CH Smith A
writer and actor, Sandra arrived in Eureka Springs in 1993 after
spending seven years sailing alone from San Francisco to 1837
miles off the Galapagos in her Ericson 35 sailboat. She has
brought back not only art treasures from Mexico and Central
America which adorn the Inn, but also a sense of serene timelessness
which sets the mood at Cliff Cottage Inn.
Elf disguised as Sarah Bernhardt
No newcomer to Bed & Breakfasts, Sandra opened Philadelphia's
very first B&B in 1978 when she was a starving poet reciting
her verses to jazz on a weekly radio show and existing on a
steady diet of raisins and peanuts!
accomplished chef, Sandra learned to cook on an 18th-Century
woodburning stove in the south of France. Her cuisine also reflects
the tastes of Scotland where she studied as a child, and manages
to include a hint of the Tropical flavors she learned to love
while living in Jamaica and traveling around the Caribbean.
She has been a guest chef on a CBS-TV cooking show and her cookbook-memoir,
"A Cook's Tour of Epicuria - One Woman's Adventures"
has become a very popular souvenir for guests to take home as
a memento of their visit.
began her love affair with the Ozarks and specifically, Eureka
Springs, from the moment she arrived....she had sold her boat
in Puerto Vallarta and become a landlubber after a near fatal
accident at sea off Guatemala. While trying to save her boat
from sinking after a temporary crewmember fell asleep at the
helm and broke the boom off, she got the "message"
to "Go to Arkansas!". While the young crewman lay
huddled on the floor, paralyzed by fear, it took Sandra over
4 hours to right the boat and she has since learned this was
something of a miracle. The designer of her Ericson 35, Bruce
King, lost his boat and entire crew in a similar accident. While
sitting in a cafe in Puerto Rico trying to figure out what to
do with the rest of her life, Sandra met some fellows from Springfield,
MO and she told them she was going to Arkansas in a few days
and was that anywhere near Missouri (she had no clue where Arkansas
was located!) They said it was one State away and suggested
she go to Eureka Springs...."there are people like you
up there!" (She didn't know if this was an insult or a
compliment, but decided to make her way to Eureka Springs and
she has been here ever since!)
favorite pastime (besides cooking) is sharing her enthusiasm
for the surroundings with her guests. On cool summer evenings
or brisk winter nights, she may be inspired to share her sea
stories with guests. (While sailing alone, she created the "As
the Anchor Drags Radio Show", reading poetry and stories on
the air to hundreds of Pacific boaters and landlubbers with
VHF radios and managed to read on her radio program the entire
book, "Treasure Island", while in a hurricane hole
in the Sea of Cortez.)
Good Old Days of Bed and Breakfasting
by Sandra CH Smith, Your Friendly Innkeeper
the mid-1970s, when I opened the very first B&B ever in
downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a house I rented, built
in the 1700s on the smallest square downtown (Lantern Square),
you didn't put out a sign,you didn't have soaps with your own
logo, you didn't have stationery with a fancy line drawing of
the Inn, you didn't advertise in guidebooks, chic magazines
or newspapers, you didn't have an 800 number (in fact, you didn't
ever answer any calls for reservations....the reservation service
you paid $30 a year and 5% commission to did that for you).
didn't spend thousands on brochures and mailers, you didn't
send newsletters, you didn't have a reservation program on a
computer because you didn't have a computer, you never talked
to another innkeeper because there weren't any......all the
rest were out on farms in the Penna. Dutch Country and there
weren't even any in Bucks County!
didn't organize Mystery Weekends, Gardeners Retreats, Victorian picnics, candlelight dinners,
sunset dinner lake cruises, airplane rides.....none of this.
you did do was hurry and scurry each time the reservation service
called to see if you wanted a guest for that weekend. After
a very detailed verbal description (by Stella who ran the service)
of the potential visitor ('Harvard professor, 59, single, with
30 years tenure, divorced 8 years, all grown kids out of the
house, likes to play chess and listen to classical music, loves
exotic cuisine, doesn't smoke, loves to walk, coming for an
academic conference') - you knew more about your potential guest
back then than you knew about your ex-husband of 20 years!
you said to yourself, 'Hmmmmmm, do I want to entertain a divorced
Harvard professor this weekend or not?' If you needed a little
cash and didn't have any other exciting things going, you hurried
around and cleaned the bedroom you usually slept in, you moved
your undies out of the top bureau drawer and pushed most of
your clothes (at least the ones you didn't want to wear that
weekend) to the back of the only closet. You quick cleaned out
the tub and sink, stripped the bed and ran to the laundromat
to wash the only set of sheets you owned - well, after all,
you were a starving poet existing on a steady diet of raisins
and peanuts and knew you would make a terrible waitress like
the rest of the literati.
you opened your historical cottage as a B&B ~ dug out that
extra set of daffodil-yellow (read: ugly) towels your mother
had sent you last year for your birthday, and raced to the supermarket
to buy some bagels, muffins, cheese, fresh fruit, some exotic
coffee beans, and if you were lucky enough to have any moola
left over, a small posy of fresh flowers for the bedroom!
place looked pretty nice and you were just ready to sit down
and relax, when you remembered you had a date that night and
the guest was going to be arriving after you had already left
for the hospital charity ball at the Bellevue- Stratford Hotel
around the corner.
quickly scribble a note to tack to the front door: 'John from
Harvard - I forgot I had a date. Please back up, turn around
and walk 42 steps down the cobblestone lane to the end, turn
right and walk 14 steps to the corner pay phone. Call 732-4009
(your date's answering machine number on which you will put
a message that the guest should turn around and retrace his
steps and he will find the key to the door under that cobblestone
painted purple to the left of the front door, that in case you're
not back in time for breakfast, you've left it all ready in
the icebox and the percolator just needs to be plugged in, there's
a box of real oatmeal next to the stove if he feels like making
some in the morning, and there's some homemade cookies by the
bed. You also tell him he can have a midnight snack of whatever
he finds in the icebox, play any music he wants to on your stereo
- the tapes are in that old shoebox under the piano - and he
can check out whenever he likes, just leave the room rate of
$35 on top of the parrot's cage. Oh, and a quarter for the phone
call is with the key!)
you get home the next day about noon, he has already checked
out and left a little box of Lady Godiva chocolates on the piano,
a single long-stemmed red rose on the lute with a note, 'I had
the most relaxing wonderful time since ever I can remember.....I
would sure love to meet you someday. Thanks! P.S. I love your
taste in music!'
that is how it was in the mid-seventies, downtown Philadelphia,
where all your friends living in the myopic suburbs you had
just escaped from were appalled that you chose to become an
urban guerilla and live alone 'down there with all that crime!'
Bed and breakfasting was like it used to be in Britain and the
rest of Europe where they'd put out a sign, 'Zimmerfrei' or
'Room with Breakfast', and you had to move the old lady's girdles
over in the top bureau drawer before putting away your travel
clothes. It was a lot easier then...homey, down-to-earth, comfortable.
Today, it is big business and alas, the days of the old percolator
and oatmeal porridge are gone!
If you REALLY want porridge, I'll be happy to make it for you!
the author - After some glorious years of doing B&B in Center
City Philadelphia, in 1986 (when she was 43), Sandra bought
a 35-foot sailboat in California, taught herself how to sail
and took off sailing alone in the Pacific for 7 years. In 1993,
she came directly from the middle of the ocean to Eureka Springs,
Arkansas where she bought the historic Cliff Cottage, designed
and built The Place Next Door, started playing Monopoly along
the street buying and fixing up cottages to be a part of the
inn, and she has been having a delightful time regaling guests
with her sea stories ever since!