Almost Certainly Not Axe Murderers

Welcome to day 30 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.


“The man behind the check-in counter gives the impression that he has just axe-murdered the motel’s owner (and family, and family pet) and is going through these procedures of hostelry so as not to arouse suspicion.” ― Paul Quarrington, The Ravine

I mean, how could I not use that sentence in this series. But seriously, the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Kennett Square, PA (the Brandywine Valley) is nothing like this! It’s just a clean, simple, normal chain hotel in a medical/corporate park alongside Route 1, perfectly located for visits to Longwood Gardens, exactly two miles away from the hotel. It’s also only about a mile to charming Kennett Square, with shops and restaurants, and about 1.5 miles to Victory Brewing, a brewpub on the outskirts of Kennett Square. Spouse and I have stayed at the Fairfield Inn three times now for six nights total — in Aug 2015, July 2017, and Oct. 2017 — and will use it in the future when we visit the area.

I’m not sure what so appeals, besides primo location and hotel staff who in no way resemble or suggest axe-murderers.

It’s not the Pumpkin Spice coffee.


It’s not the wacky carpets, although it is kind of fun to try to walk only on the straight lines.

The breakfast is variable, though usually the oatmeal and fruit are good.


I think it’s really just the combined sense of comfort and anonymity that appeals. The staff is friendly and efficient but non-intrusive. They look up when you walk in and out, so you feel someone is noticing your presence, but their eye contact, body language, and spoken words (if any) don’t suggest they are watching too closely or monitoring your movement. Housekeeping comes at a predictable time. The public space is impersonal but there is coffee and tea and sometimes lime water offered at all hours, as well as candies at the front desk sometimes, and complimentary newspapers on weekdays.

The private space, the rooms, are comfortable, too, with all the basics provided.

view into room, Oct. 2017
two double beds, Oct. 2017
one king bed, July 2017

The desk has additional electrical outlets and jacks. There’s a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. There’s ample drawer and closet space.

microwave, fridge, desk and chair, dresser and TV, coffee maker, lighting, Oct. 2017
microwave, fridge, desk and chair, dresser and TV, coffee maker, lighting, July 2017

The bathrooms are big enough with capacious counters and lots of space for shampoos and such in the shower.

bathroom, Oct. 2017
sink, counter space, mirror, Oct. 2017
tub/shower, July 2017

The rooms aren’t cheap — from $105-$165 per night depending on what season and nights we stayed — but they’re comparable to other places in the area, and I feel there’s good value for the money (just the location near Longwood alone means we can return to the room and then back to Longwood easily during the day).


Speaking of Longwood, and since this is a garden blog, a few pics from our visit this month, starting with the almost-futuristic bathrooms in the conservatory:


This is what they look like from outside:


I’ll be doing a longer post on this trip to Longwood soon, but for now, a few teasers:

old beech tree, meadow
monarch and red admiral butterflies on dahlia
mimic fly on chrysanthemum
lanterns in conservatory
‘Easy Does It’ floribunda rose … pink and orange


Next time I’d like to get to Chanticleer, Mt. Cuba again, and maybe even Tyler Arboretum in Media, PA. Might need a trip to the area just for garden-going. And a few more nights in the cheerfully disinterested Fairfield Inn & Suites.



Entangled Orbits

Welcome to day 17 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.

To enlarge on yesterday’s post,


I’m with Rat.

When I travel, whether alone or with a friend or spouse, I want complete anonymity from strangers and even some time away from most friends and acquaintances. I often travel to be with friends or family, and of course I want to spend time with them, enjoy meals, weddings, birthdays, or other occasions with them, and talk a lot together, be together, face to face, in a way that email, texting, and social media does not allow. But, because I am half extrovert and half introvert — both energised and enervated by social contact — there comes a time when, after a day of socialising, I need an hour or three alone to recharge, process, breathe, and of course work on my photos. For that, the chain hotel or motel in a city is perfect.

“She left me the way people leave a hotel room. A hotel room is a place to be when you are doing something else. Of itself it is of no consequence to one’s major scheme. A hotel room is convenient. But its convenience is limited to the time you need it while you are in that particular town on that particular business; you hope it is comfortable, but prefer, rather, that it be anonymous. It is not, after all, where you live.”  — Toni Morrison


The trip spouse and I took this last long weekend, to attend a wedding, was pretty perfect for me in terms of balancing social and alone time:

Day one: A day in the car together, during which spouse and I rarely talk and I can think, not think, and observe what’s outside the car. Followed by dinner out at a vibrant brewpub, where I can see other people and overhear their conversations. A little low on socialising but I know what’s ahead and so this is fine.



Day two: A day wandering at Longwood Gardens with spouse, interacting slightly with others, mostly taking in the beauty of the world as it is, while texting with friends too, and then dinner out at a place we used to visit when we lived in Maryland (but now not owned by the same folks, apparently); it’s where our parents met each other before we married. When I’m at Longwood or any public garden, or hiking on a trail, or even walking city blocks, I am really focused on what I am seeing, hearing, smelling, breathing, touching, flora and fauna alike, in a way that is much like meditation, I think.


Day three: Lots of texting with friends pre-wedding, a 2-hour walk with spouse on trails (Soldiers Delight — where chrome was discovered in the U.S.!) nearby the hotel for my daily dose of nature, followed by driving around the neighbourhood we used to live in — and the heavy energy flow of memories that that evokes for me — and then being at the wedding venue (lovely inside and out) from 4:15 to 11:15 p.m., mostly talking in depth with a few good college friends, plus lots of superficial chit-chat and shorter interactions with other friends and acquaintances, moments of photo-taking silliness, listening to heartfelt wedding vows and speeches, meeting a few strangers, and (maybe best of all?) an hour or two of celebratory dancing.


chromite rock trail
chicory with insects



Day four: Texting, texting, more texting with friends here for the wedding, a little time with spouse walking around Charles Village, then an hour or two with friends (and spouse) at the Baltimore Museum of Art — more beauty, more conversations, more new things to discover — followed by another walk in a nearby park and then four or five hours with close friends who are family, at their house for cocktails, a cookout dinner, a walk around their neighbourhood after, changing conversational partners as we walked (but it still wasn’t enough catching up).

Iris & Iced Coffee (1985), Carolyn Brady, BMA
Ruthann and Melissa, BMA
statue among anemones in Sculpture Garden, BMA
detail from Entangled Orbits by Tomás Saraceno, BMA
Ruthann and Tom under a bubble sculpture by Tomás Saraceno, BMA
grilled rockfish and potatoes at Rachael’s

Day five: Another car day after breakfast at the hotel, minimal conversation with spouse, my own processing of the weekend, follow-up texting and emailing with friends of photos, glad tidings, etc.  Once home, the chore of unpacking, thinking about groceries, falling into bed at 8:30 exhausted. Texting with friends and my sister, whose close friend had some hard news yesterday, which changed my psychic energy, too, on hearing it.



Day six: The perfect post-travel day, with no obligations, the ability to sleep late, then only a quick dash out for groceries and a couple of small errands, time to look at photos, organise a bit, reply to stacked-up emails, do laundry, make dinner, blog a bit.



The hotel (Hyatt Place) that we stayed in did not have weirdos in our room (other than us) or people in the bathroom, though we did eat breakfast a couple of days with strangers (but many were speaking some Chinese language, possibly Korean, so even that didn’t intrude), and the TV in public spaces at these places is always intrusive. Mainly, the hotel was a convenient place to rest between doing the meaningful things, a place we could close the door and shut out the world, which is necessary at times.  In other words, a little bit of heaven among the beautiful entangled orbits.


Photo #5

shaded pathway, Longwood Gardens, 2 May 2011
shaded pathway, Longwood Gardens, 2 May 2011

As I watch the snowplow coming back down our road, I’m remembering spring in the mid-Atlantic. If you haven’t been to Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, PA, you’re missing something special: colourful, instructive, flourishing, surprising, elegant, relaxing, rejuvenating, amusing, inspiring.

Longwood Love

Love love love.