Its that time of year again when all the hard working locals talk of getting away for the shoulder season. Exotic locations, cheap packages, last minute deals and backpacking adventures are being tossed about with reckless abandon as the summer slows down.
Thats all great for some but what do those Whistlerites with commitments like kids or their own companies do? Where do they go for that cultural fix or romantic rest? Why, their own backyard of course and one of Whistlers best kept secrets is the bed and breakfast and in-house art gallery, Renoirs Winter Garden.
The privately owned, Tourism B.C.-approved five-star establishment is a hidden oasis among the high trees on Alta Vista and could be the perfect escape for two with limited time on their hands. Maximum relaxation and cultural connotations at minimal cost and travel time.
Renoirs Winter Garden is owned and operated by working artist, Helga Ruiterman (who uses the name Marielle in her artwork) and her husband Paul, a computer systems consultant and part time writer. They had mulled over the idea of opening an art gallery and B&B combination away from the hub of Vancouver for several years and in 1995 they found their dream property on Tyrol Crescent.
"We had been wanting to leave the stress of city life for so long but wanted to wait until we found the perfect location that could incorporate our careers and all the things we loved to do away from work," said Marielle sitting comfortably at her large and inviting kitchen bench that looks out over her flower-filled garden. "This setting just seemed like the perfect place to work, the perfect place to paint, the perfect place to cook and the perfect place to entertain people."
Shes not exaggerating either. Located in a quiet cul-de-sac off Blueberry Drive, the four-storey, multi-levelled, gorgeously-appointed home feels like it could be in romantic France, although the alpine exterior plants it in familiar territory.
Three guest rooms, each with a private ensuite, and a self contained two-bedroom apartment all look out level with the pine trees. Colourful hanging baskets bursting with summer flowers sit on the decks and a well-manicured, wide variety of garden plants fill the landscape below. Add a warm hot tub and many of Marielles popular paintings of bears and you know youre still in Whistler.
Cooking is Marielles other passion and if the aroma that wafts through the house is anything to go by, I imagine her breakfasts are a big hit. But how is it preparing breakfast for six instead of two?
"I find the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable. I use only the freshest ingredients so shopping for guests is a joy. I then get to share a meal and a conversation with interesting people from all around the world, many who become friends," said Marielle.