Saturday, January 30, 2010

Don't judge a place by its website

"You decide where we stay and make the arrangements," Richard said when I started to get excited about our trip to New York. We were going to be heading to Connecticut for a screening of my film at the Rockstone and Bootheel exhibition and I'd decided that it would be a gentle denouement to our New York trip, if we spent some time at a cozy inn or bed and breakfast. I got to searching on the internet - Bed and Breakfasts, Connecticut - and almost immediately came upon Butternut Farm. Here's one example of not judging a place by its website! The site was fairly dreadful - low-res photos, badly laid out. But I read through the entire site, realising that it was still run by owner, Don Reid; it was full of antiques, had been lovingly restored, was affordable and within 15 minutes drive of Hartford.

There wasn't an e mail address for making contact, so I called instead. Don answered the phone - the quiet voice of an older man. I told him who I was and where I was calling from. I gave him the dates I'd like to come. He asked why I was coming and I explained my film was going to be screened etc. I told him my boyfriend was a designer whose work was part of the exhibition. He seemed interested to learn more about us, but explained that he hadn't decided if he was going to be in the US in January, so could I call back in mid-December? I have to admit: I was a bit irritated by his request. Didn't he want my business? Why did I have to call him back, why couldn't he call me? Didn't he know there were a million other places I could stay instead of his?

"Okay," I said. "But could you make a note of my name and the dates?"

"Sure," he said. I gave him my information and decided I would wait till December to call him back, rather than search out other accommodations. I can be very impatient when I feel like it, so accepting the delay was a leap for me. But there was something about the dated website, the grainy photos and the reticent Don on the other end of the phone that made me decide - paradoxically - that this was the place for us.

And let me tell you - I was absolutely right! When I called back in December, Don answered the phone with, "Hello Mariel!" He'd remembered me and kept my number. He'd decided not to go anywhere in January (by this time it had become abundantly clear that it was going to be a hard winter) and he'd be delighted to welcome Richard and I on the 15th. Every time I called him after that, he spoke to me with a gentle familiarity, as though we'd known each other for years. So much so, that when Richard and I ended up staying longer in Salem than I'd expected, I called Don to let him know we'd be late - just in case he had errands he wanted to do.

It was cold and dark when we arrived at the farm. The settled snow was a strange pale blue in the night, and it muffled the sounds of Main Street just beyond the garden. Don and Irving greeted us warmly at the door, and we walked into probably the loveliest guest house I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

Photos taken by Richard Rawlins and Mariel Brown, with the permission of Don Reid.

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