HOT TUB HAVOC: Some B&B experiences can be a bit hit and miss.
HOT TUB HAVOC: Some B&B experiences can be a bit hit and miss. iStock

Checking in for bed and brusqueness

It's been a while since I have stayed in a B&B but there was a time when it was my preferred style of holiday accommodation.

When I look back I wonder why. I was never comfortable staying in a house where the owners lived and went about their routines. It always felt like an invasion of their space.

Then there was the concern of other guests sharing the house. If you are blessed with a personality that enjoys meeting strangers in a living room chock-a-block with knick-knacks where complimentary sherry glows in a glass decanter and canapes sit invitingly on doilies on patterned plates, then you will love the ambience of a B&B. And good for you. I don't mind the free sherry, it's the forced small talk with strangers that scares me.

Some time ago I stayed in a B&B with my husband in a sad and lonely town in the north of California. The town was so bland I can't begin to describe it but it was the gateway to the majestic Redwood Forests, a good base. The B&B was owned by a grumpy old couple and seeing as we are a grumpy old couple, it was a good fit.

We were the only guests. We never saw the woman, she was just a vague and worrying presence in the house, like a mad aunt locked in the attic. All we heard of her was the shuffle of her slippers and the hack of her cough. It was quite creepy as we sat with our host on a plastic-covered couch in an over-decorated living room looking out on the world's most boring suburban street, trying to make conversation while she coughed in some distant gloom of the house.

It was our first day after a long-flight and the next morning when we turned up 15 minutes late for breakfast our man was furious. "I told you 8am,” he barked as he thumped cutlery and banged plates.

"So sorry, we are jetlagged,” we offered but that didn't placate him. We shoved food down and rushed back to our room to pack and leave. As we departed he brightened and cheerfully told us a bear had strayed into the street the week before and attacked a neighbour. It was a quick dash to our car.

Having been thoroughly warned about breakfast promptness, we were well prepared for the next B&B in the Napa Valley. Even so, when we checked in, the owner, a young and fierce woman, announced: "breakfast finishes at 9.15, and if you are one minute late there will be no food left.”

What offended me more about that B&B wasn't the woman and her abruptness but the number of little envelopes left in our room from the never-seen housekeeping staff asking us for tips.

Perhaps my favourite B&B experience happened here in Australia when we checked into a charming country place with undulating green views to handsome mountains. It was B&B paradise.

"The hot tub in the garden has been fired up just for you,” the host told us, and with a bottle of complimentary bubbles in our room, the welcome couldn't have been friendlier.

Out into the garden with our bottle we went and climbed into the bubbling hot tub. Immediately my husband felt he had sat on something that was not right: a small grainy mound, like sand. He felt a burn in his nethers and shifted quickly before he realised our well-meaning, but not-so-bright, host had obviously just thrown a bunch of chemical into the tub to chlorinate the water - and some of it had remained on the seat, undissolved.

My man couldn't sit comfortably for a week after the B&B hot-tub experience. Neither could I. From suppressed laughter.

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