A tale of two rooms. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…traveling to a specific destination for a specific reason is a blessing and a curse. You are beholden to the accommodations available in the area. My youngest recently graduated from college in Ithaca, NY and traveling there for his various performances and events has been interesting, to say the least! The day I checked into one of the only rooms available his freshman year, the night before we moved him into his dorm, the hotel proprietor asked if I would like to book a room for his graduation FOUR YEARS AWAY! Since it seemed an underwhelming and overpriced hotel, I politely declined. But I realized something that day that has proven true pretty much every time I traveled to Ithaca in the last 4 years – the hotels have the upper hand. After the years of traveling to Princeton for my eldest where hotel rooms were abundant and a relative bargain, Ithaca was a shock. My initial rather lackluster experience at the Best Western prompted me to investigate the Bed and Breakfast circuit. I discovered that, as long as I could get a room, I could have a lovely experience for often less than the cost of a generic hotel. In the last four years, I have stayed in several chain hotels, an air B and B, and a handful of Bed and Breakfasts depending on availability and whether the minimum stay requirements worked for my schedule. But my two most recent stays in the area offer a miniature case study.
In late April, I traveled to Ithaca for my son’s senior recital. I was, alas, too late to book a room at my favorite bed and breakfast and ended up at the relatively new Fairfield Inn (by Marriott) at a staggering cost.
My first impression was that the room was clean and reasonably well appointed, albeit a horrible design choice of turquoise, orange, and brown that is apparently the Fairfield’s current room model…my FB post saying it reminded me of the old HoJo’s colors resulted in a flurry of “I’m staying in the exact same room” responses from a number of my friends in cities across the US! The best that can be said about the room is that they were thoughtful about the profusion of places to plug in our electronics. A room at The Fairfield comes with the perk of a free breakfast. This was a mixed quality affair - surprisingly good scrambled eggs and nearly inedible sausage patties – but the most horrifying thing about the breakfast was the “tableware”. I am a self-proclaimed snob about tableware and I dislike eating with plastic utensils. I especially hate using plastic knives so cheap they are not up to the task of spreading cream cheese when I am paying upwards of $300 a night for a standard room. Other than that, our stay was perfectly adequate if overpriced.
Contrast this with my stay graduation weekend at the William Henry Miller Inn Bed and Breakfast.
I booked this a year in advance, which is as early as they take reservations. They are one of the most lovely inns, conveniently located right in the downtown and also one of the only places that does not inflate their prices and their minimum stay times for graduation weekends. In fact, the prices were significantly lower than what I paid for the Fairfield room. The room was charming and comfortable and the inn provides wonderful amenities. There are always hot and cold beverages available in the dining room and the guest pantry. The talented chef puts out a luscious dessert buffet each evening, and offers a full gourmet breakfast with homemade breads and jams, smoothies, a fruit course, and a choice of hot entrees.
Needless to say there is NO plastic silverware! The proprietor is extremely thoughtful and attentive to details. She noticed I was a tea drinker and brought me an extra pot of hot water each morning, shifted their normal breakfast hours earlier to accommodate the guests needing to leave for the graduation ceremony, and provided bottles of water and “back road” directions to the graduation so we could be hydrated and avoid the traffic jams…all to help make the weekend a wonderful celebration for her guests.
For me, hands down, I would choose a Bed and Breakfast EVERY TIME!