Welcome to day 12 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“I love hotels for their solitude and comfort, but I believe a seedy one can have as much promise as a plush one.” — Freema Agyeman (actress)
When I booked the Sea Whale Motel in Middletown, Rhode Island, I had slight idea what we were getting. The online reviews were pretty good, but with a few dark negatives. We’d never been to this area, except passing through nearby on train, and though I knew Newport was classier, dressier, and much more expensive than I wanted, I worried that this little motel, on a main road, cheaper than almost any other accommodation in the vicinity, would fail to satisfy. I thought it might be sketchy, seedy, scary. Or located in some remote place that made it impossible to get anywhere without headache.
I worried for naught. Oh, it was slightly seedy, but in an upper-class sort of way.
Really, it wasn’t seedy at all. It’s waterfront, on Easton Pond where the drinking water comes from (along with adjoining Green End Pond). Easton Pond leads to Easton Bay and from there to the ocean. It’s only a mile or so to the Cliff Walk in Newport, and it’s easy to get to Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton, Jamestown, and the Kingstowns from here. The place is a real mom-and-pop motel; the owners were present every day, at the front desk, doing laundry, watering plants, just walking the grounds and chatting.
I enjoyed sitting outside in the adirondack chairs, watching the red-winged blackbirds in the mornings, and the ruddy ducks, which I hadn’t seen before.
We visited in May this year, when it was a little chilly to lounge outside except bundled in layers, but the deck is a nice feature for warmer weather.
The view from the deck to the pond (Newport to the left):
And from the lawn to the ponds:
Exterior (we were upstairs, with a deck):
The inside was perfectly motelish, with wifi that worked and two places to sit with computers. There were two entry doors from the outside, one in the front of the motel (off Route 138A) and the other in the back off the deck, above the parking lot.
The Sea Whale was actually a nice unassuming respite in between bouts of fancy dining,
visiting an upscale auto museum,
visiting the Portuguese Discovery Monument,
and driving hither and thither looking for some place we might want to live. It wasn’t plush but it gave us more than it promised, which is high praise for an unknown roadside motel.
Welcome to day 11 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
This must be a special class of heterotopia: hotels and motels that one sees, admires, perhaps even tours, but in which one never actually spends a night. I mean, talk about ships that pass, a crossroads of the familiar + unfamiliar, a place that’s also a non-place, a threshold that one walks right up to — but doesn’t cross; or does cross, and then crosses right back.
This is the Hampton Inn & Suites, on Amelia Island (Fernandina), Florida, Dec. 2016. Those sherbet colours!
Here’s the Norseman Inn, on a spit of land at Ogunquit, Maine, June 2015.
I’ve eaten at the Bohemian Inn in Savannah, GA — Christmas breakfast one year, a dinner another year, drinks at Rocks on the River another year — but I’ve never stayed in the hotel. I’d like to but I am in love with the HIX there.
The Westin on Jekyll Island, GA, is new-ish (2014?). It’s always been rather empty when I’ve been there.
This little Lighthouse Motel right on the beach in Pine Point (Scarborough), Maine was renovated recently and is now the Lighthouse Suites. It looks great. I’d like to stay here sometime.
This is a Westin hotel in Savannah, GA, across the river from downtown Savannah; you can take a commuter ferry that runs every 20 minutes between it and downtown Savannah. I’ve taken the ferry a number of times, just for the fun of it, but never stayed in the hotel; it seems a bit inconvenient unless you’re attending a conference there.
And finally, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, an iconic place to stay on Jekyll Island, GA, but though we’ve been visiting the island since the 1990s, we’ve never stayed here. We have had a few Christmas brunches, some other meals, and a tour of the hotel, however. Looks nice!
I can’t wait to not stay at some other hotels and motels!
Featured image is Holiday Inn at Jekyll Island, GA.
Welcome to day 10 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“Any considered motel nomenclature would begin by marking the impermanence that tends to define these roadside accommodations. There are so many examples to cite of this possible taxonomy that you might lose an entire evening in front of a screen searching words like “rainbow,” “breeze,” “wind,” “wave,” “surf,” “sleep,” and “shore.”
“But what of the preponderance of sand? There’s so much dust caught up in the history of the motel. The chief trait of sand is its very insignificance. Like a one-storey L-shaped structure set against the enormity of the American landscape, it’s not something that tends to occupy one’s attention. It lacks both financial and intrinsic value.
“It bears our footprints as we walk through it before a gentle breeze erases our trace in much the same way that the former presence of a traveller is extinguished by the motel cleaning staff at 11 a.m. following a night’s stay. …
“Homogeneous and basic, but also ubiquitous, the motel will eventually be consumed by itself, as the life of convenience and mobility it promised accelerates like a sand storm to envelope our entire way of life. As it is gradually buried, we’re moving too fast to even notice.” (from “On the Preponderance of Sand Name Hotels,” at Motel Register on Tubmlr)
The insignificance of sand is debatable of course. Sand, as beach, seems intrinsically valuable to me (and others: see end of “The World is Running Out of Sand” by David Owen in the 29 May 2017 New Yorker for discussion of sand loss and sand replenishment, relating to Hurricane Sandy), but sand used by the construction industry has historically been of economically low value, e.g., averaging $4.81 per ton in 2000; however, the rise of “frac sand” — sand used in the fracking process: “Oil and gas drillers inject large quantities of hard, round sand into fracked rock formations in order to hold the cracks open, like shoving a foot in the door” — has increased the price of sand. In 2014, it reached between $60-70 per ton; as of this spring it was back to about $40 per ton (per WSJ), ten times its price almost 20 years ago but still so cheap, relatively, that “transporting sand and stone for ordinary construction becomes uneconomical after about sixty miles.”
Still. One could imagine the same being said of each of us not long after our deaths, that we were impermanent and insignificant. Come to think of it, if there is someone to say it it might be said of the human species a few hundred or thousand years from now, that homo sapiens were ubiquitous, impermanent, and in the end, insignificant in the scheme of time. A thought to ponder next time you’re in The Sands, the Sleep Inn, the Autumn Breeze motel, the Summer Breeze motel, or my usual staying-over spot in Rockland, Maine, the Trade Winds Inn. (I wonder what the wind is worth. To a sailing ship, everything.)
We were there for a day or two and then we were gone.
Welcome to day 9 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” ― Henry James,
I mentioned earlier that there are six motels/hotels that we (spouse and I) stay at over and over, in Savannah, Boston, Middlebury VT, Orleans MA, Boothbay ME, and Ogunquit ME, and I profiled the one in Savannah, the Holiday Inn on E. Bay St., in that post.
Today, let’s check out — or check into — The Middlebury Inn, in Middlebury, Vermont, home of Middlebury College.
The Middlebury Inn is actually both an inn, in an historic building with a lovely lobby, quirky old elevator with a staffed operator, and tea service every afternoon, and a motel adjacent, where pets are allowed. We’ve stayed in both sections, the motel when travelling with dogs and the inn when not. I didn’t take photos of the motel, though, except a blurry one of the dog on the carpet. The rooms are not all that different from those in the inn.
The lobby is airy, cozy, welcoming.
Here’s an upstairs corridor in the inn:
Some room shots, in different rooms over three years:
As usual, for us and I imagine other travellers, location is key, and the Middlebury Inn is right in the middle of this small college town, across from the town green and Episcopal church,
… a short walk to the supermarket, to Fire and Ice (our favourite restaurant in town),
… and to the downtown/Otter Falls/Frog Hollow area, with the Edgewater Gallery (we have a few pieces of art in the house from Edgewater),
… more restaurants and coffee shops — Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe, 51 Main, Storm Cafe, The Diner —
the Vermont Book Shop, a stationers, a small cinema, an old-fashioned Ben Franklin’s 5&10, clothing shops (I buy clothes and Christmas gifts at Sweet Cecily), and other boutiques.
It’s also walkable to the Marble Works businesses, which includes the Stone Leaf Tea House that we love love love,
… and to Danforth Pewter, where many Christmas gifts for friends and family have been purchased over the years (ornaments and earrings, mostly).
Otter Creek Brewing is just a short drive away.
And probably most importantly, the Inn is centrally located for walking/hiking the Trails Around Middlebury, which is what occupies most of our time when we’re visiting the area.
Below are some photos from some of the TAM trails over the years, all hiked between end of the October and the beginning of December. (I have no idea what Middlebury looks like in the spring or summer. For us, it’s a fall-winter tourist town.)
The [Middlebury] Class of ’97 Trail
Johnson Trail (all 24 Nov. 2016)
Chipman Trail (first, 24 Nov. 2016; the rest, 2 Nov. 2015)
Battell Nature Park (first three, 24 Nov. 2016; last 31 Oct. 2015)
Otter Creek Trail (29 Nov. 2013)
Wright Park (27 Nov. 2016)
Murdock Nature Preserve (1 Nov. 2015
Means Nature Preserve (24 Nov 2016)
Jackson Trail – obviously a favourite
As always when travelling, what’s nice is coming back to the comforts, even luxuries, and the privacy of the hotel, motel, or inn. At the Middlebury Inn, that pleasure is doubled when returning for a little nap in the room before afternoon tea in the spacious and well-lit lobby.
I’ve blogged before (One Hidden Self, June 2015 — last section of post) about The Wells Reserve at Laudholm, in Wells, Maine. Laudholm is a special place, managing 2,250 coastal Maine acres, comprised of woods, meadows and grasslands (its “uplands include one of southern Maine’s largest managed grasslands”), saltmarshes, boardwalks, and beaches, with arts installations and frequent events held there — it’s very tempting to make the drive for the Guided Forest Bathing Walk coming up on 28 Oct! As a National Estuarine Research Reserve, it manages and performs research in three estuaries — the Webhannet River estuary, the Little River estuary, and the Ogunquit River estuary.
It’s a place I’ve visited often in the last 23 years, since moving to northern New England. Especially when we lived in Maine, it was a go-to spot for wooded trail walks (7 miles of trails) combined with beach walks where in the right season you can see (from a respectful distance) nesting piping plovers and least terns, and it offers interesting terrain for snowshoeing in winter. We’re still members, and these days, though we live two hours away, I try to visit a few times each year, usually when we’re in Ogunquit or Kennebunk for a little holiday or when I am heading home from my monthly bookgroup on Maine’s midcoast; and that’s how it was that I visited about a week ago, both Laudholm and the Rachel Carson Preserve close to it.
An 65-piece outdoor sculpture exhibition (26 May – 16 Oct), called Power of Place, lined the Knight and Barrier Beach trails, both of which lead to the beach, and a few were set in other spots on the ground. I probably saw half of them.
I particularly liked “Vulture” by Patrick Plourde. I heard some folks walking by, commenting, “It’s a bird.”
Late September, the start of fall, and it felt like it: though temps were in the 70s, autumn staples like apples, asters, bittersweet, and Japanese barberry were all flourishing. These last two, Asiatic bittersweet (Celastris orbiculata) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), are invasive, choking out native plants; Laudholm has been trying to manage barberry for at least 20 years (one example).
The wooded and open trails were also filled with ferns, some browning and yellowing, and mossy roots, yellowing grasses, fallen leaves, pine needles, milkweed plants, some bog cotton, butterflies.
“Part of what makes roads, trails and paths unique as built structures is that they cannot be perceived as a whole all at once by a sedentary onlooker. They unfold in time as one travels along them …. ” ― Rebecca Solnit,
I like seeing old wolf trees, a white pine here, in managed woods.
The path to the saltmarsh, lined with tall grasses, is one of my favourite places to be.
I was here:
And the beach, which is on Drake’s Island. Lots of gulls, not many people. Low tide. Just beautiful, mind-soothing, regenerative.
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads. It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.” ― Anthony Doerr,
It is a pleasant feeling to be the first to walk on sands which the tide has just left. It is like being the first to visit a new land. It produces a freshness of sensation something akin to that of early morning, or of spring. It is like entering upon a new stage of life, having a new world before us from which to receive, and upon which to make impressions. ~ Henry James Slack, The Ministry of the Beautiful, “Conversation II: Footsteps on the Sand” (1850)
Welcome to day 8 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Then there’s sex. Usually better in a motel or hotel than at home, but why? Boundary blurring of private-public? Some kind of taboo related to adultery (commonly practiced in motel rooms exactly because they’re not quite private or public), a trespass (temporary usage of a space that’s not mine), that sense of anonymity or of feeling I’m not quite the me I usually am (or that you are not quite your ordinary you) — are we idealised and idealising, or is it just that the thought of a stranger is more exciting than the familiarity of each other? Is it that it’s a break in the routine, whether a different time, the different place, different bed, or some other aspect? A reminder of brothels and motels that can be rented for an hour, even if you’re there for three days on a straightforward business trip or for a funeral?
“… the North American roadside, a place underwritten by the values and desires of a cultural system that anxiously balances the competing aims of instant gratification and moral purity.” (at Motel Register, on “Dreamland Motels” and Freud)
Elizabeth Hornbeck, in her essay on Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel in his novel The Shining (in Stephen King and Philosophy, Jacob Held, 2016), is articulate in her description of hotels as places, heterotopias, where non-normative and transgressive acts can occur, activity that subverts normal social roles and rules. She notes first that Michel Foucault “describes motel rooms as heterotopias ‘where illicit sex is totally protected and totally concealed at one and the same time, set apart and yet not under an open sky.'”
“While Foucault does not mention hotels in his essay [“The Order of Things,” in which he does mention brothels], they satisfy his description of the heterotopia of deviance because of the unique kind of social space they offer. Hotels bring together individuals whose paths might not normally cross, and they create relationships and social hierarchies new to those individuals — relationships and hierarchies that do not always correspond to the individuals’ ‘normal’ relationships outside the hotel. In subverting the status quo, they are fundamentally political spaces in the broadest sense. …
“The family home … constrains the parent-child relationship, the spousal relationship, intergenerational relationships, and so forth, all according to socially defined roles. Breaking away from those norms is facilitated by leaving the normative space of ‘home’ and entering the subversive space of heterotopia. …. Heterotopias undermine our sense of ordering, defining, and understanding, and hence to some extent controlling, the spaces we occupy. Unlike their counterparts, normative spaces, heterotopias are spaces where the transgressive can take place without censure.”
“Magic fingers” were all the rage at the classy places we went to as kids on family trips.
My sisters and I always put quarters in the slot and enjoyed the good vibrations. I shudder when I think about what was probably on the sheets and comforters. (The Flamingo Motel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho had some of the last working units in 2012, still only 25 cents a go.)
I’m pretty sure I also know what’s floating around in the “jacuzzi built for two” and it’s not any kind of aphrodisiac. (This International Inn & Suites is in Hyannis, Cape Cod, MA. Their URL is “cuddles.com”)
“Hotel rooms constitute a separate moral universe.'”– Tom Stoppard
It’s not exactly a motel, but it may as well be: This scene with Goldie Hawn and Dudley Moore in Foul Play is a gleaming model for all things sleazy motelish. The liquor cabinet and bad drinks, the strobing lights, the BeeGees, the sudden arrival of the sex dolls, the naked women paintings and the porn film projected on the wall, the heralded hidden bed and mirrored neon-lights ceiling, tambourines, binoculars, his coy preening and prancing. Then his utter humiliation and shame when he’s scolded and the lights come on. It’s a classic!
Welcome to day 7 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society. (More about heterotopias and liminal spaces.) Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Being in a foreign place, preferably for the first time, having seen many things and collected new impressions, and returning to an empty hotel room with an hour or so to blow. That mix often yields fine results. — Stefan Sagmeister
Yes, it does, and here’s another thing that can yield fine results: Being in a familiar place, even a place of childhood, having seen many things and collected many impressions, having emotionally compressed past, present, and future into one sticky toffee, returning to an empty hotel room with an hour or so to blow.
Specifically: After spending an intense day or two with family for a sister’s 50th birthday celebration in Virginia,
with a visit on the way to meet your favourite Hannah Banana bulldog (may she rest in peace) and her brother, Tank, and her mother, Kim, in Charlottesville,
then a week exploring your most favourite spot in the world (Jekyll Island, GA) with just your spouse,
with an utterly perfect side trip to Fernandina Island, FL to spend time with a good friend who’s moved too far away,
then a 9-hour car trip back to Richmond, Virginia — to visit a botanical garden before returning the rental car and boarding the train in the late afternoon for the trip back to Boston (an overnight journey) — to arrive there tired and anxious from the harrowing rainstruck highway through the Carolinas, later than expected without food breaks, ordering ahead online (still on the highway) from your phone, from the familiar and comforting Olive Garden menu, dashing in to pick up the food in a torrential rain storm, and arriving a few minutes later at a decent-enough chain hotel — one you’ve stayed in several times in the past, including before and after funerals, before and after weddings, before and after other intense family events that take a psychic and physical toll, despite joy, love, history, because of history, patterns, the way time unfolds — to eat and rest. Only to eat,
in your room with its “Do Not Disturb” tag hanging on the doorknob, and only to rest, mindless, knowing that no one else knows you’re here and no one will come bother you, need anything, expect anything. And that there is no routine for you to adhere to. Ahhh.
Then, to get back to the quote above, in those moments you may dwell in the midst of possibility, gratitude for friends and family, reluctance and anticipation of returning home, longing for the beach and the south and the simple condo and anonymity and every-day discovery and wonder, longing for close friends to be closer, longing for exactly where you are and what you’re doing. Shaken, stirred, it’s still a fine result.
Chain motels and chain restaurants can nourish, recharge, shelter and bring comfort. Bless them.