Puttin’ on the Ritz

(Originally posted 9/1/2008, 4:26 p.m.)

I’m not one to show off and want only the most luxurious things in life. We live quite a simple, no-frills kind of life, actually. Yet, I do like nice, comfortable things, especially when it comes to temporary accomodations. I’ve slept in $400/night hotel rooms, and $49/night motel rooms. Although I don’t always prefer the former (and haven’t actually had those opportunities often), I’m also not always on the lookout for the latter. We don’t travel often, so when we do, I don’t mind spending somewhere in the middle; I don’t need the Ritz, but don’t give me Acme Motel, either.

On a short road trip this week, when our little family of four had to sleep in three different cities in three nights, I discovered—no, reaffirmed—a basic difference between Beloved Husband and me: He is more, er, how shall we put it, budget-conscious than I am. And I won’t say that he’s less refined, but let’s just say that little things bother him less than they do me. Little things like sticky carpets that make your feet feel grimy, or paint and grout chipped away in the bathroom. These are the sort of things that you get in cheap motel rooms.
(Okay, I have to admit though, that BH’s budget-conscious ways can yield funny anecdotes, such as the time he stayed at a cheap motel room in a small Quebec town, and when he went downstairs to ask for some shampoo for his room, was told to hold out his hand while the owner squirted it out. “C’est assez, ça?”. Thank goodness I was not there for that one.)

In Niagara Falls, ON on the first night of our trip, I would have happily settled for a middle-of-the-road establishment. Maybe not the Sheraton with a view of the Falls, like the first time we visited this tourist town in the off-season (goodness knows what the price would be now, smack in the middle of the tourist season), but a basic Travelodge or Quality Inn, somewhere in the $100/night range, conveniently on the main street. BH, however, is the type who will walk 15 minutes away in order to bring that price down, towing behind two young kids with tired legs. So we ended up in a decent motel room at the top of the street, for $69/night. It wasn’t dirty or shabby. It was well-kept by the older couple who ran it. It was also the type of place where previous lodgers must have been of the sticky-fingers variety, because we were handed our room key along with the tv remote control, such a precious commodity it was. It was sufficient. I didn’t shower here, mainly because I was too tired that first night.

The second night, in Windsor, our luck got worse. In checking hotel prices for BH, on foot, we went steadily from $129, to $99, to $85, to $64 for the night. Guess which one BH chose? Yup, this was the one with the sticky carpet. Now, I’m the type of person who goes barefoot indoors all the time, so I noticed this right away. Perhaps I’m more sensitive than my family members to carpet-stickiness—who knows? In any case, that, combined with the sagging mattress and chipping paint and grout, made this stay rather uncomfortable for me. Kids don’t mind this type of thing; they’re just happy to have the vacation experience. Budget-conscious husbands, of course, don’t mind. I did. I’m no princess on a pea, but needless to say, I had a terrible sleep. I didn’t shower here either, mainly because, well, I just couldn’t.

By the time we reached Ottawa, I was determined that I would not be in another Sticky Carpet Motel again. Ottawa, on the Labour Day weekend—this last hurrah of the summer for the live-for-the-long-weekend partying set—turned out to be absolutely packed. (Note to self and to others considering travelling to Ottawa: When going on the Labour Day weekend, as with the Canada Day weekend, book far, far in advance.) Told that “every hotel room in the city is booked” by either the partyers or the anxious parents helping their offspring get settled into university, we were satisfied to get whatever we could. So the Holiday Inn at $155/night, although considered a king’s ransom compared to the first two motel rooms, was just heavenly. I was happy that it wasn’t another cheapie motel for the third night in a row. BH was happy that there was an alternative to the $300/night Westin. And here, I had a lovely, luxuriating bath.

Such were our hotel/motel adventures on the Labour Day weekend. And by the end of this mini-adventure, I’m not going to say that I will pooh-pooh all motels. Some, like the one in Niagara Falls, can be quite decent, and if you’re only looking for a bed for one night, they’ll suffice. And the one positive thing about motels is that we’re more often than not supporting a small family business. But my only caveat with such places is to always ask to see the room first . . . and to keep your shoes on the whole time.

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