When Dale and I travel, we like to stay in bed and breakfast inns as much as possible. We like the personal touch, the people we meet (both hosts and guests), the delicious breakfasts which usually mean we don’t need to buy lunch, and the local information, tips and recommendations we get about the places we’re visiting. We usually find the listings online, read reviews when they are available, and make our choice based on location, price, and amenities.
We have often remarked at how lucky we’ve been with our choices, given that all we have to go on is the online description and whatever reviews we can find. With the possible exception of the time I had a steak for breakfast that was so tough I couldn’t cut it with a knife no matter how hard I tried, we’ve always had excellent food and service in lovely homes with great hosts. Of course, there was also the time we had reservations to spend an anniversary night at the aptly- (and as it turned out, unfortunately-) named Creekside Inn in Lancaster County. There had already been a lot of rain during the day, and while we were out at a dinner theater after having checked in and dropped off our luggage, it rained buckets again. Upon our return to the inn, we discovered that the creek had overflowed its banks into the house and no one was allowed in. Since we weren’t that far away, we drove home to sleep and went back the next day to retrieve our luggage. That adventure was in no way the fault of the inn, however – unless you blame those who built the house in 1781 for putting it so close to the creek!
Our streak of good choices ended with our recent vacation in Oregon. Four of the five B & Bs we stayed in we would recommend to others; the fifth one not so much. It wasn’t awful, just a bit creepy with a hostess who probably should have retired several years ago. However, it was the only one I could find in the area along the Oregon coast where we wanted to spend the night.
The first warning sign was when the street where the B & B was located abruptly ended and instead the parking lot of a landscaping/nursery business had spilled over into where the street should have gone through. We could see what we thought was probably the B & B on the other side, but how to get there? We found our way around the block and parked by the house. Initially, when we walked into the yard and up to the front porch, we were attracted by all the pretty flowering bushes and perennial plants, but then we were put off by the motley array of flower pots, a park bench with a towel-covered cushion, and empty and dirty cat food dishes all cluttering the porch. We also noticed that the porch boards were sagging a bit, and a black cat peered at us from around the corner (not that we’re superstitious or anything – in fact we love cats!). In general, the house looked to be in a state of disrepair and needed a lot of handiwork to restore it to its former glory.
When we rang the door bell no one answered. So we called the number listed on a sign on the door that said “Reservations only. Call 541-xxx-xxxx.” A woman with a thick accent answered the phone, and when I said we had a reservation for the night, she said she’d be right there. An older Japanese woman soon came to the door, and proceeded to ask me if I had talked to her on the phone or if I had perhaps talked to her manager. I couldn’t remember. She was acting as though she wasn’t expecting us, so I asked in a bit of a panic, “Do you have a reservation for us?” “Oh yes,” she said. She showed us to our room, suggested a couple of restaurant possibilities in the town for dinner that night, and told us about breakfast plans for the next morning.
We went out to the car to get our things to take up to the room. A young boy, probably around 10 or 12 years old, was walking by carrying a skateboard up the hill. He asked us, “Are you staying at that bed and breakfast?” We wondered why he asked: did the house have a reputation of being haunted, or was he just curious or trying to be friendly? We should have asked him those questions ourselves, but I think by that time we were afraid of what he might say!
Inside, the house was cluttered with stuff of all kinds, ranging from genuine antiques to lots of “kitsch” like an “Elvis is in the house” do-not-disturb sign; Japanese dolls displayed here and there in their original boxes; an eclectic array of paintings on the walls, including Asian and European art, a clown painting and basic landscape scenes; and an equally eclectic assortment of furniture styles, with an emphasis on Victorian.
We were the only guests that night, so every time we were within earshot, the hostess suddenly appeared and started talking to us, almost like she was starved for company. At breakfast (which was quite ample and a bit heavy), we learned a lot about her without having to ask any questions ourselves – she just talked. She told us she is 83 years old. While she is still quite energetic, she also seemed trapped. Her first husband was an American serviceman in Japan, but they divorced and she remarried; her second husband died some years ago. She has a house in California as well as another house besides the bed and breakfast in the same town in Oregon. She said she wants to sell the house in California but would have to pay $1 million in capital gains taxes and doesn’t want to do that. Dale and I couldn’t help thinking that the house must be worth millions if the capital gains are $1 million! She also freely admitted to us that she is an alcoholic, shopaholic (there was ample evidence of that all around the house!), and a gambling addict, regularly going to Las Vegas to indulge her habit. It sounded like her addictions had contributed to the demise of her first marriage. All these revelations seemed a little like “too much information” to share with guests and contributed to our sense that she was trapped by her addictions.
We couldn’t wait to get out of there and on our way, knowing we would never return even if we happened to pass through the area again and we wouldn’t recommend the place to anyone. Apparently, though, others do return regularly. She kept talking about and showing us photos of guests who came back year after year, and we saw evidence of this in her guestbook.
In the end, everything turned out fine. The room was quite adequate for one night, the breakfast saw us through the day and Dale really liked the blueberry french toast casserole, it was an interesting experience, and we’re glad we gave her someone to talk to for a little while. But having been a bit freaked out from the beginning by how difficult it was to find the place, the sagging front porch, the suggestion that she wasn’t expecting us, a general impression that the house and the whole town had seen better days, we never felt entirely comfortable. Some people we know, including our friends who used to be missionaries in Japan, would have loved talking with the hostess, but as introverts and not always being able to understand her accent, we found the conversations difficult and a bit off-putting. However, the experience won’t stop us from continuing to choose B & Bs whenever we can!