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The day had started great: a hearty and healthy breakfast at the Lunenburg Inn was excellent preparation for a full day of discovery. During the bright and sunny morning I headed out and went on a walking tour through Lunenburg, a quaint and scenic town on Nova Scotias southern coast whose unique architectural heritage has garnered it the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. I capped off my local explorations with a visit to the famous Fisheries Museum of the Atla...

Hello From Nova Scotia: The Lunenburg Inn - One Couple's Unique (Pre-) Retirement Story

Hello From Nova Scotia: The Lunenburg Inn - One CoupleThe day had started great: a hearty and healthy breakfast at the Lunenburg Inn was excellent preparation for a full day of discovery. During the bright and sunny morning I headed out and went on a walking tour through Lunenburg, a quaint and scenic town on Nova Scotias southern coast whose unique architectural heritage has garnered it the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. I capped off my local explorations with a visit to the famous Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, a renowned museum that celebrates the maritime heritage of "Nova Scotia" .I had big plans for today: a scenic drive along the Lighthouse Trail through scenic communities such as Mahone Bay and Peggys Cove to my final destination for today: Halifax, Nova Scotias capital. But before saying goodbye to this charming town I wanted to find out a little bit more about the hospitality entrepreneurs running the Lunenburg Inn. I am always interested in the people behind the destinations, because the people are really the key factor in any hospitality experience.So with my suitcase packed and stashed safely in the car, I sat down with Don and Gail Wallace, owners of the Lunenburg Inn, to find out more about their personal story. Don started off by telling me that he had spent 33 years with a Toronto-based company in the warehousing and transportation business, holding the title of Vice President towards the end of his tenure. He felt it was time to make a significant change in his life, so he and Gail sat down to discuss what options they might have. They talked about downsizing their house and looking at a second career that they could start together. They also wanted to relocate away from the Toronto area and find a place where they would be able to retire. So they started looking further afield.One day in February of 1995 they noticed an advertisement in the Financial Post for a place called the Lunenburg Inn. This struck a chord because both of them had been dreaming of retiring near the ocean. So Don picked up the phone and got in touch with the real estate broker. On a Sunday morning in February he flew to Halifax and fell in love with Nova Scotias South Shore. Don adds that Lunenburg was not as pretty as it is today, but even then he recognized the potential of this town. He really liked the property a lot, although it would need a lot of work. So he phoned Gail to share his positive impressions and suggested that they both travel to Lunenburg the following weekend to see the inn. All the necessary professional contacts were initiated: the mortgage officer at the bank, the building inspector, the real estate agent and the lawyer who would handle the transaction. Don and his wife talked the idea over with their grown-up children. The following Sunday afternoon there was a meeting with the building inspector, after which Don prepared the offer. On Monday morning the mortgage was approved and shortly after lunch Don handed the realtor a cheque as the downpayment for their retirement plan: the Lunenburg Inn. Shortly after his arrival back in Toronto he received a call from his realtor that they would now be the proud owners of an inn as of May 1, 1995.Ironically, the day that this real estate transaction was completed Don had to go on a business trip to Vancouver, and he and his colleague went out after work and celebrated with a bottle of wine. It was not until months later that his coworker found out that Don had a real reason to celebrate on this very day: the beginning of his second career.Back in Toronto Don wrote a letter of resignation to his companys president who was very surprised since he and most people in the company had assumed that Don was a lifer, i.e. that he would spend the rest of his working life at this company. Don gave 6 months notice and would leave his position as Vice-President by the end of August. This gave the couple sufficient time to organize garage sales to get rid of unwanted furniture in Toronto. On April 28 their van left at 5 am, packed up their goods and arrived in Lunenburg on April 30. Don had booked two weeks of vacation and his son came along to spend his summer in Lunenburg a perfect arrangement since Don still had to wrap up his last few months with his company in Toronto.So from May onwards Gail and their son Drew started to operate the bed and breakfast. Their daughter came to join them in July, she had just finished her last year of high school and was starting a degree at Wilfred Laurier University in September. Don was able to leave his position early since by the end of July a replacement had been hired. So on August 1 the entire family was united in Lunenburg.The Lunenburg Inn was furnished when Don and Gail purchased it but the owners had taken personal pieces that had been used in the inn. The living room was very sparse and some rooms were missing chairs and tables. So for the first few weeks, Gail and her son Drew embarked on a nightly routine of furniture moving: they needed to provide a full compliment to those rooms rented for the night with the remaining furniture decorating the living room for that night. That meant that furniture pieces continuously had to be moved around from one room to another. They had decided to leave their Toronto-area house furnished while Don still lived there and to improve the chances of selling it. It was sold only in late July (with a mid-August closing) and Don had the moving company pack everything up in the last week of July. The furniture arrived in Lunenburg in mid-August and after its arrival they finally had a fully furnished living room without the nightly furniture move.The Lunenburg Inn had been an abandoned building, so it needed a lot of work. From 1924 to 1979 it had been the Hillside Hotel, a 13-room hotel (with one bathroom!) next to the towns train station. In the meantime the train service to Lunenburg has been discontinued for many years. The property was abandoned for a number of weeks just prior to being purchased by the previous owners in 1988. When Don and Gail purchased the property in 1995 the building was very tired and in need of a complete redecoration and upgrading, including furnishings, to bring it up to a 4 1/2 star property.During their first winter of 1995 Gail stripped every piece of furniture and diligently refinished it. All the couches and armchairs were re-upholstered. Don himself learned how to fix the plasterwork in this historic building, and in the dining room the couple removed nine layers of wallpaper and four layers of paint, all accumulated over the years since the building's construction in 1893. Carpets were torn out and replaced, floors were refinished. So far in the last 11 years, all the rooms have been redecorated at least three times. Don feels very strongly that a bed and breakfast should never look tired. His goal was to make the Lunenburg Inn a warm, comfortable place with upscale features.Now the Lunenburg Inn is in its 12th season and it is still holding up well. Don and Gail meanwhile are ready to start their real retirement. Don informed me that about 40% of bed and breakfast owners do not reopen after their third season, another 40% of B&B owners discontinue their business after 6 years. Only 5% of B&B owners make it to the 10-year mark. Don adds that running the Lunenburg Inn was his second and final career, and he and Gail had committed to 10 years. Now 11 years later, they are ready to move on into a well-deserved retirement.But this industrious couple did not stop at being B&B owners: from 1997 to late 2002 they also owned an M&M Meat Shop franchise which meant that Gail managed the retail operation while Don together with some hired help ran the bed and breakfast. Gail would be at the store every day from 9 am to 6 pm, and Don would handle the ordering and the accounting for the meat shop in addition to his duties at the inn.Today, the couple is focusing on the Lunenburg Inn only. Their day starts at 6 am when fresh muffins are baked for up to 19 breakfast guests. Guests can come to breakfast whenever it suits their schedule. Don and Gail put a lot of effort into preparing a healthy, filling and attractively prepared breakfast that always includes a lot of fresh fruit. They work with a 7-day rotation for the breakfast so none of the guests will get bored of having the same dishes served twice in a row.Breakfast takes place form 8 to 9:30 am and a helper in the kitchen handles the plate layout, coffee and toast. Two housekeepers help with the maintenance and cleaning chores, and all the laundry for the inn is handled in-house. The Lunenburg Inn opens from the beginning of May until late October. Don and Gail have made a commitment that one of them will always sleep in the house when the B&B is in operation. The guests may always have potential needs, and it is important to have a competent contact person on site.Don and Gail are proud of the fact that the Lunenburg Inn was the first 4.5 star property in Lunenburg, a property that combines the warmth of home with Victorian charm. 75% of their business stems from repeat customers and referrals, evidence of their commitment to an outstanding hospitality experience.Personally, they live in a separate private apartment on the lower level of the inn, and during the winter season they like to spend time with their children and go to South Carolina for a couple of weeks. There is always stuff to be done around the inn, and winter is the perfect time for redecorating or upgrades. Don also likes to go curling about four to five mornings in the week during the winter.The Lunenburg Inn is currently listed for sale. Neither Don nor Gail are in a rush to sell the property, and they realize that it is going to take a special buyer who is going to be interested in running this inn. Sometimes it could take as much as three to five years to sell a property like this. Don and Gail indicated that once the inn sells, they will stay in Lunenburg, and buy a simple family home. They enjoy the weather here: summers are less hot and humid than in Ontario, and there is less snow and rain. Gail adds that during the first four years in Lunenburg she did not even need winter boots. And falls are simply gorgeous in this quaint community.I realized that here was a couple who had made some very strategic, well thought-out decisions about their retirement. They knew exactly where they were going and what their next step was going to be. Few of us are so lucky as to have such a clear idea of where life is going to take us. With these thoughts in mind I thanked Don and Gail for their warm hospitality, and set off to continue my journey along the Lighthouse Trail to Halifax.

Good Decisions For Your Florence Car Rental

Good Decisions For Your Florence Car Rental

Not all car rentals are alike nor are all "car rental" companies. The big rental giants found in the United States often handle the car rental services in Europe as well. However, a regional rental agency found online may have some insight and deals you just wont get any place else. The first step in determining what kind of vehicle you need is to first determine if you need one at all.Do You Need a Florence Car Rental?Think long and hard about what your plans will be for your trip to Florence before deciding to automatically rent a car. If you plan to do all of your sight seeing within the city limits a car may be more of a nuisance than a convenience. Parking is limited and streets can be narrow and difficult to navigate. If you have ever even ridden in a taxi in Italy, you will notice that the logo over the horn is worn right off because Italian drivers tend to signal with their horns and voices over any factory installed directional signal! Driving in Italy is not for the timid!If you think you have what it takes to drive with the big boys, and you know you want to travel freely from city to city and into the countryside then renting a car is a good choice.What Kind of Car to RentCar rentals in Florence will be set up just as the in the U.S. You can choose from economy or luxury cars, standard transmissions or automatic, and choose between a minivan and an SUV. You will find the different sizes and classes of cars have different manufactures than in the U.S. with fewer U.S. models and more Italian, German, and other European makes. There are also models by these manufacturers that are rarely seen in the U.S., and usually the ones one the smaller end of the scale.When you rent your car, you can choose to rent by the day or week. Reservations should be made ahead of time, although if on a whim you decide to go for a ride in the country, the rental agencies can usually accommodate your request.Like U.S. rental agencies you can also choose to pick up and drop off your rental car in different locations, including different airports. For example, if you want to fly into Rome, spend a few days touring and then rent a car and drive to Florence you can. Then you can leave the car there and fly on out of Florence without making the trip to return the car in Rome. European car rental agencies work well with their surrounding countries as well, so a car can be rented in Switzerland and returned in Florence, Italy.A car rental gives you the freedom to travel on your own schedule. Gasoline is a bit more expensive in Europe, but the economy cars are much more efficient than most of the larger American vehicles. The best part about a Florence car rental is that if anything goes wrong, you can get a new car and be on your way without much delay.

Hello From Caledon, Elora & Guelph: Fall Colours, Ghosts And Ghouls

Hello From Caledon, Elora & Guelph: Fall Colours, Ghosts And Ghouls

October 9, 2005Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons in Ontario, and after last weeks early fall colour tour through the Kawarthas east of Toronto, it was time yesterday to check out the areas west of Toronto. My husband and I set off on the highway, left the 401 at Mississauga Road and drove north into rolling agricultural farmland. Our first interesting village along the way was Glen Williams, a little hamlet outside of Georgetown, whose former sawmill now houses more than 30 artists and artisans. We headed north along the scenic Credit River and drove up onto the Niagara Escarpment and literally stumbled over the Cheltenham Brickworks, a now abandoned brickmaking factory dating back to 1930 that utilized the area's clay soil to manufacture bricks for Toronto's housing boom. Abandoned industrial buildings always hold a strange fascination for me, and they offer great opportunities for curious photographers.Not far away is another very unique area, the Cheltenham Badlands, a unique geological formation of weathered terra cotta hued rock, that originated as a result of deforestation and overgrazing during the early 1900s. It's a fascinating landscape of undulating hills of red clay with greenish stripes, due to the soil's red and gray iron oxide content.The 800-kilometre-long Bruce Trail that goes all the way from Niagara Falls to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula snakes through this region, and there are several entry points close by. The Niagara Escarpment is a truly unique habitat and home to 300 bird species, 53 mammals, 36 reptiles and amphibians, 90 fish and 100 varieties of special interest flora including 37 types of wild orchids. UNESCO named Ontario's Niagara Escarpment a World Biosphere Reserve in 1990. It's a popular spot among hikers and naturalists.We headed east and down the Niagara Escarpment again and drove north in its shadow to the Forks of the Credit area and the quaint little village of Belfountain. This popular excursion destination was founded in the 1820 by Scottish and Irish immigrants, many of whom worked in local quarries, railroads, mills and tanneries. Today the village has souvenir shops, a beautiful country store, a spa, and an ice cream parlour.From Belfountain we drove westwards through the town of Erin into Wellington County, an area of fertile farmland, punctuated by rivers, gorges, small lakes, and golf courses. Our next stop on this country drive was the little town of Fergus, a town known for its Scottish Heritage which Fergus celebrates every year, usually during the second week of August, with the Fergus Scottish Festival. During this three-day event, visitors from all over the world enjoy all aspects of traditional Highland Games with a wee bit of modern flare tossed in.Fergus has a number of historic buildings in the downtown area, and a major draw in this little town is the Fergus Market, housed in the historic Beatty Brothers Farm Implement Manufacturing building which overlooks the Beatty Dam and dates back to the 1830s. The foundry was the first industrial location in Fergus and today houses a diverse collection of merchants, food retailers, and artisans.Just outside Fergus is the Wellington County Museum and Archives. The museum stands majestically overlooking the once mill-laden Grand River. Built of locally quarried limestone in 1877 as the House of Industry and Refuge, this landmark structure then provided shelter for the "deserving poor", the aged and the homeless for almost a century. The museum now gives visitors an opportunity to experience the cultural legacy left by the intrepid settlers to this vast county of rolling hills, stony fields, deep gorges and quaint villages.Another few kilometres down the road is the country town of Elora, one of Ontario's favourite weekend excursion destinations. Elora is situated in a beautiful nature area with glacial rock formations, and its most stunning geological feature is the Elora River which plunges over a number of rapids into the spectacular Elora Gorge. The mill sitting at the top of the gorge, aptly called the Elora Mill, has been turned into an upscale fine dining restaurant and country inn with 32 guest rooms.The Elora Gorge features several kilometres of 80-foot cliffs, caverns, rapids and quiet pools. During the summer, hiking along the cliffs and inner-tubing through the gorge are favourite pastimes. Hiking trails start right at the Elora Mill. During the winter months visitors indulge in cross-country skiing and scenic nature walks through the area. The Grand River also provides excellent opportunities for fly-fishing, canoeing and kayaking.The Elora-Cataract trail crosses 47 kilometres of scenic countryside. Between Fergus and Elora the trail passes by the Elora Quarry Conservation Area, an abandoned quarry that is a favourite spot for a refreshing dip. The quiet farmland around Elora is perfect for long country bike rides, and numerous golf courses round out the activities on offer.During our visit yesterday, Elora was nicely dressed up for Halloween - a variety of ghouls, ghosts, spiders, monsters and witches adorned the buildings, balconies and lamp posts along the town's main streets.The town also offers a variety of shops, antique stories, galleries and diverse dining establishments. Horse-drawn coach rides throughout town are also a popular activity for tourists.Not far from Elora you can visit Ontario's last remaining covered bridge in Montrose, and you'll have a chance to explore Old Order Mennonite Country. Summer brings a variety of festivals to this area, including the Elora Festival which is a one-month musical showcase of internationally acclaimed musicians and singers.About 15 minutes south of Elora is the major city of this area: Guelph is a university and manufacturing city with a population of more than 100,000. Its diverse economy also includes high technology enterprises and today Guelph is one of the fastest growing economic regions in all of Canada. Similar to Fergus and Elora, Guelph was founded by Scottish settlers in the 1820s at the junction of the Eramosa and Speed Rivers. The University of Guelph Department of Scottish Studies links academic research to the community of those with Scottish ancestry.The city features many trails for hiking, biking, skiing and horseback riding and a variety of riverside dining establishments.Guelph's most stunning architectural feature is the impressive Church of Our Lady Immaculate, a Gothic-Revival structure begun in 1877 and completed in 1888. The twin towers, more than 200 feet high, were not completed until 1926. The Church of Our Lady Immaculate is one of Ontario's largest and most impressive churches.This time we didn't have a chance to explore Guelph in detail as it was getting late afternoon and we had to head back. But there will be another time for exploring this beautiful, historic city and other surrounding communities. But our little excursion out of the city was a perfect Saturday getaway for exploring the history and countryside just outside of Toronto.

Summer: The Season Of Hurricane

Summer: The Season Of Hurricane

Summer is a popular season for vacations. Children get their summer holidays and adults usually utilize their leaves at work during this hot season. The most attractive choice for a family vacation is cruises. Most of the cruise liners offer a variety of choices for fun and travelling. However, hurricane is a potent problem during a cruise vacation. The official summer months in the Caribbean are from 1st of June till the 30th of November. This is the season for hurricanes.Storm incidentsIf you were an optimist then perhaps you would ignore this warning. But hang on, even cruise liners can sink. Let us review certain facts that would make you think. A ship named Phantom belonging to the Windjammer cruise line sunk in 1998. This was an eye-opener to all. It was a reminder that man is helpless against the fury of nature. The passengers were dropped safely on the shore but the ship never returned. Nor did the captain and his crews. All was lost in the hurricane.A Carnival Cruise ship faced a similar problem in 1999. Luckily, The crew members and the passengers managed to sail through the hurricane safely.Caribbean cruise vacation Incidents on a cruise vacation make people jittery. However, you must not be over cautious, as the cruising industry would not jeopardize the life of passengers travelling with them. Most of their ships use the best technology and skills. This is to ensure you a memorable experience that you would love to have again on a cruise liner. Moreover, the cruisers are offered attractive discounts during the months of August till December. So, you may just feel brave to embark on a cruise.Hurricanes are an inconvenienceNevertheless, storms do affect ships. Your cruise course may get altered affecting your vacation plans. In fact your departure may be cancelled owing to a brewing squall. However, weather forecast and foresight could avoid hurricanes but cannot rule them out.Trip cancellationThe safety of the ship along with its crew and the passengers are a priority for any shipping company. Even the slightest hint of a storm can be risky. So, your trip can be cancelled without any hesitation or prior information. Therefore a reserved ticket on a cruise liner is not the final assurance. The two most sensible things that you can do:To avoid unnecessary risks, do not make any advance payments or deposits for your summer cruise vacation You must be mentally prepared that your cruise may get cancelled. So, you need another vacation plan to fall upon.

Alfajiri Villa Resort Mombasa Kenya

Alfajiri Villas was once described to me as decadence bordering on insanity, and they are probably right.Just imagine three villas, one sleeps four, the next one six, and the third one eight, and the last one is totally private!!In fact you can rent the whole place if you have the funds and the desire for complete absolute and utter privacy.Obviously it doesnt come cheap, so what do you get for your money.Apart from one of the finest villas in the world, there are private butlers, and two nannies for your children!!Alfajiri is a very child friendly place, and children just love being spoiltAs you might imagine everything you could possibly want is included in the price, so whatever you want to do, be it swimming, snorkelling, golf, ngalawa sailing, and lots more.The largest villa has its own pool, and the other two share an infinity pool, and we found the smaller two perfect as we were on our vacation with family friends, and had come from a superb, but tiring safari, so all we wanted was to relax, swim, drink, eat, catch up on lost sleep.The children loved the pool, and having never seen an infinity pool I couldnt believe how the horizon, and the pool seemed to merge. In fact what with the clear blue skies, the small cliff could almost have been dangerous to the unwary!! What it did give us was added privacy, as no-one could see us, or even know we were there from the beautiful beach below.I have to write and tell you about the food, which is out of this world at Alfajiri.It seems the fresh seafood comes off the beach every day, almost at random, when in fact it is very much to order.This means you can eat crab, prawns[huge], lobster, octopus, plus all the fish you want, and that means if you want to eat lobster every day at every meal you can!!It is amazing to eat so well, and know that it is healthy, all the menus are very Meditteraean style with lots of oils, and I believe things like parma ham and cheeses are flown in every week from Europe.All the vegetables and fruit are sourced locally, and you neednt worry if you are a bit picky, because from experience I know the chef can effectively give you what you want if you dont like what is on offer, but quite honestly Id be very surprised if you needed to.It is great to be able to play golf, turning up in your chauffeured car to the local golf club where you can play without apparently paying, all green fees, caddies and clubs having been included in the price you have paid already.This whole Alfajiri thing is a long way from cheap, but if you can afford it, and you value your privacy, you want to be waited on literally hand and foot, and best of all if you have family friends who feel the same way, then this is just the perfect place post safari.

Consumer Counseling As An Alternative To Bankruptcy

Consumer credit counseling has grown significantly in the past couple of decades, due mostly to the many people in this country who have accumulated a high amount of debt. Yes, some individuals and families have accumulated such debt and are in a tough financial situation because of unforeseen events, medical expenses, divorce or death, but the majority of the debt in this country is credit card debt. This debt has accumulated so quickly that consumers are not able to meet their minimum payments, which usually only cover the high interest rates applying very little if anything to the principal balance. Bankruptcy was the only option for many people, until consumer credit counseling companies were established as an alternative. These agencies help individuals with repairing their credit by working with their creditors to resolve the debt, make satisfactory credit card debt settlement arrangements and avoid bankruptcy. New bankruptcy laws have recently come into effect that require individuals to seek consumer credit counseling first and try to find come to an agreement with creditors short of involving the legal system. Bankruptcy is a drastic step and remains on your credit report for ten years, though you can file every seven years. Of course, this is not recommended. After filing bankruptcy, it is possible to get credit again with a secured loan or secured credit card but this is only a small step toward repairing the damage caused by the bankruptcy. Your credit score is reviewed for many reasons, including renting or buying a home, purchasing a vehicle, obtaining employment, applying for a loan or even opening a bank account. However, consumer credit counseling is not a free service and this, unfortunately, is a barrier in itself for those individuals too far in debt to afford the service. Consumer counseling works on your behalf to help improve your situation, by reducing interest rates, late charges, over limit fees and monthly payments. The counseling agency can consolidate your monthly payments into one payment paid to the counseling agency which will then make the payment on your behalf. The counseling agencies are there to help you reach financial stability and get back on your feet. You can eliminate your debt and settle debt concerns with the help of experienced credit counselors. They will help educate you on how to stay out of debt while you rebuild your credit and find hope for you financial future.

Summary

The day had started great: a hearty and healthy breakfast at the Lunenburg Inn was excellent preparation for a full day of discovery. During the bright and sunny morning I headed out and went on a walking tour through Lunenburg, a quaint and scenic town on Nova Scotias southern coast whose unique architectural heritage has garnered it the coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. I capped off my local explorations with a visit to the famous Fisheries Museum of the Atla...