In my short life, I’ve stayed in a decent number of bed and breakfasts.
As a woman who has traveled solo, I have always felt more comfortable in a bed and breakfast than a hotel. Plus, there’s the food.
I’m not sure why it occurred to me to stay in a bed and breakfast in the first place. Years ago, my family cared for my mom at home while she was in hospice, and I needed a time out. I remember telling my boss at the time that I needed a day off, otherwise I would have a mental breakdown. He replied with something along the lines of, “I don’t want to know. Just go.” He put up with me when I was fresh out of college. I mean, I accidentally lit my computer keyboard on fire and he had to put it out, for goodness sake. Instead of firing me, he laughed at me. And then told everyone. He was a saint.
On short notice, I found myself at the now-closed bed and breakfast in Chaska, MN. I hiked through the bluffs on a sunny autumn afternoon, treated myself to dinner, and curled up for the rest of the evening in a pile of library books drinking cream sherry by the tiny glass. Cream sherry was like a revelation to me. It never tastes as good at home. The next morning, I sat alone at a table next to another couple and enjoyed an awkward breakfast of yogurt parfait and eggbake in the dining parlour.
I was thrilled that my tally was only $100 and thus began my ongoing bed and breakfast quest.
The bed and breakfasts I have stayed in have ranged from just fine to delightful. I’ve come to choose inns based upon decor, avoiding frilly lace and dolls like the plague. At a bed and breakfast in outstate Minnesota, my evening was dampered by trying to avoid sleeping in Wookie-sized mattress craters. Snacks have ranged from wheat thins to homemade crackers to freshly baked cookies and tea, to none at all. Eggbakes reign supreme (which I happen to love). One of my favorite dishes was a wild rice quiche while I was less crazy about a cheap, grocery store danish.
Some inns enrich the visit with special touches like cream sherry or chocolates while others feel more like staying at your friend’s grandmother’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, except when the price costs the same as those with more perks. I’ve appreciated discounts from making last minute reservations and traveling solo. The rates are set for two people and two breakfasts, so, oftentimes, an inn will eliminate the cost of the second breakfast.
This is all to say that the good have been really, really good, while the others have been ordinary at worst.
Most have forced guests to eat breakfast together at a set time. I have actually found it less awkward to dine around a common table, than to be divided into small tables. As an introvert, this situation brings about an expected degree of anxiety, though I have always found community dining less awkward than expected and mostly enjoyable.
One of my favorite experiences occurred at the Elephant Walk in Stillwater, MN the spring of 2009, five months following my mother’s death. I had found myself in a perplexing relationship and wanted to get away for a night. I packed my stay doing all of the things that made me feel like myself. A perk of traveling solo was having my very own massive cheese plate and bottle of wine that awaited me in my room upon arrival. Homemade crackers, fancy cheeses, fresh fruit, and nuts.
The next morning, I enjoyed a multi-course breakfast with a couple from Chicago. Rita, the innkeeper, made homemade muffins. She joined the conversation and we all ended up talking for hours. It was the breakfast where all parties seemed the most mutually invested in the conversation. In a genuine way, not merely making obligatory niceties. As I paid my tally, Rita gently told me that she didn’t think he was the right one. She encouraged me not to give up my dreams of traveling while I sat on her floor and pet her giant, fluffy black cat. She sent me on my way feeling carrying a small travel pouch from Thailand, feeling greatly encouraged.
Three years later, I brought my husband. Being a weeknight in the dead of winter, we got a really good rate. There was only one other couple that night, so we got upgraded to the largest suite with a gas fireplace. Rita and her significant other spend their winters in Thailand and so we met her daughter, Sasha. Her family moves in and manages the inn during the winter months. I told her all about my first visit. She laughed and said she knows her mom loves to dispense advice.
Same giant cheese plate and bottle of wine. This time, I shared. Though, I did not have to share my breakfast. We each enjoyed own elaborately carved pineapple half, freshly baked scone, stuffed french toast with spicy andouille, and flourless chocolate cake. We drank coffee to our hearts’ content over conversation with a couple of chemists. Not those kind, the real kind.
It’s funny how life can seem to make a full circle. On this morning of a New Year, I try to be thankful for what I have and hopeful for more adventures. After all, we narrowly escaped two apocalypses this year.
I liked the Harold Camping one better.