Six weeks ago the Beautiful Wife put the pedal to the metal and drove us 5,000 miles across the country on a serious experiment. Basically we were headed for our vacation spot in Sarasota, Florida, and planned to visit friends and relatives along the way and back.
But B.W. always has something up her sleeve. She’d been reading about the appearance of Air B&Bs across the country and thus argued: “My Mom always baked a potato when she made meatloaf, killed two birds with one stone. Why don't we conduct an experiment to discover the pluses and minuses of so-called Air B&Bs versus simple motels on our way to Indianapolis and Montgomery?”
And so it was that we first stopped in the home of Indy 500 to find our first B&B, called Canal 9, a huge restored building near downtown in the warehouse district. There were no signs, nothing to tell us we had arrived. Finally we asked a passerby where Canal 9 was located.
“You’re right next to it,” came the reply.
We parked the car, made it to the reception room and asked a receptionist how to find our accommodations. “I'm not a receptionist. I just live here and like to study in this room. There is no receptionist; this is an apartment building.”
She showed us how to operate the elevator and we made it to the third floor and our apartment. Very, very nice. Newly redone kitchen with fancy appliances and enough pots and pans to fend off the Germans from entering Stalingrad. Then a living room, a bedroom, a dressing room(!) followed by a modern shower. All very chic and well-located in this restored warehouse district in walking distance from downtown and near the still standing factory, where the famous roaring ’20s sport car, the Stutz Bearcat was fabricated.
On the first floor of Canal was a tea room for light snacks, a swimming pool and a workout center.
We were impressed and enjoyed our two-day stay at $130 per day.
We wondered what wondrous accommodations would be offered in Montgomery, a beautiful old southern town and first capital of the Confederacy. We would be in a beautiful neighborhood called Cloverdale dotted with post bellum mini mansions, Huntington college and smack dab near an area called Zelda after the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and a home where the two lovebirds nested.
Our B&B was called “Carraway Cottage,” after the character in “The Great Gatsby.” To our surprise we were greeted by our host, who lived in the mansion out front.
It was a white stucco cottage that our host explained had once been servant's quarters and later had been converted to a roomy garage. Now it was ours for five days.
We tripped over a cracked cobblestone walk on the way in. First there was a huge living room, which might have very well housed the previous owner's Stutz Bearcat. It was sparsely furnished and featured a fireplace with a candle perched on its grate, a long couch and an easy chair. Next to it was a kitchen stocked with a supply of ramen noodles and adequate utensils, an older fridge and a troublesome-looking gas stove. And there was a bedroom, in which a tiny closet had been made into a tiny bathroom. Immediately we realized that the bed would be a problem. It wasn't a single and it wasn't a double, but something in between.
Our host left, assuring us the dogs didn't bite, just barked a lot.
We sat on the long sofa and said to each other, “Hey, we're Scott and Zelda! We can have fun anywhere. Let's find a pool downtown and jump into it.” But on sober reflection, we looked about to find:
No television set (we were staying five days and the Sweet Sixteen was on. Go Zags!)
The gas stove had no pilot light and smoke stains indicated that do-it-yourself burner lighters had failed on several previous occasions
No frying pan. (And we were led to believe that southerners fried everything they ate!)
No bed suitable to sleep two people.
(Ruth went to the Big House as the little dogs nipped at her shapely heels and asked two questions: “Is there a TV set?” “Is there another way that two people can sleep here?” and received these answers:
1.“No.” (That meant no Sweet Sixteen, so I found a history of the Southern Baptist Church on a bookshelf and dug in)
2.“One of you can sleep on the couch in the living room (Subsequent trips to the Big House to beg for a blanket was to no avail because our host and hostess left for a long weekend vacation and did not respond to Ruth’s tweets.)
So we muddled through, purloining a frying pan from our sister-in-law's 104-year-old mother's pantry.
On the return trip, we reserved a Holiday Inn Express in Montgomery, which for a few bucks less than the $110 a day B&B, served fresh fruit, juice, great coffee, yogurt, cereal, pancakes, answered all our questions, supplied bed space for four and lots of blankets — and TV.
So our advice is to ask lots and lots of questions when you book an Air B&B. LOTS! Like “Should we bring our own bedding and cookware?”