Maybe you are among the lucky few to have always booked perfect weekend getaways without a hitch? IF SO; READ NO FURTHER!
But if you are one of the 99%ers who have experienced the occasional hitch, glitch, SNAFU or even a FUBAR: You might be interested in what I have to say.
SHORT VERSION: Exceeded my wildest expectations.
DEFINITION OF WILDEST EXPECTATIONS: ( Read on. I will try to do justice to the courtesy, service and above all, the kind attention not only to detail--but to especially--the Kindness.)
WE ALL HAVE OUR REASONS WHY WE SOMETIMES ABSOLUTELY NEED TO GETAWAY: To help put things in context, it wasn't just about my turning 60 (Make that 50 with 10 years experience!) Actually, considering 2 years ago I was diagnosed with ALS--told I might be on a ventilator in 3 months but it would be a wait and see type thing--well, I happy to report it appears I have the 'slow type' of Lou Gehrig's, so like.... I truly have good reason to celebrate! And it wasn't just about my wife wanting to plan something special...by saving...and saving...to surprise me with a trip; but, not too far away from 'short notice bedside attendance' of her 84 year old father, recently hospitalized way up in Somewhere-Really-Cold, Alberta, Canada; OR, a bittersweet and potential dilema--a possible cruel flip of the coin--need to choose between attending her father (should he take a turn for the worse); OR, attend the birth of her/our first grandchild, Miss Hadley Caroline, due to make her appearance--and soon,...like tomorrow--in Nashville, Tennessee--and fortunately, not too far from "The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens", and/or our home in Knoxville.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
We almost cancelled our weekend getaway.
But then, as grateful as we are about everything, I'd be less than honest if I did not admit the past two years has been...let's say "challenging".
The Real Truth is: we needed time together; time alone; time to rest and recharge our batteries; time to remember why we fell in love almost 39 years ago and got married at 21.
(Still can't believe I am 60!)
So, what was the problem??
Well, let me first quote the cliche "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Because...(you know the rest.) It's true. I believe it.
But sometimes it does not feel that way.
Especially to your best friend-lover-wife-mother-and soon to be grandmother saving her money from working part-time as a GI nurse to honor me with a special trip and you drive 5 hours with Marriott expectations unload your bags finally get to your assigned Room With The View--and, well,...I am not going to sugarcoat it--the room was not just dirty but disgusting dirty and we just aren't the type who complain or for that matter like to complain. I guess I've had so many symtoms and signs, tests and more tests I suppose I could be whining and complaining all the time. But who likes a whiner? Who wants to live with a complainer? And Don't Sweat the Small Stuff! Remember?
I do not like to whine. I do not like to complain.
For my own health issues, I like to frequently employ humor; which I confess my poor wife does not always find particularly funny...nor anyone else for that matter...but self effacing humor has been one of my truer friends the past couple of years (and I hope some of you understand or are willing to apply 'the principle of charity' and place the best spin or interpretation on thoughts and feelings I am trying to express. The only reason I am going to this effort is that it is the least I can do for the effort the folks at THE LODGE AND SPA went for Cindy and me.) SO, I WASN'T EXACTLY THRILLED WHEN I HAD TO 'lodge' A COMPLAINT AT THE LODGE:
I asked to speak with The Manager.
NOW LET ME JUST SAY AT THIS POINT EVERYONE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN NICER OR SWEETER and when they found out it was my birthday Christina had a box of chocolates and a birthday card delivered to our "room" before we arrived.
But our short lived joy was deflated as fast as the Tennessee Volunteer Football Team under beleagur'd but still 'the boy you hope will marry your daughter' Coach Derrick Dooley and Co., can find a way to lose to an SEC team---any SEC team.
To carry the analogy a bit further: If the team is winning, you can overlook 1 or 2 things wrong. But when 1 or 2 is a big thing, and you see there are 3 and 4 more things wrong...there is a point you can't put your head in the sand and hope it will all just magically 'go away'.
But MAGIC! That is exactly what "The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens" sells: MAGIC!
And I'm not talking the DollyWood-Six Flags-Disney World techno-glitz hype. Hype so refined that us poor parents are led to believe if we don't take little honey boo-boo and Junior to a place like Disney World during the "formidable years"...well Honey...Bless Their Little Hearts...you parents are not just letting them down...you are letting Mickey Mouse, The Economy and The American Way--down.
The "Magic" I am talking about (and witnessed first hand) is the magic of young parents with their children, even babies chasing not only butterflies, but dreams that can only be born within the cocoon of Mother Nature--not just Thoreau's Utopian vision, but a vision we all share of an environment that will always be there to nurture.
Throwing pine cones and chasing leaves falling thick like big snowflakes in winter doesn't cost a penny. Might not be a bad idea if places like Callaway Gardens and other little slices of nature-made, heaven on earth required all "smart"phones, iPads, iPods and iNtrusive techno-gadgets get checked in at the entrance gate.
THE MANAGER-ON-CALL checks in daily to troubleshoot and I had the dubious honor of being the troublesome customer of the day...or so I thought...until one of the executive managers, Mr. Dave Peterson, listened intently to my complaint about the most un-Marriott state of our room AND MADE THINGS RIGHT.
Dave reassured me he'd make sure our new room was cleaned up to the standards they expect--the same standards he would expect for his wife and family as I would expect for my wife, and guests would expect for their families.
WE NOT ONLY RETURNED TO A MARRIOTT IMMACULATELY CLEAN ROOM, BUT A COMPLIMENTARY BOTTLE OF WINE, and a truly excellent cheese and fruit plate.
And, our dinner that night was compliments of the management and staff whom all thru the day and during our stay have been as nice (nicer in some cases) than members of my own family and circle of close friends! I mean that sincerely. Not just typical, polite Southern charm or hospitality nice. But brother nice. Sister nice. Good friend nice.
And if that wasn't enough, at the end of a superb meal--a surprise birthday plate of a trio of cakes and candles, presented by Robin, dining room manager, with and on behalf of The Staff at "The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens". (And I am not embarrassed or too old too admit--I felt 'special' and I was very much touched by the extra effort they collectively went to on our behalf. Maybe it just hit me how lucky I was to have made it to 60.)
Later we learned that Dave, the executive manager, did not have to but stayed all day to make sure all details of repairing our initial negative impression of the original room, had been erased by an identical but properly cleaned room. Dave made sure everything was not only to our satisfaction, but specifically to my wife's--my benefactor for the weekend; but also to his professional standards.
WE HAD A GREAT TIME!
AND AS OF THIS WRITING AND MOMENT:
Cindy's father appears to be out of danger.
I forgot to mention my 11 year old Lab on 'hospice' type care was glad to see me back.
And, clearly, Miss Hadley Caroline has a mind of her own and is revising her due date to suit her own personal schedule. (Making a statement early...I like that!)
AND AS IF TO ADD AN EXCLAMATION MARK UPON DEPARTURE: The General Manager, actually out front, assisting the front desk, Ms. Evonne Malmgren, assisted us with our bags to the car, only later to return when she learned that we were 'the couple' who had experienced a problem.
Dave, she added, is just that kind of person who is willing to go beyond the call of duty (I'm paraphrasing here, not quoting.)
MY CONCLUSION: DAVE IS A SPECIAL PERSON AMONG A FAMILY OF SPECIAL PEOPLE.
Thank you and y'all, at THE LODGE.
I'm not sure which butterfly did it; or which happy face of a child we saw and imagined might be like a future happy face of a grandchild of ours....
We can only hope and dream I guess, and with God's grace.
CALLAWAY GARDENS is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, especially during the autumn palate of colors--to hope and dream.
I STRONGLY RECOMMEND CALLAWAY GARDENS NOT ONLY FOR BUTTERFLIES AND CHILDREN, BUT MOMS AND DADS, FRIENDS AND LOVERS, AND JUST ABOUT ANYONE WHO NEEDS TO REDISCOVER THEIR HEARTS.
p.s. It was empowering to turn off the cell phones, lap tops and just tune in to each other without distraction.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Lodge and Spa at Callaway Gardens is an oasis located within the 6,500 acre Callaway Gardens community, just 1.5 hours south of Atlanta. The lodge is adjacent to a plethora of activities for the family, couples, group outings, and corporate meetings and team building. These activities include golf, tennis, hiking and biking trails, TreeTop Adventure zip line and obstacle course, ropes course, a lake and beach, Callaway Discovery Center, and Day Butterfly Center. The Lodge and Spa is a LEED Certified green hotel offering 149 smartly appointed guestrooms and suites. With a 13,000 sq. ft. award winning spa, an outdoor pool set within gardens, and a full service three meal Piedmont Grille and Ironwood Lounge, you will have all the amenities at your fingertips for a relaxing getaway. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Lodge And Spa At Callaway Gardens, Autograph Collection Hotel Pine Mountain