After breakfast this morning I was chatting with Michael and Sharon, a really nice couple from New York who are visiting Port d’Hiver Bed and Breakfast for the first time and staying in the Windward Suite. Having recently bought a new house, they were excited to tour the grounds and other guest rooms, talk about the design of our Melbourne Beach B&B and get inspiration for their new project.
Our first stop after the dining room, is the garden courtyard just outside. The ground under our feet is covered in old Chicago bricks and red petals from the giant bougainvillea that looks over the garden. In the corner is the rocky old fountain made of coquina from the beach across the street and the remains of a stone overseer’s bench with woman’s face and winged body. But instead of a wooden seat, a cabbage palm grows, covered with the spiky arms and huge white flowers of a Night Blooming Cereus.
Above the garden is the New Orleans-like balcony of Dianne’s Room with its intricate scrollwork panels of vines and passionflowers, a deeply southern and meaningful image that has been used for centuries in European art and architecture.
As I look at the viney ironwork and discuss the courtyard with Michael and Sharon, I can’t help but think of the book A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. In the early years, before the house became the Melbourne Beach Bed and Breakfast guests know today, the courtyard’s big bougainvillea and purple allamanda had twisted and grown together untamed for more than forty years so that you could not tell one from the next. They grew over the fence and around the porch rails and through the gaps in the house’s siding. As we took apart the bead board ceilings to update the old cloth wiring, inside we found vines and tendrils winding through the walls all the way to the second floor as though the house and plants were all one big organic structure growing up together from the ground. This, combined with all that we were learning about the Brown family and others who had lived in the house on Ocean Avenue throughout the years, made it seem as though the lines between inside and outside were blurring like Hughes’ dreamy depiction of 19th century British colonial island life: plantation, barefoot children, tabby cats, jungle palms, southern sun and sea whipped and shaken and spun together into a beautiful wild adventure.
“As they followed the lane toward the sea they came to a place where, yesterday, a fair sized spring had bubbled up by the roadside. Now it was dry. But even as they passed a kind of gout of water gushed forth: and then it was dry again, although gurgling inwardly to itself. But the cavalcade were hot, far too hot to speak to one another they sat their ponies as loosely as possible, longing for the sea.”
In addition to the historic photos of the Brown family that guests find hanging on the walls here at our Bed and Breakfast in Melbourne Beach, I’ve often thought of framing passages like the one above from A High Wind in Jamaica. But in the end I wasn’t sure if people would understand and find them beautiful or maybe just think we were a little strange.