Someone’s home

I enjoyed the sunroom of the Gables Guest House in Oxford, where there was plenty of tea
and an abundance of helpful guide books to browse. June, 2017

“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone’s home and backyard.” Vera Nazarian

I love staying in bed and breakfast inns, especially if the hosts live in or very near the home where the guests stay. I don’t go for the pricey or frilly ones, just the type that seem clean and comfy and friendly. I tend to be more mindful of my own presence in such places; quieter, less wasteful of resources and more deferential than I am in the impersonal setting of a large hotel.

I think it takes a special sort of person to be a successful innkeeper. The ones Jeff and I met over the years have been professional yet friendly, offering travel hints that only locals tend to know about. Something about sitting at the table of the person who has cooked a delicious breakfast helps me feel a bit more at home, wherever I happen to be.

My hostess at the B&B where I spent my first two nights at Oxford told me of a lovely village, Burford, in the Cotswolds. I hadn’t read about it in any tour books or heard it discussed as a “must-see” destination, but she told me how easy it was to catch a bus there from right outside her door. It was a wonderful place to spend the day, and I enjoyed every minute. I likely would never have seen it without her helpful instructions. I’m sure I’ll eventually share some of the photos I took there on this blog.

On that same trip to England I had my first experience with an AirBnB home just outside London, and am now eager to try it again sometime. Just as the internet has enabled other kinds of online connections, new travel opportunities are possible for us, offering a different window through which to see a famous or lesser-known destination. It’s true that one usually saves money traveling this way, but the real attraction for me is the chance to have a one-of-a-kind introduction to a place that is, first and foremost, someone else’s home.

Have you visited any lovely bed and breakfast inns lately? Feel free to tell us all about it. We might just show up there sometime, and we’ll tell them you sent us!

27 Comments

  1. Ann

    I also love finding places ‘off the beaten path’ when traveling. Going in a local grocery store or hardware store can be an adventure., As a true Southerner, I have no trouble talking with total strangers and have met many wonderful people along the way.

    Six college friends and I stayed at an AirBnB in Montreat, NC recently. We browsed and ate at small, local places in Black Mountain NC and Asheville. You should put western North Carolina on your list of places to visit. The temperature is wonderful and the scenery will replenish your soul. The AirBnB worked great for us, where else could we have found seven beds, a place to gather and a kitchen- for a price we could afford!?

    • WOW, Ann, that sounds fabulous! I didn’t realize there were Air BnB places with that many beds! I do love what little I have seen of western NC, and would love to see more. My first visit there was to Cherokee, NC, when I was very young and we went to see the play “Unto These Hills” which made me despise Andrew Jackson the rest of my life. I have remembered that play over the years, and long ago I secretly renamed myself after Junaluska, whose name means “I tried but failed.” I never thought about it, but you’re probably right that being Southern might account for some of chatty tendencies. The Scots Irish influence is so heavy in the south that perhaps some of that Irish gift of gab has been passed on to us.

  2. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ We have recently returned from three weeks of travel that included 3 hotel rooms, a VRBO home, and a ship stateroom. This was our first cruise, but upon entering our stateroom I felt as though I’d been there before. I must have been recalling a post you’d shared with a photo of your little balcony.💛 We have never stayed in a B&B but may someday. I’m so glad that you had a nice, personal experience. I am looking forward to September and a new Verandah to share. What a fast summer, especially with August being a travel month. Hi to Matt and your family. I’ve missed you, dear friend! Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, what an excellent adventure you had! Meet me on the Verandah and tell me all about it. I haven’t seen September’s locale yet due to being in York, but I’m sure it’s fabulous, as they all are!! So happy you are back!! 🙂 ❤

  3. Jack

    In my very many years as a business sojourner, my tastes have evolved from the 4 Star silliness of national hotel chains to my current state of wanting a neighborhood experience. In four years of commuting to Dallas, I’ve found two or three airbnb’s that are small, comfortable, affordable and delightfully communal. The road less traveled doesn’t just appeal to my crowd phobia, but also to the joy of being a part of rather than just an observer of.

    On a separate note, my wife and I just returned from a trip to England and Scotland. We hired a guide a couple of days, a local that told us the stories of the sights we saw, a far different experience from my usual “seeing the sights we saw” practice. Passing through holds not a candle to living in, whether it be in a marriage, a home, or a place far away.

    • Jack, what a great point about “being there” as the essential ingredient in many contexts. I’m glad you have been able to find friendly places to feel at home away from home. Jeff and I learned first hand how different a place seems after living there when we moved to Hawaii after having had a vacation to Oahu and Maui not long before we moved there. Both experiences were wonderful, but as you say, travel cannot compare to spending “regular” time in a place. One thing I loved most about being a military family was the chance to live in many different places. The Air Force never sent us anywhere that I did not love. I carry each “temporary home base” in my heart to this day, and have maintained ties with people we knew in each location.

  4. Raynard

    Julia a bed and breakfast is on my bucket list. I was just looking for a picture. It was the devil’s food cake I baked last night. What made it special was the vanilla glaze I put on after it came out the oven. But wait there’s more.. I made a small pot of Hawaiian Kona coffee and brushed it on the cake.Mmmm Good. Now I’m getting ready in a few to bake a German Chocolate cake for a friend at work.. Yes you will get a picture of that one lol.Have a safe labor day weekend.

    • Raynard, I can smell that Kona cake from here. The photo of the German Chocolate cake you sent me was lovely. I can remember my mother making cakes that looked exactly like that one. Hope you and Mary are having a great Labor Day weekend. Hey if y’all ever want to visit the historic triangle of Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg, I have just the Bed and Breakfast for you– I can’t vouch for how good the food will be, but you would have the entire little guest house to yourself and the price is unbeatable! 🙂

  5. Norris House, Leesburg, VA.
    Not a cliche – George Washington Slept Here (so did I).

    • Would that be the same Norris family as the ones who have people in North Alabama? 😀

      • No. The Alabama Norris family trace their roots to what is now West Virginia (The second printing of my historical novel of that area is a much more readable version.) I have written about their forebears, the Seviers, and the men who became “The overmountain boys”.

  6. I’ve had mixed experiences with bed and breakfasts, but overall I like the idea of them. We stayed in one in New England with perhaps the most uncomfortable bed I’ve ever been in. For what we paid, it was a huge disappointment. We stayed in a couple of wonderful places on our honeymoon, though, in Mendocino county. We had lovely hosts at both places, and as an added bonus, there were cats living in the first place and a pair of dogs and the next. I’m so glad you found a lovely place to stay on your trip, Julia.

    • Alys, I am so grateful for the numerous detailed reviews that help me figure out whether I would likely enjoy such places. I definitely think many of them tend to be overpriced, but some are worth paying more for. Jeff and I stayed in a wonderful little B & B in Santa Cruz many years ago. I’ve forgotten the name of it, and it may not even be there anymore, but our brief time there is one of my most cherished memories. And yes, I love it when there are animals there. They always improve a home. One place we stayed had a scarlet macaw that was like a little toddler clinging to her (human) Mama. I never knew until then that a bird can be cuddly.

      • Julia, it’s wonderful to have those cherished memories in Santa Cruz. Those things help sustain us, don’t they? When we were in Hawaii many years ago, there were a couple of macaw in the lobby for limited hours. We’re all animal lovers, so it was often a high point of the day for me and the boys. What fascinated me was how smart and shrewd he was. One guy came up to him, and the bird was immediately aggressive in a “don’t mess with me” way and the guy wondered off, drunk. That bird knew!

        • Alys, don’t you love it when the animals let us know they have our number? I cannot imagine a world without animals. So many different kinds, each delightful and unique in its own way. My sister and I had a wonderful “visit” with a praying mantis who dropped by my deck recently. Really! it was so winsome and cute, turning its head whenever we walked into its line of sight. I took photos and perhaps will post about it sometime. My family and I, and Jeff, and our kids, are/were all animal lovers as well. I have had a few friends who obviously were not, but I have a hard time imagining what that must be like. I don’t really want to know. 🙂 ❤

          • I loved hearing about your praying mantis visit. I’ve spotted three this summer, a young brown one, a mature brown one and a mature green one. They are really something. That said, they do eat hummingbirds, so I’m always a bit worried I’ll witness some carnage. So far, so good.

            • OH, NO! Was this ever a game-changer for me! I had no idea they could do that. I have just recently a humming bird outside my window, not too far from where my friendly praying mantis was parked. But he was nowhere near the planter where the hummingbird is feeding. But my sister keeps a feeder and has lots of them, and so I felt compelled to look up a gruesome photo to send to her as a warning. It’s truly astounding that they can do that. Just goes to show you that size and speed and reverse maneuvers are no match for camouflaged, barbed claws! EEEWWWWW. Thanks for the warning. Hopefully they feast mostly on insects and the “big game” of a hummingbird is a rare occurrence.

  7. Amy

    Wow! How beautiful that sun room is. I hope to visit there one day. When we went to Quebec in March we stayed in a wonderful B&B I highly recommend. I hope we get back there and I would love to make a visit with you.

    • Amy, that sounds wonderful. Jeff and I stayed in a B & B in Montreal that was very unusual; I would describe it as artsy and hip, the very antithesis of frilly. We enjoyed it, but it was in a downtown location and our rental car was one of a whole string of cars that were vandalized when somebody got a kick out of going along smashing all the car windows. This particular place had only on-street parking, so I have learned (if I have a car with me) to find one with off-street parking. But I digress, as Raynard would say. We never did make it to Quebec City but I hope someday to go there.

      • Amy

        Oh no. That sounds awful. This had a tiny little lot or you had to walk a few blocks to an underground parking garage that was locked at night. The B and B itself was very antique and the owner spent time talking with the guests. It was sweet. We will plan a trip. Love ya.

        • Sounds dreamy. Perhaps it really will happen. Love you too.

  8. Good morning, Julia!
    Your blog and all of these parts are really making me want to clean up my mother-in-law apartment downstairs. It certainly wouldn’t be “high end,” but it would have off-street parking.
    When a friend had to go to Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN for surgery, we stayed at a sweet, affordable place called “Private cozy apartment *NEAR MAYO*” run by “Misha.” It had outdoor stairs to a second-floor apartment, so it wouldn’t be good for someone going to Mayo for knee or hip problems, but it was clean and homey and comfortable, WITH TEA and a few little extras in the cupboard, which is just what one needs, when one is away from home and about to endure a new medical procedure.

    • Hey, you’d be a great Air BnB hostess! I’m so happy you had a nice place to stay for the Mayo visit. You’re right, having a homey atmosphere is SO important when spending hours in the sterile (literally and figuratively) atmosphere of a hospital. I always loved staying at the Ronald McDonald House when Matt was young enough to qualify us for staying there during his open heart surgeries. The support from other parents who UNDERSTOOD what we were going through was the best part, but the extras in the cupboards and the free phone line (in the days when long distance was still very expensive) were nice extras. If you get that apartment set up I’ll be happy to be your guinea pig trial run guest!

  9. LB

    That sunroom is lovely. I can just imagine reading there in complete contentment.
    I’m with you that the opportunity to connect with the locals, those who really know the community, is one of the best parts of travel and allows us to learn so much more.

    • Yes, LB, I just had to carve out some time to sit out there and enjoy it. I was afraid others might crowd me out, but I was the only one there when I was out there. Though I’ve never traveled by bike as you and many of my friends have, I always imagined it would be a natural complement to the type of journey that introduces a traveler to life as the locals experience it. I am always fascinated to think that everywhere I go, there are people who live there every day and grow accustomed to the wonders and quirks and natural beauty that so delight a visitor. And yes, they always know the secrets that never make it into the tour books!

  10. A great share. I enjoyed an AirBnB lodging–a sort of studio spot in back of a pleasant home, nice garden out back, as well– in Monterey, CA. and look forward to trying the service again.

    • Oh, Monterey would be a WONDERFUL place to have an AirBnB visit! Jeff and I loved the Monterey peninsula, and went there several times while Matt was at weekend respite camps in Stevens Creek Park not too far from there. We especially loved Pacific Grove. There are some lovely homes there too. And of course, Carmel would be the ultimate, but somehow I can’t imagine an AirBnB there? But maybe there is one! I’m glad to know so many others have had pleasant AirBnB experiences. In some ways, the internet really is changing the world for the better.

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