Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Night at the Alfred Hitchcock Bed & Breakfast

What is the strangest place you've ever spent the night?

A Belgian TV station posed this question in light of the recent reopening of the Ice Hotel in Sweden. The TV station solicits answers from people around the world, captured using their webcams. When I saw the question, I knew I had to answer.

I'll start by saying I've never slept in a hotel made of ice. (I don't believe in ice, unless it's in a cocktail or a smoothie.) Here are just two reasons why I'll never stay at the Ice Hotel, taken from the hotel's web site:

"The bed you'll sleep on is made of blocks of ice, a wooden base and a mattress covered with reindeer skin." However inviting that may sound, how do you think the poor reindeer feels about this? Besides, I'd rather sleep on a bed of nails. At least I wouldn't freeze.

"Instead of a door, you pull a curtain in front of it." No door? No thanks. I've seen way too many Hitchcock movies to know better than to sleep in a hotel without a locked door.

Speaking of Hitchcock, the strangest place I've ever spent the night was in the schoolhouse that figured prominently in his 1963 thriller The Birds.

If you'll recall from that film, Tippi Hedren sat outside the schoolhouse, smoking, waiting patiently for the kids inside to finish some insipid song (which they sang over and over and over). Displeased by the repetitive song, menacing birds began gathering on the jungle gym behind Tippi. Once she realized what was happening, she told the schoolteacher Suzanne Pleshette, who wisely informed the children to run outside, where the birds could peck at their faces.

The famous schoolhouse building from The Birds
Fast forward to the early 1990s, when the schoolhouse (in Bodega, California, just up the coast from San Francisco) became a bed and breakfast. When I read about it, I knew Nick and I had to spend the night there. I even wrote about it for Travel & Leisure magazine.

Not surprisingly, the schoolhouse b&b was a drafty, creaky, uncomfortable nightmare, although it was partially redeemed by a life-size cut out of Alfred Hitchcock peering out from a second-story window. The b&b didn't last long, though I'm fairly certain the Victorian building remains.

The Birds is still one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I love how it has absolutely no music in it whatsoever, which makes its doomsday scenario all the more chilling. Nick and I had the pleasure of seeing it at the Castro Theatre a few years back, with Ms. Hedren on stage. (I thought of offering her my fried chicken recipe but thought better of it.)

And speaking of Tippi Hedren, did you know that Mattel issued a Birds Barbie Doll in 2008? The doll looks like Tippi in her lime-green suit, complete with three black crows attacking her and an image of the schoolhouse in the background. The doll can be yours for about $150. Now that's scary.

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  1. The most interesting place I've spent the night would have to be the death metal night club called "Alcatraz".

  2. I slept in an igloo once, on reindeer skin too.

  3. I didn't know about the Tippi Barbie!! I would so love one! And your post made me want to watch this movie again. I wonder if NetFlix has it? I'll have to check it out.

    I've never slept anywhere strange or interesting or different, other than camping, but lots of people sleep out of doors. Should I put that on my bucket-list? Sleep somewhere odd before I go? Hmmm...

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  5. Not sure I've slept in strange places.

    However, Bodega Bay and "The Birds" still freak me out. As a child, I lived up the road in Rio Nido (near Guerneville). My parents--in some sort of funny parental joke, kinds that I now play on my kids--let me and my siblings watch "The Birds." I might've been 7 or 8 at the time. And then we'd spend days out at Goat Rock, Shell Beach, and Bodega Bay (even having hot cocoa at the cliff restaurant featured in the movie); outings that would take all day and then we'd be driving home as dusk turned to night. It was always the scariest drive because I kept looking out the windows, waiting for the birds to show up and follow us. That ride home on the winding roads always seemed to so long until I was in the comfort of my bed.

    A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of taking my kiddos and husband out that way to my "stomping" grounds and while my husband totally dug the cafe from "Cape Fear," I was just glad it was daylight when we were driving through. ;)

  6. I once slept on a bench in Paddington Station in London. My wife and I missed the last train from London to Oxford, didn't have enough money for a hotel room (I was in grad school; she was substitute teaching), and couldn't find an all-night coffee shop to hang out in. So, we huddled together (it was late fall) and slept on a bench until finally one of stationmasters told us that the morning train to Oxford was on the platform and we could get on. That was about 3 am. I still remember how warm the train was, and how well I slept until we finally left the station.

  7. I would so sleep in that house from the birds....

    I have slept in many strange places, the Philadelphia airport, the back seat of a car in the middle of nowhere Maine, my office. I guess you could say I sleep around....

  8. Just found your blog! I like your style, humor and information. I look forward to reading all your posts. Oh, and yes, I work at a bed and breakfast in Lewes, DE...Hotel Overlook.