My family didn't stay in hotels. They thought the concept was ridiculous if your home had a bedroom.
Later, in my teens, the family took its first vacation to a resort in upstate New York, where I developed a crush on Natalie Wood, who was filming a movie on the property. I even had dinner with her twice.
I took a liking to Southern fiction and kept imagining roadtrips filled with one-pumps, cicada swarms, Moon Pie emporiums and ivy-covered, magnolia-dripping small hotels of character.
The thing about the writers I followed -- folks like Lee Smith, William Faulkner, Harper Lee and John Berendt -- was that everything started with daybreak and grits and ended with the moon shining somewhere near the end of a party. Southern fiction is largely about daytrips.
But where, I wondered, did the characters sleep when they set out away from home? I've always felt that the best moments of any travel day might be in the evening, long after dinner and conversation, when a traveler gets to retire to bed and lie back and contemplate what has been experienced that day.
All I require for a good night's sleep is a truly comfortable bed with extra crisp linens and a mattress seemingly being used for the first time, complete darkness and silence of the kind you have to seek out. Why, I have often wondered, don't hotels feature "quiet floors" for folks like me?
My most memorable hotel night occurred at Villa La Vedetta in the hills above Florence. There was a pounding on our door at 3 a.m. I was handed a FedEx package that contained a photo of a beautiful baby girl and a medical report written in Mandarin. The adoption process we had initiated more than two years earlier was shockingly completed.
The mind wanders. Angela and I once shared a hotel wall with Mike Tyson and about a dozen friends in Kentucky. No sleep that night.
In the Metropole Hotel in Moscow, I awakened one morning to discover that one of the people in my group had been forcibly removed from his room and was being held by authorities somewhere in the city. (Too long a story to tell here -- but I did get him back.)
Ireland is where I sleep best because the entire country is Whole Foods on steroids -- totally organic. If you eat well, you sleep well.
Soon after check-in at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi I noticed a vending machine off the main lobby. I thought I would grab a snack before heading up to my room. On closer inspection, it held no chocolate. Instead, it was dispensing solid gold bars.
At my favorite Paris hotel, the Esprit Saint Germain on the Left Bank, I sleep particularly well, a fact I attribute to great, crisp bedding and the fact that I begin my mornings with a visit to the best bakery in the city, just down the street. Can things ever be too perfect?
At my favorite hotel in Italy, Monastero Santa Rosa on the Amalfi Coast, I liked the fact that there is a "Confession Booth" along the main hallway. And I always visit the well-hidden chef's garden just across the street.
The worst hotel stay of my life was provided by American Airlines near the Miami Airport after a canceled flight. Bad sign when the check-in is done behind bulletproof glass.
And sad to say that the mattress was not just out of the box.