Woman spends Christmas in a near empty Travelodge after house fire
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What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? Eating roast potatoes until you cease to exist, perhaps? Or a tree surrounded by neatly wrapped presents? Maybe your family likes to obsessively pour over Love Actually red flags while drinking a vat of wine.
Hey, no judgments from me. Especially after the Christmas I’ve had. As you may have guessed from the title, I spent ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ in a Travelodge hotel room with my Mum and her dog.
It might not conjure images of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but quite frankly we had a glorious time.
By now you might be wondering why this one-star establishment became our humble abode for the holidays.
It all started on December 16 with what can only be described as an explosive morning. I had travelled to my Mum’s a few days prior to miss the train strikes, only to find out that would be the least of my worries.
Her neighbour suffered a house fire, ignited by an electric fan heater - be careful, folks. The flames managed to reach a gas canister, creating an explosion powerful enough for the roof to cave in.
Luckily, everyone made it out alive and uninjured - aside from the neighbour’s hair (which he’s since shaved off).
But their houses, not so much. So while the kind and helpful insurance gods fix up their homes, mum and I were told we had the option of two places to stay for the next four weeks - Travelodge Lowestoft or Travelodge Great Yarmouth.
We went for the former, not least because of the Harvester right next door. When life gives you lemons, make… rotisserie chicken and dirty fries.
Aside from the fact that the colour scheme appears to have been chosen by a sociopath, the interior was just fine. Clean, warm and there was a kettle. And it was big enough that a modern-day landlord would have no qualms shoving a cupboard and an oven in here and calling it a studio.
Unfortunately there was no bar, which meant no ordering pints of bitter with a small Baileys and a gin and tonic - if you know, you know.
But other than that, we felt at home.
What’s more, the place was near empty. Aside from our neighbour - a man named ‘Animal’. I knew this thanks to the hotspot moniker that popped up as I was assembling our home cinema for the day (aka my laptop). And by the sounds of the banging that came from the room next door, he certainly lived up to his name.
Now the scene has been set, let’s go into the big day, shall we?
I was able to kick off with my favourite morning routine - waking up in a cold sweat and taking my first conscious breaths via vape.
Before I had too long to dwell on my life choices I went downstairs to fetch our ‘Breakfast in a Box’ from the over-zealous receptionist. Joyful? At work? On Christmas Day?! They must’ve opened their breakfast box early.
If you’re wondering what ‘Breakfast in a Box’ is, imagine if airlines and petrol stations made a breakfast bar. You’ve got a soggy pain au chocolat (monsieur, you’re really spoiling us), a carton of orange juice, some cornflakes and milk and a flapjack.
But ultimately the contents are a small mark on what is for us free food - take that, cost of living crisis. First meal of the day - check.
During lunch we took part in the obligatory present opening, and I don’t know whether it was the floor lined with wrapping paper, the gift my mum had crocheted me (a long-running tradition) or Father Ted playing on our tinsel-lined telly, but by this point we were really starting to feel the Christmas spirit.
Oh, and my mum also found a way to make use of one of the juice cartons by creating a budget Orange Blossom cocktail. Okay, so there was no sweet vermouth, but it sounds a lot fancier than gin and orange.
The rest of the day was spent grazing on Quality Street tins and cheese and crackers. We were both pretty chuffed with the fact that we didn’t need an oven, or in fact any type of cooking apparatus to satisfy our Christmas cravings.
We’d even MacGyvered a little cheese ‘cooling bag’ from our bedroom window.
Plus, we did manage to get a hot meal in thanks to the pièce de résistance - a three-course festive dinner courtesy of our new favourite haunt.
Shoutout to the Harvester chefs who put together a delectable spread of pate and souffle for starters, cheesecake and Christmas pudding for dessert and, most importantly, two roasts with all the trimmings.
The rest of the evening was spent doing the same thing millions of people across the country did - falling in and out of a food coma while watching trash TV. We went for I’m Alan Partridge and true crime. Festive, eh?
Although I was initially apprehensive about spending the big day in a Travelodge, in a way this year was better than most.
Not only did we manage to integrate all of our yuletide traditions (mostly eating), but each part of the day felt like a triumph, having overcome the limitations of our setting. Even our dog had a whale of a time (she told me so herself).
The disappointment that often comes with spending five months building up to what is a pretty regular day with added food was not felt. No, this year I was alive. I was grateful. I was Breakfast in a Box. And for that, all I can say is thank you Travelodge for hosting a truly unforgettable Christmas.