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Shelter me to relax, dine and decompress on the road

A major part of traveling entails finding a place to stay.  Part of that choice involves the reason for the trip itself.  If the main reason for the trip is to get away and relax (and not mind the cost), relaxing at a spa, eating great food, drinking good wine and perhaps visting vineyards, well then, finding a posh hotel that is in the center of things and offers a high lifestyle or somewhere remote and perhaps even “romantic” might be the choice to make.

I will say that I have stayed in very few fancy hotels—one in Japan and two in India. Only once in India did I really enjoy all that “poshness” and grandeur as it was really nicely done. I just wanted down time for a few days so we stayed in a lot of the time using the swimming pool, enjoying poolside dining and room service. 

Another choice is to book a hotel room in advance or  to just go and hope to find what you want. These days more people travel than in the years I used to travel all over. There are more people looking for places to stay and there are many more big hotels opening in previously isolated and beautiful spots all over the world.

I would have liked to just find a place when I arrived  but usually we had investigated places beforehand and made reservations to be sure of having just what we wanted and needed when we arrived. 

To find a list of what was available in the cities and towns we visited, The Lonely Planet Guidebook,  became “our Bible.” The places were small and were sometimes hotels and sometimes guest houses. The descriptions in the book were good enough for us to make decisions. We took advice from people we met on our travels, and since we usually met over breakfast in a guest house or small, personal hotel, we found the connections worked for us at the next recommended place.

In Kerala, South India we stayed in a guest house and shared breakfast with a nice couple who had just come from Munar in the mountains filled with tea plantations. They had stayed in a guest house with lovely owners, overlooking the tea fields and they gave such high recommendations we telephoned and made reservations immediately. The people who ran the little inn couldn’t have been more kind and helpful. We ate breakfast there trying all sorts of local foods, had special dinners and a driver to take us around. The husband took us on a foot tour of the neighboring tea fields and explained all about tea leaves and flowers. We only left because we had to catch our airplane to return home.

Another time in Pondicherry in Southern India we stayed in two different guest houses, both with lovely and friendly owners who found us drivers for personal, inexpensive tours. One owner’s wife took us to a nearby town filled with antique and junk stores that I would have never discovered on my own. I spent a happily “mad” morning scrambling about and finding treasures. 

In Calcutta—a city I thought I would not like but instead fell in love with—I had to stay in a fancy, big Oberoi Hotel as the hotel I had chosen was not yet available. I found the big hotel cold and impersonal and was so happy when we could move over to our dear Fairlawn Hotel, an old fashioned and slightly scruffy place run by an older lady who had filled the walls with old photos of people who had stayed there. The service was great and there was so much history staying there with us. It had the romance of old India as well as being in the center of things. 

In Sri Lanka I stayed for two weeks at a center for a writing class. At the end of the wonderful class, I went with another woman to visit Kandy before going back to India. I had heard of a hotel where the woman who owned it had painted glorious people on the doors of the rooms and decorated all the rooms inside. I stayed for two nights with all these new “friends” everywhere. It was quite a wild and funky place up in the hills and I can no longer find anything about it or even if it still exists. 

When we stayed in the countryside in Sicily ,which we enjoyed doing, we stayed on farms and had the loveliest and most friendly times. These places seemed to draw interesting people—both the visitors and the people who ran it. We ate well, slept well and enjoyed exploring.

I notice that apart from taking a cruise people tend to book tours to a country where everything is provided—transportation, hotels and even meals as well as tours to gardens or train trips. But for me the intimacy is no longer there in the planning or the experience.

I am very lucky that when I now go abroad I go to visit good friends and to stay with them. That is the best place of all to be. But I do have my swiftly flying thoughts of a quick stay at the Dorchester Hotel in London for an adventure, until I look at the price and figure I could stay at many small places for many nights for the cost of one night there. I laughingly move on to other fantasies.

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