Recently my boyfriend and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary awkward-style: by going to a B&B.
For those of you not in the know, B&B's stand for Bed and Breakfast, and are the perfect culmination of everything you could find terrifying about going on a vacation. That, instead of going to a nice, private, secluded hotel where no one bothers you unless you ask them to, you go to stay with one of your relatives. A relative so distant that you don't know them at all, and you pad around their house and sleep in one of their beds and have them wait on you and serve you breakfast. Any small talk you manage to make is extremely forced, and you can't help but notice that each night they are sleeping under the same roof as you. Shoes must be worn at all times, especially when venturing out of your room (terrifying) in the middle of the night to get a glass of water or (horrors!) use the bathroom. Yes, you are paying to feel uncomfortable in someone else's home.
I've managed to survive many years of B&B's with just this simple mantra: Bring on the awkward. My parents introduced my brother and I to B&B's by throwing us headfirst into a series of them while we were vacationing in Scotland. I was 19, my brother was 22. We were completely foreign to the concept of inviting ourselves over to another family's house and forcing them to make room for us. In Scotland we experienced the full range - from a big B&B complete with unlimited, hotel-esque breakfast ... to the one place you could stay on a tiny island where "my mother's ancestors came from" and based on the icy welcome we received, my brother and I stayed up the whole night waiting to be stabbed. Luckily all the B&B's in between (we were there for a while and my parents liked to jump to a new place every night) were amazing, and the Scots proved to be incredibly warm, generous hosts.
But I digress. Here's why I've come to love B&B's:
- It's just fun to get away. Yes, even if sometimes it's weird sneaking around someone else's house, it's fun to be a part of that house's history for a blip in time. Most B&B's I prefer are older and creekier, which adds to the fun.
- I like thinking of them as haunted, as long as they're not actually being haunted. If there are more than a specific number of dolls around (i.e. one) you should probably rethink your stay. Just saying. Wood carved cherubs are okay though.
- Some of them are suprisingly gorgeous, and worth any amount of time you feel obligated to hang out in the hallway and make small talk with your host. We once stayed at the 1890 Caroline House in Fredericksburg, VA and got our own private suite - complete with a HUGE tub, a fireplace spanning two rooms, and a comfy sitting room. Although, I have to admit, my favorite part was each morning when the hostess brought out a series of elaborate, lovely meals full of food my boyfriend didn't eat. Every time she left the room he'd hiss "TAKE THESE STRAWBERRIES!!", all panicky. Good times.
- Embracing the local history of the place you're in, even if it's just up the road, is part of the point. And you get to be as cheesy exploring that place as you want - strap on the fanny pack, attach a cell phone to your belt.
- Chatting with other couples/not making new friends. Remember when you're B&B'ing it, you have permission to not be yourself, and to say things you'd never normally say. "This crepe is divine!" "I can honestly say I love this wicker!" "Where did you find that statue of a boy peeing?" And by all means, be pleasant with the locals/hosts/other guests. Just ... y'know, remember when you get back home you might realize you really don't like talking about golf, and that was the one thing you had in common with that couple.
If I had to stress out about whether or not I'd feel comfortable at a particular B&B or naturally click with the host/ess, I'd never go! And I would've missed out on waking up one fine autumn morning, in the attic bedroom of a large old house, heading downstairs expecting breakfast and encountering instead ... PILES OF DOLLS.