On one anniversary, it might have been the 10th or 11th, we managed to go to the inn for one night. We even splurged and had dinner there, as well. For most years, we had not opted for the dinner as it was just more than we could pay for. On this particular trip, we were rushed in packing and getting out the door. My parents were keeping the Beetle and the Goose, so we took the kids to their house. As we were getting close to Lake Wales, where the inn was located, we got a call saying the kids had forgotten to get their pillows out of the trunk of our car. So, we turned around and drove back. My parents met us halfway, bless them, and got the kids’ belongings. We patted their little heads (the kids’, not the parents’) and left them for a second time. This time, the Goose decided she really, really wanted to go with us. She begged. She pleaded. She cried. We said goodbye. I felt guilty for about 1.2 seconds, but I knew she was fine. My sister and I have always referred to my parents’ house as “Disney World” for the grandkids. It’s a much more magical place than it was when we lived with them, that’s for sure. Anyway, I knew she would be fine, and if not, I’d see her in less than 24 hours. That which doesn’t kills us makes us stronger, right?
We were so happy when we finally got to Chalet Suzanne. Even the drive down the long driveway was magical as we knew we would soon see the enchanting pinkness of the inn….. and there it was! I really did love that place!
We got checked in and settled into our room. I took my dress out of the suitcase and hung it up so it would not get wrinkled. Mr. E decided he’d better do the same with his suit. I placed my shoes out by my dress, and he went to do the same. Except, his shoes weren’t there. He’d forgotten his dress shoes. Ugh! The only shoes he had were white Reebok tennis shoes.
So, here’s the thing about Chalet Suzanne’s dining room. It had a dress code – a serious dress code – and Kenny Rogers, the maître d’, meant business! I had seen that man require guests to put on borrowed coats and ties, and I knew he wasn’t letting Reebok tennis shoes into his dining room at dinner time. So, we went shopping.
This was in the days before the mall was built in Lake Wales, so there was not much to choose from in the sleepy little town. Mr. Everything finally settled on a pair of black dress shoes from Payless. They squeaked when he walked and left black marks on the floor everywhere, but they were black, and they met the requirements.
Since that trip, I have never let Mr. E forget his shoes again. In fact, I’ve also never let him live it down. On our recent trip, he almost walked out without his suit. Luckily, we remembered. We joked that Kenny would have banished him for life. Little did we know how much things had changed. We’ll talk about that next time.
Our overnight stays quickly became trips to the inn for breakfast. The breakfast was at least 25% of the magic of the place, so I was okay with that. The Beetle, the Goose and Mr. Everything took me there several times for Mother’s Day. It was so much fun, and I loved getting to visit. Then, the kids got older and began trying to kill each other any time we were in the car for more than five minutes. At that point, I decided it just wasn’t worth it, and even the breakfast trips ended. We considered just going without the kids, but somehow, a Mother’s Day celebration without my children just didn’t feel right.
The coffee was the best I had ever tasted. The fact that it was served from silver kettles into eclectic China cups didn’t hurt either. Then, there was the food. Oh my goodness, the food. The eggs were scrambled with chives. While that sounds disgusting, with a little Chalet Suzanne magic, it’s actually quite tasty. The bacon and sausage were good, as well. However, anyone who knows me knows I was never there for the protein. Oh, no. It’s all about the carbs, my friends, and the carbs were AH-mazing! First we received these tiny little cinnamon rolls that were thick, chewy (in a good way) and delicious. We also got a stack of probably 10 to 12 pancakes. Before you think that’s a lot, realize these pancakes were small and paper thin. A stack of 10 to 12 was probably an inch tall and 2 ½ inches in diameter. The taste was wonderful, and the texture of these tiny pancakes was almost crepe-like. The pancakes were served with lingonberries. Yeah, I didn’t know what they were either. They are almost like cranberries, but sweeter, and they go surprisingly well with pancakes! Of course, I’m a traditional girl and just want syrup and butter, but Mr. E loves him some lingonberries. The best part of the whole breakfast was we could get more! The servers would walk around with a plate of pancakes and serve as many more as we wanted. I discovered several trips into it that I could get more cinnamon rolls too, if I just asked.
On the trips with the kids, the staff members were so sweet to them. I was a little nervous about taking my little beasties into a dining room with all that old China and the antique furniture. Though I knew they could be well behaved, I also knew it could really, really wrong really quickly. The ladies there just loved them, though, and made them feel welcomed. They even gave them bags of old potato rolls so they could feed the turtles in the pond. While I did love turtles, I also really loved those potato rolls and considered snatching them from my children and eating them myself. Old or not, those suckers were amazing. However, my love for the turtles and my kids won, and I sacrificed the day-old bread for them.
When we would go feed the turtles, they would see us coming. As we walked toward the pond, hundreds of turtle heads would pop up from the water and start moving toward the shore. By the time we got there, the whole city of turtles was waiting for us, as though we were the royal family and they were looking up at us to pay their respects. Either that, or they just wanted the bread. The kids had a ball feeding them. It was the kids, of course, who loved it, because I’m much too mature and grown up to get my kicks from turtles. Really.
On those days when the kids would take me there, we would walk around the inn and look at the antiques and alcoves. We would sit in the gazebo on the air strip and watch planes land or take off. We would also walk around and peek inside the planes that were parked there. Those are some great memories.
The Beetle had gone to Chalet Suzanne with us a few times before the Goose was born. Her first trip to the inn did not turn out quite as well. It was the day that forever changed what I remembered when reminiscing about taking my kids to Chalet Suzanne. We’ll call it “V Day.” “V” would be for Vomit. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you this story before, but it’s worth repeating, much to the Beetle’s chagrin.
On this trip, we took my mother-in-law with us. It must have been a combined Christmas gift for her and birthday gift for me. I know it was Christmas time, because there’s a Christmas tree in the picture. We enjoyed our breakfast, and the Beetle was enjoying more chocolate milk. Even the chocolate milk was refillable at this place. He loved that, because I usually limited him to one glass, if we were paying for it. The Goose was demanding more pancakes. (Like mother, like daughter.) We were enjoying feeding her and relaxing in the dining room. All at once, the Beetle grew pale and said, “I don’t feel good.” These were not words I wanted to hear from this kid. His other nickname was, “The Puker,” because he had barfed in public more times than I care to think about. When she got older, if the Goose had said she didn’t feel good, I would have told her to sit back and rest for a minute. She would have been fine. However, this wasn’t the Goose. As soon as the Beetle said it, I grabbed his hand and started for the bathroom. We only made it two feet from the table before he started vomiting. I grabbed a napkin – a cloth napkin – and told him to hold it over his mouth. He tried, bless his heart, but it was just too much vomit. We ended up leaving a trail of vomit from the table all the way to the bathroom, which was, of course, at the front of the entire building. This wasn’t just any vomit, either. This was chocolate milk vomit. If you are a mother, you know that smell. If you aren’t, consider yourself blessed.
The Beetle could not just walk around topless at Chalet Suzanne. Luckily, I was wearing a tank top under another shirt. Though I was not fully comfortable going without the tank top, I figured it was better than him going without a shirt at all. Since the Beetle felt better (he always felt better after he puked), we went ahead and walked around the inn. It was still a good day, but my breakfast memories were forever marred by The Incident.
The next time we visited Chalet Suzanne was another breakfast trip. This was at least 3 years later. We walked in at breakfast, and Kenny Rogers said, “Oh, I remember you…” That really wasn’t what I wanted to be remembered for.
Next time, I will tell you about the visit that sparked this whole voyage down memory lane. -Al