When I was getting ready to take my “Maiden Voyage,” I spent some time researching hotels, motels, and inns. There are many former Gilded Age estates in the Berkshires, retrofitted as luxury accommodations for Lady Alone Travelers. I could have stayed at Blantyre, Cranwell, or Wheatleigh. The Red Lion Inn would have been cozy and comfortable and its credibility was enhanced by a few people I know who have stayed there. I did end up having dinner in their lounge on the homeward swing of my journey and I was enchanted by thoughts of resting my weary head on their pillows.
Any one of these places would have provided me with that certain anachronistic “other worldliness” I enjoy when I leave The Coop. Alas, my budget was limited; I ended up staying at the Super 8 in Lee and it was just fine.
It had been a few years since my days of company-paid, frequent travel and my due diligence involved some research time on Trip Advisor. In fact, I think I’ve developed a slight addiction to this travel website. The angst and fury with which commenters discuss their travel experiences is better than a soap opera. Sometimes, when I need a break from pushing my papers around at The Big Corporation, I say to myself “I wonder what people think about The Ritz-Carlton in New York?” A quick trip to the Advisor provides a fun respite from the cares of the world with the revelation that the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton has a horrible stench from the horses stationed outside. The same offended savvy reviewer also informs the world that afternoon tea at the St. Regis is “the worst” and wrote over 800 eloquent words about the experience. My favorite, though, is a review of the Waldorf-Astoria which describes it as “a tired old dowager with a crooked tiara and a torn evening gown.”
These hysterical accounts make sleeping in a strange bed a bit of a roulette spin and I’m not even going to discuss bed bugs. Some may find comfort and escape in the occasional guilty pleasure of “People” magazine; I’ll take five minutes with Trip Advisor any day.
A few weeks ago I stayed at a Hampton Inn; it was perfectly lovely even if it was under renovation. My coffee cups were wrapped in plastic, my towels were fluffy and bleached, and the air was hot, dry, and stuffy; just the way I like it. The hotel had that certain sad sameness of every hotel and when I got in the elevator to leave, the promotional poster featured the same happy Getty image model I’d seen advertising instant eyelash extensions in a Boston parking garage.
Some of the best hotels I’ve stayed at in my life have been the couches, spare bedrooms, and billiard rooms of friends and family. These hotels don’t spend a lot of money on advertising and I probably won’t be able to find a histrionic review on Trip Advisor, but having a familiar pillow to rest my head on at the end of a long day is a five-star treat I try not to take for granted.