When I am travelling, meals tend to fit into a fairly typical pattern: a decent breakfast at the place where I am staying; a snack lunch on the hoof; and a main meal in the evening. When I am budgeting for these meals, I mentally allocate the greatest outlay on my evening meal. In fact, now that I actually come to analyse it, I would anticipate that the ratio of my meal allowance would be roughly split 1:1:3 between breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But no longer.
Breakfasts have gotten expensive. In some instances, more expensive than my evening meal.
I recently stayed in Hamburg. I stayed in a very pleasant, mid-price hotel in the Speicherstadt district. I booked the hotel on a room only basis, paying for breakfast as an extra.
The breakfast room of the hotel was advantageously situated, with an open-air balcony overlooking the canals and warehouses for which the area is justly famous. The breakfast itself was an expansive buffet of hot and cold dishes, all well cooked and presented. But the price for this was €20. For breakfast! If I required an early-morning wake-up call, I received one that day. €20 is more than the budget I normally allocate for my main evening meal. Suddenly my carefully planned ratios are thrown into chaos. 1:1:3 has become 2:1:2. I’ve blown practically half of my daily food-money by… well by breakfast-time.
Now, I am not suggesting that the breakfast wasn’t worth it. The ambiance was enviable; the spread was lavish but, at the end of the day––or, more pertinently, at the beginning of the day––there is only so much food you can eat for breakfast and so much time you can expend over breakfast and, believe me, I’ve tried.
For all the extensive range of choice of dishes, my maximum consumption capacity is probably a modest 10% of them. And therein lies another problem. Because you have paid so much; because there is such a carefully-prepared banquet available, you feel obliged to stuff in far more food than you really desire, or is practically healthy. You go back for seconds; for thirds; for little pastries you would never normally eat after fried eggs and bacon; for extra cups of coffee; for a final yoghurt; and then one last bit of smoked salmon on a bagel, just to top things off; just because it is there, until you feel sick of it all; sick of the money it has cost; sick of the Tantalus excess; sick of your own helpless greed.
Whatever happened to the traditional ‘continental breakfast’ that was universally loathed but eminently affordable? One rock-hard bread roll, a small pat of butter and a single cup of lip-furlingly strong black coffee, all for under €3? You still felt like you were being ripped off, but at least there was no disguising the sting.
© E. C. Glendenny
Travel writer E. C. Glendenny is nothing if not Full English.
You may like to check out some of E. C. Glendenny’s other travel writing: Easy Come, Easy Go. On the other hand, you may not.