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When travelling with The Mom, I usually let her do the choosing of restaurants and accommodations. It seems only fair since we both know I’m not paying.

However, after our last trip back to California, I am going to have to change my policy on that.

The Mom and I differ as to what makes a great place to stay. When this particular trip was being planned, The Mom was pouring over brochures, oohing and aching over the various extras that were on offer.

“Wonderful,” she’d chirp. “They have an afternoon drinks session planned.” Actually, it wasn’t called an afternoon drinks session, but that’s how it was sold to me, in order to get me to agree. It was something more like a meet and greet with utter strangers over a fairly small glass of wine with nothing in the way of a refill.

“So, you’re telling me that we’re going to go to this random place which is essentially a stranger’s home, and then for an hour-and-a-half, sit in their lounge and make small chat with people we do not know, whom we will never see again, whilst sipping on the local hooch?”

“I know! Exciting isn’t it?”

“I think you’ll find that is actually known as the Seventh Circle of Hell.”

“Think of the fun and exciting people we’ll meet!” she replied, her enthusiasm nowhere near close enough to the breaking point for my liking.

“Oh, yes, obviously. Jack and Diane from Nowheresville, Middle America. Brilliant. What kind of stories will they have? I cannot possibly deal with hearing about house values, insurance and the local school system.”

Not to be deterred, The Mom quickly booked us in for one night and then set about making further reservations at a B&B that she felt was more to my liking. It was by all accounts quirky.

“You’ll love it, dear!” she cooed. “The owners seem like they’ll be proper eccentrics.”

But it was her credit card so there wasn’t much I could do. It was once we rocked up that her perkiness was… well, let’s say this about that: I’ve never seen her go from perky to miserable quite so quickly.

This B&B was cold, damp, had no television (which meant The Mom’s CNN fast was running at an all-time high of about seven days), and no bathtub. The owners made me look chipper. But The Mom couldn’t handle it, we needed to go even though we were booked to stay another night.

“Something’s come up,” she told the owners. “I’m afraid we’ll have to take our leave today.”

“But what about your breakfast tomorrow? I will be getting up at 4am to fly up to our farm and handpick the asparagus and milk the goat who will be providing the milk for your tea.”

“Delightful, I’m sure, but we really do need to be going.”

One quickly got the sense that these people were in it for more than the money. It was the company they craved.

Sensing that getting out of there was going to require something more than the usual polite excuses, The Mom pulled me aside and hissed something like, “Pick a disease. Any of them will do. Feign illness immediately. We are decamping to the nearest four-star chain hotel.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how I earn my keep. I pulled my best medical ailments out of my mouldering backpack and we fairly screeched out of there.

I had all this in mind, when I had to go to Cardiff, Wales, a few weeks ago. I couldn’t afford to spend much money, so had to look for the best two-star hotel money could buy. Now, a two-star in the UK is vastly different from a two-star in America.

The hotel I stayed in was… well it was dry and safe and had a TV. But I don’t think the owners would’ve been shocked if, say, I’d have rung up reception and announced, “I’ve taken a handful of sleeping pills, washed it down with a bottle of your finest cut-rate supermarket own-brand vodka and expect to be dead within the hour.”

In fact, I believe the answer would’ve been something along the lines of, “That’s fine. We’ve charged your card already. If you plan on dying in the bed however, there will be an extra charge for cleaning.”

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