Saturday, February 8, 2020

Home away from home

Part of the adventure of traveling is the sleeping in a strange room. Despite all the picture and reviews available online, a person never knows what is awaiting behind door number 1, 2 or 3. Unless people stay a hotel chain, which tends to have a series of uniform designs and mattresses worldwide, the surprise can be pleasant or unpleasant. Linguistically, what complicates the choice for an evening’s stay is the sheer number of words describing a stop for a weary traveler.

There are some fairly standard terms.  A hotel is a generally a multistory building with a reception and lobby leading to the elevators that take guests to the room. Based on the star rating of the hotel for that country, it is possible to predict the number of amenities and size of towels.  It is always worth knowing in advance whether parking and WIFI are free.  For some reasons, additional fees for those annoy me somehow. By contrast, motels are generally no more than three floors and spread out. The reception desk is at the entrance to the complex such that a person does not have to actually walk through it to get to the room, an advantage in certain cases.  In fact, “notel motels” date from the time when hotels asked whether the registering couple was married. In cities, there are often inns, which are often made of brick and are located in ideal locations but have small rooms, unless they are country inns. In some tourist places, there are boarding rooms, ideal for the budget conscious traveler that only needs a room for the night. At best, the furniture isn’t fancy, even often a bit old-fashioned with quaint pictures on the wall, but what difference does it make when your eyes are closed? With these types, travelers have some idea what they are getting.

Some travel lodging is more specialized. A motor court is for travelers on the road and generally is characterized by low prices, simple rooms and plenty of parking.  When traveling away from the city, similar family-owned lodgings are called road houses and almost always have a full bar to help wind down from the driving and help you ignore the lack of maneuvering space in the room. In some places, more spacious and luxurious lodges are an option, evoking memories of English or Russian hunting parties.  Generally made out of wood and spread out, they offer a more luxurious night of sleep. By contrast, a youth hostel is for the budget conscious. The actual conditions vary from place to place but weary travelers receive a bed to lay their weary heads on, albeit often not in a private room. On the other hand, it is a nice place to meet fellow travelers of the tourist kind. For a family or couple, a private guest house is often a unique way to experience local architecture and furnishing. Generally, they are clean and less expensive than hotels and clearly not generic. Today’s hit is the bread and breakfast (B&B), even if breakfast is not always included in the price as I just discovered. The variation in conditions is no less than that of the price. Still, you can truly mix with the locals this way but, on the other hand, having sex is less practical. Nothing is perfect.

For those who have the money and desire, luxury options abound. All hotels offer suites of various sizes. For the (much) higher price of a suite, the visitor gets a separate living adjacent to the one or better bedrooms. It feels just like home, except that there is no need to do laundry or clean. For a higher level of privacy as hotel walls can be a bit thin, vacation flats, either as part of a hotel or actual flats themselves, are an ideal alternative as they offer all the comfort of home without the cleaning or maintenance and allow people to prepare meals or eat without going out. Depending on the price and location, their price can be quite competitive as compared to hotels of similar standards. Of course, some people consider the words cooking and vacation oxymorons. Chacun à son gout. For larger families that don’t want to share either the inside or outside space with strangers, vacation villas are available. It is unclear how many square meters turn a house into a villa but, still, there is something to be said for the privilege of making as much noise or wearing as little clothes as you want because, after all, you are on vacation. None of these options are cheap but, nonetheless, if you got it, you might as well as enjoy it.

Each person has a different perspective on travel lodgings. I have stayed at most of the above and reached the conclusion that I only care about three matters. First, the mattress must be comfortable. Unfortunately, I have found no correlation between price and back comfort. Secondly, I don’t sleep well hearing sirens all night, referring to the emergency vehicles, not those tempting women on the rocks. Alas, in some cities, all rooms seem to face a busy street. Finally, the room must be non-claustrophic.  To quote my mother, if you have to leave the room to change your mind, there is a problem. To clarify, sleeping in an oversized room does not improve the quality of the sleep but still there is an acceptable range to the number of steps from the bed to the bathroom. So, whatever a person’s style, budget and location, there is a comfortable home away from home whatever it is called.

No comments:

Post a Comment