Myrtle Beach Days

Welcome to day 29 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.  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 grew up going to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for summer vacations with my dad and sisters, and in recent years we (spouse and I) have considered retiring in that area, so in June 2014 we stayed in a condo there for a couple of days to look around at houses and amenities and get a feel for the place now.

When we went, three summers ago, we reserved a one-bedroom oceanfront condo at the Wyndham Towers on the Grove in NMB three weeks ahead of time for $255 per night. Looks like about the same pricing for June 2018. Off-season prices are quite low, with availability of $102 per night for a 1-BR oceanfront, and for a week around Christmas (18-26 Dec), a 1-BR oceanfront is going for $62/night! Hmmm ….


The Wyndham Towers on the Grove is actually a timeshare condo building, and when we checked in we could have had a reduction in cost and some goodies if we sat through a sales pitch for one. Having done the condo-sales-pitch thing once before in New Orleans (hours of my life that I will never get back), and with only 2 days to spend here, we decided against it. (We’re not looking for a condo to retire to, particularly not one that’s a quasi-hotel.)

As a hotel, the place is fabulous. It’s on the beach. View from room:


The hotel room is really two full, separated rooms plus a real kitchen with stovetop and oven, dishwasher, sink, cabinets (with bowls, plates, glasses in them), fridge, microwave, coffee maker, etc. The bedroom is the first room you walk into (in ours; layout varies by unit), then through the galley kitchen to a living room and balcony overlooking the ocean and the pools below — there are outdoor heated pools, a hot tub, plus a lazy river partly underneath the building.


In all, the space was almost 400 square feet, with two TVs and a washer and dryer in the unit. The wifi worked well once we got some kinks ironed out. Parking in a big garage across the street was a bit of a pain, but that inconvenience was totally offset by having the washer and dryer in our condo.

view from living room into kitchen (door between), and bedroom is beyond. Note washer/dryer!!! And you can see the handle for the pull-down Murphy bed should it be needed.


In Myrtle Beach — part of the 60-mile Grand Strand — the beach is the thing and that’s where we spent most of our time when we weren’t driving through neighbourhoods looking at houses.

beach looking north, 8:30 a.m., 22 June 2014
underside of live worm on beach, 22 June 2014
brown pelicans in flight, 21 June 2014
beach looking south, 8:30 a.m., 22 June 2014
view of Wyndham Towers from beach, 21 June 2014

As I recall, from the condo we could walk to a grocery, a couple of restaurants, a few souvenir shops.


It’s much quieter in North Myrtle Beach than in Myrtle Beach proper. A drive from the hotel but still in the North Myrtle Beach area are ziplining (Go Ape in Little River, SC), mini-golf, arcades, bowling, a winery, music shows, a small boardwalk, and Barefoot Landing, a sort of golf resort and upscale eating/shopping area — with 100 stores, restaurants, and attractions — that’s also home to Alligator Adventure and Alabama Theater. We ate at the Joe’s Crab Shack there.


And of course Myrtle Beach itself has the boardwalk and is an extravaganza of amusement parks, the Skywheel, Ripley’s Believe it or Not franchises (Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium museum, Aquarium, 5D Moving Theater, Haunted Adventure, and Marvelous Mirror Maze), pirate-themed attractions, museums, outlet shopping, eating, brewpubs, beachfront bars, golfing (including many mini-golf and par-3 courses), on and on. Broadway on the Boardwalk, on the Route 17 bypass, is a “shopping complex set on 350 acres … with 3 theaters, 17 restaurants, more than 100 specialty shops, attractions, nightclubs, and 3 hotels, surrounding Lake Broadway. It is the largest festival entertainment complex in South Carolina. It has an IMAX theater, Ripley’s Aquarium, Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, and The Pavilion Nostalgia Park.”

South of Myrtle Beach are Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge, Huntington Beach State Park, and quite a bit further south in the state are the Yawkey Wildlife Center, the Santee Coastal Reserve, and the 400-square-mile Francis Marion National Forest. We’ve spent a little time in the Francis Marion National Forest but not much.

We didn’t actually do anything in Myrtle Beach itself, except drive through a bit of the town (on a Sunday morning) — so many little motels! —


and then divert to Route 17 …


… for the drive south of Myrtle Beach to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet.  We really enjoy this hybrid sculpture garden with plantings, a short boat tour, historical signage and sculpture related to rice plantations and slavery, wild and tame animals (some in cages and some not), etc. I posted lots of photos (and some info about Brookgreen) in July 2014 from that visit.



Christmas at Myrtle Beach has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?


Elephants, Swans, & Monkeys, Oh My!

Welcome to day 28 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.  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 still enjoy traveling a lot. I mean, it amazes me that I still get excited in hotel rooms just to see what kind of shampoo they’ve left me.  — Bill Bryson

Or, what kind of animal the towels have been arranged to make.

At The Cove Motel in Orleans, MA (Cape Cod) — the sixth of our favourite motels and hotels — one of the housekeeping staff is remarkable for leaving fairly elaborate towel animals on the beds and we also heard, but did not see, that for guests with children she makes towel monkeys to hang in the closets, too.

We came back to find this elephant one day, with real cedar or yew cuttings for the eyes:


I wanted to bring it home but that sort of behaviour is frowned upon at most lodgings.

The day before, it was a swan, similar to the swans in the cove –Town Cove, off Woods Cove, off the Atlantic Ocean — from which the motel gets its name.


Even before these enchanting creatures appeared in the room during our September 2017 visit, we had decided that The Cove would be our go-to spot on the Cape, after staying there in April and having tried two other motels (another in Orleans, and one in Hyannis) on previous visits.

The waterfront location, on the cove, is tranquil and quiet.

April 2017 cove view – note gazebo and patio
another April 2017 cove view
the cove view in mid-Sept. 2017
a song sparrow at the cove, April 2017

It’s also walking distance to some restaurants (e.g., Hole in One for full breakfast; Mahoney’s Atlantic Bar & Grill for dinner — love the sole almondine; the wonderful Hot Chocolate Sparrow coffee shop most mornings and many evenings) and to the Ice Cream Cafe in season. Also walking distance to the bike rental shops and access to the 22-mile Cape Cod rail trail. It’s well located for exploring walks and beaches in our favourite parts of the Cape — Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro — but it’s not too far from Chatham’s restaurants, Dennisport, parks and trails in Harwich and Brewster, or more shopping, eating, and entertainment action in Yarmouth and Hyannis. (It is, however, a longish drive to the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.)

Location and charming housekeeping staff aside, the Cove is just a pleasant and agreeable spot to rest. The wifi works well, beds and pillows are comfortable, windows can be safely opened to let in fresh air …

window that can be opened in bathroom

… ample parking is available …


… there’s seating and a firepit by the cove, and “quiet hours” are posted (and enforced) for all guests, from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., which I really appreciate. When I couldn’t figure out how to work the newfangled TV, someone came right over from the office and got it going. There’s also an outdoor heated pool (which we haven’t used), ice, vending, the usual motel amenities. Some rooms have a kitchenette (most have at least a microwave), fireplace, and/or water view.


In April, we had a deluxe queen room; this is how it looked:

sofa, table, queen bed, microwave, coffee maker, fridge … I like that they leave a roll of paper towels in the rooms, too.
dresser, TV, chair, mirror, closet door, closed door to bathroom
closer look at ‘kitchen’ area
computer table, chairs, window, door to outside & deck
bathroom with sink, lighting (the soaps etc are Terra Green brand)
bathroom toilet, shower


In September, there were two queen beds and no sofa:

beds, nightstand, closet (different from the April room)
one bed with elephant, closer look at closet and kitchen area with microwave, coffee maker, and fridge (and paper towels)
the beds and the table and chairs
computer table and chairs by window, door to outside & deck
dresser, TV, armchair, mirror, exterior door
bathroom sink and toilet
bathroom tub/shower combo, sink, mirror, lighting

Of the two, I preferred the one queen bed with sofa, but both were perfectly accommodating.

If you visit, make sure to walk a couple of blocks to the little Orleans Conservation Area pocket garden; it also overlooks a cove.

cove fog, boats, through grasses and wildflowers, Sept. 2017
wildflowers, Sept. 2017
asters and goldenrod, Sept. 2017
purple asters, Sept. 2017
sumac and goldenrod, Sept. 2017
tansy flowers, Sept. 2017


Sand Under My Toes

Welcome to day 27 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.  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 used to dream of a week-long beach vacation with white sand under my toes… right now, I’d settle for 48 hours at a Motel 6 with some Lysol and a UV lamp.” — Ingrid Weir

I was lucky enough to spend several days at a motel almost on the beach, with almost white sand  ̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶e̶s̶  under my shoes.

The Sand Dollar Inn on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, Maine, is one of those motels with an impermanent and insignificant name, or at least part of the name (sand). Even sand dollars don’t last long on the beach: they’re either washed back to sea, picked up after dying on the beach, or picked up and killed by someone who doesn’t know how to tell a live sand dollar from a dead one. (I tried to explain this once to a woman who was picking up live sand dollar after live sand dollar off a beach; she didn’t give a damn. Yes, I’m bitter.)


Jekyll Island, GA, July 2016


Ocean Beach, San Francisco, Jan. 2004


Anyhoo …. The Sand Dollar Inn is sweet. I mean, look at this kitchenette, with its painted pink cabinet and drawer pulls, two-burner stovetop, King mini-fridge, plastic drying rack, Country Living dishtowel:


It’s a block from the beach, with a porch you can eat on. (Well, on a table on the porch.)

The Sand Dollar is that white roof on the right, just a block from Pine Point beach on this cute path. (June 2017)
porch with table and chairs (June 2013)
Negra Modelo and peanuts on motel porch, 24 June 2013

Pretty comfy inside, too.


And it attracts rainbows (view from parking lot adjoining back porch).



We stayed in mid-June, when it was a little more than $100 per night. A block from the beach!

And the beach is 4 miles long!

Pine Point beach looking toward Old Orchard Beach, stormy evening sky, 23 June 2013
Pine Point beach, late afternoon, 22 June 2013
Old Orchard beach in fog, 18 June 2017
Pine Point Beach, dense fog, 18 June 2017
Pine Point Beach, Aug. 2014
snow on Pine Point Beach, Feb. 2015


You can walk all the way to Old Orchard Beach, which we did.

we had a cocktail and shrimp outside at Myst, with a view of the ferris wheel and carousel, 24 June 2013
The Pier and ocean from Myst, 23 June 2013
the Old Orchard boardwalk, mid-July 2009


If you’re inclined, you can walk on the Eastern Trail, or kayak in the marsh:

Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
Scarborough Marsh, off Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
red-winged blackbird, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
phoebes, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 23 June 2013
sparrow with caterpillars, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 25 June 2013
snowy egret, Scarborough Marsh off Eastern Trail, 25 June 2013


Or just hang out on the beach.

I did manage to air out the toes. 24 June 2013
piping plover, June 2014
many clam shells, March 2016
gull skirmish, July 2009


We used to live 2 blocks from this beach, way back in the winter of 1994. I love a winter beach walk.

This is what it looks like in December on the beach:

my legs and shoes on the beach, 11 Dec. 2015
beach tableau, 11 Dec. 2015
gulls squawking, 9 Dec. 2011
beach and sky, 9 Dec. 2011
The Sand Dollar Inn, boarded up, 9 Dec. 2011

It really is impermanent, ephemeral.


How far is the unseen world from Midtown?

Welcome to day 26 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.  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 is no question that there is an unseen world. The problem is, how far is it from midtown and how late is it open?” ― Woody Allen

Woody Allen is no doubt speaking of Manhattan’s midtown, while I’m referring to Midtown Hotel in Boston, the fifth of my favourites.


I had long admired its mid-century low-rise almost-western motel sort of look, smack dab in the middle of Boston, a city where glamourous, luxurious, high-rise, grand hotels reign supreme — Boston Park Plaza, Mandarin Oriental, Eliot Hotel, Four Seasons Boston, Taj Boston, Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston, Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, Boston Harbor Hotel, Hilton Boston Back Bay, Copley Square Hotel, Fifteen Beacon, The Loews Boston Hotel, to name a few.

The Fairmont, Boston, June 2012

The Midtown’s price is great, usually about $100 per night, and the location is pretty perfect, near restaurants and shopping at Copley and Prudential, across from photogenic Christian Science Center pool and plaza, with its Mary Baker Eddy library and mapparium, and walking distance to the symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts (and really to Boston Public Garden and Common, only about a mile away).

Christian Science plaza and Prudential Center, June 2012
Prudential Center and Copley Place, Feb. 2015
outside Neiman Marcus at Copley Place, decorated for Christmas, Dec. 2015
atrium with fountain, inside Copley Place, March 2015
Christian Science plaza, March 2014
gardens on Christian Science plaza, June 2012
Mother Church of the Christian Scientists, and Christian Science Publishing House with Mary Baker Eddy library and mapparium, June 2012
Mother Church of Christian Scientists, Feb. 2015
Mother Church of Christian Scientists, Feb. 2015
conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic at Symphony Hall, March 2014


So I was happy to book a room there a few years ago, in late February 2015, for an overnight stay during the 2015 Boston Flower Show, and then another time so that we could take an early train from South Station. In all, I think we’ve stayed at the Midtown three times and hope to do it again.

‘Basic’ wireless is free, with ‘high-speed wireless’ for an additional $10/night. There is also an outdoor pool, which is usually frozen when we are there. Pets are allowed for a fee.

outdoor pool in March 2015 … no diving

The Midtown’s big drawback is that it’s on the Green Line, a confusing 4-headed T monster of a subway/trolley line if ever there was one, so we just Uber when staying at the Midtown. Or walk to the Orange Line. Or walk to the destination. If you drive a car there, there’s parking on site for a $25 fee.

I guess the other downside is that it’s a motel, not opulent, with no breakfast — though Thornton’s restaurant, next door, is quite fine for breakfast. There is sometimes a line after 9 on weekends.

strawberry crepe at Thornton’s, March 2015
salmon, bagel, tea at Thornton’s, March 2015


There’s nothing really remarkable about the Midtown, other than the price, although I do dig the retro decor. They have a bellman to hail a cab if you want one, you can store bags at the front if your room is not ready on check-in, and there is a cute little lobby. But the rooms are just motel rooms, with adequate amenities, though certainly a good value for the price in Boston.

The rooms we’ve had have been fairly large, but with no microwave or refrigerator (you can rent a refrigerator, which probably tells you more about the hotel than they would wish).

fairly spacious room with queen bed, two nightstands with lights, March 2015
bed, flat-screen TV, dresser, mirror, window, Feb. 2015
bed, flat-screen TV, dresser, table large enough for two laptops, two chairs, closet and more drawers, Feb. 2015
closet and dresser, with ice bucket and cups, Feb. 2015

The one light/fan combo switch for the whole bathroom area sheds light on the little sink alcove as well as the closed-off room with the toilet and shower, so at night it’s bright as midday in the bedroom if someone needs to turn on the light to use the facilities.

sink outside bathroom, lit by same light as bathroom (Feb 2015)
behind the door, the tub/shower and toilet (Feb 2015)

On our first visit, we could hear everything from the noisy room either above or next to us, until 1 a.m. and again at 7 a.m.  Which is unfortunately true in many motel rooms, and another reason anonymity is key.

I especially enjoy the aesthetics of the public spaces, such as this hallway/stairway, filled with potted plants, with a view to the parking garage.


This was the view from our room one time:


I’ve recommend the Midtown Hotel to everyone I know who stays overnight in Boston.

night view, Feb. 2015

It’s the sign lettering, the font, that makes it seem like a western hotel, isn’t it? Shoot out at the Midtown. Let’s hope not.


Somebody else, some stranger, haunted

Welcome to day 25 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.  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 woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. — Jack Kerouac, On the Road


Oh, we have twelve vacancies. Twelve cabins, twelve vacancies.

Welcome to day 24 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.  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.

Who knew there was so much to know about motels?

Wikipedia’s motel article is pretty detailed, with sections on architecture and layout (“typically constructed in an ‘I’-, ‘L’-, or ‘U’-shaped layout that includes guest rooms; an attached manager’s office; a small reception; and in some cases, a small diner and a swimming pool”); room types (some with small kitchens, some connecting); a history from auto camps and courts to early motels (“a handful used novelty architecture such as wigwams or teepees or used decommissioned rail cars”) to chains, and from expansion (when motels added swimming pools, colour TV, Magic Fingers!, and beach-front motels were popular) to decline (here’s a handy list of defunct motel and hotel chains) and then revitalization; international variations (Canada, Europe, and South America); “crime and illicit activity” and “motels in popular culture.”


If you’re interested in staying at motel with character, check out Momondo’s June 2016 list of “Iconic American lodging: cool and offbeat motels in USA,” which includes The Madonna Inn (I knew someone who stayed there once) in San Luis Obispo, CA (“rural ranch meets pink fantasy palace”), the Red Caboose Motel in Philadelphia, the Thunderbird Marfa in Marfa, TX, Kate’s Lazy Meadow, a 1950s marvel near the Catskills in NY, and Dog Bark Park Inn, shaped like a beagle, in Cottonwood, ID.



The “motels in the popular culture” section mentions some movies known for a motel setting, notably the Bates Motel in Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho. An “isolated motel being operated by a serial killer, whose guests subsequently become victims, has been exploited in a number of other horror films, notably Motel Hell (1980) and Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986).” Somehow, I missed those. The 2011 thriller The Innkeepers used actual rooms and hallways of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, in Torrington, CT, for interior shots.

Of course, the “long-established connotations of motels and illicit sexual activity” manifests in “Motel Confidential (1967) and the porn film Motel for Lovers (1970),” as well as “Paradise Motel (1985), Talking Walls (1987), Desire and Hell at Sunset Motel (1991), and the Korean films Motel Cactus (1997) and The Motel (2005).” Sordid events take place in Pink Motel (1982), Motel Blue 19 (1993), Backroad Motel (2001), Stateline Motel (2003), Niagara Motel (2006), and Motel 5150 (2008).

An article in the National Post (9 Oct. 2015) succinctly summarises in its subtitle (taken from comments by Dave Alexander, editor of Canadian horror magazine Rue Morgue) why sleaze, horror, vice, and violence are housed in hotels and motels: “Hotels are a pseudo home where people go to do bad stuff and a place where strangers intersect.”

From the same article, Canadian film director Brandon Cronenberg says that “‘a hotel room is both a foreign space and an intimate space. … We might sleep there, bathe there, have sex there, but it’s also somewhere unfamiliar and uncontrolled, and that creates a sense of vulnerability.'” Further, says Cronenberg — getting at the heterotopia as a place that both exists in time but also outside of time, as a discontinuity of time, an accumulation of time — “a ‘hotel is like a labyrinth of secret history.’ … There is something delicious about the idea that a sordid moment from that history might resurface in the present, perhaps literally in the case of a supernatural story.'”


“All good hotels tend to lead people to do things they wouldn’t necessarily do at home.” — Andre Balazs


When I think of motels, I think of My Cousin Vinny, starring Joe Pesci as Vinny, an inexperienced lawyer from New York trying to free his nephew and friend from a murder charge in Alabama, and his sharp-witted girlfriend Lisa, played by Marisa Tomei. Technically, Vinny and Lisa are staying in an H OTEL, but it’s basically a motel, one with a railroad track abutting it. If you haven’t seen it, watch this 2-min video to see what happens at 5 a.m. in the motel room.

Then there’s Fawtly Towers, the British comedy set in “a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay on the ‘English Riviera.'” John Cleese is the “tense, rude and put-upon” and socially conservative owner Basil Fawlty, with Prunella Scales as his bossy, acerbic wife Sybil, Connie Booth as the peacemaking chambermaid Polly, and Andrew Sachs as the “hapless and English-challenged Spanish waiter Manuel.” The quartet tries to run the hotel “amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests and tradespeople.” It’s such an iconic show that hard to believe there are only 12 episodes! The whole series came about after Cleese, then with Monty Python, stayed at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay while filming on location:

“Cleese was fascinated with the behaviour of the owner, Donald Sinclair, later describing him as “the rudest man I’ve ever come across in my life.” This behaviour included Sinclair throwing a timetable at a guest who asked when the next bus to town would arrive; and placing Python member Eric Idle’s briefcase (put to one side by Idle while waiting for a car with Cleese) behind a wall in the garden on the suspicion that it contained a bomb. Sinclair justified his actions by claiming the hotel had “staff problems.” He also criticised the American-born Terry Gilliam’s table manners for not being “British” (that is, he switched hands with his fork whilst eating).”


“Of course great hotels have always been social ideas, flawless mirrors to the particular societies they service.” —  Joan Didion

Philip French, in the Guardian’s 16 Dec. 2000 article, “This Looks A Nice Place To Stop,” gives a brief history of 75 years of motels in Hollywood, “a metaphor for angst and alienation.” He perhaps overstates the case for danger: “Motels are places for assignations and illicit sex, for planning crimes and dividing the spoils, for insecure people in transit or desperate people on the run. There’s always the chance that you’ll wake up alone, robbed after a night of passion, or that the place will be surrounded by cops (as in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) or this year’s Way of the Gun) and you’ve the choice of shooting it out or getting handcuffed.”


French describes as motels as “located on the edge of cities, identifying their patrons as marginalised, or they are out in the wilds of the Midwest, dwarfed by the big sky and the majestic landscape. … They have a dispiriting anonymity,” either homogeneous chains that “protect us from local colour,” or “squalid, cigarette-scarred, kitsch-decorated, the thin-walled suites located behind flickering neon signs and fetid swimming pools. The upmarket places were acidly satirised in Richard Lester’s Petulia (1968), where would-be adulterers George C. Scott and Julie Christie book into a San Francisco motel so impersonal that you never meet the staff or other guests. The experience of staying in downmarket versions is cleverly caught in Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), whose protagonist suffers from short-term memory loss and has to take Polaroids so he can recognise the LA motel he’s living in.”

Not movie-related, but French tells us in this article that in 1934, “Frank Lloyd Wright incorporated a motel in his design for a utopian city called Broadacre. Lloyd Wright planned a ramp for visitors to drive their cars virtually into their motel rooms.”


Besides those named already, there are lots of other famous movies set partially or wholly in hotels and motels, among them Grand Hotel (1932) with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore (the Grand Hotel, where “nothing ever happens”); the Marx Brothers movie Room Service (1938); Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) with Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Van Johnson; Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953); A Touch of Evil (1958) dir. by Orson Welles, with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh; The Bellboy (1960), with Jerry Lewis as a bumbling hotel bellhop; the Barbra Streisand/Ryan O’Neal romantic comedy What’s Up, Doc? (1972); California Suite (1978) with Maggie Smith, Richard Pryor, Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Bill Cosby; The Shining (1980) with Jack Nicholson; the rom-com Pretty Woman (1990) with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere; Lost in Translation (2003) with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith; and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), with Ralph Fiennes and F. Murray Abraham.


I’d never heard of it before but The Florida Project (2017) — about young kids who live in “the Magic Castle, a purple-colored budget motel that’s near the Magic Kingdom and above which clouds resemble dollops of cotton candy” — sounds like something I’d want to see: The camera moves “in and out of [the motel’s] rooms, investing the minutia of the down-and-out lives within this little ecosystem with a bittersweet energy and significance.” From the same (linked) review, this is also intriguing:

“Some might argue that The Florida Project’s ending constitutes another such misstep, but that would be to misunderstand another of Baker’s fundamental projects. Joan Didion has written, and better than no one else, about Miami as a transient metropolis, one that’s been built in the image of so many Cuban cities, and one that seems like it will, if not exactly crumble, reveal its essential ephemerality when so many of its Cuban-born citizens feel like they finally have the license to return to their homeland. The same could be said of Orlando, a city which feels like it only exists in relationship to Disney World, a capitalist dependency that’s very much felt throughout this film. As lived-in and detail-rich as the lives in The Florida Project are, the environment where they’re rooted is fleeting, a place where one passes through but never stays.”

Coming of age at the Magic Castle motel abutting the Magic Kingdom: Heterotopian in multiple ways in its ephemerality, marginality, placelessness (a place that disappears or where we simply can’t stay for long): the motel, the resort “World” itself, and even perhaps in the fleeting nature of childhood. Foucault himself speaks of child’s play as heterotopian in a way: “In one example [of heterotopias, Foucault] refers to children’s play, when they invent games. They produce an imaginative space, but at the same time mirror the physical realities around them. A bed can become a boat or a sandbox a whole universe.”(from notes on Ylva Ogland’s 2014 art exhibition, “Diverse Variations of Other Spaces”)


Title quote spoken by Norman Bates to Marion Crane in Psycho.



No-Frills Flagship

Welcome to day 23 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.  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.

Another of the stand-bys today, the Flagship Inn in Boothbay, Maine.

It’s a roadside motel, no frills, two stories with outside corridors and stairs from the expansive parking lot. Outdoor ice and vending machines, picnic tables in the grass alongside the parking lot, breakfast included in a separate dining room that used to be a full-service restaurant.  A small pool and hot tub. Men in white T-shirts hunched in plastic white chairs outside their rooms, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. It’s the kind of place short-haul truckers, motorcycle groups, and utility workers stay. It’s where families who can’t afford a hotel for a family reunion have their reunion, eating potato salad and grilling hot dogs at the picnic tables. It’s where people with multiple dogs can bring them all.

When we (spouse & I) started staying at the Flagship Inn, we had dogs who travelled with us. We had been staying at the charming Lawnmere Inn and cottages, on nearby Southport Island, but then it closed in 2008 (became a private residence) and we cast about for another spot.

Photo of Lawnmere as is was, by someone else (you can see the glassed-in dining room):


Our dog Petunia relaxing in one of the Lawnmere’s chairs, in the late 1990s:


spouse and dog enjoying the lawn and cove view


The Flagship Inn, in Boothbay, is in some ways the antithesis of the Lawnmere: It’s a basic motel, the Lawnmere was an old-fashioned inn and cottages; the Flagship fronts a busy commercial road, the Lawnmere fronted a winding country road and its back view was waterfront, onto a cove; the Flagship could never be called charming or elegant, whereas the Lawnmere could, with a hotel bar and a lovely dining room that served gourmet dinners on white tablecloths overlooking the water.

But the Flagship has merits of its own. It also accepts pets, which mattered to us once. It’s relatively inexpensive, from $100 to $160 depending on when you go and what kind of room you want.  Most important for us is its location: From the motel, we can walk into town — Boothbay Harbor — in 15 minutes, so we don’t have to drive through town and park a car there, saving a lot of frustration in the summer months.  And it sits adjoining one of the many Boothbay Region Land Trust preserves, Penny Lake, which makes it easy to walk the trails there — just by stepping out the door — mornings and evenings. We can also walk next door to the grocery store or across the street to the laundromat (handy when we had dogs with us); and driving to other land trust properties, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Southport, or perhaps the King Eider Pub in Damariscotta for lunch are all made easier by being already on Route 27, while getting to East Boothbay and Ocean Point is easy, too, because the intersection with Route 96 is a block away.


Here’s the exterior:

(photo by someone else, at Trip Advisor)
Flagship Inn, cleaning cart, June 2015
solar panels on the Flagship Inn, May 2014
dog walk area with lupines and maple, June 2015
view of Flagship Inn from Penny Lake Preserve lane, evening, May 2014
there are often warblers in the shrubs near the canal alongside the motel
canal (with bridge) between Flagship Inn and the Carousel Music Theater and Penny Lake Preserve, May 2012 … we saw a muskrat swimming in it once!
having wine with cheese and crackers outside on a picnic table, May 2014
spouse and Gretchen dog sitting outside near canal, May 2012


Interior (We’ve stayed here at least six times but I guess I haven’t taken many photos of the motel):

king bed room, with table, chairs (and plants bought at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden plant sale on the floor), May 2014
Gretchen dog in her spot in a pet-friendly room (no carpet) at the Flagship, May 2012


Penny Lake Preserve

We visited in 2004, 2006, and 2008, at least, but I took or preserved (get it?) few photos then. For one thing, we lived in Bath, only an hour away, from 2002-2009, so we didn’t need a motel when visiting Boothbay and probably only attended the area garden tour then. Upshot is that the photos here are from 2017, 2015, 2014, and 2012. All are in May or June, which is when the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens holds its plant sale.

Entrance and signs:




ash bloom with multiple bees, June 2015
meadow, two trails diverged, June 2015
grassy pathway, June 2015
evening meadow, May 2014
Eastern kingbird, May 2014
clover and hawkweed, June 2015
red clover, June 2015
bench among hawkweed, June 2015
yellow hawkweed, June 2017
hawthorn blooms, June 2015
Yellowrattle (Rhinanthus Minor), June 2017
dandelion, May 2012
cedar waxwing (part of a large flock), May 2012
red Admiral butterfly, June 2015
ChlosyneHarrisii HarrissCheckerspotbutterflyPennyLakePreserveBRLT14June2015
Harris’s checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne harrisii), June 2015
anotherChlosyneHarrisii HarrissCheckerspotsidePennyLakePreserveBRLT14June2015
another Harris’s checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne harrisii), June 2015
either silvery or Harris’s checkerspot butterfly, June 2017
meadow path, trees and shrubs, June 2015



trail, May 2012
bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), June 2015
ferns, June 2015
Clintonia flowering, May 2012
green Clintonia berries, June 2015
lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule), June 2015
pale pink lady’s slipper, June 2017
starflower (Trientalis borealis) blooming, June 2017
Indian cucumber root (Medeola virginiana), with goldthread (Coptis trifolia), June 2017
yellow trail marker, lichen, June 2017
small chipmunk, June 2017
sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) flowers, June 2015
woods from the bridge, shaft of sunlight, May 2014
trail with roots, June 2015
sunlight in woods, June 2015



bridge connecting woods over the brook, June 2015
bridge over brook, June 2017
brook, marsh, June 2017
brook, marsh in the morning, May 2012
lily pads, May 2012
blue flag iris, June 2017
green frog in water, June 2017
green frog on log, May 2012
black-crowned night heron hunched above marsh, May 2014
one of many red-winged blackbirds in marsh, May 2014
phoebe with nesting materials, June 2017
phoebe with caterpillar mouthful, June 2015


There are lots of things to do in the Boothbay area. I posted a field trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in June 2015 and May 2014, and also in May 2014 field trips to the Porter Preserve, Singing Meadows Preserve, Zak Preserve, and Ocean Point Preserve (I see I have a lot of postings to do from more recent visits). It’s fun to walk in Boothbay Harbor, which has lots of good restaurants. There are lots of hotels, inns, B&Bs, and a few motels in Boothbay Harbor, too, but the Flagship, just a mile outside, has been handy and comfortable for us.