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Communal Vacation

Some time back as I was checking out a guest, he mentioned that this was his family’s first communal vacation.  I will admit that I didn’t know was he was talking about.  He continued with “You know, dining with other folks and getting to know them”.  Since I have been dining that way for the past 30 years at the inn, I had forgotten how unique we are in that regard.



Each vacation spot looks for a way to define itself and for “that something”  that sets them apart from other locations.  It can be luxurious accommodations, fine dining, grand size swimming pool and spa, championship golf course, business center, or any number of other amenities.  For Hemlock Inn, it comes down to a beautiful mountain view, friendly atmosphere, and those meals.


The meals are great (a biased point of view of course) consisting of genuine and plentiful homestyle cooking, but it is the way it is served that is special.  We have five large lazy susan tables that are loaded down every morning and evening.  A bell is rung and everyone descends upon them all together….communally if you will.    A blessing is given and the fun begins.


The tables themselves are a story.  Seth and Lorraine Haynie,  builders of the inn, owned the lazy susan table that sits in the center of our dining room.  They brought the table up with them when they opened the inn simply because they had nothing else to do with it.  They thought most of the guests would sit at other smaller square table they also brought.  They were lab tables from Emory University and were perfect for a couple or four guests and would offer privacy and perhaps even intimacy.  But a strange thing happened.  Most of the guests wanted to sit at the large round table.  The Haynies quickly contracted a craftsman from Maggie Valley to initially build two more large round lazy susan tables, and eventually four.


It is almost magical to watch the dynamics around the tables once the meals begin.  Commonality is discovered, stories are told, laughter begins, and friendships are formed.  It is heartwarming to witness folks in actual conversation with no thought of tweets or instant messaging.  It is face to face sharing and listening to each other that brings the comfort of grandmother’s table.


Many years ago, I was once asked if I would ever have online reservation system.  At the time, I replied I didn’t really want to let someone make a reservation without personally talking with them. I didn’t want anyone showing up and being surprised how we operate and how we dine.  A guest asked me at the time, “What if someone wants to make a reservation, but is uncomfortable talking with anyone?”  I thought for a minute and then replied, “Well I guess they would not be too happy here”.  Of course, I had to eat my words and set up an on-line reservation system. But I am still a little bit nervous when someone I have never spoken to checks in.  I never want to put anyone in a spot where they might be uncomfortable.







A number of years ago, our family went on a cruise.  I was really looking forward to it. Lainey and I warned our boys that we would be having sharing a table at mealtimes with another family as is normal on many cruises.  I told them “This will be great.  We won’t be in charge or feel like we need to guide the conversation.  We can just be laid back and enjoy the experience”.  But my southern roots and innkeeping background got the best of me.  We no sooner got to the table when I stuck out my hand and introduced myself, Lainey and the boys.  Soon I was telling them where we lived, about Hemlock Inn, what we planning to do on the cruise and more.  The other family sat quietly.  They were very nice, but didn’t see the necessity share very much.  At the end of the meal, we parted ways expecting to see them for the next morning at breakfast.  In short, they never showed up again the entire trip.  We ran them off.  I guess not everyone wants a communal vacation.


Communal Vacations may not be for everyone, but they can be wonderful and meaningful experiences. We invite you to Hemlock Inn and our tables.  You may react like my guest who was checking out who had never had a communal vacation.  As he walked out the door, he dimply said “We liked it”


Summer is upon us and it promising to an exciting time in our mountains.


We hope to see you this year and will be waiting for you!