we know one…) and which is the best restaurant to dine with your dog–they’ll always have an answer. It might not be the correct answer (hey, everyone’s got different opinions!), but it will certainly be backed up with great research. The flip side of the sexy part is work. Gobs and gobs of work, which we all benefit from. One major benefit just arrived in the mail yesterday, the chamber of commerce’s annual Cape Cod Travel Guide. The website is awesome, but the hard copy magazine is what you want. “Why, Tom, WHY are you telling us this?” OK, here’s why. It will make your awesome Cape Cod experience Wicked Awesome, and, already armed with the proper information, while you’re here at the Lamb and Lion Inn you’ll stop bugging me for information. I’m KIDDING!! Actually here at the inn there are lots of laminated pages on the walls from last years Cape Cod Travel Guide for easy referral for our guests. This years guide has “524+ things to do and places to go”–from theater to road races and concerts to kayaks, the magazine is loaded with information. There’s a section on “extreme adventures” (sky diving, parasailing, tarter sauce fights, etc), family friendly activities, pet friendly things to do (the Lamb and Lion was featured on page 36–thanks guys!) and ideas for shopping, hiking, biking, swimming, dancing, watching, waving, slurping, stomping, shucking and shaving–OK, not shaving, but every other verb you can cram in is highlighted in the new Travel Guide. Oh, did I mention EATING? From fried clams to crispy sweetbreads–it’s all in the there. Our favorite thing about the guide are the maps–lots and lots of ’em, and a big reason why you should get the physical magazine. Oh, you say you can just carry your IPad around? No, you can’t. You’ll look like a geek, and when the little green head flies come into your car to bite you (something the chamber doesn’t usually write about), you can’t swat them with a rolled up IPad. Get the magazine! You’ll have maps guiding you to every Cape Cod beach (check out the link–do we have enough beaches or what?!) lighthouses, golf courses, and even the coolest galleries in the historic district. We really do love to arm our guests with as much information as we can here at the Lamb and Lion, but this guide takes most of the work out of it. The maps go perfectly with our free self-guided driving tours we give to each guest while they’re here. The free driving tours work like a scavenger hunt. We give you tours for each section of Cape Cod (one per every day you’re with us) and by use of “make a left at the next stop sign” kind of directions, along with the help of the Cape Cod Travel Guide maps, you’ll find every hot spot and well kept secret on Cape Cod. The last reason that you should call the chamber to get the guide mailed to you (for 5 bucks to cover shipping), or order it online (or you can pick them up at hundreds of locations while you’re here–including our inn–for free) is that it’s annual! One stop shopping, baby! Now you can plan your next visit in advance. There’s a huge section on upcoming events from Boston Pops and the Hyannis Father’s Day Car Show, to haunted ghost tours and multiple Christmas Strolls and first nights (yes, there are more than one first nights–I know that makes no sense). The Cape has everything, year round–I just found out we even have a SCRABBLE CLUB! Wow (yawn). OK. So get your Travel Guide–pack up your surf board, or your Scrabble board, if you like–and get yourself to Cape Cod. The clock is ticking. You need to get away. Look into my eyes–I know you do.

Martha Stewart asked for Mancations, and we delivered…Our answer to her call, ala “The Mighty 5-Day Cape Cod He-Man Package!”

We just received an email from a website that stated that Martha Stewart was looking for properties to send her their “Mancation” packages to feature on her show. We don’t usually post specials on our blog, but we thought it was entertaining enough to lay it on ya, “disclaimer” and all.
Her goes nothin’…

Alright boys, MAN UP! You’ve taken out the garbage, driven the kid to football practice, told your wife how good she looks in those jeans–you’ve done it all right. Now it’s time to grab the guys, head out to Cape Cod and have a little fun. The Lamb and Lion Inn “Mighty Cape Cod He-Man Package” is a mancation custom built for 4 guys looking for 5 days of fun, quality chill-time and a bit of ever-important knuckle dragging.     
 




***DISCLAIMER: Men, even though we are considered a “B&B” you will NOT feel like you’re tip-toeing around someone’s house, definitely WON’T have to share bathrooms with strangers, and we’ll NEVER make you drink out of dainty fine china, so relax***                

DAY 1: Check into the Inn. You’ll all be staying in the 1740 Barn! Spread out, enjoy the fire (fire goood!), and kick back in your living room. There will be our “Hunka, Hunka Burnin’ Love” welcome basket awaiting which consists of cold Cape Cod Beer, frosty beer mugs, bags of Cape Cod Potato Chips and other local munchies you can crunch and spill all over the carpeting. Enjoy the Inn, swim in the pool and hot tub, and barbeque on your own back deck for dinner! 
                           
DAY 2: Wake-up late and have breakfast delivered to the Barn. Once up, it’s time to hit the links! An early afternoon tee-time for 4 will be awaiting you at the award-winning Hyannis Golf Club, just minutes from the Lamb and Lion Inn. After golf, enjoy the pool and hot tub back at the inn (we’ll light a fire in the courtyard fireplace (fire, very gooood!). Enjoy transportation to and from our local Tavern for the Cape’s best chowder, burgers, seafood, pasta and steaks! After dinner it’s back to your Barn deck for a complimentary nightcap!


DAY 3: Wake up even later and enjoy another scrumptious breakfast delivered to the Barn. Complimentary transportation will deliver you to nearby Barnstable Harbor where your kayaks await. Spend a few leisurely hours paddling around the harbor and the beaches of Sandy Neck. A sack lunch of weighty sandwiches and “adult sodas” will make the afternoon complete. Back to the Inn for some down time by the pool and hot tub. Later that night the Inn’s surround-sound home theater “Man Cave” will be reserved for you where you can all watch the best movie ever made, JAWS, and gorge on the best chicken wings and ribs on Cape Cod (never mind a bigger boat–we may need a bigger couch).                          

DAY 4: The next morning, after another delicious and delivered breakfast, it’s time to avenge Captain Quint and hit the high seas for a half day of sport fishing out of nearby Barnstable Harbor. Fishing our local Cape Cod waters practically guarantees you a cooler full of fresh, flappin’ fish, so for tonight it’s back to the Barn deck to fire up the grill and show those fish where they belong in the food chain.    

                
DAY 5: Day 5 has been carefully orchestrated to ensure you DO NOTHING! After breakfast, hang around the inn and enjoy the down time you fantasize about while at your desk. Chill by the pool, hang around the Barn, laugh and enjoy. Our massage therapists will be on site for four 1-hour massages in the Lamb and Lion Inn’s spa. Want to take an afternoon ride along historic Old Kings Highway? We’ll furnish you with our very own self-guided driving tours. Want to hit the sports bar for the big game? We know where the best ones are. The local brewery and chip factory? Minutes away. Want to learn how to dig oysters & clams? We’ve got you covered. Go out, stay in, we don’t care! They’ll be no chores, no phone calls from your boss (or from your employees) and no errands to run. Have a good night’s sleep and get ready to return to the grind. Breakfast will be served before you depart. 
                                                   
So that’s what we sent in. Let’s see if Martha deems it air-able. Oh yea, if you know anyone who might fit the bill, this 5-day getaway is only $3,850.00 (that’s under $200 per person, per day!). All taxes are included, but gratuities are not. When booking just make sure you add the code: BNBFINDERMS

An Innkeeper’s First March (OR, “What’s in a Name?”)

They say that March comes in like a LION and out like a LAMB, and what better way to segue to our very first March on Cape Cod and beautiful Barnstable Village, and the secret behind the Lamb and Lion Inn’s name!
The never-before-told true story started when we first looked at the property thirteen years ago. When we (myself Tom, and my partner Ali) first looked at purchasing the inn, the first thing on my agenda was to change the name. Now, I will tell you exactly how the conversation went, as long as you don’t start throwing stones. They’ll be no name calling and no judging, please. We don’t cast aspersions toward the wholly or the wicked–we love everyone–and that’s not just being PC… 
Guests from around the world bring us…you guessed it…
“This place is awesome, Ali, but what’s with the name?”

“What do you mean? I think it’s cute.”

“Cute? Who wants to stay at a place called the Lamb and Lion Inn? It’s biblical..something about the lion shall lay with the lamb. I don’t want biblical.”

“So, what’s wrong with biblical? You could use a bit of religion in your life.”

“No doubt, but here’s the thing. If people think we’re overly religious they may not want to come! What if they’re not married and ‘living in sin’!? What if they’re GAY!? They’ll think we’re going to judge them–maybe try to damn them! My mother has that power, ya know–maybe she passed it onto me! I don’t want to damn–and we certainly don’t judge!” (Here’s a PC moment: We are quite clear this is not the way all religious people think, it’s just how my little brain works).

“Either does your mother, big boy. I think you’re getting carried away, besides, the owner told me it was named the Lamb and Lion because yes, it DOES stand for peace. They thought it represented the peace of old Cape Cod. Would you have preferred it be called The Dove Inn?”

“Good point. OK, I’ll live with it for a while. We’ll wait and see if we scare people off.”
Our award-winning sign, built by Paul White of East Sandwich, MA.
 

That day, pretty convinced we had found our new home and business, we drove down to the nearby Barnstable Tavern to see what kind of reputation the inn had with the locals. We sat at the bar (first time in the joint) and chatted with the bartender, Bill. Bill was an older gentleman, very sweet and mild mannered (he’s since passed away, we’re sad to say). After ordering some lunch and a couple of Bloody Marys we decided to test the waters. “Say, Bill” Ali started, “If you had family in the area and you wanted to put them up someplace close by, where would you send them?” Bill thoughtfully tugged at his chin and motioning through the window and up the road, stated “There’s only one place I’d send ’em! It’s a wonderful Inn up the road. It’s called, uh…um…er….I think it’s called the Ox and Horse…or the Pig and Chicken. I don’t know…but it’s named after a coupla animals.” With that, we knew we had the right place. We just needed to work on the marketing a tad.

 
From Russia with Love…The daughter of a visiting Russian couple drew this poolside
  Soon after that day, we closed on the property. I was still not thrilled with the name, but I had agreed to live with it, so Ali and I put all our energies into cleaning, cutting, patching, crying, painting, bleaching, screaming, wiping, heaving, bickering, gutting, and all the other verbs that come with purchasing and moving into a new place. It was late March and summer was coming on fast.

Once we had a couple of rooms cleaned up, Ali’s visiting niece Julie, then about eight years old, asked if she could hang the vacancy sign up. “Sure”, we thought. “Why not?” We weren’t 100% ready, but it was in the middle of March, so what were the chances we’d get a walk-in.

Two hours later there’s a knock at the door. Our first guest…Go figure.

 
“How did you find us? I asked the single gentleman.
“I’ve been driving around enjoying this peaceful side of Cape Cod”, the man told me as he filled out a reservation form. “The name on your sign struck me. My parents moved around a lot, and as a result I spent many years in London as a boy. It was the best time in my life. The name Lamb and Lion reminded me of that old neighborhood. I use to walk home after school past many old pubs named similarly. I remember the Coach and Horses, for one. Your sign made me feel like I was home.  

How can you change a name after that, I ask you? No way. Since that first March we’ve met thousands of new friends. Friends brought to us by the salt air, the sea foam, the whales, the screech of distant seagulls, the lavish waterfront lunches–all things that speak of vacation. But once in a while we gain a guest because of our name. “It sounds so peaceful”…”It stood out”…”I love what it represents”…”It reminded my of my favorite night in Scotland”… (and yes) “I loved the religious connotation”.

This past January we had the honor of hosting George Harrison’s sister Louise Harrison, and a Beatles tribute band she helped form in her brother’s honor, The Liverpool Legends. They were on Cape Cod for a show at the Barnstable High School auditorium which promoted keeping music programs alive in the schools. Being the world’s biggest Beatles fan, I was thrilled. But the best part of all happened as the show started. In front of a sold out auditorium, Louise Harrison had this to say…

“I am staying at a remarkably beautiful place. Beautiful in many ways–The Lamb and Lion Inn. The image of the lamb tucked into the lion is meant to stand for ‘peacefulness’. It was one of The Beatles’ greatest messages, and what this inn is all about.” And to think Ali wanted to change the name…

                                                                                                                                                           

A Cape Cod Snow Storm Means a Magical Afternoon in Barnstable

Hey, who would have thunk it? Mother Nature got one past the net–and just as the daffodils were starting to pop. What an incredible winter. Virtually no snow here on Cape Cod, which is kind of a bummer, if you ask us. Some of our favorite things to do on Cape Cod happen in the winter. Each winter, during the first snowy afternoon, Ali and I like to bundle up and walk into our nearby Barnstable Village and enjoy a lavish lunch, which undoubtedly would include some of the Cape Cod’s best stuffed Quahogs in front of the frosty windows of The Dolphin Restaurant. During another chilly winter afternoon we might put our snow boots on, take that same beautiful walk along the  trail of 1600’s and 1700’s vintage homes along Old King’s Highway, and cozy up to the bar of the dark-wooded Barnstable Tavern for a burger, a Bloody Mary or (who are we kidding, and) a glass of wine. Regardless of the venue, it’s important that you don’t spend too long in one spot. On a frozen Barnstable afternoon, with few guests around, it’s easy to want to linger longer. But there are other traditions and important things to check off of our winter list (including a nap–but that’s in a little while).  
 
Once properly warmed up with hearty Cape fair and libations, we’ll bundle back up again and walk down to our neighborhood harbor to see if we can spot some seals. Seals are not uncommon to Barnstable Harbor, but usually being darker in color, they’re easily spotted along a wintry backdrop. Sometimes you might get lucky and see one taking a snooze on the beach, but if there are chunks of ice to be had in the harbor, you’ll more likely spot one hitching a ride on an ice taxi.
The Innkeeper’s Pride suite
After a stroll in the harbor (where Ali will inevitably hear me grumble “Why do I always forget my camera?”), we usually head home to do a bit more work around the inn (albeit the more light lifting kind–better not start stripping wallpaper–it’ll kill the mood!). For our guests who are undoubtedly a bit numb from some time in the Harbor, we say, why not stop back in the bar on the way home for a quick coffee and Frangelico? Not in the mood for a cordial? Hit Nirvana coffee house, or grab a mug at the newly renovated Barnstable Market! After that make it leisurely back to your room. If you have a suite with a wood-burning fireplace, we can guarantee your next fire has been built while you were out. In a room with a warming gas fireplace stove? It’s a flick of the switch, and off you go. Take the rest of the afternoon, enjoy the inn and soak in the hot tub in the courtyard (it’s set to “melt” at 103 degrees). We do more than “leave the light on for ya” like Motel 6 brags about–we light up the outdoor fireplace for additional defrosting. Now, I ask you…what is the benefit of a mild winter again? I mean, maybe it’s just us here at the Lamb and Lion Inn, but here we say “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!”

Ultimate Validation: The Inn’s PB Boulangerie Connection

Any day, you can effect the lives of one, or of many, without knowing or thinking about it. That’s an important lesson that we drove home with last night… About 16 years ago I met my now partner Ali Pitcher at her inn in the Hudson Valley. She was looking for someone to run the restaurant…I was looking for a new challenge. Old Drovers Inn was the place, and if you know us personally, you’ve heard some of the stories…but not this one. We didn’t know this one until yesterday.
Old Drovers Inn dining room was partially under ground
Valeria was a waitress at Old Drovers. She was hired before I arrived on the scene way back when…. A beautiful 5’14” tall  girl with long, wavy hair and a model’s smile. She was shy, quite reserved, and careful in her speech and motions. I came in as Valeria’s new boss, and she was a treasure to have as a head waitress. She had never worked in a restaurant before and may not have been considered a “natural”, but she always showed incredible potential. As Ali would say, “Valeria is a sponge”. She wanted to learn the hospitality ropes, and in spite of her shyness, was always willing to take on more and more responsibility. Our restaurant was a 4-Diamond, Mobil 4-Star, Relais & Chateaux property. We would get many European waitstaff who wanted to add to their resume. We also hired some of the local kids. If kids, whether they were experienced or not, wanted to work for us over the years and were willing to learn the ropes and if they spoke well, they were on the fast-track to a promising career in the hospitality industry. Valeria was always growing, and she always had our backs. She had become a shining star in the dining room, as well as the inn. Unfortunately, as staff come and go over the years, you lose track of people as regularly as sunglasses or Chapstick. Occasionally we’d be treated to an update, like Patrick eventually became the general manager at The Jerome Hotel in Aspen or Mathew (not surprisingly) reported that he was the events coordinator at The Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. Others made our hearts heavier, like Guy who we heard was on the front lines in Iraq, or Nate, who because of drugs, would never see his 21st birthday. We had heard rumors that Valeria was working for Charlie Palmer in Florida, but not much more beyond that. That was about 13 years ago. That’s all we ever heard. 
Enter:  PJ Boulangerie
This past Sunday morning, Ali and I packed the 3 dogs in the car and drove up to PB Boulangerie in Wellfeet. We had been there many times for the bakery, but wanted to try the bistro, which is gaining a reputation as a heavy weight contender and real Cape Cod hot spot. The reports have been unanimous: Dinner is divine, and their brunches are to die for (we’re not typically into breakfast or brunch, so we weren’t sold on it). Ali went in to make a reservation for later that afternoon, and when she came out she looked startled. “I can swear that Valeria is the hostess. Go in and check it out!” I did–and indeed it was. I never said anything to Valeria, and I wasn’t sure why. Anyway, our reservation was at 3pm, we could say “hi” then. So much time had passed–it was hard to just say hello out of the blue. Would she really remember us? What was her impression of us? Did she think of her time working for us fondly? To be honest, on the way back to PB Boulangerie a few hours later, we were both apprehensive about speaking with her. We loved Valeria. Now years later here she is–a hostess at this fun french bistro practically in our own back yard. What was her story? Would she even want to tell us? Why didn’t she reach out to us? Walking back in, I said hello to Valeria and her beautiful smile once again lit up the room. We tried to catch up, but the bistro was still in full swing, so it would have to wait. Valeria was quick to introduce the two of us to several staff members (which made us feel more at ease), and we ordered, trying not to be too intrusive. We were welcomed with champagne when we were seated at the table–a gift from Valeria. Ali had an astonishing onion soup to start, and I had one, if not the best seared foie gras preparations that I’ve ever eaten (only topped by Thoumieux in Paris–but it’s a toss up), complete with persimmon, sweet  roasted butternut puree and fresh croissant. After the apps, the Chef sent us a 2-tiered tower raw bar, which included Wellfleet oysters (of course), and house-cured salmon with all the fixins. Ali finished things off with perfect, crispy pork bellies, and I a slow-poached local cod with littlenecks, and a beautiful Cotes du Beaune. After lunch–which had clearly steered directly into dinner (funny how that happens)–desserts and libations started to crowd the table. It had been some years that Ali and I felt as if we were back in our restaurant days. Times when we would rub elbows with the greatest people in the hospitality world–more than rub elbows–eat their creations, enjoy their spaces and share laughter and stories. The best chefs, hostesses and hoteliers know how hard it is to always be “on”. To always be your best. When you share that bond, they want you to relax and have  fun in their space–take their ride. It’s your night off! You have this coming….Next time, when they’re in your neighborhood, it’ll be your turn to rock their world…That was my favorite part of being in the business.
PB’s bakery alone is worth a quick trip from the inn!
Valeria’s story follows:  She had gone to work for the famous chef Charlie Palmer in Florida, where she really flourished. Wanting to eventually spread her wings, Valeria was offered a job at one of Palmer’s restaurants in New York City, or at his restaurant in Las Vegas. With New York being “too close to home” she opted for Vegas. Eventually she started dating the head chef at Daniel Boulud’s Brasserie at the Wynn Resort, Philipp Rispoli. The French-born Rispoli had a resume which included several Michelin-star properties, as well as working under Charlie Palmer and Michael Mina. Eventually, Valeria and Philipp fell in love and eventually wed (with a blow-out wedding at Restaurant Daniel in NYC, with the after-party compliments of Charlie Palmer–we really should have stayed in touch!). Wanting a change from the fast pace of big resorts and bright lights, Valeria and Philipp retreated to a place that was very dear to her heart, where her parents lived…Wellfleet. In time, Philipp recruited frend and fellow Frenchman, baker Boris Villatte. Villatte had been baking at Wynn as well, but whose resume included working under Alain Ducasse and Eric Kayser (he’s opened many bakeries for Kayser around the globe). Together Philpp and Boris became the PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet. We realized Valeria wasn’t simply the hostess, she was co-owner Valeria Rispoli.  After lunch, Philipp, Boris and Valeria gathered around our table and we started comparing notes, and catching up on the where-abouts of mutual friends (one being my old friend Marcus, then the Maitre D’ at Daniel, and someone I often thought about). “Your lunch is on us”, Valeria stated. Of course, we objected loudly. “This is where my career started, ” Valeria interrupted, pointing at Ali. “She gave me my start and I learned so much from these two. I’ve worked for some great people, but none of the dining rooms had standards as high as yours. I always hold you guys as the high water mark. In a funny way, we wouldn’t be here if not for you”. That struck us as completely surreal, and a perfect example of how the smallest of things can effect so much. We thanked them all profusely, gave Valeria hugs and kisses goodbye, hoping, just like the old days, that we could reciprocate and show them a night (or more) that they would not soon forget–just as they had done with us. Stepping into the now darkened parking lot, I could see tears reflecting off of Ali’s cheeks from the glow of the light post.

“Be the Board” How to Create a Hole, Then Fall Through It, Then Try to Hide It.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… A few years back, Ali’s brother, Jimmy, was staying here at the Lamb and Lion Inn. He needed a change of scenery from Florida life, and, as he happens to be the best handyman we’ve ever known–as long as he has one hand wrapped around a cold can of Budweiser–we were happy to put him up. During his summer with us, Jimmy built a lot of wonderful things, including a beautiful outdoor shower (locally referred to as a “Cape Cod shower”) in the Inn’s courtyard. Everyday we check guests in, we point out the hot tub, we talk about  the solar-heated pool (the heating panels were added simply to warm the pool economically, however in more recent times when we mention the panels guests comment about how we are helping to save the planet–I love it when “thrifty” is confused with “heroic”), and of course, we talk about that wonderful shower.  One very hot and humid July day, I mentioned to Jimmy that one of the heat-censored exhaust fans at the far end of one of the Inn’s attics wasn’t working. The attic runs along the west side of the inn and stretches over 5 guest rooms. It is 100 feet long, and although the ceiling was high enough for Jimmy’s lanky 6′ 4″ frame to stand up in, one of us was going need help getting tools and a flashlight from one end of the attic to the other. We both got our work clothes on–Jimmy in blue jeans, and me in a pair of shorts and paint-speckled sneakers (remember this, it becomes important). We grabbed 2 flashlights, any tools we might need, and, of course, 1 ice cold Budweiser. Pulling down the extension stairs, Jimmy suggested we leave the tools in the hallway to surmise the situation first. As we entered the dark attic, Jimmy suggested that he take the long, slow walk to the fan first, just to see what was up–no need for both of us to go on the first trip. Who was I to argue? So off Jimmy went, slowly pushing the mounds of loose, itchy, gray insulation that was blown in years ago from the 2×4 board he was carefully balancing on.
The mural painted hallway. Between the lights in the ceiling, is the pull-down door to doom.
A few minutes later, Jimmy’s flashlight beam started heading back my way. When he got back to the top of the ladder he was sweating like a politician on To Tell The Truth. “The fan needs to be replaced,” he informs me, “So I’ll need your help getting it out. We’ll just need a screwdriver for now.” Grabbing a couple screwdrivers from the hallway, I race back up the ladder, eager to get this over with. “Listen, Man,” he instructs me, “There’s only 2×4’s running the entire length of the attic. No other flooring. There’s also a ton of this shitty insulation covering everything, so go slowly…feel your way with your feet...”Be The Board.” Understand that Jimmy is an aging, out-of-place hippie, and when he talks like that it’s always very endearing. So, off we shuffled. Jimmy first, and me right behind him. The one thing Jimmy forgot to mention–and the one thing that I should have been smart enough to figure out ahead of time–is anytime you’re in a situation where you’re walking along a 2×4 that’s resting upon perpendicular thin beams, that 2×4 is going to have to shift over the amount of its own width in order to let the NEXT 2×4 rest on the same beam. In other words, that next step I was going to take? The board was actually about 4 inches from where my foot was heading. The next sounds you will hear will be depicted, as best as I can, in the order that I remember them… “FROOOMP!”  (My entire left leg going completely through the floor) “AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”  (The woman in room #4′ s blood-curdling scream at the surprise visit from a hanging appendage) “WHAT THE $#@&?!?!?!”  (The woman’s husband–less than thrilled about the new, hairy chandelier) “MY BABY!!! MY BABY!!!”  (OK, I think, they have a baby…I don’t remember checking in a baby…) “MY BAAAABYYYY!!!”  (Yes, now I remember…cute baby). What was going on above their head would not have soothed their anger one iota, with Jimmy laughing so hard that he’s practically wetting himself. I, on the other hand, am panicked, thinking that the piece of ceiling under my foot landed on the crying baby. I am also stuck, big time. I have no leverage to get my entire leg out of the hole. Adding insult to injury, my private parts seemed to be the only thing between me and meeting this family face-to-face. I was in a bit of pain, to put it mildly. But Jimmy can’t get it together and is laughing like he just inhaled an ounce of California Gold, which in turn, gets me laughing, not helping any attempt at an extrication–the chaotic screams from below growing angrier. After about 30 seconds of maddening shouts echoing over uncontrollable belly laughter, Jimmy finally managed to pulled me out, and I raced down the ladder, fully expecting to immediately throw myself on my awaiting sword in room #4. But they were still in their room with the door shut. Nobody had come out. The baby was crying…and I could tell as I stood frozen in the hallway, that he or she was OK. The wife was still screaming at the husband–something about “asbestos”–and the husband sounded like he was getting dressed and ready to dole out an ass-kicking of Olympic proportions. Then it dawned on me…The only part of me they can I.D is my leg and my paint-speckled sneaker! With every ounce of speed I could muster–and with my nether region feeling like it was stomped by the Minnesota Vikings–even I was impressed with my speed! I ran across the courtyard and past a very confused Ali, who stood in the kitchen wondering what was happening, and what that cloud of gray matter was that was trailing me. I got to our bedroom, ripped off my sneakers and shorts, pulled on a pair of jeans, and slapped on my trusty black clogs. Before heading back down to the chaos, I knocked off whatever insulation was still clinging to me, and took a second to get my mind around what I was about to do next. On my way back through the house I practiced my surprised approach. “What happened?” was going to be my entrance. “They wha? Who fell through the ceiling”? I told them not to work up there when we had guests!! Damn those louts!!” Yes, it was going to be an academy-award winning moment. But, I was never to get that time in the spot-light. In her concern, rather than follow me up the stairs, Ali made a B-line to room #4 during my quick change. As I raced across the courtyard, I could see Ali speaking to the guests in the threshold of their room. Everything went into slow motion…NNNOOOO!! I could hear myself thinking…don’t saying anything, hon! Dooooonnnn’t!! 
Lair 4  (before the carnage)
But it was too late.  I stood undetected in the hallway once again. “Let me ask you, did the worker have shorts on or was he wearing jeans?” Ali inquired, like Magnum P.I standing over a corpse. The answer, of course, was the former. “Oh, that was Tommy. He and Jimmy were fixing a busted fan.” And shortly, “No, I don’t think that’s asbestos.” Now what? I thought. Looking outside I could see Jimmy walking in the yard with a giant shit-eating grin, sipping his beer, and wiping the tears of laughter out of his eyes. I stood listening as the couple ranted and raved. Everyone was fine. It seemed that the baby was, in fact, directly below me, but none the worse for wear. Mom and Dad were inconsolable, wanting a speedy check out and a full refund. They weren’t asking for my head on a stick, so I figured, why deliver it? So I did what any responsible innkeeper would do at that moment. I quietly shut myself in the darkened garage, found Jimmy’s beer stash, sat on the cooler, and waited to hear their car pull out. 20 minutes later, they were gone. As I walked back into the Inn, Jimmy had already started telling Ali his version of the incident, and the laughter started all over again. They turned and looked my way. Jimmy collected himself, placed his beer firmly on the kitchen counter, and gave me this lasting little bit of advice. “Next time I tell you to ‘Be The Board’…Man, you’ve really got to feel it.”  

Taking the Worry our of our Fireplaces

If you think that having wood-burning fireplaces in your inn is akin to playing Russian Roulette every time you hand over the box of matches to as visiting guest, you would be correct.
We have 12 fireplaces in all at the Lamb and Lion Inn. 5 are gas fireplace stoves. They are easy, relatively harmless, and as long as you have dexterity in at least 1 finger, you can turn the things on.
We have 4 wood-burning fireplaces in our part of the house. One that we use regularly–sometimes for ambiance, and sometimes when we want our 2 high-strung Pomeranians to leave us alone. Heat & sparks are not their thing and probably messes with their winter-loving sled dog genes. If you want to have a crackling fire in the same room as a Pomeranian, you might as well leash them to the fireworks barge on the 4th of July. Poms are loving dogs, but not too sharp and more paranoid than a narc at a biker rally, so when we’ve had a day chock full of barking and begging, we use the basic tool of fire to our advantage–a nice dry log will end their night pretty quickly.
G. Willikers hearing the first “pop”!
Our other fireplaces we can’t access at the moment. It’s the end of summer and they are in two adjoining front rooms that we haven’t been in since mid-July. All summer long we just open the door and hurl stuff through the threshold. Unfortunately these two rooms also house a couple of 250 year-old wood-burning fireplaces…At least I think they still do.
 
There are 2 guest rooms with wood-burning fireplaces as well. This is where the Glock meets the temple. With each check-in we need to go through the do’s and don’ts of having a fire. Essentially they are “do be careful” and “don’t burn the inn down”. The more detail needed, quite frankly, depends on the guest, so serious profiling needs to take place.
 
Things to look out for:
~ Any guest without eyebrows and/or eyelashes.
~ Any guest wearing a t-shirt reading “I (heart) the movie Backdraft”.
~ After clearly ignoring your instructions, they state “It’s aaaall good. I was a Cub Scout.”
~ Guests that bring a suitcase full of wood in lieu of clothing.
 
Fortunately Ali and I have gotten pretty good at summing up our guests, and although we haven’t had a fire truck here in almost 8 years, that streak could more easily be chalked up to dumb luck.
 
The last wood-burning fireplace is in the courtyard. Although this is one of our favorite features of the inn–especially when soaking in the hot tub–it’s a feature we use less and less. The problem is that the slightest breeze can turn the hot tub into a massive ashtray. But we think we’ve found the solution…
The inn uses Cape Cod Fire Logs for kindling, along with real wood.
 
During the “farm to table” dinner during this September’s CLASH weekend, Teddie Churchill of Cucina D’Amore Fine Catering cooked an amazing meal for 80, partially using “Cape Cod Fire Logs”. After dinner Ali started chatting with one of the guys from the Cape Cod Fire Log company. I assumed she was over there because the guy resembled part Kurt Russell and part someone even better looking than Kurt Russell, but Ali meant business and was determined to fix our outdoor fire issues. These things just might do the trick. They’re made of all recycled wood so they smell and burn like the real deal, but without all the mess and red hot, popping embers.
 
To make a long story short, a pallet of Cape Cod Fire Logs was dropped on our doorstep on Friday.
We now have enough Cape Cod Logs to build us a Cape Cod Log cabin. 
 
I hope to God these things are the miracle log I’ve been hearing about. I could really use the peace of mind this winter–and so could our dumb little dogs.