Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Samuel Adams Showered Here

Boston, it turns out, is an expensive place to stay.

Will and I have a basic theory when it comes to travel: the accommodations should be clean, somewhat quiet and close to public transportation. The rest – a comfortable mattress, a soaker shower head – is only a bonus. Last summer, we spent a night in a room approximately the size of a small walk-in closet in Stratford-upon-Avon, so small that only one of us could be standing at a time, and the other had to curl up on the twin-sized mattress or wait in the hallway. And yet we shrugged, laughed, spent that last day trekking through the countryside to Anne Hathaway’s cottage and allowed ourselves to be regaled again by the Royal Shakespeare Company at night.

As we travel, we constantly store up the small details that will make their way into Will’s review on TripAdvisor – the friendliness of the proprietors, the promise of the venue versus its reality. If it doesn’t work for us, we’re going to warn others away. If it meets all our needs, we pass on the tip to other bargain-hunters.

After much searching through Boston’s pricier hotels, we found ours. Not a hotel, technically, but a small apartment – one of a series of small apartments, etc., controlled by a single company. It boasted a bedroom, living/dining room, pocket kitchen and a full bath, close to the orange and green lines of Boston’s T.

“It’s received some mixed reviews,” Will admitted as we pulled our suitcases along cobblestone streets.

“Well, we won’t spend much time in it, anyway,” I assured him.

There were a few bumps to begin with – the man at the front desk had a difficult time locating our reservation, although it was directly in front of him on the desk. He insisted we pay in advance, but then seemed reluctant to return my Visa. We were given keys to open the front door of an apartment building a few blocks away, but once we’d located the address, the room number on the key didn’t match any of the room numbers in the building. Will called and an employee came down with replacement keys.

And then there was the smell. I’ve taught public school for eight years, so it’s a smell I immediately identified – mold.

“The carpet is wet,” Will marveled, stepping out of his shoes. That turned out to be no great mystery – to survive in an apartment with non-functional windows during a Boston summer, the swamp cooler was an immediate necessity. Everything in its path – an expanse of Berber, the contents of our suitcases – quickly became damp.

I don’t know what was worse – the pungent mold stench that hit us fresh each time we entered the apartment, or the fact that in five minutes our nostrils had adjusted and the smell seemed completely normal. Each morning, we went through a five-minute nose-blowing (me) and coughing (Will) routine that could not have been healthy.

It was an odd set-up – we returned from a sweaty circuit of the Freedom Trail to find our bed made, although nothing else had been touched. A small loop of my hair was still in the drain, our towels still wet and crumpled. I popped a Fanta into the freezer for a quick chill and the freezer handle came right off – it was affixed with nothing stronger than a swab of rubber cement. At night we cuddled up on the vinyl couch in front of a flat-screen TV, the experience somewhat muffled by the fact that the volume had to be at its highest level to counteract the swamp cooler. Last night, wending our way to Legal Sea Foods, we passed a Marriott, Sheridan, Westin and The Colonnade, laughing. This morning, I made a concerted effort not to notice the way the plaster above the shower enclosure was peeling, or the way the bathtub seemed to list to one side, ready to drift down the Charles River, maybe. It’s an old building, I reminded myself. Besides, the founding fathers had to deal with much worse – no taxation without representation, massacres, etc.

So we shrugged it off – the location is good, the price is right and changing hotels would be a huge hassle at this point. Anyway, we were less than a day from our train to New York and our completely honest review on TripAdvisor.

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