Weekend Vacation Getaway
There are times when you just need to get away and do nothing but relax, maybe read a book, take a long walk, fall asleep in an easy chair by the fire. No tours, no museums, no wondering where to eat each evening. Those are times when you need a change of scenery, when you want to be pampered, when you want to think about nothing but the next marvelous meal.
Making Your Travel Plans
A word about room tariffs. Room tariffs will seem higher than the norm when first encountered and they are, however in three of the properties, all meals and recreational equipment are included. At two of the 12 properties, the tariff includes all meals, an extra lunch and all beverages and wine. Still higher than the average room, but not as bad as at first blush. My mother would cringe at the mere thought of a $1,000 room and it even took me a while to get used to it. But, sometimes the experience is just so incredible you find yourself thinking it was worth every penny.
For those who enjoy the book series, “100 Things To Do (or See) before You Die”, these 10 would most definitely be on the list. You may not be able to afford them often, but they should be experienced….”before you die.”
See my Photo Scrapbook.
Here is an overview of these magnificent properties (in alphabetical order).
BERNARDUS LODGE - Carmel Valley, California
I had fully intended to include the Bernardus Lodge as one of our 36 hour “Quick Escapes” as a result of my Northern California Coast trip for that purpose. But, it quickly became apparent that that would not be enough time at this marvelous Lodge tucked into the Carmel Valley. With vineyards in the foreground and the Santa Lucia Mountains as the backdrop, Bernardus is the quintessential “Relaxing Retreat”, a property so special it raises the bar for all others.
The setting could not be more idyllic, but it is the care that went into the design, both inside and out, the attention to detail, the impeccable service and the marvelous food and wine that make this property a standard for others to emulate.
BLACKBERRY FARM - Walland, Tennesse
Located on a magnificent 4200 acre estate in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm is the largest of our Relaxing Retreats properties. Built in the 40’s as a mountain retreat for the Laiser family of Chicago, the current owners, Kreis and Sandy Beall purchased Blackberry Farms in 1976 and converted it into their home and a small country inn. Today, the inn is managed by the Beall’s son Sam.
The scenery here is breathtaking. There may be no more beautiful sight than the one before you as you sit in a rocker on the veranda. In the distance a mist sweeps across the mountain range, below a pond sparkles and beyond are miles of rolling hills and grazing livestock.
Blackberry has the most to do of our relaxing retreats should you want to get a little more active and virtually everything is right on the property. Blackberry Farm.
BLANTYRE, Lenox, Massacusetts
In 1902 Robert Paterson built Blantyre as a model of his mother’s ancestral estate in Blantyre, Scotland. Complete with towers, turrets and gargoyles, the grand property served as the family’s summer and fall retreat where they entertained frequently in a lavish style befitting the times. These magnificent properties were the Berkshire’s version of the Newport Mansions and the Great Adirondack Camps.
After numerous owners, the property fell into disrepair and in 1980 Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick purchased the abandoned estate for their daughter Ann Fitzpatrick Brown. She began the painstaking process of restoring the Tudor mansion to its former glory, but this time as a luxury hotel. Seldom have we encountered an owner so passionate about her life’s work. From the rooms to the service to the wine cellar to the dining room, Ms Brown’s focus is on creating an experience her guests will not soon forget. This is truly a labor of love.
24 rooms are spread over the property in the Main House, the Cottages and the Carriage House. Today, the 117 acre property enjoys a reputation for style and elegance yet manages to be anything but stuffy. This is truly a “Relaxing Retreat” where you can be thoroughly satisfied doing nothing but enjoying the magnificent surroundings.
FEARRINGTON HOUSE, Pittsboro, North Carolina
For over 200 years the Fearrington property, located in the beautiful countryside between Pittsboro and Chapel Hill in North Carolina was a working farm, passing from generation to generation until it was purchased by RB and Jenny Fitch in 1974. Today, the property includes homes, specialty shops and a market along with the Inn and restaurant.
The original Fearrington home is now the restaurant and the magnificent inn has 32 individually decorated rooms and suites set in and around a stunning array of gardens and bucolic pastures with grazing Belted Galloway cows.
If you are driving south from the northeast, this is a “must stop” on the way down, the way back or both. It is just a short drive from Interstate 95. It is also well worthy of a visit apart from the convenience of being on the drive south.
The owners and staff here really understand the concept of superior hospitality…they “get it”. Like our other “Relaxing Retreats” the accommodations are gorgeous, the food terrific and the service superb. Add in a little southern charm, graciousness seldom found elsewhere and you have an experience unique unto itself. This property ranks with the best we have visited.
GLENMERE MANSION, Chester, New York
One need only look at the “Relaxing Retreats” in this section to know that we have been fortunate to stay at some of America’s finest properties. They are marked by luxury accommodations, exquisite dining and incomparable service. Experiencing these gems is one of the joys of what we do and when we find a new one, we can’t wait to sing its praises.
Such is the case of the Glenmere Mansion, a 150 acre estate in the lower Hudson Valley of New York. Once the Gilded Age retreat of the Goelet family, a $30 million renovation has transformed the property into a magnificent country home and one of the finest small hotels in America. Alan Stenberg and Daniel DeSimone stumbled upon the place a few years ago when it was in total disrepair. Despite having no hospitality experience, Steinberg is a former PR exec and DeSimone a doctor, they saw the potential for a world class boutique hotel. They teamed with Steinberg childhood friend Alison Klein and her German industrialist husband Peter to begin the transformation. Drawing from their years of first class travel, the partners “re-created” the best of what they experienced in their travels to make Glenmere a truly special retreat. The pair actually manage the property day to day as well, so the attention to detail is heightened even further. This….. is a place for romance, for relaxation and for celebration.
INN AT DOS BRISAS, Washington, Texas
Every serious traveler, foodie and oenophile has dreamed of owning their own place, but few of us, have the resources or the experience to pull it off. Annapolis, Maryland and Houston businessman Doug Bosch and his wife Jennifer had both the resources and the passion to covert their 300 acre family abode into the Inn at Dos Brisas, a world class inn and restaurant in the Texas foothills between Houston and Austin.
Inspired by travels throughout Europe, memorable meals at places like The French Laundry, the Inn at Little Washington, Daniel and Chez Panisse and stays at world class properties like The Point, Bosch set out to create his own version of luxury and based on a recent Mobil 5 Star award for the restaurant, he has succeeded.
No expense was spared in creating a hideaway guaranteed to relax even the most ardent Type A personality. Chefs from throughout Europe and the United States were interviewed, lighting, linens and coffeemakers were imported, a wine cellar master was hired to build the cellar and wine list, a magnificent 1760’s fireplace mantel was shipped from the Loire Valley and organic gardens were planted.
Close your eyes and imagine horses grazing in pastures beyond your room, stars brighter than you’ve ever seen and the sounds of frogs, crickets and locusts lulling you to sleep at night. The city seems so far away…..
INN AT LITTLE WASHINGTON - Washington, Virginia
In the late 70’s Reinhardt Lynch and Patrick O’Connell had a successful catering business but dreamed of creating the perfect inn and restaurant. They found an old gas station in the sleepy little village of Washington, Virginia nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley and began the transformation. In no time the Inn at Little Washington began to win accolades from both guests and the media. The Inn was the first of its kind to receive the prestigious Mobil 5 Star and AAA 5 Diamond Awards for both accommodations and dining.
Craig Claiborne of The New York Times called it “the most magnificent inn I’ve ever seen, in this country or Europe, where I had the most fantastic meal of my life”.
Seldom have we encountered the level of service we experienced here. There is virtually nothing that haven't thought of to make your stay enjoyable.
LITTLE PALM ISLAND - Little Torch Key, Florida
LODGE AT GLENDORN-Bradford, PA
Sometimes we encounter a property so extraordinary; we can’t wait to tell everyone about it. Such is the case of The Lodge at Glendorn. Built in 1929 by the Dorn Family and used as a retreat for family and friends The Lodge began welcoming guests in 1995. Today it is owned by Cliff and Tracy Forrest, former guests who purchased Glendorn when the Dorn family put it up for auction in 2009. It is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateau group , has earned the Four Diamond Award from AAA, has been called one of the “20 Coziest Getaways in North America and Europe” by the Huffington Post and one of “America’s Most Romantic Hotels” by Travel + Leisure Magazine
Surrounded on one side by Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest, Glendorn is located on 1500 acres of dense forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. The enchanting property is crisscrossed with babbling brooks, trout streams, tranquil lakes and an abundance of wildlife. The grounds are impeccably maintained and the gardens offer colors and fragrances that are just breathtaking.
MAYFLOWER GRACE - Washington, Connecticut
Sometimes you need to get away to do nothing but relax, curl up with a good book, take a walk, enjoy a glass of wine. The Mayflower Grace is the perfect country retreat to enjoy the ultimate pursuit of leisure. Located just two hours from Manhattan in the hills of Connecticut the 30 room luxury inn sits on 58 gorgeous acres of gardens and woodlands and is surrounded by a 3,000 acre nature preserve.
An exquisite 20,000 spa, a signature restaurant, Muse, by Jonathan Cartwright and wonderful accommodations make this a premier getaway in the Northeast.
The inn is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group and has earned the Forbes 5 Star and AAA’s 5 Diamond awards, the hospitality industry’s highest honors.
RANCHO VALENCIA - Rancho Santa Fe, California
As the song says, “It never rains in California….” We enjoyed 6 days of beautiful sunshine on our recent trip to San Diego. In fact, they told us they had not had any significant rainfall in 22 months! No wonder they are plagued with wildfires.
Our base for this fantastic part of the country was Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, a Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond property and a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group. The resort won the 2014 North America Grand Award by Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report and was listed among CondĂ© Nast Traveler's Top 25 Spas in the World (2014). Rancho Valencia was also among Traveler’s Top 500 Hotels in the World, and Tennis Magazine continues to name the resort as its #1 U.S. Tennis Resort each year.
SAN YSIDRO RANCH - Santa Barbara, California
The Ranch began as a way station for Franciscan monks in the late 1700s and then became a working citrus ranch, producing 300,000 oranges and 100,000 lemons in the 1800’s before becoming a guest ranch. In the 1930s, Hollywood actor Ronald Colman and hotelier and former Senator Alvin Carl Weingand acquired the Ranch and transformed it into a luxury retreat for celebrities, politicians and business leaders. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married at the Ranch, John and Jacqueline Kennedy honeymooned there and John Huston completed the script for African Queen during a three-month stay. In 2000, entrepreneur Ty Warner acquired the Ranch and made it part of the exclusive collection of Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, LLC. A $150 million sprucing up, has allowed the Ranch to maintain its position among the elite properties in the U.S.
THE ALLISON INN & SPA - Newberg, Oregon
Our “Relaxing Retreats” are usually small, intimate properties with unparalleled accommodations, dining and service. Except for its size at 85 rooms, The Allison Inn & Spa fits quite nicely in this group of the finest properties we have visited. Privately owned by the Austin family, who appear to have made a major commitment to create a world class property, this relatively new (2009) luxury destination is destined to be one of the best in the country and certainly the best in the Northwest. Located at the north entrance of Willamette Valley wine country and set on 35 lush acres, the resort is surrounded by vineyards, orchards and rich farmland with mountain views in three directions. Winding footpaths connect beautiful flower and herb gardens and a five acre Pinot Noir vineyard. The vineyard is testament to the owner’s commitment. It takes 5 years for the vineyard to mature and begin generating revenue. Now, in year 3 everyone is anxious to harvest the grapes and make the wine, but the owners are content to wait it out and produce the best product possible.
THE POINT - Upper Saranac Lake, New York
Imagine having a wealthy friend who purchases one of the Great Camps in the Adirondacks, decorates it exquisitely, hires a world class chef, outfits it with every possible recreational amenity and then invites you and some other interesting people for the weekend....that my friends, is The Point.
11 rooms, decorated in a luxuriously rustic Adirondack fashion are housed in 4 buildings scattered about the property. Personal touches abound and the rooms are so comfortable, you won’t want to leave them.
Dining is a truly unique experience. Guests dress for dinner (black tie, Wednesdays and Saturdays, jackets and ties other nights) and dine “en famille” or at two large tables together with other guests. While this may generate some apprehension, it is great fun, the conversation lively and the people very interesting….some even famous.
TRIPLE CREEK RANCH-Darby, Montana
Set on 600 magnificent acres high in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, Triple Creek is our first foray beyond the Eastern part of the U.S. and we’re left wondering why it took so long. Everything you have read about Big Sky country is true but never comes close to the experience of seeing it in person. The bluest sky you’ve ever seen, dazzling arrays of mountain flowers, wildlife you’ve only seen in books and more stars than you ever imagined were in the universe.
Originally developed by a Michigan industrialist as a private retreat, Triple Creek began accepting guests in 1986 as a “Montana Hideaway”, but really came into its own under the guidance of the current owners who purchased the property in 1993 after being frequent guests over the years.
This is an all-inclusive resort and guests are housed in beautifully appointed cabins, many of which are situated along the creek bed. There are 18 one bedroom, 4 two bedroom and 1 three bedroom luxury cabins.
This is a place to enjoy great outdoor activities, marvel at the “purple mountain’s majesty” and de-stress like you’ve never been able to do before.
Just before launching our review, Triple Creek was named the #1 hotel in the U.S and Canada by Travel & Leisure Magazine for 2008.
TWIN FARMS - Barnard, Vermont
Set on 300 acres of rolling hills in the heart of Vermont and the Green Mountains, Twin Farms is one of the most magnificent properties you will find anywhere. The combination of its marvelous mountain setting, “off the charts” food and super luxurious accommodations make this one of our favorite places. It is an oasis for the weary body and soul. A few days here and you’ll be ready to take on the world again.
There are 20 rooms and suites in 4 buildings. Each room has been strategically placed on the property to take advantage of its surroundings and provide amazing views; a meadow of flowers, a section of tall trees, a graceful pond. The rooms are without a doubt the best we have seen in our travels. They are a decorator’s dream come true. Conde Nast Traveler magazine awarded the property an overall rating of 96 (out of 100), a perfect 100 for design and a perfect 100 for rooms.
Dining is a celebration of things Vermont as Chef Ted Ask makes great use of local produce, cheeses and locally raised poultry, beef and game. Fresh, homemade and creative. You’ll find yourself eagerly awaiting each meal. A 26,000 bottle wine cellar makes each meal a wonderful culinary adventure. Twin Farms.
Bernardus is accessible easily by air into San Francisco airport, less easy but closer into Monterey airport.
Drive times from major cities:
San Francisco: 2 hours 15 minutes
Sacramento: 3 hours 20 minutes
Bakersfield: 3 hours 50 minutes
Los Angeles: 5 hours 19 minutes
The Inn is located 18 miles from Knoxville. The easiest way to get there is to fly into Knoxville airport and either rent a car or take a shuttle from the Inn.
Drive times from other major cities:
Atlanta: 3 hours 45 minutes
Charlotte: 4 hours 35 minutes
Closest airport is Albany, NY, about 1 hour away.
Drive time from major cities:
Boston: 2 hours 15 minutes
New York: 3 hours
Philadelphia: 4 hours
The area is serviced by the Raleigh/Durham airport, about 40 minutes from the Inn.
Drive times from major cities:
Charlotte: 2 hours 22 minutes
Washington, DC: 4 hours 56 minutes
Atlanta: 6 hours 13 minutes
Charleston: 4 hours 38 minutes
Glenmere is located in the lower Hudson Valley in New York. The closest airport is Stewart International in New Windsor, about a half hour away. PS, if you are so fortunate, you can land your helicoper on the lawn and you'll be met by the butler.....wow.
Drive times from major cities:
New York: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Albany: 1 hour 53 minutes
Hartford: 2 hours 15 minutes
Boston: 4 hours
Inn at Dos Brisas
Washington, Texas is located about an hour’s drive from Houston, two hours from Austin and three hours from Dallas.
Inn at Little Washington
Dulles Airport is the closest, about 15 minutes from the Inn.
Drive times from major cities:
Washington, DC: 1 hour 30 minutes
Philadelphia: 3 hours 55 minutes
Pittsburgh: 4 hours 22 minutes
Little Palm Island
Really only two options: You can fly into Key West airport, about a 40-50 mile drive or you can fly into Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and drive down, about a 4 hour drive.
Glendorn is a 90 minute drive from the Buffalo-Niagara airport which has flights from virtually anywhere in the US and Canada. Drive times from major cities include:
New York City, NY 6 hours
Toronto, Canada 3.5 hours
Pittsburgh, PA 3.5 hours
Cleveland, OH 3.5 hours
Boston, MA 2.5 hours
Albany, NY 2 hours
New York City, 1 hour 50 minutes
Hartford, CT, 1 hour (also closest airport)
San Diego airport is a short distance away. Drive times:
Los Angeles: 1 hour 45 minutes
Phoenix, AZ: 5 hours 45 minutes
San Ysidro Ranch
The closest airport is Santa Barbara, just minutes away. Drive times:
Los Angeles: 1 hour 45 minutes
San Diego: 3 hours 44 minutes
The Allison Inn & Spa
The Inn is a short distance south of Portland which would be the airport of choice. Drive times:
Portland: 36 minutes
Seattle, WA: 3 hours, 34 minutes
Specific directions are provided by The Point upon prepayment of your stay, (it’s kind of an adventure) but Upper Saranac Lake is in the Lake Placid area. Saranac Lake Airport is the closest. Next closest major airport is Albany.
Drive times from major cities:
Boston: 5 hours 30 minutes
New York: 5 hours 30 minutes
Syracuse: 3 hours 20 minutes
Albany: 2 hours 58 minutes
Closest airport is Missoula, about 75 miles away. Shuttle is $125 each way or you can rent a car or SUV at the airport. The property also has its own helipad, should you want to shorten your trip a bit. If you happen to be visiting Glacier National Park, Triple Creek is about 4-5 hours away and 5-6 hours from Yellowstone. Believe me, it is worth the trip.
Drive time from major cities:
Jackson, WY: 6 hours
Barnard is northeast of Rutland and about 40 minutes from the Killington ski area. The drive from Burlington, the nearest major airport is about 1 hour 20 minutes.
Drive times from major cities:
New York: 5 hours
Boston: 2 hours 45 minutes
Albany: 2 hours 51 minutes
Syracuse: 4 hours 47 minutes
When To Go
Oregon temperatures for a visit to the Allison Inn & Spa are relatively mild throughout the year, reaching daily highs in the 70's during the summer months. Rainy season runs from November-February. But don’t be dissuaded by that. How better to spend a rainy day than with a good book and a glass of Pinot beside a roaring fire?
San Diego has probably the most sunshine of any city in the country so travel (Rancho Valencia) there is good any time of the year.