I continue to dread each one - and continue to be proven completely wrong in my predisposition against such arrangements - which only serves to weaken each future argument against choosing another.
And now it has happened again.
We planned to spend just two days in Arequipa, so I figured I could gut this one out, even if only to finally score a point. This time I was certain my initial hesitancy would be proven correct and I would gain valuable capital for future debates over potential hotel arrangements.
I was dubious - to put it mildly. Just not the kind of arrangement someone as anti-social as me should get involved with.
But relationships are built on compromise, so with that in-mind, I gulped and mumbled a somewhat less than enthusiastic - adalante.
Wllkommen bei Arequipa
Lula's is run by a husband/wife couple out of their modern, top floor apartment in a gated complex a mile or so from Arequipa's central Plaza de Armas.
We were met at the airport by the husband - and this was my first surprise. A tall, gray-haired Gringo man in his mid-60's, rather stern looking on first-impression, greeted us in German-accented French with a hearty Bonjour. Hmmm. Not really the Peruvian experience I had envisioned.
As he drove us to the B&B, we began exploring which language would be our chosen form of communication. My girlfriend's native French, Max's adopted Spanish, or my English. This exploration was never fully resolved - and at some point German and Portuguese were added to the mix. I speak elements of several - Max is completely fluent in each. Hmmm. Intriguing indeed.
Home Sweet Home
Arriving at the B&B building, we huffed and puffed our way to the top floor to discover a lovely and very home-style apartment with a wonderful view of the surrounding neighborhoods and terraced farm fields. Spacious, with a comfortably furnished living room and adjacent dining area as you enter.
From here a small spiral-staircase leads to the second floor where the guest facilities are located. This is actually two rooms; the main bedroom, small but adequate, with a very comfortable queen-sized bed, desk, TV (with international cable channels), and a smaller adjacent room with a twin-sized bed and plenty of closet space. A door in the main bedroom leads to the private bathroom and shower.
Next to the guest quarters is another doorway that leads to the large outdoor terrace which both overlooks the surrounding area and gives a quite spectacular view of the looming Andes. In-fact, El Misti Volcano seems close enough to touch.
And it is here that our private breakfast was served each morning. Max presents you with a menu as part of your arrival orientation - and you select which items you'd like the following morning. The selection is wide - and the final result excellent.
As we prepared to leave for our first full day in Arequipa, Max quizzed us as to what we'd like for dinner that evening. I mentioned that I am a vegetarian - well, a vegan to be precise - but am flexible while traveling. Pork - no. Fish or chicken - in the spirit of adaptability - no problem. And with that we were off.
Upon returning that evening for dinner - the social part of our stay began. We finally met Lula, the wife half of the team and namesake of the B&B.
Lula is a charming 50-something Arequipa born Peruvian woman who also runs a Spanish language school during the day. And like her polyglot husband, speaks a variety of languages.
Max is the chef of the house, and the kitchen is the nerve-center for the evening. We were introduced to our first ever Pisco Sour (in a word - Mmmm) as an aperitif while Max cooked - and conversed. A former UN official and economist, Max and Lula have lived all over the world - and been involved in fascinating events in each locale.
As a writer and one time history teacher, I usually do not find it very difficult to hold my own in discussions of travel, politics, social-issues, and the like; the standard fare at traveler's dinner tables. But after 10 minutes of talking with Max, I knew I was completely overmatched.
An evening with Max is to be in the presence of a true Renaissance man. And not a shy one. Max not only has opinions and views on everything - but informed opinions and views, usually based in concrete, first-hand experience.
Half-way through our dinner preparations one of Lula's students dropped by; a young Czech world traveler camped for a while in Arequipa to learn Spanish. Then Max's Peruvian handy man arrived, a nattily dressed, thoughtful young man who seemed to be a master of everything practical in life - and totally charming. Then Lula left for a bit to walk the dog. Eventually we all decamped to the dining room to eat.
In other words - dinner was an event. With discussions ranging from the difficulties in rebuilding war-torn Kosovo, to the syntactic particularities of French, Spanish, and Serbo-Croation, to the economic theories of availability bias, and even why global-warming may save, instead of threaten, the Earth.
I was even joyfully reintroduced to the musically intellectual wit of Tom Lehrer after a hiatus of many years. And in many ways - dinner with Max is very much akin to an evening with Mr. Lehrer. You are treated to a wide-ranging discussion of fascinating and expertly understood subjects that leave you thoughtful, slightly humbled - and thoroughly amused. And occasionally devilishly perplexed - as if listening to Mr. Lehrer explain New Math (see below).
So the moral of the story? Well - I've completely abandoned all future attempts to avoid B&B's and social interaction in my future travels - that's for sure.
Why? Because I now realize that my previous preference for regular hotels over B&B's was simply based upon my more extensive familiarity with the regular; not on bad B&B experiences. It was a bias born of available information; that is, an availability bias. A concept, by the way, that I was completely ignorant of until that dinner with Max.
Second moral of the story; my girlfriend has finally triumphed.
And I'm glad.
Lula's B&B is an absolute treasure - and if your travels take you to Arequipa, don't pass it by.