What’s so bad about B&Bs?
Let’s start with the decor. Sure, they’re often beautiful, historic buildings — but you have to look past so many dusty Oriental carpets, so many doilies, so many pink window swags, so many peony and rose and gardenia and tulip patterns on so many pieces of so much overstuffed furniture covered with so many pillows that it’s impossible to know what’s underneath. (There’s a reason so many architecture buffs are also minimalists.) And the tchotchkes! What some might appreciate as quirky I consider to be a good head start on that “Hoarders” casting-call application.
That’s just in the common rooms. The bedrooms — well, people complain, rightly so, that some modern hotels are so stark as to be cold and uninviting, but the opposite can be just as uncomfortable. They’re certainly not built for function. Just try to get those crusty velvet drapes to close over the scrim that passes for a window shade. Find a way to fit your clothes into those creaky little wardrobe drawers, if you can open them.
And then try to climb through the lace canopy and up four feet onto that four-poster monstrosity, onto that lumpy mattress, so soft that it smashes you and your companion together in the middle like the fillings in an overstuffed taco. I’m all for a place with character, but after experiences like the latter, I pine for nothing so much as a Westin Heavenly Bed.
Frankly, I have a problem with both of the Bs in B&B. In “Portlandia,” Peter and Nance inform their guests that breakfast is served from 8 to 8:30 a.m., a joke about the inflexibility of so many owners. But it’s the actual meal that bothers me most. At its worst, the breakfast consists of stale muffins and rubbery eggs and limp bacon, with “seasonal fruit” (i.e., a grapefruit with a maraschino cherry stuck in the middle). If the owner considers him- or herself a cook (or, God forbid, a chef), you’re usually in for a real mess.
Did some cookbook get mailed to all the Victorian inns in the country in the mid-1980s suggesting that the only thing that would satisfy guests is cream-cheese-stuffed French toast with a bourbon pecan sauce? I’ve had something like that in various guises — maybe a blueberry syrup instead of pecan, maybe a bread pudding or pancake stack instead of French toast, maybe a sausage stuffing instead of (or in addition to!) the cream cheese — in dozens of places. Because breakfast is included in the price of the room, owners — and too many customers — think that the only definition of quality is abundance. And the only definition of abundance is something overly heavy, overly sweet, overly sticky, overly over-the-top.