Thursday 13: Things I know about B&Bs

As I type, Mr. T and I are relaxing in our seventh bed and breakfast stop on our hopscotch honeymoon adventure. (You may recall we mixed in a few hotels, some friends’ homes, and of course, the dreaded dormitory.) At the end of our travels, I have a few observations about B&Bs for you for this Thursday 13.

1. Location isn’t everything.

Grand Anne, Keokuk, IA

When you hear of the town “Keokuk, Iowa,” gorgeous vacation destination may not immediately pop in your head. However, that’s what we found in the Grand Anne. We landed in the small farming community on the Mississippi River and I wasn’t expecting much. When we pulled up to the 22-bedroom Victorian mansion, I was floored. I had a similar impression when we visited Eureka Springs, AR, and so be aware, you can find gems in very random locales!

2. Fun increases as anti-socialness decreases.

At the Holden House in Colorado Springs, we ate breakfast with a graduate student and her new husband from Benin, West Africa.
This would be my sweetheart eating breakfast 10 miles down the table.

Hermits, B&Bs are not for you! Many B&Bs are homey, read: small. If you aren’t prepared to be friendly and rub elbows with your neighbors, B&Bs may not be the thing for you. However, as we found out, the experience is much more fun when there are people to talk to. When we visited the 22-room Grand Anne, we were the ONLY visitors. Although it was fun to roam the house, it was a bit lonesome, especially at breakfast when they sat us opposite each other at the monstrous table. Contrast that with our B&B in Colorado Springs which was a full house with 10 people. We met two biker couples on their way to Sturgis and a newly-wed couple with plans to move to West Africa to do mission work. So much more fun than just sleeping in hotels!

3. Ownership matters, sort of. Our first three B&B stops were homes where the innkeepers were also the owners. You could tell that the innkeepers took pride in their homes and displayed varying degrees of possessiveness about the properties, especially as they lived on site as well. This contrasted greatly in the two places we stayed where the hosts were hired help. In one home, the hosts’ grandkids ran around and they actually left us to lock up the place! In another location, the employees, while friendly, did not demonstrate the same enthusiasm about visitors. While our stays in every location were lovely, the differences in ownership were distinct.

4. Innkeepers are a breed unto themselves.

Reagan’s Queen Anne in Hannibal, MO

Particularly with the owner/operators, we noticed that innkeepers were quite the characters. Richard and his partner in Santa Fe seemed to lap up the attention having a captive audience provides. Chris (and his wife, Lisa) enjoyed telling visitors about the local flavor. Norm and Judy delighted in talking about everything from the history of the historic home to their past jobs, marriages and kids. Be prepared to meet interesting and quirky folk.

5. Be clear about your dietary preferences.

Dining room at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear in Santa Fe

It didn’t occur to me to wear an “I hate quiche” sign until we hit one of our last B&Bs. Quite by accident the proprietor of our second-to-last stop asked me if I had any dietary preferences. After our second egg dish of the trip, I told T earlier that same day, “Next time we B&B, you MUST ask for quiche-free breakfasts.” He forced me to make my request and thank goodness! We had a very potato-y Denver omelette, and I was thrilled not to suffer through slurpy crustless quiche again. Of course there are other elements. For example, every single breakfast we’ve had has featured bacon or sausage. Vegetarians and kosher eaters should communicate preferences or be prepared to live on fruit and yogurt alone!

6. Most of the time, breakfast rocks!

The most delightful orange French toast in Hannibal.

Award winning waffles and french toast and streusel muffins and southwest egg puffs and modified eggs benedict. If you’re planning to skimp on breakfast, B&Bs are not the place to do it!

7. Fabulous “historic homes” are really OLD; be prepared.

Shower power at the Queen Anne in Hannibal.

My favorite part of our honeymoon has been visiting historic properties and learning a bit about what life was like 100, 110, 120 years ago. Something I’ve learned? Hygiene is hard. I’m only slightly joking. I love those romantic clawfoot tubs, but have you ever tried to take a honest shower in one? A little more challenging than you’d think. While I was bitching to T (on more than one occasion), I realized: In the original home, there probably WAS no shower! Additionally, I was unprepared for lack of a/c in some places and the creakiest of wood floors everywhere! After staying in historic places, I’m exceedingly glad for our modern amenities.

8. Microcosms of culture.

Sunflower Hill Inn, Moab, UT

We’ve visited seven B&Bs over the last 18 days and every single one has featured a unique culture all its own. From the property itself to the decor to the innkeepers, policies and guests, every element combines for something perfectly unique and insightful. What’s more, you can learn about the town you’re visiting from the best restaurants to new laws and regulations to how the flooding affects crops. Again, it requires socialness, but you won’t be disappointed!

9. Sweet things aplenty.

There really was cake under there at Mount Victoria in Eureka Springs, AR.

Homemade cookies, chocolate cake, brownie bites, chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls, happiness! Most B&Bs offer some type of sweet treat either 24-hours a day like the Inn of the Turquoise Bear’s homemade chocolate chip cookies, or during the social hour at Sunflower Hill Inn. Not diet-friendly, but definitely worth a sample or two!

10. Check-in times are real.

Treehouses in Eureka Springs, AR.

Every place we’ve visited has listed specific check-in times, usually a couple hours in the late afternoon. When we arrived late in Eureka Springs to the Tree Houses (technically not a B&B, but run in a similar fashion), you would have thought we’d committed high treason. Understandly, innkeepers have crazy schedules, especially those who live on the property, so be aware that check-in times are fairly firm. If you’re going to be late, pick up the phone!

11. Make-up removal towels and other random rules. Bar none, every B&B has asked me to use a specific towel or moist towlette to remove my makeup. Additionally, most feature a litany of rules from “No candles” to fire safety, to how much extra sodas cost and whether or not to tip. When unobtrusive, the rules don’t bother me. However, we stayed in one place where you couldn’t look from right to left without running into a framed rule or request. (Referencing number 3, rules seemed to increase with ownership and the level of possessiveness about the home.)

12. Inn animals.

Tim and an inn cat in Colorado Springs. Why felines flock to the cat haters is beyond me!
Colt at the Inn of the Turquoise Bear in Santa Fe!

If you have allergies, check to see if your inn is home to a 150-pound beat like Colt in Santa Fe or fat cats like Ping and Pong in Eureka Springs.

13. Rest and relaxation.

Our private patio in Eureka Springs, AR.

A consistent theme for our B&B experience has been relaxation. The rooms and common areas are (typically) cozy and feature creature comforts you’d find at home. With treats and robes and bubble baths and books and videos, you are meant to unwind and recharge. This has meant either no TV or in most places, the tiniest TV you’ve ever seen in your life. Most offer old VHS tapes to borrow, but I’ve found that with one exception, having the TV off is delightful!

We’ll be home in the next 8 hours or so. Stay tuned for photos from Oshkosh, Traverse City, MACKINAC!, Keokuk, Colorado Springs and Moab. I know, I know, crazy girl with a camera…


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