Resort Reviews Section Link spacer Why Upscale Travel? Section Link spacer Tips and Hints Section Link spacer Romance Section Link spacer Best Restaurants

Squelching the Romance

Consider the construct and modus operandi of the Bed-and-Breakfast. Bed-and-Breakfasts are most often Mom-and-Pop businesses that require us not only to come into contact with the owners, but also to spend a substantial amount of our time with them throughout our stay in their house. In my experience, this forced contact can become quite inconvenient for the visitor seeking privacy with his or her partner. Frequently, the B & B is little more than someone's home converted into a place for the public to visit, decorated with thematic wallpaper and trinkets. Virtually anyone can obtain a business license and with it manipulate the "B & B" construct around their existing architecture and lifestyle to make some extra income. In the end, the B & B easily becomes a self-serving enterprise designed more around the convenience of the owners than around the particular needs of the family traveler.

In his article, "Alone at Last," which discusses the difficulty of finding private time on vacation, Jonathon Gold argues that, "Bed-and-breakfasts are even worse [than a surveillance] with their frilly curtains and thin walls, bar-brand Sherry and forced intimacy, and the dreary little brochures describing the provenance of every wainscot, so that to be a good sport you end up asking questions about the artisans out in Missouri who hand-blocked the period wallpaper". (Gold)

Mr. Gold obliquely touches on a significant point here. Because of the fundamental format of the B & B--that is, that you are essentially staying overnight in a stranger's home--there is a marked decrease in the amount of solitude you can hope to experience. My husband and I have stayed in several that required us to walk through the living-rooms and past the owners watching television, in order to get to our room. Many B & Bs make it necessary to share a bathroom with other guests--a concept that has always struck me as bizarre when it comes to vacationing, even if it allows for a cheaper nightly rate. The communal bathroom is a part of college dorm-life that I think most of us would rather not pay money to relive. This particular bathroom scenario opens up a variety of potentially awkward situations such as feeling rushed, walking in on your neighbor, or long waits for the other guests to finish up.

This lack of privacy becomes more than just annoying; it becomes a hindrance to romance. I have found the thin walls of many B & Bs incomparable with the thick, almost soundproof rooms found in most resorts. As with many houses, the walls of B & Bs allow for noise to be carried and overheard by others in the house--that includes the owners as well as the other guests.

A successful romantic getaway is one that allows for lost moments together to be regained within the relationship. B & Bs work in opposition to this end too. I always have a good laugh when I see the movie, "Flirting with Disaster." The character played by Ben Stiller declares that he hates B & Bs because of the need they create to make chit-chat with the elderly ladies who run them. Then in the next frame, we see him, his wife, and his almost-mistress in a B & B, their eyes glazing over, listening to the innkeeper wax on about a series of personal anecdotes that are fascinating to her, but meaningless to the guests.

While of course this scene is simply a part of a movie, it underscores the way in which B & Bs often drive people to spend their short and valuable vacation time with strangers upon arrival, during meals, at tea, and when attempting to relax by the fireside or on the porch. Certainly there are times when networking is fun and necessary, especially in terms of our careers. But when we are attempting to create quality time alone with our significant other, this arrangement is a gross diversion.

When the tranquil days spent at resorts are compared with the awkward situations of most B & Bs, the difference is incredible. For instance, the Seaventure Resort in Pismo Beach scores very high on the romance scale. At the Seaventure, breakfast is left unobtrusively in a basket by our door each morning, so visitors can leisurely sit on our very private deck gazing at the dead-on view of the ocean, listening to the waves crashing. Certainly, the stage is set there for relaxing moments and open vistas of conversation each morning.

I also remember a peculiarly different kind of morning at a B & B in Idyllwild at which we stayed. Instead of sleeping in late as we had become accustomed on vacation, we felt the need both mornings to bolt out of bed like tornados, and get dressed to make breakfast by 8:00 a.m. Both mornings we were seated with a couple from Kansas with whom we had nothing in common. They were continuously chattering throughout the meal, asking us all kinds of oddly personal questions, while offering us more detail than we cared to know about them. It seemed that they were on a mission to make some new friends in California before returning home, and we were their lucky prospects. Not wanting to be rude, we felt obliged to keep up our end of the conversation.

In contrast with the extensive food variety provided at resorts, at this B & B (and at others I've visited) guests are served the predetermined meal of the house. The first morning, I clearly remember being fed a heavily glazed bread pudding that carried some tremendous significance as a family recipe to the innkeeper, but in actuality, was insipid and strangely flavored--the kind of item one would never select if given a choice. I prefer the lighter breakfast fare offered at many modern resorts.

The second morning, breakfast was even worse--at least for me. I have hated all eggs since birth, and when a generous portion of scrambled eggs was suddenly thrust in front of me with no forewarning, I began to feel nauseous. My husband gave me an apologetic smile as I mused over the fact that we actually awoke early, dressed, and were sitting with the people from Kansas again--for a meal that's smell alone made me feel like running to the bathroom. As the couple gabbed on about their extended family, I wished I were somewhere else.

Perhaps not all B & B visitors are as unlucky as we've been. You might have the good fortune of going to a B & B where you are served some very amenable fare while being seated next to enjoyable, interesting people. There is always this possibility. But the problem with a B & B is that you just never know. Full-service resorts allow the visitors much more autonomy while on vacation, not leaving it all to chance.

Gold, Jonathan. "Private Spaces: Alone at last." Gourmet: The Magazine of Good Living. May 2000:195-197.