We sample a variety of motels, the Norwegian Artist and I. Because we travel with teenagers — who eat, and eat, and eat — we find it cost effective to stay at places with breakfasts.
Now I’m sure that in Europe the term Continental Breakfast encompasses a fresh croissant and sultry, provocative coffee, but here in America the definition is flexible indeed. While the majority of our traveling breakfasts have given us a Happy Sunshine! morning experience, there are notable exceptions.
In one motel we wandered into the lobby, looking for the promised food.
“There on the buffet,” grunted the clerk.
The “buffet” is what we at home call a lampstand with a decanter of tepid brown liquid, six styrofoam cups, and four depressed banana muffins swathed in plastic wrap.
Another motel set aside an actual hallway complete with tables, chairs, blaring television, and a guard. Oh, he moved napkins around here and there, but mostly he stood in the doorway, making sure that no one escaped with a spotty banana.
At still another establishment, which advertised that breakfast lasted until 9 a.m., a morose young woman strode in promptly at 9 and began noisily opening and shutting cupboards, indiscriminately tossing in apples, tea bags, crumbled pastries, and sugar packets. At 9:05 she sailed out, presumably to inflict similar damage to the rooms.
At yet another, Tired of Being the Youngest snatched the last bagel, then looked around, helplessly, for cream cheese to make the poor rubbery product palatable. With no employee in sight or on site, I sidled to the refrigerator in the corner and peered in, finding a mound of cream cheese tubbies. Unfortunately, the refrigerator door sighed as it was opened.
“Just what do you think you’re doing?”
Well, that was one way to find the employee.
My all-time favorite breakfast experience took place at a pseudo-log-covered renovated remnant from the 1950s, the sort that calls itself Motel and advertises the extreme cleanliness of its rooms. This Motel had an actual name, something along the lines of Mountain Vista Estates, which could double as a housing development or a cemetary, and we chose it because our room had a kitchen.
It also had an upright piano, which clearly showed that we had landed the Executive Suite. Walls had been knocked down to turn two formerly closet-sized rooms into a long walk-in closet, with iron bunk beds in the “living” space completing the charm.
Piano aside, what mattered to us was that kitchen, since when you travel with Voracious Vultures you generally avoid candlelit dinner spots. The first morning of our stay I pulled out the muffin tins, pre-heated the tiny electric oven, and set about making breakfast for four.
Unfortunately, the only thing about the oven that really worked was the red light indicating that it was on — the oven itself was so hot that the lemon muffins came out chocolate.
So off to the proprietor I went, smoking muffins in hand.
“Oh,” he paused, taking in the burnt offering. “Oven’s not working. It’s been out for awhile. I’ll get a guy on it next week.”
“We won’t be here next week, (or ever again),” I replied, “What can be done about this?”
“Well,” he paused longer (during our stay I noticed that he paused everytime we “chatted”). “I suppose I could bake what you need in my oven.”
Done. Much to his surprise, incidentally. I think he figured that if he just did the Clint Eastwood thing long enough, I would go away. Ah, but a woman feeding her cubs and mate does not slink off to the cave, beaten. Over the course of the week, I entered the office matutinally, muffin pan in hand, and returned 15 minutes later to collect our breakfast. When other guests glanced inquisitively, I smiled beatifically and sashayed back to our tubular passageway while the proprietor shuffled back to his warren. By the end of our stay, he was as happy as we were that we would never be back.
I love to travel, and I really enjoy checking out different lodging options, but ultimately, I think that Dorothy was right.
There’s no place like home.