The last official weekend of Summer is upon us. We are moving swiftly into Autumn and this is probably the first Summer that folks are happy that the year is moving to an end so fast. 2020 sucks and we hate it here. This summer has been an emotionally draining one indeed. Covid. Police Brutality. Protests. Trump. Death. We haven’t gotten a chance to resolve one chaotic occurrence before the next one appears in our newsfeeds. New normal is shock and awe, it’s fear and loathing, it’s shirts versus skins, us versus them, and winners don’t exist anymore, there are only the depressed and the exacerbated.
How does one vacation now? We spent 89 days on our couch watching Netflix and taking Zoom calls. For three months, we lived at home, we worked from home, we shopped from home and many of us even mourned from home. As we are now a few weeks into a Covid detente of sorts – an easing of the restrictions of quarantine – jet-setters, back-pack wanderers, and various other forms of travelers are left with trying to piece together some semblance of a normal summer. But, how? Currently, over 90% of the citizens of the world live in countries with travel restrictions. Some borders are completely closed, others are opened, but with rigid guidelines. For some, the changes and restrictions with long distance travel haven’t stopped them from seeking adventure abroad. For others, the ominous developments regarding Covid cases across the globe are enough to dissuade them from venturing too far out, at least until there is a consistent and marked decrease in the numbers.
I am of the ilk of the latter. I enjoy traveling, but plane rides and resorts will be put on hold until things look a bit safer and better managed. However, my sense of adventure is still vital and necessary. Without trips away from the city I might go crazy. So, throughout the summer I’ve taken trips to amazing places that I could drive to and still dodge the crowds and Covid. In June, I took a drive down to West Palm Beach. I wrote about it in my column. This was right before the second wave hit Florida. In July, I spent a wonderful weekend in Shohola Falls, PA at a friend’s home. The house sits right on a beautiful lake. Both trips were fun, but they both pale in comparison to the very interesting trip I took last week.
The Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns are the upscale lodging collection owned by husband and wife Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood. The first of the collection was the Akwaaba Mansion which opened in 1995. The Akwaaba Mansion is located in Bed Stuy and it is a restored mansion that used to be the block’s “haunted house”. Since 1995, Glenn and Monique have opened a total of five inns. In 2012, the team opened The Mansion at Noble Lane in the Pocono Mountains. The mansion and the 22 acres surrounding it was once owned by Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the F.W. Woolworth Company. You know that you’re in a special place the moment you turn into the grounds from Miller Road. The perfectly paved road leading to the big house is lined with humongous Birch trees on either side. It is a scene straight from the Gilded Age, sprawling grounds, tennis courts, a temple of social ritual – large dining rooms in the main house, an entire second building to house an olympic sized swimming pool, even a dilapidated guest house.
Our stay on the grounds was wonderful. What’s a better word than wonderful? It was sublime. Due to Covid, masks were required in all common areas, capacity at the house was cut to 50%, and the staffing was cut even deeper. But the best leaders are the best soldiers. Monique worked tirelessly to ensure that all of her guests were well taken care of, serving and bussing the tables every morning for breakfast, while working the front desk and troubleshooting every aspect of the grounds. Watching her at work, there is no doubt at all why she’s been in the hospitality business for 25 years. Her passion for the game is exceeded only by her Kobe-esque work ethic.
While taking us on a tour of the main house, Monique brought us to a room that used to be used as a game room before Covid. The room has an enlarged picture from a century ago wrapped along the east wall. She said the picture was from around 1919, and shows visitors to the estate in various stages of conversation. As we looked at the picture, something jumped out at us. The visitors were wearing masks! The picture was taken during the time of the Spanish Flu, a pandemic responsible for the death of 50 million people worldwide. Obviously, this estate has always been a safe respite for travelers that wanted to get away from the dangers of a pandemic and enjoy the simple happiness of life in the mountains.
In a way, that photo bought everything full circle. We will fight, we will adapt, we will adjust and we will survive. As long as we remember to wear our masks.