The Gift of Hospitality
Many luxury hotels do a great job of making their guests feel welcome. Some guests find that feeling in the friendly staff, others in the scent of fresh flowers in the common areas and others in the quality of the amenities. There is however nothing more wonderful than feeling welcome in someone’s home. One place I definitely feel welcome is when I visit my brother Jean Paul and his wife Marianna.
From the minute you walk over the threshold of their Southern California home, you get the feeling that they are very excited to have you as a guest. From fresh flowers in nearly every room to the huge bowl of fruit just waiting to be plucked and enjoyed to the never-ending cheese and olive platters and delicious wines, the care and preparation for your arrival is evident. And that’s just in the public rooms.
Step into your guest room, and it feels like you’ve hit the hospitality lottery. Marianna always leaves a wrapped gift on the bed—inside I might find a beautiful candle, a wonderful book, or a box of delicious specialty teas. There are more fresh flowers, a fancy bottle of water, irresistible chocolates, the latest magazines (with pages earmarked and with notes like, “Sis, I thought you’d like this story about…”). And the gifts don’t end there! Marianna leaves her favorite new beauty products in the bathroom, which always makes me feel like I’m at a spa. Our family joke is that when you go to their house, you better bring an extra bag to carry home all of the loot!
I asked Marianna about her unusual talent as a hostess. And while she is very modest about it (“Doesn’t everyone do stuff like this?” she responded), I managed to get a few more details out of her.
“The first few minutes when someone comes into your home set the tone for the whole weekend,” Marianna says. and having lots of munchies out and at the ready signals to guests that they can be casual and make themselves at home. “We want our guests to know they can let their hair down for the weekend.”
As for gifts, Marianna says the most important of all is to start with a hand-written note left in your guest’s room. “When people take the effort to get on an airplane or in a car to come visit,” she says, “it’s nice to let them know that we’re putting everything aside to enjoy this special time together.”
Of course I feel so welcome that moving in has crossed my mind!
Try to make the items you leave out in a guest room as specific to the person as possible. For example, if your guest is fluent in Italian, give a book of Italian poetry or current Italian magazines from the local newsstand. Does your guest have a particular fondness for chocolates or French macaroons? Seek out the newest bonbons from an up and coming chocolatier or local bakery.
Men love “beauty” items too. Look for an old-fashioned shaving kit with a brush and unusual razor or specialty toothpaste and a fancy toothbrush.
Pajamas and cozy slippers during colder months are always a hit.
If you know your guest’s tastes and special interests, new CDs and books are always appropriate. Or simply sharing your favorites can be a nice way to introduce them to something new.
When it comes to food, it’s nice not to mention easier on you to plan meals and snacks ahead so that they can easily be pulled out and served after a day out sightseeing. “If you are staying in to share a special meal together try to keep the recipes simple but delicious so that the emphasis is on your time together at the table not over the stove.
Share recent discoveries with your guests… It doesn’t have to be anything major: Even introducing them to something as simple as your favorite new ice cream will create fun moments and memories.
Does your guest love fashion? Books about her favorite designers as well as luxury beauty items are always a treat.