Don’t you love taking risks? It makes life so exciting and interesting! Okay, I’m not talking about the risks of the life-and-death variety, but the small ones that might land you in less dangerous waters. Such as finding a bed to sleep in when you take a trip, a place to stay for a few nights or weeks.
You surf the Internet. You look at pictures, read descriptions, and evaluate reviews. I’m not a fan of chain hotels, the ones that look the same the world over and where when you wake up in the mornings you can’t remember what country you are in. But finding non-standardized sleeping quarters via the Internet can land you in unsavory situations, as indeed it happened to us once. Mostly, though, we have had good luck finding cool places in various countries. Once we stayed in a renovated chapel in Italy, sleeping in what once was the sacristy. It was fabulous.
Onward: Wanting to take a break from our hectic life in our French village, we decide to spend a couple of days in the nearby town of Arles where Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh sojourned for some time, painted many pictures, and cut off his ear.
I apply my surfing skills and find something promising, an exotic looking B&B with a home gallery of contemporary photography. It has three rooms and is located in the historic center of Arles, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The B&B house is built on top of the ruins of the Roman baths of Emperor Constantine. Everything worth seeing is within walking distance. How cool does that sound? No, Tripadvisor has no information and no reviews, which is where the risks come in, right? But I tell you, the pictures and descriptions on the site seduce me.
I send off an email and reserve a room. What is life without a bit of risk? Maybe the mattress once belonged to Constantine. Maybe the shower offers up nothing but a drip. Maybe the place is… Well, you fill in your worst fears.
The day arrives and we drive to Arles. The place is a warren of narrow streets and we crawl along, our GPS leading us astray with gusto, suggesting illegal turns and pointing us down blocked allies. We get lost and run around in circles. Finally we manage to find a parking space nearby.
We are warmly greeted by our hostess and we enter a building centuries old. We climb a narrow, curving staircase sporting a small jungle of potted plants on the steps. Interesting artwork decorates the walls. Already I am charmed by what I see. Our hostess opens a door.
The bedroom (photo above) is a symphony of color, a burst of joy and cheer, decorated with objects from the owners’ travels in North Africa and beyond. The bathroom offers an explosion of brilliant shades.
Everything is fresh and clean, the bed comfortable, the ambiance enthusiastic. Every detail has been lovingly chosen and applied — door handles, light fixtures, waste baskets, wall decor. Really, who wants a room in the Marriott?
Our night is restful, not haunted by the ghosts of souls who wandered these ancient floors in the past. Nothing mysterious bubbled up from Constantine’s baths below the floors. In the morning we climb up another set of narrow stairs to the kitchen and find another festival of color–wall paint, cushions, dishes, and art objects. If you suffer from depression, this is the place to be.
We share the table with a lovely Korean couple on their honeymoon. We have fresh croissants, crusty bread, butter, jam, good coffee, and interesting conversation.
The hostess speaks French, English and Spanish, and we hear her story about the trials renovating the house, about her life and travels in other countries, about a Swedish couple who wouldn’t eat her French breakfast because they wanted fish…
There is more, much more, but I’m going to stop here so you’ll just have to find out for yourself: Go get a room!
Note: Since our stay there 10 days ago, one review showed up on Tripadvisor, in Spanish. Five stars and a glowing report, so there you have it.
* * *
Have you ever stayed in a fun or unique place? I’d love to hear about it!