28 August 2012

Assistant Manager Aaron

It's been a while since my last post it appears.

After my extremely fun three-day getaway where I left the Bed and Breakfast and visited San Francisco once more to see my Australian friend Anthony, I was back to work again at the Bed and Breakfast, although things were a lot quieter as the other helpers (Felicia, Sadie and Mengmeng) had all left the house in my absence, leaving only Helen (Germany) remaining.

Did I mind? Not in the slightest! Helen. Was. Awesome! Sadly she was only to be staying a few more days, but we made sure to have some great times before then, with one of the highlights being the hours upon hours spent swing dancing! I do swing dancing back home if you were unaware, as did Helen, so that was a lot of fun, especially as the house has its huge ballroom on the top floor for use.

We hung out at a local cafe that had a really great Jazz band for her last night here, and the following morning she was gone. Sigh. But alas there was no time to dwell on it because the following week was one of the most insane I have ever experienced in my life.

Vivien, the innkeeper, was to be away for 6 days but a replacement innkeeper was to be arriving to take her place for the time being. Because, like... me and the other helpers are simply volunteers who haven't the slightest clue how to run a high class Bed and Breakfast. At that time it was me with two other helpers, Camille (France) and Sebastian (France).

Day one started out fine as Vivien had left most things in order before she left, and we only had to hold tight until the temporary innkeeper was to arrive. I think I just spent the day out in the garden with the two French, so that was fun. By day two however things got a little more tense as we were heading into what was to be our busiest weekend for the entire year and the temporary innkeeper still hadn't arrived...

What. The. Hell.

By day three it was pretty clear that the temporary innkeeper wasn't coming, and it truly was time to fight or flee because we had now entered the weekend and we had a full house here at the Bed and Breakfast. That means that all 10 rooms were booked, filling the house with 19 guests. I have been helping out here for only one month, now I am all of a sudden thrust into the position of innkeeper.

How does that happen!?

Now I am not trying to sound purposely overly dramatic here... but with the other helpers either being too new to be of much use (the two French helpers), or simply just idiots (these four American helpers that had just arrived...), I truly was the only one capable to even attempt to run the place.

So, I stepped up!

I answered phone calls, took bookings, checked guests in once they arrived (with a tour of the house, including a full recap of its history... granted about 40% of it I make up on the spot), delegated tasks to the seven other helpers, solved problems like when we ran out of gas and bread, paid bills, processed credit cards... I was literally managing the place single-handedly! It was damn tough, and I admit there were many times that were utterly depressing, stressful and demoralizing. There was one moment in particular when these four American helpers who had recently arrived who were absolute idiots were driving me nuts, coupled with guests to deal with, phones to answer, and administrative jobs that I had no idea how to handle waiting to be processed, where I felt so overwhelmed that I seriously considered just packing my bags and taking off then and there.

I didn't sign up for this! I was merely here to wash dishes, do gardening, and sweep floors!

And to top all this off? I freaking lost my prescription glasses. And I forgot to pack my backup pair. Sigh... I am so angry about this, I put them down when I should of just put them away, or even just put them on, instead I left them outside in the garden and they have disappeared... my only pair. Now I have to go spend $150 or whatever to buy a new pair, when I have a perfectly good pair sitting at home. Oh! Maybe my parents can mail me my spare pair? It would take a while to arrive... hmm.

Despite all that and more, I stuck with it, simply tackling one day at a time. The days were long and stressful from the moment I woke up at 8am to serve breakfast to the guests up until 11pm where it was safe to assume no guests would no longer need anything and I was able to go to bed. Finally by day four, things were starting to smooth out as I ever so slowly got a bit of a grasp on how things were run.

By day six, I was calm as you could possibly be and running the place was no worries at all really. I had answers to nearly every problem, I was fantastic with the guests (I even got tips!), I knew how to take bookings, answer phones, where things in town were, and most importantly how to handle the seven other helpers who were now in my command.

On day seven Vivien eventually came home, thoroughly relieved that everything had turned out so well in her absense with the unforeseen event of the arranged temporary innkeeper not showing up.

"You have now effectively been acting manager at a high-class Bed and Breakfast all by your self. Congratsulations! I think from now on you can be Assistant Manager."

Alas there you have it, I am now an Assistant Manager at a high-class Bed and Breakfast in a small coastal town called Fort Bragg in the North of California... haha!

Who would of thought...

19 August 2012

A weekend away of awesomeness

It is week 4 of my time at this Bed and Breakfast in the North of California. It is funny to think that before I arrived here I had absolutely no idea what to expect and was worried that it wouldn't work out, just hoping that I could at least stay a week or two. A month later and I am still here, having an absolute blast.

Although I am indeed working hard mind you! Some days I put in 10 or more hours of work. We aren't expected to do that much of course, in fact we are only expected to work 4 hours a day about 6 days a week, but when I am out in the garden for instance just free to do whatever I like (as long as it is productive of course) and the sun is shining and I have my music playing, the hours just melt away and before I know it it is way past dinner time and I haven't been inside since the morning.

However hard work needs a break, and it just so happens that my good friend Anthony from Australia was to be arriving in San Francisco on the coming weekend, sweet, so I planned to go meet him. It also just so happened that two cool helpers here at the Weller House Inn, Felicia and Sadie, were also heading down to San Francisco that same weekend... and they have a car, so they offered to give me a ride down, win!

Not without some fun on the way of course =D

Saturday midday we said our goodbyes to the other helpers and Vivien and made out way inland. Our first stop was the Mendecino Redwood forest... it was amazing! The trees I would guess were 100m tall, and the entire place was extremely peaceful. For some reason I only took one photo while in the forest. I guess it was that great of a place that I was too entralled to remember to take more?

The entrance to the forest. These aren't the 100m tall trees I mentioned, those were much further in.
Felicia snacking after our hike through the forest
It was around this time that I thought giving driving a go would be a fun idea... keeping in mind that they drive on the opposite side of the road here in American than they do in my home of Australia, ha! I'll be honest here... there were a few close calls and shouts of alarm, but I managed well enough!

There are some amazing landscapes here in the North of California

San Francisco is about a 3 hour drive from Fort Bragg, but none of us were in a hurry to get there so we decided to spend the night camping, cool! I haven't been camping in such a long time and it is one of my favourite activities to do, so suffice to say that I thought this was a brilliant idea and was really excited.

We entered a town called Ukiah to pick up supplies and have some dinner. The restaurant we went to for dinner was brilliant... although it doesn't appear that I thought so because of what happened next. Upon leaving the restaurant I accidentally (honest) kind of somehow managed to take the cook's apron out of the restaurant with me... and by the time I realized what I had done it would have been too embarrasing to walk back into the restaurant and be like "umm... I have your apron, I accidentally took it outside with me"... so I stayed quiet and just put it with the rest of my stuff once back in the car... ha! So now I have obtained an apron in my travels, who would of thought.

We hadn't booked a camping ground, and despite it being a Saturday night we all had complete faith that something would work out. To test this idea we went to the busiest, but also the best, camp ground around. Upon arriving it was completely crowded... it wasn't looking good! But, hey, let's give it a go anyway. Sadie got out to talk to reception, who informs her that they had just received a cancellation and there was one camp site remaining if we wanted it... win!

Our camp spot for the night. We were 30m from the lake...
After I managed to start a wicked fire (I am pretty awesome at making fires) we drank a lot of beer and wine, put a blanket by the waters edge, laid down and watched the stars on what was a completely cloudless night. It was an epic night to say the least =)

The next day, was ridiculously perfect...

Our tent
What we woke up to. A 30 degree cloudless day by the lakes edge. Pure bliss.
How did I get so lucky?
It was an extremely casual morning. By 10am it was already a warm 25 or so degrees... so we went for a swim! It has been quite some time since I last swam in the ocean or a lake, it was ridiculously refreshing. The remaining few hours before checking out was spent with the calming swoosh of the shimmering lake, the rustle of trees and the squeals of excited children as our atmosphere, as I chuckled and laughed hard at one of my favourite book's of all time, The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. (Seriously, this book cracks me up so bad, if you haven't read it yet, then go do so. Right now). Such an amazing, unexpectedly great time.

Alas, it was time to leave paradise and continue our trek to San Francisco. Not before stopping at a few wineries of course! Now... these next few hours were some of the most bazaar, cringeworthy hours I have had in a very long time. Felecia and Sadie (the two girls I was traveling on this road trip with) are good looking girls, so naturally attention is going to come their way. Which is fine by me of course. The problem was that at this particular winery the attention was coming from four or five 60 year old men who either had forgotten the art of subtlety, or just didn't care how forward they were out in the open anymore. Man was it bad... and terribly painful to sit through for two and a half hours. I vow never to be like them one day... ha.

The girls however seemed oblivious to this and abslolutely loved all the attention they were receiving, apparantely thinking these oldies were simply being friendly. Sorry ladies but no, I can tell you right now that if it was just me and some male friends instead of you two, we would not have been offerred a ride on their boat, a chance to sleep at their houses, free wine... nor had our photos taken with them all... haha!

Finally we escaped from that place and continued on to a few other wineries, which were pretty amazing.

Although... in all the excitement of being the stars of attention whilst at the wineries, Felicia and Sadie drank too much wine thus couldn't drive anymore. I'm from Australia and have never driven in traffic on the American side of the road before, but sure, let's attempt to drive to San Francisco shall we?

Again there was more close calls, but I actually managed damn well and actually ended up driving the entire rest of the way to San Francisco! I even got to drive on the Golden Gate Bridge! And I even drove in San Francisco city!

Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge! I think my expression is equal parts excitement and fear.
Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge!
And that was my weekend adventure with Felicia and Sadie. It was pretty amazing.

The next day I fulfilled the whole point of coming to San Francisco in the first place; to see my friend from Australia, Anthony! He was not alone however and was with his good friend Khalia, who I hadn't met before but she was awesome so that was cool. We had an awesome two days too! After spending 6 weeks in San Francisco a little while back I have a fair idea of the city and what's good to do and where to go, so it was cool to be able to share my excitement of this city with friends.

Khalia, me and Anthony at San Francisco bay
Khalia and Anthony getting a taste for the crazy hills here, ha!
Everyone constantly asks me if I have been to 'In and Out Burger', a fast food place only here in California. Despite spending four months in America thus far I had yet to go. Finally it can be checked off the list.
I had an awesome time with Anthony and Khalia. For one it was nice to be able to speak proper English for a change without having to slow it down or dumb it down for other English speakers. I have known Anthony for about 11 years now, and while we aren't the closest of friends I do enjoy keeping in touch over the years since we have left high-school. Not to mention how cool it is that we could meet up in San Francisco, all the way from Australia!

Anthony and Khalia left for their plane to return home soon after, so I met up with a San Francisco friend and hung out with her for the night, then managed to get a cheap hostel room, and at 5.30am the next day I was catching the bus to head back to the Bed and Breakfast in Fort Bragg once more where I plan to stay for a while longer yet =)

Golden Gate Bridge at 5.30am
Now that was a great three day getaway.

12 August 2012

Life at a Bed and Breakfast

I've been at this Bed and Breakfast for nearly three weeks now, which I only know it has been that long by looking at the calender, else I wouldn't know because it honestly only feels like it has been no more than 2 days. Being here has been one of the most amazing, stressful, encouraging, relaxing, trying, eye-opening experiences I have ever had.

In short, it is awesome and I love it.

I mentioned briefly in my last post that the house itself is pretty amazing, so let me display in more detail where exactly I am in the world right now. The place is called The Weller House Inn, it was built in 1886, restored and taken care of over the years, and these days acts as a high-class Bed and Breakfast.

The Weller House Inn
It's three stories with nine rooms in the house and the third floor is this ridiculously amazing ballroom that has the best accoustics in a room I've ever heard. It even contains a piano! I spend hours every day playing the two songs I know...

It is actually three times the size that this picture depicts it at

It's a great room for events. In my last post I mentioned we had a cello and accordian duo come play a concert and that turned out fantastic, they really were world class having 25 years experience each. And last weekend there was a two-day Tango workshop where the teachers flew in from Argentina to come teach, very cool.

On top of all this we have our water tower that is used for guest rooms! It is four stories high (thus contains four guest rooms) and sits just outside the house in the backyard, and you can even go all the way to the top and see uninterupted views of the entire Fort Bragg... and even the ocean as we are only one block away!

Our water tower
View of the water tower and the back of the house
The water tower is the tallest building in Fort Bragg, offering some amazing views of the town and the nearby ocean.

Now originally I was staying in one of the guests rooms for the time being until Vivien returned. She has of course returned by now so I got moved out of the house... and into the room at the very top of the water tower! My own room with no one to bother me, at the very top of the tower...

The view from my window
The view from my other window
Bianca, Christian, Charie and Antwon (other helpers living at the house also) left the other day, which I am definitely bummed about as they were awesome company around the house and I was just starting to get to know them better too. The curse of travel of course.

In exchange however we received two new helpers, Sadie (America) and Felicia (America). These two girls were pretty awesome and were constantly arranging activities and places to see, which was great because I was too lazy to organize much really. Oh, and they had a car!

We went to the coast to visit a lighthouse.

Chilling by the ocean...
And we went to a nearby town and saw an absolutely awesome folk band, they were great!

I forget the name of these guys, but they were absolutely amazing! All were extremely talented, the cello player and singer teach at a University, and the drummer is the drummer from the TV show Dancing With the Stars.
Another two weeks gone by in the most adventurous way. I am really happy that the new helpers are cool as it really makes or breaks this place, and there is so much to do both in terms of work to do around the house but also in the amount of places to visit and see, that I could easily see myself here for at least a month more.

But alas I have no idea on what my plans or next movements will be. Like my entire trip so far, we shall see how we go shall we?

Regardless of what happens, I never in my wildest ideas expected that this is where I would be.

06 August 2012

An unexpected destination

After spending 6 weeks in San Francisco it was time to move on, and on a whim I decided to apply to work at a Bed and Breakfast in a small coastal town about 4 hours drive North-West of San Francisco called Fort Bragg. Who would have thought! When I originally planned this trip over one year ago I did not in my wildest ideas think that I would end up in a place like this.

The commute was to be one 3 hour bus to a town called Santa Rosa where I was to stay the night, to then catch a 4 hour bus the following day to take me the rest of the way to Fort Bragg. I had no idea what this town was like, nor did I even bother doing any research beforehand as I figured I'd find out when I get there. Plus it was the best lead I had in my attempt to flee the cities for a while until the American high-season ends, so I didn't have a choice either way.

 The bus drive on the way provided some impressive views which was encouraging at least =)

Waiting to catch the bus made for a great photo opportunity
The bus from Santa Rosa to Fort Bragg the following day
Wow! My spirits were definitely rising after seeing scenery like this.

After the lengthy bus rides I very tentatively knocked on the front door of the inn once I found the place... no one replied so I just let myself in. A young lady comes in from the back room to greet me.

Her: "Oh hey there, are you checking in?"

Me: "Ah, no, I'm umm... I'm here on a work exchange. Is Vivien (the innkeeper) here?"

Her, looking extremely confused: "Oh... Vivien is on holidays for two weeks, she didn't mention you were coming at all, when did you speak to her?"

Me: "Umm... she emailed me yesterday. Maybe I got the date wrong?"

Vivien the innkeeper wasn't even there and wouldn't be for another week, and she didn't even tell anyone I was coming... not the most promising of greetings and definitely not one to calm my nerves!

I got introduced to 5 other helpers all running around the kitchen preparing what looked like dinner for guests. I asked a bunch of questions to try and unravel what was going on, it really looked like an ants nest, I had no idea who was in charge. After a little while I pieced it together.

With Vivien gone the other helpers are literally running the place! 5 other helpers who have all been here less than a week are literally running the place. And when I say literally, I mean literally. They are left on their own to cook, clean, take bookings, organize the chickens, garden, check guests in, answer any questions guests have, and basically are free to run and organize the inn in absolutely any way they like, despite them just being fellow backpackers like I am with no innkeeping experience what so ever... ha! What is this place?

And that dinner they were preparing? It wasn't for guests, it was for themselves! Immediately I was invited to sit down with them for some great pasta, and over dinner they explained more about the place. Basically none of them had the neccessary experience to run a high-class Bed and Breakfast such as this, but just kind of did the best they could, and had fun along the way. That is so cool!

After a long dinner of good food and conversation, the helpers gave me one of the guest rooms because they didn't know where I was meant to be sleeping. I could not believe that this was to be my room for the week...

Woah! It is a $200 a night room with a queen bed and fireplace, all to myself! I have just spent the last 3 months hopping from hostel to hostel and now I was lucky enough to get this? Ha! The bed was so comfortable that it was ridiculous, I was convinced that it was all too good to be true... that I was still on the bus having a rather long dream that I was about to wake up from at any moment.

Thankfully it wasn't a dream, and for the time being it didn't seem too good to be true.

The following week was an absolute blast, it really was the fastest week I have ever had in my entire life, I cannot recall where the last seven days went. My duties included making breakfasts for the guests, doing dishes, cleaning the floors, and some gardening, for roughly 4 hours a day. Fine by me, it was a breeze really, and already I was really liking it here; the other helpers rocked, the town was really cool, I had my own room, we were only 1 block from the ocean (way cool!), and the inn itself was amazing (built in 1886, 3 stories high, 9 bedrooms, and with a big tower outside that had 4 more rooms as well! More pictures and information on that later).

Whenever we all weren't working we were having heaps of fun cooking big dinners, playing games, working in the garden in the sunshine or exploring the town. Great times.

Having great dinners with the other helpers
The view from the top of the house (it's a tall house). We are also right by the ocean!
View of some of Fort Bragg from atop of the house
Fort Bragg main street
Exploring Fort Bragg with Meng Meng, one of the other helpers. She was hilarious.
Dinner with the helpers! Antwon (England), Charie (England), me, Christian (Germany), Biana (Germany), Meng Meng (China)
Oh, and this Bed and Breakfast house has this huge ballroom on its third floor where the other day a world class cello and accordian duo played a concert! They were absolutely brilliant, just brilliant. I talked to the cello player after the show and she said that she has been playing for 25 years... insane! She has been playing longer than I have even been alive...

So that rocked. Also some time during the week Christian, Bianca, Charie and I went to the beach to catch the sunset which was pretty awesome and made for some great photos.

Bianca, Charie and Christian chilling while we watch the sun decend
So after one week I already feel like this is a home away from home. The other helpers rock, I absolutely love having my own room, I am spending next to no money because my accommodation and most of my food is provided, and Fort Bragg has a lot of great attractions nearby that I will have to get around to soon. Lots to do! I have no idea how long I will stay here but I already have a good feeling about this place and am in no rush to leave =)

Top: Bianca, Sadie (America, arrived yesterday), Charie, Christian, Alison and Clint (America, arrived the other day). Bottom: Meng Meng, Felicia (America, arrived yesterday), me and Antwon. Such a great group.

02 August 2012

Time to move on

It is Summer here in America. You can tell it is Summer not by the weather, well not in San Francisco anyway where the winds are chilled and the temperature struggles to reach over 24, but by the sudden huge influx of people in the city and the subsequent price rises of the hostels.

Which for a budget conscious backpacker these are of course not ideal situations. Sigh.

But regardless of finance or population, I just kind of have this strong feeling that now is the right time to leave San Francisco and continue on. I can never quite explain these impulses, this almost psychic link where I just seem to know things, but they are always right thus are not to be ignored.

Besides, Vincent is long gone, Mardy left the other day, and Isabel came back for a few days which was awesome (and a strong reason why I decided to hang around in this city longer than I intended too also) but even she has left for home also, leaving me with no great friends here in the city anymore (which also translates into 'no compeling reason to stay here either').

I truly loved this city from the moment I first arrived, late at night with my parents as we drove over the Bay Bridge after our two day road trip from Las Vegas. I had a great feeling about this place and it truly delivered above and beyond my grandest hopes, allowing me to have some of the best times on this entire trip.

There was the hanging out with Andy in my first few days, then of course the awesome week with Vincent, the amazingly fun hostel pub crawls, becoming friends with Isabel, the Napa Valley wine tour day, living with Mardy on Treasure Island, getting a job as a co-host at the hostel pub crawls, and the hundreds of other little unblogged occurrences that all made this place just so memorable.

But, alas, it is time to leave. I told my 'boss' (from my very loosely based 'hostel pub crawl co-host' job I got the other week) that I was to be leaving, which she was cool with as she knew I was to be on the move soon anyway, and... yep, besides that there wasn't any other loose ends that needed tieing whatsoever.

The true beauty of this trip is the freedom it allows me to flow completely uninhibited, with no one to check in with or anything holding me down.

So where to next? Well during the nearly being homeless for a night or two saga the other week I met the awesome couple James and Millie who told me about a website called HelpX.net where farms, families, hostels or whatever are seeking helpers in exchange for food and accommodation. Sounds pretty cool!

After hours upon hours narrowing down my choices I finally just dove right in and emailed two potential places; one a family about 2 hours East of San Francisco in a mountain town who needs help around their house, whilst the other was a Bed and Breakfast about 4 hours North-West of San Francisco in a small coastal town.

Only the Bed and Breakfast replied (she was highly interested in my 'website building skills' which I may or may not have grossly slightly exaggerated my truthful skill level in my application... let's hope it doesn't come back to bite me!) so I guess come Monday I will be taking the two buses, 7 hour in total commute to a little coastal town in North California called Fort Bragg!

I have absolutely no idea what to expect, if it will even work out, or how long I am to be there. Yikes.

I originally came to America with the sole intention of staying in New York City for as long as I could, with Los Angeles intending to be a one-week max stop over simply to gather myself. You could say things haven't quite gone to plan, ha.