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frank bab1


Staying at a bed and breakfast (B&B) is not for everyone. It takes a bit of a leap of faith, and more than a little effort to be sociable. So if you’re really not a morning person, and just want to be left alone while you eat breakfast, you’re better off staying at the Hilton, Holiday Inn, or any of the other cookie-cutter hotel room providers. But if you are up for a bit of adventure, and just love meeting new, interesting people, there’s nothing like a B&B. Recently, I was reading that in the 19th century many inns did not provide private rooms. Strangers shared rooms, and even in some cases, they shared beds. Meals were, of course, communal.

Well. 21st century B&Bs have maintained the shared meals and shared living rooms, but the rooms in most B&Bs are now private, and come with private bathrooms. Yet it is the communal part of the B&B experience that makes it special. My wife and I were in our 50s when we tried our first B&B.

It was a wonderful home in Bennington, Vermont called The Four Chimneys. We had some trepidation about how communal an experience this would be. We quickly found out that at a B&B you can be as social or as unsocial as you want. Those who want to keep to themselves can do so. But the real fun is sitting around the communal living room and meeting the other guests. Invariably we had met fascinating people, and had a great time. Some B&Bs are just large, old houses that the owner sets up for guests. You stay in a guest bedroom; you eat in the dining room; you hang out in the living room of what was once a normal house. Newer B&Bs are built almost like a hotel with all the modern amenities except that care is taken not to get larger than a large house. So typically, there are five or fewer bedrooms.

One B&B we stayed at in Mendocino, California, the MacCallum House, had both the old-fashioned-house guest rooms, as well as a newly-constructed annex. Mendocino is one of those places that are full of B&Bs. Most recently, we stayed at a new B&B in Williamstown, Mass., up near the Vermont border. It was called Journey’s End, and I hesitate to mention it because I fear I may never be able to get a reservation again once people discover it.

Journey’s End is a beautiful new construction B&B. It’s a log cabin on a hill with a gorgeous view of the Berkshires. The people we met there were mostly over-50 travelers, so we had a lot in common. But probably the best thing at Journey’s End is the food that Carlos feeds his guests for breakfast. That’s something that’s common to all B&Bs. You get a real home-cooked meal every morning. B&Bs are perfect for making you feel like you’re at home while you’re on the road. I recommend them to all over 50 travelers who may be looking for a cross between a motel and the youth hostels we stayed in while backpacking 40 years ago. A B&B provides a great communal traveling experience but with private rooms. It’s the best of both worlds.