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Friday, November 11, 2011

More than just Bed and Breakfast

You never really know what you're bargaining for when you book a B&B over the Internet. Photos may be misleading – a pretty front door tells you nothing of a seedy neighborhood, as happened to us once in Milan; a map may not tell you what the road is really like; photos of food, turquoise-blue pools or smiling hosts are no guarantee of anything.
Of course, when booking on a site like booking.com, there are also guests' comments. But you have to take those with a grain of salt, too.

That's why stepping into Le Moulin Pastelier was so delightful, such a relief. And not only because our hosts turned out to be British, meaning I didn't have to start stammering in French.

Just look at the room – isn't it lovely? See all rooms here.

 







Called the Gardenia room, our bedroom is decorated in cool shades of blue and white. The other three bedrooms have their own color scheme.

Donna has a fine eye for color and design. In fact, she is so fond of color that the bookcase in the lounge is organized by color, rather than by author or category:
Books arranged by color
Having the bathtub actually in the room was unusual, but also rather convenient. The wash-basins were obviously designed with tall European men in mind rather than petite ladies like me; I did have to stand on tiptoe to wash my face properly. But who cares – deep inside I'm actually a ballerina, as my exercise-class teacher knows; plié-relevé come naturally to me.
The bed was very comfortable, and the bed-linen heavenly, made of very delicate pure cotton. (Extremely important for my sensitive, easily-irritated skin.)

Bath/shower in room
Though the window looks out onto the gravel foreground, and there's another bedroom across the corridor, we had complete privacy, total peace and quiet. If we wanted noise, why, there was always a TV set, a CD player and a batch of music CDs provided by the hosts. And if we wanted company, all we had to do was step into the main lounge and say Hi.

We would then be greeted by one or more of the following : Chris, Donna, Theo. Bella (Isabella) was usually too busy dozing to come over and say hi. Young, frisky Theo wouldn't stay still long enough for me to take a good picture of him. To avoid misunderstandings, Theo & Bella are French pointers:

The guest lounge manages to be both cozy and spacious, harmoniously made up of several areas – two for lounging, whether with a book, a drink, watching TV or just enjoying the real fireplace; and others for eating, desk/computer work, and cooking. Not that you're expected to do any cooking – that is Donna's domain and specialty. I've seen fancier lounges, but I don't think I've ever walked into one so pleasant and inviting.

As soon as we arrived, Chris apologized for the dreary weather and offered us a drink. In this case, our first choice was a pot of tea. But on most other occasions, we had wine. By the end of our first evening, after a sumptuous meal and plenty of wine, we felt like we were staying with old friends.
Some guests may prefer not to interact with their hosts; some hosts prefer to stay in the background. We've been to B&Bs where we saw the owners only twice – upon checking in and upon leaving. For example, Villa Ladavac in Rovinj (see my earlier post ). But it is totally up to you – you can come and go as you please without saying "boo" to anyone, if you so wish. As for me, each time we returned from our day trip, the first thing I did was poke my head into the lounge to announce, "Hi honey, I'm home!"

In principle, breakfast is served between 8 and 10. Guests are requested to say when they expect to be at the breakfast table. Makes perfect sense to me. No point in having the food out on the table by eight if we intend to sleep in and make an appearance at a quarter to ten. What with Michael being rather punctual by nature, we said we'd eat at 8:30, and showed up at 8:29, unlike most other guests who were, ahem, more lackadaisical. Loved Donna's home-made muffins. As for coffee – I always bring my own, wherever we travel.

Chris & Donna not only lent us their GPS, but also provided us with maps, recommendations, directions and explanations. And so we set forth on our explorations each day.

Though I knew before we left home that we chose a place a good few kilometers off the main road (rather than, say, a place in or on the outskirts of a proper city), I was a bit taken aback by its remoteness. Sure, once you get used to it, it's nothing: you hop into the car and in 10 or 15 minutes you're at the nearest boulangerie-patisserie… I have family and friends who live in decent towns in New Jersey or cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas who are in a similar situation, i.e., can't get anywhere without driving. In our naiveté we expected the little village to have a grocery, a café… Instead, we saw a church, farm houses, a tractor or two. And lots of fields. Well – the fresh agricultural produce has to come from somewhere! On the first night out, driving to a popular Italian restaurant in Revel, I was struck by the total darkness: no lamp posts, no city lights in the distance. Just black night, with stars if you're lucky and the skies are clear of clouds. Oh well – Michael is an experienced driver, and the TomTom was reassuring, when it wasn't scolding us for disobedience and insubordination.

And a propos driving – the Opel Meriva, like the washbasin in our room, was obviously designed for tall people. I could barely reach the clutch, and gave up on the idea of driving, this time. When Avis said they were upgrading us from the smaller Corsa, it didn't occur to me to object.

- to be continued -

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