Vacationing closer to home

Unwilling to travel through airports just yet, Jeremy Wayne decides the car is the only way to go this summer

Apologies Peter, Paul and Mary (and composer John Denver), but I’m not “leaving on a jet plane.” At least, not any time soon.

If airports weren’t bad enough before Covid — security lines; standing stock-still in full body scanners, hands above one’s head, like the most maladroit child in the gym class preparing for a jumping jack; personal humiliation as one’s underwear is forensically examined in public — one can only imagine the fandango now.

And don’t get me started on masks, which are, by the way, utterly necessary. The last time I wore a mask in public — at least until a couple of months ago — was 30 years ago when I attended the glamorous Volpi Ball in Venice. Well, I say “attended,” but what I really mean is gate-crashed. I borrowed a tuxedo from an usher at La Fenice opera house and my girlfriend jazzed up a little black number, which cost around $20 from H&M, I recall, with a feather boa — quite fetching, but so synthetic that once false move with the cigarette lighter and the entire Palazzo Volpi would have gone up in flames. If she looked conspicuous amid the Valentinos and Versaces, everybody was far too polite to say.

This summer, by contrast, there will be no airports for me, no high jinx on the Grand Canal. Instead, I will be re-bonding with my car, which has been standing idle in my driveway for far too long, undriven, unloved. First up, I’d like to get back to Maine, if the Maine-iacs will have this not-so-native New Yorker, to check out The Tides, a 21-room Victorian inn, dating from 1899, in a prime position looking over the Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. Two of its suites have been decorated by Jonathan Adler (whom we profiled in March WAG,) while in the main lounge, soothing cream and taupe upholstery along with shell lamps and rope chandeliers appear to reference the ocean, without any navy-blue seaside clichés. The Tides is said to have a terrific restaurant too, where executive chef Taylor Stanton treats classic Maine fare such as crab and lobster with winning simplicity and respect.

Over on the Cape, in Provincetown, Massachusetts, meanwhile, the centrally situated 170-year old Salt House Inn, which I visited briefly last year, is my kind of inn. Historic in look but modern in outlook, guest rooms and bathrooms are scrupulously clean (bathrooms almost to the point of seeming clinical — a plus in the age of Covid-19) and the answer to virtually every question you might ask is “Yes.” There’s also plenty of outdoor space, rare in the center of Provincetown and, owing to the geniality of the hosts, a kind of party atmosphere prevails. Breakfast is served outside beneath a charming pergola. And although Tanglewood is shuttered this summer in Lenox in the western part of the state, the magical, Gilded Age Blantyre, which we wrote about in WAG last August, is not only open for business, but has famed chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud hosting a Café Boulud pop-up, running through October, for some of the very best grub in the region.

If the USA border with Canada reopens before summer’s end — and the situation seems to change on a daily basis — I would love to spend a couple of days in Montréal. A six-hour drive from southern Westchester, Montréal may be a North American city but it has a really continental vibe. The restaurant scene, slowly returning to a semblance of normality, is the best in any city in Canada, and I’m longing to try out Hotel Épik, a 10-room boutique hotel in Old Montréal opening Aug. 1, as well as the 1960s- and ’70s-themed Hotel Uville. Both are in the collection of Épik Hotels, which specialize in converting historic old-town properties into luxury hotels and residences.

Still in Montréal, you’ll find one of the best urban beaches anywhere, should the fancy take you. La Plage d’Horloge is a glorious expanse of white sand beach under the clocktower of the Vieux-Port, with chairs and umbrellas and even showers, although at the time of this writing, swimming is still suspended.

Of course, saying what constitutes a reasonable drive is a bit like estimating the length of a piece of string. Some people think nothing of jumping into their cars and driving for eight hours or more. Others balk at a 40-minute hop. If you’re the long-distance type, Florida, especially northern Florida, may be feasible, again with the proviso that (a) non-Floridians are welcome in the state and (b) that we are minded to go, with the virus still raging in the South and Southwest. I’ve always had a soft spot for Amelia Island, where the pace and vibe are attractively Southern, but the “pizzazz” factor is unmistakably Floridian.  For a vast but extremely tasteful resort, full of Florida razzmatazz, try The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island. One of my favorite Ritzes anywhere, despite being 25 years old, this one feels like it opened yesterday. The property sits on 13 miles of glorious coastline and every inch of the hotel’s interior sparkles and shines. The sporting facilities and possibilities are endless and the hotel staff, from the managers to the front desk agents to the housekeepers to the newest runner on the restaurant team, are nice as pie.

If, on the other hand, your taste runs to somewhere smaller but still on Amelia Island, the 25-room Elizabeth Pointe Lodge, a charming B&B on lovely Fernandina Beach, is a gem. Decorations are light and airy, the breakfasts will set you up for the day, and once again the hosts preside over a communal get-together for a glass of wine each evening, which is a good way to make new friends, or to feel included if you are traveling solo.

If you’re up for driving long distances but Florida is just a highway too far, consider South Carolina’s Kiawah Island. At the five-star Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, which sits right on the beach, you can combine a beach or golf vacation with a visit to historic Charleston, a mere 20 miles away. Or, as museums start to open in local phase fours, and if perhaps you have history-buff kids in tow, Virginia’s Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg) or indeed the nation’s capital itself, make wonderful getaways. It may not be Europe but your little darlings will always remember the summer of the year many camps were closed.

Very much closer to home, meanwhile, the recently opened South Harbor Inn in Southwold, on Long Island’s North Fork, has a wonderful pedigree. Its owners are ex-Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental and the delightful inn they’ve created in a converted 1897 farmhouse in the heart of North Fork wine country is the last word in comfort. And last but not least, if you find you can’t resist the Hamptons, Topping Rose House near Southampton, with its excellent Jean-Georges Vongerichten-headed restaurant, is still winning rave reviews.

What’s that you say? You didn’t have me pegged as a Hamptons person? Oh dear — I fear my mask has slipped.

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