Exploring Victorian Beauty in Owen Sound

Through her bed and breakfast experience Maria Sir has met many interesting people. One time a woman from Aberdeen, Scotland, stayed at her house because she was visiting her father close by. A young local Canadian man was about to get married a Japanese woman, and her parents and her grandparents came to stay at the Garden House. Maria was not able to communicate with these couples, but the grandmother of the bride connected with Maria because they are both garden lovers. The older lady and Maria would be taking a stroll in the garden every day. Maria gave her some seeds from the garden to take with her, and a year later she got a letter from Japan, saying that all her seeds had turned into beautiful flowers.

Bed and breakfast stories are often heart-warming stories of human connection. One of the B&B guests at the Garden House, a lady from England, sent Maria a recipe for scones. When several ladies were visiting to join the Owen Sound Garden Tour, Maria gave them some cuttings from her garden. One time a couple visited Maria’s B&B who owned a movie prop business. Apparently this couple owned a whole farm that was full of objects that are often used on movie sets. The woman told Maria about flower drying, a craft that she has been practicing ever since.

Even the cat is relaxed on the deck

Several Indian ladies once stayed at the Garden House B&B and arrived in traditional Indian dress. Once they had settled in they demanded a spray cleaner for the bathroom because they wanted to clean up after themselves. Not surprisingly, Maria has so many fond memories of her B&B guests.

Another one of Maria’s favourite B&B stories was that of an attractive-looking wealthy couple that arrived in a red Maserati. The gentleman stated that he wanted to spoil both his partner as well as Maria and suggested that he cook dinner. So he and his lady-friend went out to buy all the ingredients and he spent hours in the kitchen making a gourmet meal: a filet mignon, roasted veggies and a gourmet salad. After he cooked the meal all three of them enjoyed the feast and then he set off into the kitchen to clean up the mess. Maria said the kitchen was spotless when he was done.

I really enjoyed Maria’s stories and as we continued my travel partner Yolande came downstairs and joined us while Maria started to make breakfast. The three of us had an animated and entertaining discussion while the aroma of a tasty breakfast was starting to tickle our taste buds. Last night after our arrival we had discussed our preferred time for breakfast and Maria had given us several choices for our morning meal. Some of Maria’s signature breakfast dishes include yeast pancakes with cottage cheese and jam, hearty bacon and eggs, a specialty quiche, and we settled on a vegetable and cheese omelette.

Breakfast is ready…

An omelette made from fresh Mennonite eggs arrived, garnished with fresh juicy tomatoes from the garden, with a hot home-made pepper salsa on the side. It was so generous that I could not even finish it. We got a chance to taste some of Maria’s home baked breads first-hand and both Yolande and I fell in love with Maria’s raisin bread. Fresh yoghurt with home-made blackberry preserves provided a tangy yet sweet counterpoint. We enjoyed a leisurely two-hour breakfast that included some great conversations with the hostess. It was obvious that Maria thoroughly enjoys hosting guests at her bed and breakfast.

I also requested Maria to give me a house tour. Her open concept living / dining room area connects straight into an L-shaped kitchen and numerous large windows open up the west-facing façade. Light streams into the large living area from the east, south and west side; and Maria’s green thumb is evident in all the thriving house plants that hang down from the second story loft walkway. The upstairs holds three of the Garden House’s four guest bedrooms. We had originally wanted to book a bedroom with two separate beds, and Maria’s rate of C$80 including two full breakfasts was very affordable. When I asked for two separate beds, Maria offered us a second bedroom at no extra cost, so Yolande and I enjoyed the luxury of our own bedrooms, all for the price of one.

All of Maria’s bedrooms and living areas are decorated with Maria’s watercolours. Maria’s decorating ability has created a tasteful country retreat, and she let us in on one of her decorating secrets: many of her furniture pieces are salvaged items she picks up for free and she then spends many hours refurbishing them. Maria Sir is also a gifted landscape and nature painter, and she discovered her artistic talent rather late in life under interesting circumstances: after her near-fatal car accident Maria started doodling to calm her mind, and through her improvised sketches she actually found out that she had a talent for painting.

Maria’s first work of art

One of her bed and breakfast guests, a female doctor from the Toronto area, really fell in love with one of Maria’s paintings, an oversize watercolour of sunflowers. The guest inquired if she would be able to purchase the painting, but Maria said that she had already promised it to her mother. So she started a new canvas for this woman and her very own sunflowers will be ready soon. Maria has already sold several of her unique works of art and we all mused that sometimes a traumatic event like a car accident can have unexpected positive side effects. Maria said she would have never discovered her talent for art had it not been for this accident.

The coveted sunflower watercolour

By about noon time it was time to head back to Toronto and unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was starting to drizzle. As we took our bags out to the car, Maria quickly gave us some samples of her home-made breads to take home. All the way back we talked about this fabulous weekend we had had in Owen Sound, our time at the Garden House Bed and Breakfast and our opportunity to meet Maria Sir – a courageous, generous and creative woman who has overcome so much.

It is these connections that make bed and breakfast travel so special.

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