Gonzales – Belle Oaks Inn
After several hours of antiquing, walking and exploring I may expire from the heat on this scorching record-breaking June day in Gonzales. At least the porch of this old southern-mansion-styled home is shaded by the second-floor balcony roof. I look at Michael, “We are ten minutes early.
Two empty white rocking chairs are begging for our bottoms to sit in them. We oblige.
Somewhere a church bell tolls three bells. The owner, Clint Hille, opens the door and apologizes for the fact that the innkeeper manager is not here to take care of us. He offers to substitute—and this is better. I have a million questions.
The B&B has gone from the family home of a rich banker to a dorm for doctors and nurses who worked at a nearby rehabilitation center during the polio epidemic, to a family home, to almost total abandonment. In 1980 the surviving heir of the estate had the house boarded up and sealed for twenty years while he lived the good life in Galveston never working a day in his life, until the year 2000, when after his tragic and untimely death, the current owners were able to purchase, rescue, and restore the lovely Belle.
Serendipity has done it to me again. She pushes, pulls, shoves and tugs. For our impromptu trip to Gonzales, I decided to check out B&B’s. All of those soaring majestic white columns just sucked me right in. On Wednesday I booked a room.
The wooden floor that I stand on is an exquisite intricately inlaid work of art. I feel I need to lift my feet and float around, not walk. This place is gorgeous; beautifully and imaginatively decorated with a flair-defining elegance, excellent taste, and touches of western art.
We tour the downstairs and are led to our room on the second floor. The walls are warm and golden, the coverlet on the four-poster bed, a deep hunter green. There is a fireplace and two wingback chairs, a basket full of magazines in the corner, a small nook that contains a mini-fridge—stocked with water and soft drinks—wine glasses and a coffee maker. The closet contains extra pillows, robes for two, an ironing board and an iron. The bathroom has adequate space to spread out all my things and a selection of toiletries in case there is something I forgot to pack. As soon as the door closes on our cozy well-appointed space, exhausted from the heat, we fall asleep; me under the covers amid mounds of pillows, Michael in the wingback chair.
After dinner and an outdoor concert, we return to the inn at 10 p.m. We open the door to our room to the soft sound of music and the glow of lamplight. Our bed has been turned down. The pillows fluffed. There are two giant cookies under a glass dome on our bedside table. Before falling asleep I tell Michael, “We have to come back and stay here again.”
At 6 a.m. the rooster crows, the chickens cluck. We force ourselves out of bed and onto the balcony where we sit in South Texas early morning tranquility sipping our coffee, nibbling on one of last night’s giant oatmeal cookies. Staring out at the big old magnolia trees, Michael tells me, “We need to come back here when it storms so I can sit and watch the rain from the front porch.” Instead, we watch a pair of cats stalk their way from driveway to sidewalk while a squirrel, safe in a high perch on a leafy branch, fusses loudly at their presence.
We have come to the realization that we are the only guests at the inn this morning. The owners remain in their third-floor aerie—this place seems to be ours alone. At 8:30 a.m. we make our way downstairs where we were told a breakfast buffet would be available to us in the butler’s pantry. We have a choice of where to partake this small feast and I choose the glass topped wrought iron table on the back porch with a view of the grounds and pool.
The quiche is warm and savory. The cinnamon roll decadent, the fruit sweet and ripe, the coffee rich and hot.
The weather? The weather—it feels like Louisiana in August—is overly hot and overly humid, more than muggy. Wondering why I chose to sit outside, I check the radar for the progress of our promised cold front; it is barely south of Austin, but there are showers coming up from the Gulf and we are on the very edge of what could be rain.
It rains. It actually pours while thunder pounds the skies.
We move to the rocking chairs on the side porch. Then we move to the rocking chairs on the front porch. We wile away the hours doing absolutely nothing.
Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. And again—wonderful.
222 St. Peter, Gonzales, Texas 78629
La Bella Tavola