Why stay in airbnb when you can pay more for the same chance of not knowing what to expect at traditional bed and breakfast establishments? We have stayed in strange hotels and at the ubiquitous Premiere Inns, where you know exactly what to expect and we have stayed in a variety of B&Bs all over the British Isles. They are all different, that’s the fun. Some are wonderful, better than your own home. There are strange hosts and strange guests. We arrived at one place in a seaside terrace to find no one at home, the landlady was out walking her dogs.
But my most embarrassing near disaster was the second night of a holiday to Scotland with my daughter, sister and sister’s friend. This part was my responsibility as I had booked us to stay at a B&B in Blackpool, owned by relatives of an in-law, we had even met them once at a family wedding. When the door opened we were met with blank expressions, they didn’t seem to recognise us, let alone be expecting us. They weren’t, the booking had been forgotten, but that wasn’t the worst, the ceiling in one of the guest rooms had just collapsed.
All was not lost ‘I’ll pop across the road and ask the boys’ said the lady of the house. And so we found ourselves at the superior Hotel Babylon with delightful landlords Craig and David who kindly charged us only what we would have paid. The bedrooms were very swanky with red nets draped from the ceiling in one room and similar pink decor in the other. I’ve just looked them up and they are still in business, so if you are going to Blackpool I can recommend Hotel Babylon.
Our stay at the weekend was in a guest house in Hythe, Kent, a lovely old house with beautiful gardens. Satnav got us there, but the usually available private parking, a small triangle of gravel at the back of the house, was blocked with a huge horse box and a couple of cars. Further up the steep hill we found a side road. We then slid back down the hill, with our luggage, on a pavement carpeted in wet autumn leaves. A car was backing out of the guest house; it drove back in and a woman half climbed out, we assumed she was our hostess but she said ‘Mother will look after you’ and drove off.
At the back door we were greeted by an elderly lady who showed us into the hall and up to the landing; all the walls were covered in shiny silver flowery wallpaper. Upstairs everything was a pink time warp and the three rooms and guest lounge were named after Winnie the Pooh characters. In our room there was a 14inch television perched on the dressing table with lots of interference, but there was WiFi. The For Sale signs we had seen outside did make us wonder if the place was being gently run down.
We left from the front door to find somewhere for dinner, but as it was dark by then the descent of the uneven, steep front path was an adventure.
At breakfast four guests were seated at the other table, we were all sitting in the hall and the daughter and granddaughter wandered back and forth in their dressing gowns with mugs of tea. The other guests asked the elderly lady if she ran the place by herself.
‘Oh yes, I’ve been doing it for forty years’ she answered cheerfully as she brought us tea and coffee; no pots, the cups rattled in their saucers as they shakily descended to the table.
As we left on the second morning we asked if the place was for sale because she was retiring.
‘I am 82, so I suppose I’ll have to retire sometime, but I don’t want to.’
Visit my website ‘Travel Notes From a Small Island’ if you enjoy looking at other people’s holiday snaps and want to read about some very different places.