The only empty table is the one right in front of the keyboardist and vocalist, so we grab it. I keep sneaking peaks at the performers who look like they stepped off the cover of an early-80s R&B record. The keyboardist was definitely channeling Lionel Richie a la Endless Love era complete with mullet.
Rewind to several hours earlier and my crew and I had just arrived at the Holiday Inn Airport Hotel, far from the city center. Airport hotels typically aren’t my favorite places to stay because although they are generally clean and comfortable, they often lack character and are far removed from any points of interest.
So I never imagined I was about to experience one of travel’s greatest pleasures: serendipity.
After arriving and stashing our stuff at the hotel, we headed across the giant parking lot to a Paul Mitchell beauty school — where the girls they told us that they were going to our hotel for the free Friday pasta bar after they got off. It sounded a little too good to be true; free pasta at our hotel? Why didn’t the front desk mention anything about it when we checked in?
But a few hours later we walked back into the hotel and were met by the soothing sounds of 80s keyboards and a jazzy voice. The air was heavy with roasting garlic and onions. My stomach growled. And then we saw the line for drinks and pasta.
We looked at each other and I half-smiled.
In line, I discovered that the chef made your pasta dish right then and there. First, there was garlic, fresh green pepper, and roasted red peppers in oil. Next, Italian sausage, chicken, mushroom, fresh tomato, olive, and onion. And finally, the sauce and noodles — Vodka, Marinara, Alfredo, and Penne, Spaghetti, Rainbow Rotini.
I decided to try it all in the Vodka sauce with Rainbow Rotini. The chef piled our joint creation high onto an impossibly tiny plate. It was tasty.
But the evening wasn’t over yet.
As I ate, Cher’s Believe began to play and a group of 50-somethings jumped up squealing, dragging their partners into an impromptu dance session. Then one of the much younger hoteliers got up from behind the front desk, yelled, “that’s right!” and joined them. It was thrilling — and, yes, a tad awkward — and very much transported me to the era of my first dances in junior high school.
Later, while we wait in line for seconds, the Paul Mitchell girls stroll in and a scene of exaggerated waving, smiling and hugs ensues as if we were long-lost friends united again.
Quick friends happen like this when traveling.
All in all the night was wholly unexpected, altogether pleasant, and a little weird. But it’s exactly this type of evening that makes me love traveling. I’ll take it.
— Laura Rowley