It is a warm summer morning and the sun is already up over the wide landscape of the Central Washington city of Wenatchee. The sound of the train whistle pulls me out of my sleep at Warm Springs Inn but this is something I almost never mind. I am a train lover, one of those people who finds romance in the sound of chugging locomotives and the metal-on-metal ring of wheels on rails.
Listening to the train roll by,—it could be the Amtrak Empire Builder at this hour—still drowsy, I turn over to face the breeze that sweeps through the windows of our corner room, the Burgundy Room, before racing back outdoors again to catch up with the river. Through the window screen I can see someone walking slowly along the narrow terraced garden, stopping from time to time to bend and pick something and I realize it is the chef, part of the couple who owns the inn, gathering fresh ingredients for my breakfast.
The idea is deeply satisfying and is still on my mind as I drift off to sleep again.
I wake up again an hour later—just one of the little luxuries of a weekend away—and we go down to a beautiful salmon Benedict prepared and served by the Chef. As I eat I listen to the quiet conversation of the other guests. When someone stops him to chat, the chef tells us he caught the salmon in Alaska and we understand that the meal we are sharing is something out of the ordinary. We all linger over our coffee, in no hurry to leave the potent comfort of the room.
After breakfast my husband and I stroll the grounds admiring the row of roses that lines the curving driveway and the little gardens scattered here and there, testament to the history of the stately, vine covered 1917 house that is now an inn. The house sits on the edge of the Wenatchee River, surrounded on two sides by a cherry orchard and a dense thicket of leafy trees. I stop to take a photo of the massive Gingko that towers over the gazebo, surely one of the tallest I've ever seen, and an unexpected tree in this part of the country. A pair of belted Kingfishers flies from the top of a Cottonwood tree down to the river’s edge.
I am only three hours from my own front door but at Warm Springs Inn I feel as though I am a world away from the work and worry I left behind as we drove away.
Hospitality is an overused word and I think that sometimes leads us to undervalue our need for it. But isn’t that why we are so loyal to our favorite restaurants and always try to book a room at a particular hotel? We know we will be welcomed there and we can go home to the chores and responsibilities of our everyday lives having been cared for, fussed over, fed.
For many of us, it is impossible to go home again. We’re too far away, too much has changed. The places and people are gone. But travel has taught me that we can find other places and other people who have the gift of creating that home-away-from-home feeling we all crave. After traveling the world, wouldn’t you know I would find that place, an inn by a river under a wide blue sky, just a short drive from my own backyard.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org