We live in an age of inclusion where we’re supposed to focus on similarities and not differences, but my recent travels have caused a new division in my mind: Bed & Breakfast people and not Bed & Breakfast people.
I will state upfront that I have discovered that I am in the latter category, and this will likely astonish those that prefer a good B&B, but so be it. I am clear now that it takes a certain type of person to run a B&B and it takes a similar type of person to want to stay in one.
On the plus side, a B&B can give you access to some lovely historical homes in the heart of areas where a chain hotel would be frowned upon. The cost of B&B’s is also typically lower and I like the idea of more than a stale continental breakfast being included in the price of my accommodations.
I had romanticized the idea of a B&B as being a homier, less institutional solution to travel — and I was right. Until I stayed at one B&B and then had talked to friends and family about their experiences at B&B’s I hadn’t realized that “homier” has its downsides. As an introvert, “homier” implies additional social obligations and a lack of anonymity and privacy.
Even though tired from a long day of travelling, my first obligation was to go on a tour of the B&B. Social conventions then expected me to be appreciably impressed with my host’s home and my room (I was impressed, but at a hotel I wouldn’t have to make a big deal about saying so). I also had to properly acknowledge their pet, that was not advertised on their website, to which I was allergic.
I learned about my hosts, the history of the home, and things of interest in the area, and then was asked a number of questions about myself and my reasons for being there. Then I was told about the other guests staying at the B&B and their life histories (knowing full well now that anything I’d shared with my host was officially in the public domain).
As I attempted to find a courteous way to cut the conversation short due to exhaustion, I was still not released before being queried on what I wanted for breakfast and what time I’d like it at. The second B of breakfast, was not even on my mind at this point, I simply wanted the first B, my bed! I suddenly yearned for the simplicity of a hotel employee handing me a card-key and then pointing to the elevator.
(Speaking of card-keys, my room did not have a lock from the outside. Now I had to trust that the other guests and the proprietor would not be interested in rummaging through my luggage while I was out all day.)
I finally went to bed feeling guilty that I hadn’t socialized more, thinking about tomorrow’s home-cooked breakfast.
Unfortunately, at breakfast with the other guests, the lack of my own plated meal or a big buffet highlighted another issue of the “family” atmosphere of a B&B. I had to monitor my portions to only eat “my share” of what was in the communal dishes, even if the other guests weren’t respecting the concept. Given that the food was wonderful made this all the more difficult.
More questions came my way at the breakfast table, but luckily, many “socialites” aren’t interested in answers to their questions anyhow. My abrupt answers were not taken as such since the askers were then able to regain the steering wheel for the conversation more quickly.
Aside from the conversation at breakfast, making eye contact with some of the guests even felt socially embarrassing after hearing their nocturnal and/or morning noises from the next room. This is something I’ve never had to deal with in a hotel. At least at this B&B each room had its own bathroom, otherwise I probably could have further expanded on the lack of privacy.
Overall, the idea of staying at or opening a B&B is only good for those people that want to meet a bunch of strangers and instantly act like they are family. I am not one of those people. I prefer hotels for their “un-homey-ness,” for their anonymity, privacy, and the lack of social obligations.