Shortly after breakfast on July 5, a family from New York City staying with us for four days, inquired if they might use our grill, conveniently located poolside, for an afternoon cookout – a July 4 family tradition that they had to forego while on vacation. Before I could answer, they threw in a bribe – I was invited to dinner! Never one to turn down food, and most especially food I don’t have to prepare, I enthusiastically gave permission. (We have all the basic fixings for any guest who wants to use our grill from salt and pepper to paper plates). Smiling broadly, Jason and Sandy, and daughters Claire and Nicola, immediately proceeded to invite everyone at the inn to join them around 4 in the afternoon for a barbeque!
Work kept me busy till just after 5:30 and as I toured the last check-in through the backyard and pool area, I was surprised to see my New York family and six other guests gathered around the grill and table, laughing, eating, drinking, and encapsulated with plenty of good cheer. Once free, I quickly joined the party, helped myself to an ear of corn, and watched amusedly as “Chef Jason” cajoled the last check-in, a couple from Kentucky taking a slow and meandering drive home from Gulfport, Mississippi, to join us. We quickly grabbed chairs off the nearby decks and made room round the table.
Grilled corn was slathered with butter, while burgers and dogs were joyously consumed. Jason was the grill commander deftly turning the pork, chicken and steak kabobs over the heat assisted by his youngest, Nicola. Sandy made sure each new arrival had a drink (white or red wine, or beer) and quickly shooed the children to make room for the adults. The other guests came and went, on their way to dinner, but a core of us stayed despite the heat: Sandy, Trevor, Claire and Nicola from NYC (though Sandy and Trevor are from South Africa originally), Patric and Charles from Ohio (celebrating eight years together), Matthew and Allison from W. Virginia (on their honeymoon), Melissa and Patrick from Illinois (also honeymooners), and Kim and Greg from Kentucky (celebrating his return from Afghanistan).
Soon Scott West, Jason and Sandy’s Savannah connection and the person who referred the family to our inn, arrives and has gifts for the family and one for me! We passed the delicious Byrd Cookie Company treats around for all to taste, and I snuck inside to fill my tumbler with the Inn’s special Dreamcicle Lemonade (with a dash of Vodka) which I also shared around the table. Claire and Nicola entertained us (quite beautifully, I might ad) with songs they had learned from several Broadway shows and musicals as well as some songs of the old South, including a song of freedom from slavery! This prompted a lively discussion around the table, as I am sure you can imagine! As the evening’s laughter grew and life stories were shared, Jason and Greg left to purchase more beer and wine. It was at this point that I realized I had better excuse myself as breakfast duty was on my plate for the morning.
It is moments such as these when guests find kindred spirits and the feeling of family permeates the evening that I realized how blessed I am to do what I do. There is no doubt, Azalea Inn and Gardens bed and breakfast is a better way to stay*!
*“better way to stay.” is the grassroots campaign of the Professional Association of Innkeepers (PAII) dedicated to helping travelers discover the B&B experience.