Reporting Jay Lloyd
It’s no secret. Valentine’s Day falls on “Getaway Day” – a Friday. Take the day off; you’ll need it to travel. For the spontaneous at heart willing to part with a sizeable nest egg for the joy of an ultimate surprise and a lifetime memory, how about a Valentine Getaway to exotic and romantic places? Start with cocktails and slide a printout of those flight or hotel reservations over to a lover. Watch out for that exploding martini, when arms are flung wide in a stunned reaction. She/he suddenly realizes you’re not a cheapskate, opting for a candlelit Valentine dinner – AT HOME. This is real. So, where to go? Follow me. – Jay Lloyd
Two of the most casually romantic getaways that Mary and I shared were in Vermont. They both combined luxury and crisp outdoor winter rushes.
Woodstock (not that one – the one in Vermont!) is a photogenic New England village, developed as a pristine oasis by the Rockefeller family. The focal point is an inn that combines luxury, fine dining and the great outdoors. We enjoyed smoked salmon served with a dollop of caviar with a background of low-key jazz piano. Sadly, the smoked salmon is now off the menu, but Oysters Rockefeller are on!
By day, we skied nearby “Suicide Six” in morning and the Inn’s Nordic trails after lunch. Between the snow and dinner, it was a glass of wine in our very own hot tub. Now that’s a Valentine’s Day to remember!
Stowe is the stuff that picture postcards are made of. A church steeple marks the center of town, and it’s surrounded by a clutch of unique restaurants serving everything from fondue to foodie delights. The panorama includes nearby Mount Mansfield, and ski slopes that can accommodate easy cruising or knee-jarring bump runs. But the focal point of activity here is the Trappe Family Lodge — yes, it was home to Maria Von Trappe of “Sound of Music” fame! It’s now one of the premier cross-country skiing centers in New England. If you can score a room here for Valentine’s weekend, the memory and romance will linger for a lifetime.
Of course, not every romantic flame thrives in the crisp northern air. Some burn more intensely when nurtured in a warmer climate. I spent more than a few Valentine evenings in…
I know – it’s not swimming weather on this semi-tropical island. But it is romantic and you will be able to enjoy outdoor lunches on sun-drenched patios while wearing a golf shirt instead of swim trunks. At this time of year, you want to be in Hamilton for the restaurants and shopping. I’m partial to the Fairmont Princess Hotel. You’ll be on the water, a few blocks from the famed Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and within strolling distance of the best and most romantic Bermuda restaurants, not to mention shopping, with a combination of British elegance and island casual. Water, bus or cab transportation from Hamilton will get you to all the major island locations. For that romantic dinner, try the Little Venice on Bermudiana Road or Tom Moore’s Tavern east of Hamilton. You’ll pay just north of $400 a night for the room. Dinner with a glass or two of wine will top $75 a person. In other words, it’s a splurge. The drawback: The only available wintertime non-stop two hour flights leave from Newark, NJ or JFK in New York.
ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
The Virgin Islands are typically identified with lazing and lounging on coral beaches with tiki bars and consistently warm weather. St. Thomas, with its international airport and tropical climate, is a memorable Valentine’s splurge with duty free savings to balance the cost. I like the Red Hook area and the Sapphire Bay Resort. It’s right on the beach, near good restaurants — and it’s where I learned to scuba dive (the last effort didn’t go as well!). For sentimental reasons, I choose an Irish pub as my restaurant pick here, Molly Malone’s. It’s owned by Frank Brittingham, whose former Lafayette Hill pub is a familiar Philly watering hole. The island version has waterside dining with casual flair. The Red Hook location also gives you access to high-speed ferries for a quick ride to scuba bliss on St. John and its underwater national park.
If you want to stay close to home under Billy Penn’s gaze and still enjoy a night of luxury, try the Ritz-Carlton on Broad Street.
It was a night of dining and theater with a touch of luxury. Left the car at home, took the train and strolled to the Ritz Carlton, right on the Avenue of the Arts. Our room looked directly at the City Hall tower clock. A soft mattress, fluffy robes and a bottle of bubbly set the tone. No need to go any farther that the epicurean 10 Arts restaurant right off the marbled lobby bar. Two favorites are the brook trout for Mary and the lamb shank for me. And if you can tear yourselves away from the hotel, you’re within steps of theaters, the Kimmel Center, Academy of Music and Philly night life.
Reminder: These spots are all splurges — expect some sticker shock. But it pays off for years to come. Also, you may find some of these spots difficult to get into for the upcoming Valentine weekend, but cancellations frequently occur, especially during the winter months when the weather is less than ideal. Call the hotel or resort directly rather than going through an online service. And if all else fails, plan for next year!