Carrie gazed into her martini glass before taking a sip of the citrine liquid it contained.
“That is really good,” she said. “What’s it called again?”
“A blueberry lemon drop martini,” Christina said as she wrapped fettuccini around her fork. “It is good, isn’t it?”
“Very. I’m glad you recommended it.”
“You can’t order one just anywhere. Another reason I’m glad I finally came by.”
Carrie and I had just been seated for dinner when Christina dropped in for her first visit to the club. A Georgia refugee like us, she readily joined us for some home-state story swapping.
“I grew up in Blue Ridge,” she told us.
“Fannin County,” I said, adding some extra ketchup to my burger. “I’ve been there many times. Wherever you are, you can’t get to Blue Ridge from there.”
“That’s the place,” Christina laughed. “I don’t ever go back. Small-town life is not for me. I like the city.”
The author of the bright and bouncy blog UGA Bama Belle, she left her hometown to settle in Birmingham after graduating from the University of Georgia. She’s presently the Magic City’s leading self-proclaimed hotel snob.
“Are you sure snob isn’t overstating it?” I asked diplomatically. “Perhaps it’s just that you have standards that are difficult to meet.”
“No, I’m a snob. And very proud of it. I insist on at least 450 thread count sheets and a personal concierge that’s a phone call away. I don’t care how tired I am, I will drive an hour out of my way down the road to find a Marriott if a hotel doesn’t meet my standards.”
“Wow. I thought I could be tough on a hotel,” Carrie said, clearly impressed. “You must have had a really bad experience somewhere.”
Christina finished her martini. Currie appeared with a replacement before she’d returned the glass to the table.
“I’ll tell you about a trip I took when I was 19 or 20, and this may be where my snobbery comes from. It was a road trip with friends, and we stopped at a hotel along the way, a local motor inn.”
“It was horrid. It had orange shag carpet on the floor and the walls. The linens were stained. I don’t think the room had been cleaned in a year. I know the carpet hadn’t been cleaned since 1972. I can vividly remember the way the room smelled. There are no words to describe it in any language.”
“You probably didn’t sleep at all that night.”
“Absolutely not. We were all on edge because we didn’t wan t to lie on the bed, but we didn’t want to lie on the floor either because we were sure at any moment that bugs would come crawling out from everywhere. And besides that, the hotel was right beside a railroad track. When a train came by, it would shake the whole place.”
As it was evident our friend still carried scars from the experience, Carrie allowed her a moment before offering a sympathetic remark.
“No, wait, there’s more,” Christina said after some blueberry lemon drop fortification. “My rule of no outside doors also comes from that hotel.”
“No outside doors?”
“I decided on that trip as a broke college kid that I would never again stay at a place where the room doors opened to the outside. To get to that room, we had to walk around to the back, go under a dark stairwell, and by the time we got there, I fully expected to open the door and have a man jump out with a chainsaw.”
“But they don’t let chainsaw killers stay at the Marriott, huh?” I asked.
“Haven’t met one there yet. I’ve never gone wrong at a Marriott property, and I love the Elite Member upgrades.”
I don’t know that such a perk would have made my worst hotel horror story any better. I was in London for a three-night stay at The Crofton, a converted flat in a quiet Kensington neighborhood a few doors down from the Iraqi Embassy.
It was my first experience with a typical European hotel, and its shortcomings were all the more apparent because I’d spent the two previous nights at The Ellersly House, a charming hotel in a glorious old Edwardian country house in Edinburgh.
I wasn’t thrilled about having to share accommodations at The Crofton with two traveling companions, Chuck and Jeff, and was even less thrilled after we’d dragged our luggage up three flights of stairs and saw the room.
It wasn’t much larger than a broom closet, but a bigger problem was that, while there were three of us, it only contained two single beds. Jeff, who was more concerned about making time with a girl he’d met in the bar, dropped his bags off and left to find her, leaving me and Chuck contemplating sleeping arrangements.
“How about this?” Chuck proposed. “First two people in the room get the beds.”
“Fine by me.” I wasn’t planning on going anywhere that night, so I knew I’d be guaranteed one. Chuck felt good about his chances too, since rooming with Jeff earlier in the trip had acquainted him with Jeff’s penchant for staying out until 4 or 5 a.m.
Before Chuck left to go out, we pushed the room’s two hardback chairs together, threw a sheet over them, and added blanket and pillow, thinking that having to sleep on the chairs would really teach Jeff a lesson.
I read until midnight and didn’t wake up when Chuck came in later. In the morning, we found Jeff covered with the blanket and stretched out across the hard chairs, fast asleep.
“What time did you get in?” Chuck asked him when he woke up.
“About 4:30. And thanks, guys. I really appreciate you fixing this up for me. That was nice.”
He slept on those chairs until we left London.
Christina smiled and shook her head as she skewered more chicken fettuccini.
“You should’ve stayed at a Marriott.”