I'm sitting in a warm, sweet-smelling bakery, ogling a fig danish in the glass case while slurping down homemade cream of tomato soup. My husband's arm is -- gasp! -- wrapped around me and my tween daughters are putting the last touches on the Christmas wreaths they've been constructing all morning. It's hard for me to remember a winter weekend day this calm and warm and lovely. There must be magic in the Poconos.
When you've been married for fifteen years, you're likely to have a couple of kids entering adolescence (as mine are). A getaway with tweens is not exactly a recipe for romance, especially when your husband makes jokes every single December 7th about how your wedding anniversary is a day that shall live in infamy. The solution? A weekend in the Poconos, a rustic, snowy part of Pennsylvania, in a comfortable inn with a great restaurant and a bunch of holiday activities that tire out the tweens and give us all sweet dreams of sugar plums.
The Poconos aren't known for luxury. The northeastern part of the Keystone state is more of a ski and hike destination, with lots of antique shops and crafty-type places that bend sticks into rocking chairs. Nice? Yes. Lush? Not so much. But the Hotel Fauchere, a sixteen-room Relais and Chateaux inn complete with marble bathrooms, hardwood floors, and a can't-beat location in a country village full of Norman Rockwell charm but only 75 miles from New York City, makes the Poconos the ideal destination for families looking to get away together and actually have fun.
First up, when we arrive at the Hotel Fauchere on a cold Friday night is dinner in the inn's Bar Louis, a casual but hip pub in the basement. My husband tells me the burger's the best he's had in a while, and the kids chow down on pasta and fish and chips. My favorite was the decadent chocolate pot de crème, so rich and luscious that I text a pot de crème aficionado friend to tell her that she has to drive out soon to sample it for herself.
Time for the shower and the bed. In Room 2, where we're bedding down for the weekend, the kids have their own sleeping porch off the main bedroom; the attentive staff have rolled in two twin beds for them, and they're giggling at their good fortune in being able to close the door on the grown-ups and tell secrets under the covers. First, though, I wrangle them into the giant walk-in shower, where the nozzle (positioned in the ceiling) delivers great water pressure, and where the heated towel rack results in more giggles and bargaining for several dozen showers over the course of the weekend.
On Saturday, we wake up to what might be my favorite breakfast of 2011. The Hotel Fauchere offers a full breakfast, but we stick with the continental choices of homemade yogurt and granola, homemade pastries from the property's patisserie next door, and grapefruit brulee. About twenty-two cups of coffee, and we're ready to start our day. Luckily, one of the most family-friendly features about the Hotel Fauchere is that the hotel and the village of Milford offer tons of fun activities (wreath making at the holidays among them), making entertaining the tweens easy as, well, pie, and leading to discoveries about your family that you just didn't think were possible after fifteen years.
For example: I learned that if you stick a couple of evergreen branches in the air and put clear ornaments near the top, then some red tulle near the bottom, you can make an almost perfect replica of a Christmasy Mr. Krabs. My husband, who believes that paint-your-own-pottery places are the invention of the devil, snatched the wire cutters away from the kids, all the better to make Mr. K's eyes just so on his own personal Sponge Bob Christmas wreath.
I also discovered that, when you're making your very own gingerbread house, you can twist a Cow Tale into the shape of a tiny wiener dog and put her in the "snow" in the "front yard." I turned around to find my youngest using yellow icing to make a tiny puddle underneath that tiny wiener dog. She fell down laughing on the floor as she said: "Why else would Patty be in the yard? She needed to make yellow snow!"
Who knew that two tween girls who plot night and day about how to eliminate each other from the face of the earth would sit down at one table with one jar of buttons and another of pipe cleaners and together figure out how to turn them into a miniature Santa, perfect for hanging on a tree? Or that, while dipping fruit chunks into melted chocolate at a buffet at a restaurant in town, the little one would tell you with a straight face, "We can make this, Mommy. I think you're actually supposed to make it - it's called fon-DO, not fon-DON'T," then look sheepish when you laugh so long you need to visit the ladies' room to make sure you didn't make yellow snow.
Last up on our Hotel Fauchere itinerary? Visiting the llamas. Remarkably, one of the hotel's co-owners is a llama farmer, and guests are welcome to visit the sixty-five or so gentle giants just a few blocks from the inn. For once, my older daughter does not complain that her UGG boots are getting muddy -- she's that entranced by the fuzzy fur and the long eyelashes. The little one is quiet, for once, as she holds her out hand to a mama llama and sneaks up to stroke her baby.
This, of course, is when the problems start. We have to go home to Philadelphia, leaving the llamas and the patisserie and the fabulous burgers behind. The tweens sulk. The hubby groans. As for me? I start making plans to return for spring.