Romantic Retreats of Presidents
After each presidential election I remind myself that romance is not governed by the U.S. Congress, although that body often threatens short honeymoons and dooms relationships.
Now it is George Bush who may face a cold shoulder in Washington. And I bet that the folks at The Cloister resort on Sea Island, Ga., really smile at such talk. Their Wall of History, already rich with world leaders who have slept there, is in for a boost.
In 1945 Barbara and George Bush spent their honeymoon at The Cloister, where soft breezes wrap around pools and magnolia gardens just steps from the Atlantic shore. The Cloister fits the Bush image. Tradition is important. Golf and tennis and family reunions are prime reasons to stake out that sunny Georgia island for a holiday.
It is a gentler climate than the desert of Phoenix, where, in 1952, Anne Frances (Nancy) Robbins Davis telephoned the manager of the Arizona Biltmore to say that she was marrying the actor Ronald Reagan and would like to reserve a honeymoon suite March 5-13. Her parents then lived at the adjacent Biltmore Estates.
(Comedian Harpo Marx and his bride also honeymooned at the Biltmore, Arizonans will tell you, although legend says that they were less decorous than the Reagans and given to holding hands and skipping through the formal dining rooms.)
Hotels are proud of such claims to fame. The Mission Inn in Riverside never failed to let guests know that Pat and Richard Nixon honeymooned there. Both the horsy San Ysidro Ranch in the hills above Santa Barbara, and Las Brisas in the hills above Acapulco boast that Jack and Jackie Kennedy were honeymoon guests.
If I were planning a whirlwind campaign based on a platform of romance, I might send a candidate on a springtime honeymoon in northern Italy at the Villa d’Este on Lake Como, or the Villa San Michele in the hills of Fiesole above Florence.
In ski season I would give a nod to a wedding trip to Telluride, Colo., or Park City, Utah. If I wanted to avoid snow I would fly to Australia and check into a room with a view at the Regent of Sydney, where corner suites have powerful telescopes aimed at the beauteous harbor with its shell-shaped Opera House and the classic iron bridge called “the Coathanger.”
For an English country honeymoon I would hide at the Lords of the Manor at Upper Slaughter in the honey-colored Cotswold hills, or perhaps find a cottage to rent in the village of Stanton or Chipping Camden.
For a Scandinavian setting, especially in August or September, I would check into a balcony room at the Grand Hotel Saltsjobaden, on a fiord called Baggensfjarden in a suburb of Stockholm. I don’t know that any U.S. Presidents have stayed there, but there is still talk of Henry Kissinger’s visit.
Or I would head to the Danish island of Funen west of Copenhagen, and savor the country setting and superb hearth and kitchen of a half-timbered, thatched inn called Falsled Kro. Gardens of larkspur and roses trail toward the sea. Poplars and linden trees rise above stone walls.
However, if one has plans to run for President, I suppose one should think American. The most romantic honeymoon setting I have seen in this nation is on a wooded Virginia hilltop near the university town of Charlottesville.
That is where the dashing Thomas Jefferson took his bride Martha on a snowy January night in 1772. They lived in a two-room brick pavilion at the end of the south colonnade until the main house of Monticello was habitable two years later. This honeymoon lodge, with its bed and candles, remains a favorite stop for visitors.
“With what majesty do we there ride above the storms!” wrote Jefferson.
No wonder I have a crush on the man.