Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ZooTunes!

One of the highlights of summer for us is the annual concert series at the Woodland Park Zoo known as ZooTunes. Although this already merits a mention on our website's Seattle activities page, it definitely deserves a blog post of its own-- and maybe a few more if I decide to report on some of the shows after they happen!

The ritual begins in about March as I start scouring my secret sources for clues to who will be playing that summer. In late April comes the official announcement of the lineup. Then the big day-- the first Monday in May, when tickets go on sale. Either Ana Lena or I (this year she drew the short straw) queue up at the Zoo gate well before the on-sale time of 8:00am. (Last year I was there by 6:25 which put me second in line.) Sure, there are other places to get tickets and although shows do sell out it doesn't generally happen the first day. But being there early is all part of the fun.

Shows take place in the North Meadow of the zoo, most often on Wednesday evenings, with families picnicking on blankets, basking in the sunshine (very occasionally of the liquid variety) and enjoying great music. We usually attend 7 or 8 shows a year but the 2009 lineup is just superb and we plan to be at all 13, including both the July 1 and 2 shows of 3 Girls and Their Buddy, who comprise four of our favorite musicians on the planet (Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller). The season kicks off with the B-52s (already sold out) and as you'd expect our innkeepers Brenda and Glenn, who until recently hailed from the band's home of Athens, GA, are pretty pumped about that one! Ana Lena has being saying for years that we need to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and this summer we'll finally get the chance. Los Lobos and Cowboy Junkies are perennial favorites of ours. And Mavis Staples! What can you say but "living legend." Folk divas Joan Baez and Nanci Griffith, the Indigo Girls... I could go on but you get the drift.

Several years ago we started a new practice of getting extra tickets so we can invite friends and family to join us at the shows. Another aspect of the annual ritual is trying to match up bands with invitees we think will especially enjoy them.

If you come stay with us this summer, I hope you'll consider an evening at ZooTunes. If you want tickets and they're sold out online, let me know and I'll try to pick them up for you. But here's a tip: Even if the show is sold out (as they usually are) and you don't have tickets, just show up at the North Gate of the zoo around 4pm and there are always folks with tickets for sale-- usually at face value. It's definitely worth a shot!

Mark

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring has sprung!

We're starting to get some glorious spring days in Seattle at last! A walk around our Capitol Hill neighborhood takes you past cherry blossoms, camellias and azaleas battling it out like ladies' hats in an old-time Easter parade.

What a shame that the average B&B owner or innkeeper has so little time to enjoy it all! As reliable as the arrival of the blossoms is the onset of the busy season for us-- case in point, the opening of our three new third-floor rooms yesterday heralded by a completely full house. It amazes me that with a 60% increase in capacity we're still having to turn down many reservations.

So yes, we're busy, but don't think we're not grateful! With so many people in so many lines of work, including hospitality, struggling to get by, we appreciate the ongoing support of our guests and we promise to keep working hard to earn it. All we ask is that you try to plan far enough ahead so you're not one of those we so reluctantly turn away!

Mark

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In the home stretch on the third floor

It's been a while since the last blog post, and for good reason! We've been putting in overtime getting the three new guest rooms ready on the third floor. Ana Lena has been the guiding hand behind it all, just as she was with the first big restoration we did.

Last week plumbers, carpenters, painters, HVAC folks, electricians, housekeepers and carpet cleaners were all hard at work on last-minute details. The first batch of pedestal sinks we brought in were not a happy fit with the existing rough-ins so we quickly located a very charming substitute and had them shipped from Kentucky. The new 40" TVs and wall mounts were delivered, as well as high-end Simmons Beautyrest pillowtop mattresses and beds to go with them. DVD players and high-definition cable boxes are still en route.

It's been an interesting contrast with our original restoration of the Mansion in 2004-2006. Then, we had a year and a half while the work was going on to gather furniture, rugs, lighting, and the other necessities for outfitting the guest rooms (not to say that there wasn't some last-minute rushing then as well!)

This go-round it has all come together much more quickly so we don't have the same luxury of time. But we're very pleased with the results, and look forward to putting the finishing touches on in time for the "official" opening of the new rooms this Thursday. (Actually, a very good-natured guest has been resident in the Central Ballroom for 2 days already, helping us work out the kinks-- thanks Karl!)

And in all honesty there's never quite a true "finishing" touch since the Mansion continues to be a labor of love, with ongoing changes and improvements in the guest rooms and throughout the house on almost a daily basis!

Mark