I’ve just returned from Britain, where I stayed in different bed and breakfast accommodations over two weeks. It was my first experience of a non-hotel stay anywhere, and I carried with me images of merry fireplaces, apple-cheeked home-owners, lavish breakfast tables and a chance to get to know some fine people.
The idea was to come back and write about my experience of these stays for my magazine, Travel Secrets.
Of course I am jotting down my impressions for the upcoming issue. But meanwhile, here are some first thoughts and observations on the simple things that differentiate a good bed and breakfast from a great one.
1. The warmth of the owner(s): an ice-cold greeting can dampen the most warm and cheerful color scheme. I thought of this when the owner of a B&B said, ‘Please don’t knock your bag against my walls.’ These were her first words to me, in response to my sunny smile and warm greeting. I had come exhausted from a long journey, saddled with a big suitcase that I had to lug all the way up to the top floor. On the other hand, a cheerful lady who hosted me in her creaky 58-year-old home was a delight to stay with, pampering me with coffee and conversation as she rolled out pastry in her homey kitchen. I spent barely 15 hours with her, but had a lump in my throat when it came time to say goodbye.
2. The comfort of the place (of course): Some beds had pillows that felt like wooden boards, while others snuggled you like a hug. Most had no in-room coffee-maker and no hair-dryer. I wonder why. I am an early riser, and found it difficult to cope without coffee until my hostess woke up and served me breakfast—there was no coffeemaker in the room at some of the places. Some B&B ladies had typed out mile-long ‘rules-and-regulations,’ while others were simply keen that you had a comfortable stay.
3. The thoughtful extra touches: In Scotland, an old country home greeted me with the softest sofas and the most heart-melting pair of dogs. Its twinkly-eyed, handsome young owner couldn’t shake hands with me because his hands were coated in flour. His voice was excited as he told me about the cheese pie he was baking for dinner. Every ingredient was sourced fresh from his kitchen garden, and on my bedside table was a lovely glass bottle of water and flowers in a bowl. Obviously, this man has dedicated himself completely to serving his guests well—he could have done just as well without going the extra mile, but some people simply love what they do, and it shows!
Would I try bed and breakfast accommodations again? I certainly would, but with the understanding that it takes all kinds to make a world. Staying with people you don’t know in countries you’ve never visited before is a great way to learn about the staggering variety of customs, culture and personalities on this earth! I’ve come back disillusioned and enlightened, more understanding and forgiving, and above all, inspired to try new décor ideas in my own home!