I made it! I got
up to watch CBS: Sunday Morning, just in time to watch George
Harrison's retrospective, so beautifully done. The cool
Beatle's essence was touchingly captured.
After a Sunday breakfast
in the aerie (our upstairs bedroom's sitting room), I soaked my
thirsty body in a tubful of bubbles, enriched with Hawaiian pa`akai
(sea salt). Outside, the sky was filled with scattered clouds.
"Perfect conditions for photography," I thought. No
harsh sunlight. No overcast skies. And nowhere as cold as
Fortified and dressed in
light winter garb, I headed for our backyard woods with O and
Freddy B. Delighting in snow, they are true winter dogs. Only
after a vigorous backyard romp, happy dances around me, and wild
chases of woodland friends did they allow me to become The
As you can see, I could
really use a squeaky mouse to get their attention.
Last week, we had made
vague plans to do the Big
Bear Chamber of Commerce-sponsored "A
Big Bear Bed & Breakfast (B&B) Experience,"
benefiting local non-profit organizaions. We are always on the
lookout for accommodations for our overflow guests, as well as
office retreat locales. We had thoroughly enjoyed "the
experience" five years ago with Cia and Doni, but, until I
stumbled upon an article on it in the local rag, the Big
Bear Grizzly, I had all but forgot about this yearly
Today, with the sun
shining warmly through the clouds, it was a perfect day for the
tour. We picked up tickets -- pamphlets with directions, recipes and
blurbs on the featured B&Bs -- in the village at the Chamber of
Commerce. Deciding to do it our way, we chose to have a
laid-back, quality experience, rather than a hectic one of trying to
see as many of the 13 listings as possible.
Perusing the list, we
chose to revisit two of our favorites from last time: Truffles
B&B (DH's favorite) and Apples B&B Inn (my
favorite). To our short list, we added the historical Knickerbocker
Mansion Country Inn, the quaint Victorian cottage, Carolyn's
Cottage, and the lakeside B&B, Stealaway Bay.
Just as we were about to
leave, I overheard a lady in the next room saying how she thought
that the Alpenhorn B& B was extra-special. The Alpenhorn
B&B was quickly added to our list, and straightaway, we headed
out to it, only to learn from the hospitable innkeeper, Chuck, that
the tour did not start until 1:00 pm. It was only 11:30
Although he was busy
with preparations for the tour, as well as checking out guests,
Chuck was outstandingly gracious to us, enthusiastically giving us a
preview tour. We promised to return for the full tour.
Big Bear does not lack
for diversions, and we used our time to shop for holiday
decorations, as we are hosting the office Christmas party as well as
our family's New Year's Day get-together.
We stopped to visit our
friends, Abe-san and Kay, as well as have a quick
sushi lunch at Sushi Ichiban. I had my favorites: sake
(salmon), mirugai (giant clam), and salmon skin temaki (hand roll)
with hot green tea; DH has the same with the additions of
hirame (halibut) and tako (octopus). They make the best sushi
in all of Southern California.
Abe-San & Kay at Sushi Ichiban, Big
Bear Lake, CA
Then we were off to
begin our B&B experience. We were warmly greeted at each
of the five B&Bs. Gaily and extravagantly decked out for
Christmas, every B&B was definitely in the holiday spirit.
In turn, so were we.
We were invited to enjoy
an array of refreshments: split pea soup at Truffles; cookies
and hot cider at Carolyn's; tiers of cookies and candy at Apples;
(much welcomed) freshly brewed coffee, vegetable plate with spinach
dip, and crackers with dip at Alpenhorn; and cookies and hot
drinks at the Knickerbocker's conference center and on the
deck at Stealaway Bay's.
At each stop, Chamber
Maids (volunteer members of an auxiliary of the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce)
placed scrumptious cookies, baked by the B&Bs and
individually wrapped in cellophane bags and topped with bright
ribbons -- and their recipes -- into our treat bags. We
felt like yuletide "trick or treaters."
I just had an Alpenhorn
Lemon Square (click here
for the recipe), and oh, is it YUMMY.
A burst of sunshine on a
While most listened to
spiels on each B&B's amenities and interior decorating, DH and I
concentrated on architectural details and layouts. We are
definitely more into B&B "hardware" -- stoves,
flooring, gingerbread, decks, window placements and views out of
them, and physical layouts -- than the "software" --
fluffy down comforters and thick terry towels.
Without exception, every
B&B was top-notch, and guests visiting any of them are assured
excellent accommodations. Here are my impressions, off the top
of my head (you may wish to click on the links for more details at
their respective websites):
Besides their delicious, rib-sticking split-pea soup, we appreciated
the spaciousness of its gathering room with its unique fireplace in
a conversation pit, immaculate cleanliness, warm decorating touches,
turn down service with See's truffles (what else?), well-stocked
book library, gorgeous house dog (a huge retriever), and the
engaging warmth of the innkeeper, Lori Minor.
It has a quiet, soothing
We particularly enjoyed Bob's (the innkeeper's)
pointing out the details of this cozy Victorian B&B, including
the inlaid beams, as well as the telling of its history, including
the naming of it after his wife's sister, Carolyn, who lost her life
at an early age, and thus, a room named Angel's Nest, filled with
It has a quaint,
B&B & Conference Center:
The live music was beautifully elegant, and innkeeper Jim McLean
generously shared details of his huge, well-designed kitchen with
us, while wife Barbara scurried about filling the tiers of
treats in the Great Room. We admired the beautifully appointed rooms
with its touches of whimsy -- bears with pots of honey on each
It has an elegant,
Mansion Country Inn:
Ten years ago, we visited this historical landmark built in the
early 1920s by Bill Knickerbocker, Big Bear Lake's first damkeeper.
In 1991, the log mansion's B&B was hobbling along on a
shoestring budget. It was abandoned for two years, until the new
owners, Thomas Bicanic, a former German chef at La Patina,
and his partner, Stanley R. Miller, sound engineer for singer
Neil Diamond, came along and rescued it by lovingly restoring to its
original rustic elegance and glory.
It has an old-time,
rustic spirit and a resident (benevolent) ghost, the late Mrs.
Knickerbocker, who is said to still rock in her rocking chair next
to the main floor's window, no doubt fully approving of her beloved
(no website): A room with a view. It's here. I love baths, and
I would especially love to spend oh, an hour or so in their jacuzzi
tub, set in from of an octagonal window with a sweeping view of the
lake. This is the only B&B on the lake, and its views are
nothing short of stunning.
It has a breezy, open
the winner for our favorite B&B is:
Independently, DH and I picked this B&B as our favorite.
You may come as
strangers to Alpenhorn B&B, but you will leave as
friends; we experienced this, first-hand. We had come unexpectedly
as strangers in the morning, and when we returned in the afternoon,
we truly felt that we were meeting up with friends, when Chuck
warmly greeted us (again) and Robbie smiled at us from the
The Alpenhorn was our
favorite for many reasons, among them: The best presentation of
refreshments, elegantly and generously served. Elegant,
immaculate, and spacious rooms, with the finest of amenities
(fragrant Aveda toiletries). Lovely, well-designed bathrooms.
Private balconies, perfect for that private massage.
After-dinner liqueurs, chocolates and treats. Welcoming, open
kitchen. Central, two-sided fireplace. Original
artwork. Beautiful, expansive grounds with a stream bed
running alongside it. Many, many special touches, reflecting a
keen attention to detail.
Most of all, we were
captivated by the genuine friendliness, personal warmth, and
gracious hospitality of its innkeepers, Chuck and Robbie Slemaker.
Robbie, with the radiant smile. Chuck, with the gentle
They have put their
hearts and souls into their new "baby" -- this AAA Four
Diamond B&B. Their love for it -- and their guests -- is
Alpenhorn Bread & Breakfast, Big Bear, in the evening
Read about the Alpenhorn in a recent LA
It has a loving,
"Life is a Gift."
P.S. If you would
like to share a portion of yourself with words, in response to
this journal entry, you may do it here.
only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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