Going to the cottage is a Canadian tradition. Whether it is an elegant and well-equipped retreat on a lake or a rustic cabin in the woods — the ritual of ‘getting away from it all’ in honoured through the country especially on long weekends when any excuse to escape the city is welcome.
For 28 years my husband and I have owned a cottage at Lake Huron. It is part of my postworksavvy life style.
The woodland setting makes it feel rustic although it has most comforts of home including air conditioning which is a blessing when the heat and humidity are oppressive.
The cottage is 2 minutes from a sandy beach that stretches for miles along the lake — so beach time and swimming are part of the experience. For those who don’t like the sun, there are lots of shady spaces on the decks.
One of the joys of having a cottage is that, during summer, we have many visitors — sometimes for a ‘day’ visit; more often for a weekend or longer.
We enjoy relaxed entertaining so the visitors are welcome.
Why are some people the ideal cottage guests? They come ready for the cottage experience. I’ve compiled a list of tips that will enhance the cottage experience for visitor and for the host/hostess.
- Ask what food and drink you can bring. Just about everyone arrives with their favourite beverage — wine, beer, soft drinks, coolers, etc. It’s helpful to bring a cooler and ice as most cottage refrigerators have limited space. When we have a large crowd of beer drinkers, we use a big cooler filled with ice which is handy on the deck or at the beach.
- Many people bring gourmet treats or home baking. Two weekends ago our guests brought the fixings for one special dinner. This was a wonderful surprise especially when they also prepared the meal and did the clean-up afterwards.
- Let your hostess know about food preferences and allergies. Last weekend a friend arrived and let me know that she had stopped eating red meat. Fortunately, chicken was on the menu and not steaks or burgers!
- Remember that most cottages rely on septic systems for waste disposal. Septic systems are fussy and are designed for natural waste, and toilet paper. They don’t tolerate paper towels, grease, kleenex, or female sanitary products. Nobody wants a weekend spoiled by a septic back-up so act accordingly.
- Determine the basic cottage rules and do your best to fit in. At our cottage the coffee fixings at set up before bed. One of the only rules of the cottage is that the first person awake plugs in the coffee pot. There aren’t many other rules except that an adult must go with children to the water but no one has ever needed such a common sense rule explained to them. Help with household chores and meal clean-up is always appreciated.
- Explain expected time of arrival and departure. It’s awkward to ask a guest when they are planning to leave but knowing how many lunches and dinners to plan before guests arrive certainly helps. I like to have menus planned and shopping done before guests arrive. I also do some meal preparation in advance so I need to know how many meals I will be serving. As most cottages don’t have freezers storage space for extra food is limited. Emergency runs to the grocery store may disappoint as stores in popular resort areas don’t always carry a large stock.
- Bring towels and personal items. Most people drive to get to someone’s cottage so offering to bring towels is thoughtful. You don’t leave the hostess with a mess of sandy and bulky laundry. Most cottages have lots of sunscreen and insect repellant but if you need SPF 60 or prefer certain brands, you might want to bring your own product.
- Plan for some down time. Weekends fly away but everyone appreciates a bit of quiet time. Bring a book or your favourite techie toys.
- But, don’t spend the weekend on social media. Check your iPhone or blackberry when your hostess takes a break. Please don’t plan to spend the weekend watching YouTube or working on the laptop — and please turn off the phone during meals.
We love to share our cottage with our friends and most of our friends come back year after year. The cottage experience means of spending time with each other — cementing relationships and deepening friendship. A bit of thoughtfulness by everyone makes for an enjoyable visit and a memorable cottage experience.