Prior to our arrival in York, England, we received an email from the proprietors of the guest house, or bed and breakfast, of where we’d be staying. The objectives of the email were to confirm our arrival time and to offer directions to the house from the train station.
“… I’m not sure how much luggage you have, but we’re just a 5-10 minute walk from the station. It’s much quicker to walk than to take a taxi, as there’s a shortcut from the side of Platform 3 by the Tap Pub, through the short-stay car park and over the river footbridge…David can meet you if you wish, as he often meets and helps guests from the station…” wrote Carolyn Lightwing of Crook Lodge.
Foolishly up for the challenge to find the place on our own, coupled with the desire to not inconvenience our hosts, we settled on attempting to find the house using the directions they’d provided. Our backpacks slung across our backs and carry-on luggage dragging noisily across the cobblestones, we successfully navigated through the park to the sidewalk that ultimately led to the guest house, where our hosts were waiting for us.
Proud of their home and clearly enamoured with York, the retired teachers were excited to show us to our room, a quaint space with just enough room for a bed, end tables and a vanity holding the obligatory tea set. The second-story room overlooked the gated driveway below, where we peered down to see fellow travelers arriving behind us.
To be fair, I had been somewhat apprehensive of the idea of staying in guest houses. But our experiences with the Lightwings, as well as our other guest house experiences on this trip, easily dispelled any apprehension I held.
Not only were we greeted so hospitably in York, but in Edinburgh, Scotland, as well, where we arrived at the Ard Na Said just shy of dinnertime. Our hostess, a young adult dressed in torn blue jeans and a T-shirt, greeted us immediately upon our arrival. She promptly gave us our room key, asked if we were hungry and recommended a restaurant within walking distance.
“Oh, but you’ll need reservations,” she added. “Want me to call them for you and see what they have available for tonight?”
Travel-weary, my husband and I both just nodded.
The two of us leaned on our suitcase handles while she speedily tapped on the screen of her iPhone, my mind blown by the ease with which she was willing to assist us. A few short minutes later, she had secured reservations. We had enough time to deliver our bags to our room, splash some water on our faces and head back out.
At the White Lodge in Trim, Ireland, we again arrived just in time for dinner. This time, we’d already established we’d be eating at a restaurant a short distance from the house. As we were leaving to grab a bite, our host, assuming we would be out later than he would be awake, handed us a key to the front door and told us to just let ourselves back in once we returned.
Warm hospitality proved to be just one of the perks of staying in the guest houses. Doing so also afforded us the unique opportunity of staying in the residential areas of the places to which we traveled.
From our second-story bay window at the Ard Na Said, we watched as children made their way down the neighborhood sidewalks to school. Dressed in gold and burgundy with striped ties of the same colors, the children easily gave us a glimpse into the inspirations JK Rowling found in Edinburgh while penning the Harry Potter series.
At Brock’s Guest House in Bath, we were steps away from one of the three entrances to The Circus. Just down Brock Street in the other direction was The Royal Crescent. In walking to these places, as well as the Roman Baths, Pulteney Bridge and all of the gardens, we remained surrounded by honey-colored, 18th-century Georgian architecture.
Personal touches. Ideal settings. In the unexpected hospitality of our guest house hosts and in the ability to immerse ourselves in our residential surroundings, we were afforded opportunities that would have been lost had we stayed in hotels.
(Note: Marjorie Appelman is an English, communications and journalism teacher at Mason County High School and co-founder of the travel blog, Tales from the Trip, which is also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She can be reached at [email protected].)