Silent screen star Greta Garbo was famously quoted as saying, “I want to be alone.” She denies it, but the quote stuck and is often uttered by loners who echo Garbo’s claim to have actually said, “I want to be left alone.” So the question arises, where do “loners” go for a getaway where they can be left alone or find a bit of company – if the mood strikes? There are many spots within an easy weekend drive of Philadelphia. Here are a few that I frequently visit. – Jay Lloyd
In its heyday when I, along with hordes of other travelers, rode the Kiptopeke Ferry between Cape Charles and Cape Henry at the Atlantic entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, Cape Charles was alive with beachgoers and fishermen, visitors and business people. Then came the Bay Bridge Tunnel. The ferry stopped running and Cape Charles became a forgotten gem. But a revival, spurred by visitors who enjoy a bit of solitude, a stroll on the beach, views of the water and a pint in a pub, has put the town back on the map. It’s quiet at this time of year, and a loner can enjoy some fish and chips, a pint of Guinness and a book at Kelly’s pub. Or a lively conversation at the bar. The town has about half a dozen B&Bs, and The Shore Stay is a serviceable motel, just outside town.
Just two hours from Philadelphia, Chestertown, MD on the Eastern Shore is a historic city on the picturesque Chester River. George Washington spent time here, and the town was a major shipping port for a thriving colonial tobacco industry. But enough of the history. Late fall brings solitary strolls along the waterfront and a restaurant-rich town with an accent on art, architecture, theater and antiques, sparked by the presence of George Washington College. A stay at the Imperial Hotel in the heart of town provides a fine dining and lodging experience in Victorian surroundings.
Fall foliage is dropping faster than Chicken Little’s sky in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. Most golfers and leaf peepers have left, and the skiers haven’t arrived. It’s the ideal time for a solitary weekend on a scenic 45-acre lake a few miles from Elk Mountain. Two spots here provide a base for exploring Crystal Lake and the surrounding countryside. The Fern Hall Inn was built at the turn of the 20th century as a summer retreat for the founders of Johnson and Johnson. It has the expected splendor. It also has a 9-hole golf course for weather friendly days, a cozy dining room with a creative menu and a cubbyhole bar that’s perfect for loner relaxation. Across the lake, the Crystal Lake Hotel has lodging in a wooded setting and an Italian kitchen that serves up savory meals in a lounge that’s more like a nook with a warming fireplace. Here are the websites: www.crystal-lake-hotel.com and www.fernhallinn.com/online/index2.html.
French Creek rushes through St. Peter’s Village in rural Chester County. It’s about the only thing that rushes around here, and it’s the epitome of a sleepy village. Not much here to distract the loner. There is, however, an excellent bakery and coffee shop and a fine inn with a restaurant and lounge that attracts distant diners both for the creekside view and the menu. The bar at the St. Peter’s Inn is ideal for reflection or a quiet chat. Climb among the rocks that line the creek banks, drop a fishing line or just sit and gaze at nature. The inn has comfy, period furnished rooms from Thursday through Saturday nights.
New Paltz, New York
For loners who reflect, meditate and unplug, Mohonk Mountain House in New York’s Hudson River country is a stress-relief Utopia. This sprawling castle-like hotel-resort is planted among dramatically scaled cliffs overlooking a sparkling lake. Hiking trails that range from stroll-in-the-park easy to extreme challenge criss-cross the property and rise to scenic overlooks. Along the way there are gazebos for solo strollers who reflect on the lake view, meditate and practice a bit of yoga. The hotel spa offers meditation lessons. You can take a kayak or canoe for a solitary drift on the lake. And in the evening, claim a corner table at a cozy bar that is completely TV-free. You won’t even find a set in your room. Now, that’s solitude!