West Hill House B&B

Category Archives: Global Travel

Christmas Lights

December 16, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Winter magic.

Parliament Hill Christmas

There is something special about seeing Christmas lights shining in the snow.

As it’s still a bit quiet in this neck of the woods, Peter and I took the opportunity to take a few days off and make a quick trip to Ottawa, Canada to visit family and friends.While we absolutely love living in the quiet of Warren, we were delighted to once again experience the excitement of Christmas-time in the city. Stores full of shoppers, Christmas music playing everywhere, and house all around the area decorated with Christmas lights.

For us though, one of the favorite annual displays of lights is on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Not only are the trees and bushes surrounding this majestic site covered with coloured lights, the building itself is beautifully lit with coloured floodlights and each evening  from early December through early January there is a light show. It is fascinating to watch the colours change and  see enormous snowflakes slowly drifting down the side of this historic building. Residents and visitors alike gather on the snow covered lawns in front of the Parliament buildings to marvel at the spectacular show. In fact, provincial capitals across the country are brought together by the annual celebration of Christmas Lights Across Canada as winter landscapes are brightened by over 300,000 multi-coloured lights. The photo here is from  one of the National Capital Commission websites.

If you visit Ottawa before Jan 7, 2011 this light show is a must see. By the way, we stayed at Les Suites Hotel, an easy walk from Parliament Hill. Oh, don’t forget to bring your ice skates so you can take advantage of skating on the Rideau Canal and stopping at one of the small kiosks on the Canal to enjoy a warm and delicious Beaver Tail pastry!

Icelandic volcano close-up.

April 18, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

In April 2002 our family spent 10 magnificent days in Iceland on a personal tour designed for us by ISAFOLD Travel. With the news of the continuing eruption of the Eyjafjallajökul volcano I sent a note to our friends at Isafold Travel to ask after their safety – and yes they are all safe – and they have even had a volcano adventure. Here is a paragraph from their website as well as some photos taken by Isafold Travel staff.

By the way, we highly recommend this company. If you are considering a trip to Iceland or just want to find out more about travel in Iceland check out their website.

Volcano Eruption

The Monday before Easter Break the staff of Isafold Travel drove to the Volcano Eruption in Eyjafjallajökul on seven ISAK jeeps. To get as close as possible to the eruption site we drove the south coast passing Skógar and went up by glacier tongue Sólheimajökull, from there we drove over glacier Mýrdalsjökull. After spending a good time viewing this magnificent wonder of nature we headed back to Reykjavík and arrived at 4 am at the headquarters, tired but very happy after 12 hours of fantastic experience.

Isafold Travel staff viewing the eruption in Eyjafjallajökul from a safe distance.  Dawn breaks and the volcano continues erupting.

Spring in Boston

April 13, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Flower pots

Spring blooms in Boston

Last week we were in Boston. Having only one full day to discover the wonders of this great city was, of course, not nearly long enough however we set off early to do as much exploring as we could in the time available.  We passed shops and homes decked with window boxes of bright flowers and tubs of spring blossoms keeping watch at doorways.

We had a lovely walk in Boston Common which we learned is one of the oldest city parks in the United States, dating from 1634. The ponds and fountains were being cleaned up ready for fresh water and the park was looking resplendent in its garb of spring colors.

Spring leaves

Boston Common spring colors

Only early April but the temperature reached nearly 90° and after this winter, the people in Boston were more than ready be in the park enjoying the sun! Despite the high temperature we had fun exploring the city, walking the Freedom Trail and learning some American history as we went along. A cool drink and a lovely French pastry at a sidewalk café concluded our day of adventuring.

While we look forward to another visit to Boston, we are happy to be back at  our quiet mountainside B&B welcoming guests and enjoying our own garden’s signs of spring… our first daffodils popped into full bloom yesterday! West Hill House B&B, a perfect place to come and relax.

National Tartan Day – in Boston

April 7, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Peter in his MacLaren tartan kilt

Peter getting ready for Tartan Day

In 1998 National Tartan Day was officially recognized on a permanent basis when the U.S. Senate passed Global Scot, an organization that seeks to develop and expand Scotland’s standing in the global business community by utilising the talents of leading Scots, and of people with an affinity for Scotland, to establish a worldwide network of individuals who are outstanding in their field.

The occasion was very enjoyable and provided one of the rare opportunities for Peter to wear his kilt. It also transpired that the Consul is a Sugarbush skier so we are hoping to return the hospitality at West Hill House one of these days!

PAII Conference in Austin TX

March 11, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

Nighttime BBQ in downtown Austin

BBQ in downtown Austin

PAII Conference in Austin, Texas

PAII Conference in Austin, Texas

We spent this week at the annual conference of PAII – the Professional Association of Innkeepers International – in Austin, TX learning about trends in the industry. We picked up a number of great ideas, we had a wonderful chance to network with other innkeepers around the country, and had some fun as well! Watch our ongoing blogs for updates…


January 10, 2010 by Peter MacLaren

In addition to telling almost everything we can think about regarding West Hill House and the surrounding area, our website also has some useful links to other travel information.

Check these out for information on other B&Bs around the US and Canada that we can personally recommend, and for information about Scotland.

Almost every guest at West Hill House asks Peter about planning a visit to Scotland, or reminisces about visits already made. If you are interested in Scotland the links provide a good intro to helpful information and photos, but come and stay with us to talk some more…

The photo is of the famous Loch Ness. Click on it to be transported to Scotland!

Scotland 2009

August 11, 2009 by Peter MacLaren

Rob Roy's cave

Rob Roy's cave

Crathie Castle

Crathie Castle

Dundee City Center

Dundee City Center

Falkland Palace Gardens

Falkland Palace Gardens

Falkirk Wheel profile

Falkirk Wheel profile

Falkirk Wheel rotating

Falkirk Wheel rotating

It is Homecoming Year in Scotland in 2009, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the famed poet Robert Burns who was born in 1759. We took our first holiday since opening the B&B and spent 10 days visiting in July, mainly to see friends and family, but also to do some exploring. Here are some highlights:

  • A boat trip on the north end of Loch Lomond out of Tarbet.  Most visitors to Scotland’s largest loch tour the south end which has its own beauty, but the north end is more fiord like and quite awe inspiring, particularly on a cloudy day when the hills tower into the dark sky. This is Rob Roy country!
  • Royal Deeside is always spectacular, with its gorgeous vistas and many restored castles to visit. We dropped in at Drum Castle and Crathie Castle, both run by the National Trust for Scotland.  The gardens at Crathie are quite spectacular.
  • A city we have not visited before is Dundee.  The whole center of the city is now a beautiful pedestrian area with a huge selection of shops, cafés and restaurants.  Well worth stopping and spending a couple of hours just walking around. The area is surrounded by lots of multi-story parking.
  • A hidden gem in Fife, just south of St Andrews which is where most people go, is Falkland.  The Falkland Palace which dates to Mary Queen of Scots time is well worth a visit – also National Trust – again with beautiful gardens and one of the few catholic chapels that survived the purges of the Scottish Reformation. The surprise was the gorgeous village itself.  Every building is immaculate and there are flowers everywhere. The village even has a huge parking area hidden out of sight on a side road, which is a plus as many small towns in Scotland have limited parking.
  • And the highlight of our visit this year was the Falkirk Wheel which is a rotating boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. It is named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland. The two canals were previously connected by a series of 11 locks.