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Escape for a Date
by Linda Holloway
photography by Holloway Photography, www.hollowayproductions.com

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and it is time to escape for a date. A weekend trip, minus the kids, can rekindle the romance that has been hiding under family schedules and the “to do” list. Here’s a news flash guys - often the annual dozen roses is not enough unless they are petals floating in a Jacuzzi. If you cannot stretch the family budget by Valentine’s Day, start saving now for an anniversary trip. Family vacations are essential for making memories, but an escape for a date is just as important for reviving memories.

Below you will find destinations where you may need an airplane to whisk you away for several days, or an overnight trip to North Alabama may be enough to remind you that “couple time” is important. Often, just realizing that your spouse is willing to save and plan for the trip will bring back the romance. Once you have determined the destination, shout it to the world. “We have made it another year! Our marriage is important and we deserve an escape.” Then, whisper those five little words…. “we will not feel guilty.” Repeat if necessary.

Mountain Escape
The Lodge at Buckberry Creek
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
As the road ribbons around the mountain, you can feel the stress of everyday life lifting with the fleeting clouds. Deer, raccoons and an occasional bear can be spotted peeking from the forest as you ascend to a perfect escape. Your journey ends high above Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Harrison Mountain where you will find the Lodge at Buckberry Creek. After our visit, we thought the sign marking the lodge needed an addendum. It should read: The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, A Place Where Romance Lives.

Romance is in the air in Gatlinburg where more than 600,000 people come to the Smokies each year just to get married or attend a wedding. The area is also the perfect setting for a Valentine escape. The Lodge at Buckberry Creek opened in 2005 and reflects the “Great Camps” of the Adirondacks Mountains that were built over 100 years ago. Don’t let the word “camp” fool you. Forget the bunk beds, instead there are king-size beds with luxurious linens, a bath with a view, a kitchen and fireplace.

Each suite has been decorated with handpicked Adirondack-style antiques. All the suites come complete with a fireplace, but the Grand Suites feature a fireplace in the living area and bedroom. Larry and I found that the floor in front of the fireplace was the best seat in the house! Be sure and ask for a room with a view of Mount Le Conte—the sixth highest peak in the Eastern United States.

Bundle up and take a half-mile walk to Buckberry Creek. The creek-side pavilion is lined with rocking chairs and outdoor amenities including a fireplace and blankets. Be sure to request a romantic C.D., but the real mountain music is the rushing waters of Buckberry Creek. Lodge employees are just a phone call away, and they will save you a walk uphill with the Lodge’s unique mode of transportation, the Pinzguaer.

The main lodge houses the reception desk, the Gathering room, dining room and gift shop. The kitchen in our suite became a lonely place after we dined on Buckberry’s Executive Chef Ian Kryrstik’s delectable regional cuisine. For a romantic dinner, ask for a table near the fireplace or grab a blanket and dine on an outdoor table near the chimnea. Snuggling may become habit-forming at this mountain retreat where snarled trees have been fashioned into a love seat on the deck. This is also an incredible spot to view the foliage next fall.

Leave the lodge long enough to explore downtown Gatlinburg where you will find over 400 specialty shops. You can also feel like a teen on a date again by exploring Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort where you can ski and ice skate. Girls, before you leave home, find a rose (dried or fresh) that your husband has given you. Go ahead and admit that you have at least one pressed between two pages, or you may have saved one from your bridal bouquet. Take it to the Rose Pedaler located in the Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community and the owners will transform it into a wearable scented piece of rosebead jewelry. Before you leave Gatlinburg, don’t forget to purchase the one “must have” item…homemade fudge.

The Lodge at Buckberry Creek: 1-866-30-lodge or visit www.buckberrylodge.com.
For Gatlinburg tourist information call 1-800-568-4748 or visit www.gatlinburg.com.

The Extreme Escape
Artist’s Inn, Lancaster County
Some couples require an extreme escape—more than 2 days. You have probably seen the poster where an adorable kitten is clutching a rope with all fours. The poster quips, “When you think that you have reached the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” If that quote sounds too familiar, I can recommend a destination for a soft landing. Larry and I have found a place where stress has probably been taken out of the dictionary.

I surfed the Internet and selected one of those “sweet” deals on Southwest Airlines, boarded our time machine, and landed in Baltimore, Maryland. We rented a car and the second we crossed into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, we could feel the layers of stress peel away. After all, we were right in the middle of a place where time has stood still. This place is so unique that horse and buggies travel along roads next to modern vehicles. That’s right, you are in Amish Country also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Country. We could all take lessons from the Amish on how to have a great family life and live stress free at the same time. It is all about practicing a simpler lifestyle.

In the Northeast section of Lancaster County, you will find the small town of Terre Hill and the Artist’s Inn where you can spend the night in an artist gallery. Jan and Bruce Garrabrandt left the stress of the corporate world in New Jersey to purchase the inn. The Federal-style home was built about 1853 and is surrounded by Amish and Mennonite farms. It also doubles as Bruce’s art gallery where his finely detailed pencil artwork is displayed on the walls.

Romance begins in the Rose Room where you will find 1800’s antique furniture. Notice the unique quilts in all three bedrooms and the cottage, created by local Amish and Mennonite women. The bathroom in the Rose Room was once believed to have served as a large closet, and now has one modern convenience that you will appreciate…a Jacuzzi. Take time to enjoy the rocking chairs located on the front porch and watch the Amish buggies powered by magnificent horses clip clopping down the street. There is something about a stroll through a covered bridge that spells ROMANCE. Ask Jan for directions to the nearby Weavertown covered bridge.

On February 28 and March 1, the Artist’s Inn will host a Chocolate Covered Romance Weekend. The lucky couples will participate in a Friday night chocolate tasting, tours of a local chocolate factory, lunch and a special dinner. If you can’t make it by Valentine’s Day, we found that autumn, showing off in living color, is a great time to enjoy the Pennsylvania countryside. Jan has even found a way to make breakfast romantic. The food guru serves up a four-course breakfast by candlelight. Included in our breakfast were pumpkin pie pancakes with hot cider syrup and double chocolate snacking cake. Jan is also known for her Swedish scones and strawberry crepes.

About 20 minutes from Artist’s Inn, you can visit the small towns of Intercourse and Bird- In-Hand where you will find a variety of Amish crafts and hand-crafted furniture. Try the Plain & Fancy restaurant near Bird-In–Hand and where “all you can eat” has a new meaning. At Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides, the “plain people” will take you along private Amish roads and farms. Make a visit to Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse where you will find 43 fun country shops and restaurants including the Jam and Relish kitchen. Here, you can view the canning kitchen where Amish ladies are stirring up their favorite jams, jellies and relishes right before your eyes. The establishment will even pack and ship the homemade delights to your home.

To remember this escape for years to come, stop by The Village Quilts and select a special quilt made in Lancaster County. W. L. Zimmerman & Sons store has a special connection to Hollywood. The film, “Witness”, starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis, was filmed in Lancaster County and a scene was filmed in front of the store on Route 340 in Intercourse. My conscience dictates that I may need to add a disclaimer at the end of this article. Warning: visiting this area could lead to pulling up stakes and settling down in this rich farmland. After all, Kelly McGillis bought a farm near Terre Hill after filming “Witness.”

Artist’s Inn: 888-999-4479, www.artistinn.com.
For area tourist information contact PA Dutch CVB at 1-800-723-8824.

Alabama Escape
The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff
Pisgah, Alabama
For couples that feel they can’t fly too far from the nest, try a “Baby Steps” retreat. In just over two hours from Tuscaloosa, you will find the perfect place for romance at The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff. A weekend gazing at the expansive view from the bluff can take you back to the days for first dates and first kisses. The peaceful inn sits atop Sand Mountain near the small town of Pisgah, Alabama. Sprinkled near the Lodge are rainbow colored cottages that resemble the town of Seaside, Florida. Many of these quaint cottages are also on the rental program.

It has been 10 years since I received my most memorable birthday/Valentines present from Larry. I opened the flat rectangular box that contained a folded brochure and a reservation confirmation to the Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff. This began our annual trek to our romantic haven. Apparently, we are not the only couple that has found cupid’s second home. The lodge was mentioned in Southern Living magazine as one of the romantic spots in Alabama in 2005.

When you enter the lodge you will find the dining room and common area complete with two comfortable sofas. The two large stone fireplaces draw visitors to warm by the fire while enjoying the outdoor wonders of the bluff from the expansive windows. The three-story white wooden lodge also boasts 6 guest rooms with gas logs, Jacuzzis and Bose CD players. The innkeeper also has a large selection of romantic CDs that you can borrow.
Although there is not a bad room in the group, we are partial to the King Room where watching the dawn’s fiery explosion from the balcony is breathtaking. All rooms overlook the Tennessee River and the Guntersville Reservoir where the landscape reminds me of a scene from the shores of Ireland. Grab a blanket at night and relax in the rocking chairs on your balcony while the twinkling lights from distant towns light up the night like stars.
Bluff strolling is not for those afraid of heights as the 1,100-foot drop to the valley is intimidating, but the view is worth braving the pebble paths around the bluff. For other activities, try bike riding, hiking to Raccoon Creek or fishing. Relaxing by the pool is a favorite activity in summer. If you have ever wondered what happens to your lost luggage, take a short trip to Scottsboro to The Unclaimed Baggage Center and shop for lost treasures.

Management has thought of every detail including a guest pantry and refrigerator stocked with snack food and ice cream. The chef’s Southern cuisine is some of the best that you will find anywhere. The gourmet delights are made with fresh vegetables from regional farmers. When you combine dining by candlelight near a roaring fire, with soft music playing in the background, then you know that you have come to the perfect place for romance. The Lodge at Gorham’s Bluff: 256-451-8439, www.gorhamsbluff.com.