Friday, March 13, 2009

Different, but sort of the same

I'm back in Bath, and for the first time since before 1995 I am staying in a different hotel than before. Haydon House, my go-to B&B since 1995, closed last year, something I discovered when starting to make plans for this trip. Actually Haydon House had already pulled the rug out from under me in 2007, when I called to make a reservation and learned that former owners Gordon and Magdalena had sold the hotel and retired from the B&B business. The upstart new owners only lasted about 18 months before selling up. Apparently they couldn't hack in the B&B business. This decision came shortly after we stayed there in 2007. I'm not saying there's a connection. Not at all.

Anyhow, back in January I learned that I needed to find a new place to stay in Bath. The place I found was Meadowland Bed and Breakfast. I don't remember if I located it through Karen Brown or Alistair Sawday, but when I looked at the hotel website I knew I had found my replacement to Haydon House. Not only is Meadowland on the same street (Bloomfield Park), but in looking at the pictures of the bedrooms, sitting room, and general decor, I had a sense of déjà vu, as though I were looking at pictures of Haydon House with a slightly different colour scheme.

So I sent an email to book the rooms. There was a bit of confusion because Bank of America blocked my credit card when I tried to charge a deposit (they suspected fraud due to the foreign charges—aren't they used to me spending money in England by now?), but after some exchange of email and phone calls, the owner assured me our reservation was confirmed and he would let me know if there was any problem resending the credit card charge. I never heard anything more, and assumed all was sorted.

Today, however, I became paranoid that something might have gone wrong, that an email saying my card was denied had been overlooked, that we would arrive in Bath with no rooms for the weekend. This thought flickered in and out of my mind during the train ride to Bath, and the taxi ride up the hill to Bloomfield Park. As we passed other B&B's along the way I imagined myself calling them one by one, or going door to door as I did when looking for B&B's in college (a more frugal time in my life), hoping to find one not booked for the weekend of the half marathon.

But my fears were, happily, groundless. As the taxi driver piled our luggage on the sidewalk, the hotel owner, John, came around the corner. He did not say "who are you" as I feared he might, but welcomed us warmly.*

As we crossed the entryway into the foyer of the hotel—which was a large, elegant house—I knew I had made the right choice.

But fate had a little more coincidence in store for me. A couple of them, in fact. When I told John that we had stayed in Haydon House many times before, he said that he knew Gordon and Magdalena, in fact they still belonged to the same golf club. (He also filled us in on the fate of Haydon House. After the new owners decided to sell, it was purchased by someone now using it as a home instead of a hotel.)

Then, when I said I was here to run the half marathon, he told me that his son was running, and he himself had run it for ten years—"until it stopped being fun." Of course, being a runner, he asked me what I expected for a time. I admitted that I had low expectations... while I had been doing two hour halfs last year, I have slowed down so much, I have no idea what to expect. (Later he asked me if I was going to take a warm-up run today. I said I was resting my legs until Sunday, then wondered if perhaps I was wrong about that....)

Later in the evening we walked up (or down?) the road about three quarters of a mile to have dinner at a new little bistro that John recommended. I had a tasty gnocchi with butternut squash, courgette, and tomatoes (and about four pieces of bread). We may eat there again tomorrow night, even perhaps the same dish as a post run dinner. My parents and I like to eat, but we're not good about eating out in England (too cheap for restaurants, perhaps), and often as not find our meals at supermarkets and delis. On the night before a run I want to stay close to my bed!

Right now I'm at the pub next to the bistro, which has free wifi (yea!) and also serves food (although John recommended coming here for "refreshments" rather than meals). I suppose we could eat here tomorrow night as well... I would be fine company with my computer, wrapped up in email, Facebook, and blogging!

Tomorrow will be breakfast at the hotel, a leisurely day in Bath, and, hopefully, a good night's sleep before Sunday's run.

*He did, however, comment on the quantity of our luggage!

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