Checking In

A little green B&B in the quiet Wellfleet woods

Email|Print| Text size + By Kathleen Burge and Rich Barlow
Globe Correspondent / December 9, 2007

WELLFLEET - I'm walking to Dyer Pond along a small path through the woods when I realize the glorious rarity of the moment: There's not another human being, or house, or car, in sight. No one can reach me, since my cellphone sits back at the cottage. Back there, too, are my toddler, napping, and my husband, reading.

And so I am alone in the woods. This unexpected solitude is more remarkable since we're staying at Chez Sven, tucked into the woods but not far from Cape Cod civilization: The bed-and-breakfast lies on a dirt road less than half a mile from Route 6. You can walk to the Wicked Oyster restaurant in five minutes, and into downtown Wellfleet in 15. Cahoon Hollow Beach, framed by spectacular high dunes, is a few minutes' drive away, and so are Wellfleet's famous ponds.

Chez Sven tends not to get as much attention as some of Wellfleet's other lodging options, perhaps because it is small - one room, one suite, and a cottage, all with private bathrooms - or because many of its guests are from Sweden and France. Sven Rudstrom, who is Swedish, and his wife, Alexandra Grabbe, an American who lived in France for 25 years, moved here eight years ago from Paris to care for her elderly parents.

The innkeepers have created one of the few green lodging spots on the Outer Cape. Whenever possible, Rudstrom and Grabbe line-dry their organic cotton sheets and duvets. They use only "green" cleaning products and supplies. The soaps are made by Emz Blendz, a small Oregon soapmaker, and contain only natural oils and butters. For romantic moments, the hosts provide nonpolluting candles.

The week before we arrived, Grabbe alerted us that a guest coming after us in Seagull Cottage had multiple chemical sensitivities and requested that we not spray perfume during our visit. Pets are not allowed.

But Chez Sven is a rare bed-and-breakfast on the Cape that not only allows kids but welcomes toddlers and young children, a stance Grabbe has reinforced on the B&B's website and her Chez Sven Blog ( She was full of suggestions for activities that would delight young minds, including programs at the nearby Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Grabbe's parents bought the property when they retired in 1970. They had been searching for a house close enough to the center of Wellfleet to walk downtown. But when they couldn't find a suitable place, they got creative: They purchased two tiny cabins from a motel on the market, figuring they'd buy some land and combine the cabins into a single cottage.

But as soon as they bought the cabins, a lovely 18th-century house went on the market. So they bought the house, too, and moved the cabins into the yard, configuring them into a one-bedroom cottage. And so they lived into their 90s.

After her father died, Grabbe and Rudstrom decided to renovate the cottage and start a bed-and-breakfast. They created one suite in the main house, one of the oldest in Wellfleet (Rudstrom had found a 1798 Liberty coin during an earlier renovation), and are adding a second room with private bath.

But the gem, we thought, was Seagull Cottage, where in summer rental is weekly. Even though the building sits near the main house, it felt remarkably private. Both the screened-in sunporch and the large deck face away from the larger house, surrounded by maple and oak trees. We ate breakfast on the deck in our pajamas, observed only by some noisy blue jays and a bashful squirrel.

The main bedroom, which Rudstrom and Grabbe added a few years ago, felt like a small chapel, with its peaked roof and exposed wood beams. There is a small fireplace in the living room, which also has a TV, DVD player, and some movies. The entire property has Wi-Fi.

The kitchen is fully stocked. When we arrived, the (energy-efficient) refrigerator held organic eggs, yogurt, and butter. The cabinets were filled with plenty of dishes, cookware, coffee, tea, and condiments. And there were fresh flowers on the table in the dining nook.

Most important, there were directions to Dyer Pond, a 10-minute walk through the woods.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at, Rich Barlow at

If You Go

Chez Sven

2118 Old Kings Highway, Wellfleet

What we liked most: The privacy of Seagull Cottage and its wooden patio.

We we liked least: That the e-mail form on the bed-and-breakfast's website didn't work when we first tried to make reservations.

What surprised us: The roominess of the cottage.

You know you're at Chez Sven when . . . the blue jays watch you from a nearby tree as you eat breakfast outside.

Rates: Seagull Cottage $200 a night; $1,200-$1,800 a week in summer. Liberty Coin Suite $135-$170, depending on the season. In February 2008, new General's Green Room $150 a night; $1,200-$1,600 a week in summer.

Directions: Wellfleet is about 100 miles or two hours from Boston. Take Interstate 93 south to Route 3 south over the Sagamore Bridge to Route 6 east to Wellfleet. Turn right onto Old King's Highway. Take the first right and park in front of Seagull Cottage.

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