Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chalet Suzzanne, Lake Wales, Florida

Nonnie's Poetry Trip: Part 1

Last night was my first with a home oxygen delivery system. I have an apparatus, that looks like a gas mask, which straps around my head and covers my face, a CPAP machine that takes up most of my night table, and a big blue square thing that supplies additional oxygen and makes soft factory noises. Blue does not go with the color scheme of my bedroom. Neither dog nor cat stayed in the room, let alone got on the bed, once I started my machines, and my brother wouldn't even look at me while I was wearing it. Maybe he has to get his courage up a little more. Maybe it's hard seeing someone you love needing help to breathe through the night?

Before starting this life-prolonging indignity, though, I went on a road trip. Two days driving and staying at historic hotels, six days and nights at a poetry festival, then a night with Yvette Managan,  a kindred spirit and fellow editor (The Linnet's Wings), and a morning with Cormac Tully, who I first met when I was three and he was four (and a half!) Ten days away from Drago, my brother and housemate, Blossom, our dog  and Sam, our cat. I missed them and they missed me, but jeez louise, what a time I had!

On the way to the Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray Beach, I drove along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from Panama City to Panacea (I know, right?) with sparkling blue water (well, it was sparkling and it was blue) on my right, tooling gently through small towns or no towns with minimal traffic and Paul Simon, The Band, and Amadeus Mozart to keep me company. I lost the shore for awhile after the Big Bend, but recovered it, on three sides (!), when I arrived in Cedar Key. I spent the night in the Richard Boone room at The Isand Hotel. The building dates from 1859, has survived 150 hurricanes and is said to be haunted by several of the dead, including a prostitute from the days when the place was a Speakeasy.  I took a long walk around the docks then had fresh clams and pasta for dinner. Outside my room was a second-story veranda with a view of the tiny town and the Gulf. There was no TV or phone in my room and I had an Alan Furst novel to start.  Just right.

Cedar Key, Florida
The only time I got lost on this trip was exactly where I thought I might lose my way. Now that I don't have a husband I can stay off Interstates and my route from Cedar Key to Lake Wales looked a little complicated when I studied my many maps. I love maps. Things went fine, however, until a road lost it's mind and instead of going south and east switched to south and west. I ended up in Tampa sprawl land. Not for so very long in real time it turned out, but, you know, when you're in the middle of being lost your perspective gets muddled.

Chalet Suzanne
Then, suddenly, farms, cows, orchards and, tired but once again peaceful, I found Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales. Before booking the room I'd argued with myself, briefly, about staying there. Expensive. But, I discovered, why not? Unlike much of what we get for our money, this was worth every penny. To me, mind you. Who is, after all, the one who counts. (Was that a pun? I can never do those and rarely even get them without some puzzling.) I had a huge, elegant, yet cosy and old-fashioned room! Maple-glazed duck (sorry Doctor Stokes) for dinner at a table with a lake view in a restaurant that was a magic palace of 1930's Mexican-influenced Turner Classic Movies Hollywood decor. The tables were laid with antique glass and china that didn't match in the classiest way possible. I had the best bath I've ever had! Whirlpool, of course! I could have, but didn't, go sky-diving from the little airplane parked on the tiny airstrip behind the hotel which was built for movie stars, astronauts and such! Susan Hayward stayed there!

I lingered at Chalet Suzanne in the morning. Oh, yes. But it wasn't all that hard to get back in my excellent 2005 Buick, because I only had a few hours to drive before I could check into The Colony Hotel and Cabana Club for a week of top-shelf poetry. That will be Part Two, though. At least.


Frank J. Hutton said...

I once had the chance to go parasailing over a Great Lakes bay. Determined to do it the next morning too. Then I awoke and it was storming, which I took as a sign from the gods.

No matter. The rest of the trip was good, though certainly not as rich and rewarding as was yours...

Karen said...

ooh, what a wonderful time. And Cedar Key looks wonderful.. now I have to google. Looking forward to your next installment.

sorry about the breathing machine :-(