The hotel buffet, a signifier of travel

It seems excessive; the rows of cereals, sliced fruit, foreign cheeses, and cured meat. The eggs five ways and the greasy dishes of bacon and sausages. Brightly illuminated in artificial light, this spread, or something similar, makes its appearance at most city hotels from as early as 06:00 any given day of the year.

Yet I can’t help but love it. To lift a flaky croissant from a pile of pastries and to pick out my favourite fruit, neatly sliced. To say yes, thank you, to one more cup of freshly brewed coffee and taking in the early morning view from a window seat in a city that isn’t my own.

The pleasure of the hotel buffet isn’t found in the large amounts of food and choice. The real charm is the fact that you’re eating it in a different place. The off white porcelain, the bottomless coffee and the industrial toasters are all signifiers of being away.

You have your reasons for being here, whether it’s holiday or business. You got up early to get on with meetings or to explore. You washed with the complimentary soap, dried off in a thick white towel and indulged in the fact that you were asked to leave it on the floor. You didn’t make your bed before you zipped up your suitcase.

In an airy breakfast room rimmed with large windows, you might see this city you’re travelling through for the first time in daylight. All foreign mornings are beautiful. Perhaps there’s a cool fog hanging over the place. Or maybe the sun is out and you’re lured to sit in the garden.

Everyone else in the room are travellers too. There are suitcases in the foyer, taxis pull up out front and solo businessmen silently read the paper or check their email.

Picking out the paw paw slices and requesting your favourite version of eggs means you’re part of the travel culture. This culture, this club, isn’t only about ticking off places, but also the necessities we all share no matter our destination. The airports, the flying, the crisp linen and the ‘breakfast included’.

Eating a hotel breakfast signifies that you’re a traveller. That you woke up somewhere else. That you’re away.

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