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Romantic Retreats

By Gay Lyons

Faraway destinations are naturals for couples wanting a romantic retreat, but you don’t have to travel far or board a plane for a romantic getaway. And whether you travel near or far, you may be surprised to learn that these days consulting a travel advisor is more important than ever.


When Knoxvillians Kathryn and Dr. Breese Johnson, co-owners of Mosaic Preservation Sanctuary in South Africa, first saw it, it was “a 2500 acre farm in a state of complete ruin with alien vegetation that had taken over the endangered indigenous plant species,” said Kathryn.

According to Kathryn, “the beauty of the place and people captivated our souls. Out of this passion and seeing the poverty that exists in this beautiful first world country, we developed a dream to move beyond our comfort zone and do what we could to improve the livelihoods of others.

There is a huge need for job creation there. We found the place first and then decided the best use of the place, which is nature-based tourism.” Today Mosaic is a world class boutique resort in a private secluded setting on a beautiful estuary with incredible mountain views. It is adjacent to a 12 mile long beach and sand dune system that is a protected nature preserve.

“You don’t have to worry about anything,” said Kathryn. “We provide food, house beverages and activities and experiences. The spa is fabulous; all you hear are birds. We also provide what we call ‘guest delights,’ little surprises. What you get for your money is out of this world. Right now with the currency exchange rate, it’s an extremely good value.”

“For a destination wedding, it’s just you and your guests,” she said. “We can accommodate 120 for a wedding with some guests staying near Mosaic. We cater to wedding parties to create a complete environment.”

“Our area is known for its beautiful wine valleys,” she continued. “Service is in a different league. The food is amazing. I would rather eat my way through South Africa than any other country.”


If Turks and Caicos is your destination, you can’t go wrong staying at either The Tuscany or the Venetian.

According to Elizabeth Campbell, Marketing and Travel Consultant for The Tuscany Resort and The Venetian on Grace Bay, getting there from Knoxville is easy.

“In no more than six hours, you can go from boarding a plane to walking on the beach.”

“It’s easy going and laid back,” she continued. “And it’s become a foodie destination.

Condos at The Tuscany and The Venetian are individually owned. Guests can choose from one to three bedrooms. Amenities include complimentary bicycles, fitness room, tennis courts, pools, wifi--and a cell phone upon arrival. Their concierge service is award winning. All condos have open concept living and dining spaces, fully-equipped kitchens and screened-in patios with views of the Bay.

The resorts are a popular choice for honeymooners and couples celebrating a special occasion, and Campbell is available to help with a hassle free destination wedding. She works with Nila Destinations, a local company.

“The women who own Nila take care of everything,” she said. “All you have to do is show up and enjoy a wedding in paradise.”


The Swag, a mountaintop hideaway in Waynesville, North Carolina, was named the most romantic hotel on the Andrew Harper Hideaway Report in 2018, The Swag offers unparalleled hospitality, natural beauty and tranquility. Once you’ve arrived, there is little need to leave the 250 acre retreat.

In the fall of 2011, seven years before they would end up purchasing The Swag from its retiring owners, Annie and David Colquitt took their own honeymoon to the retreat where they found romance and much-welcome peace and solitude.

“Each of the 14 rooms is completely unique,” Annie said. “The décor centers around local artwork, elegant rustic tones in relaxing palettes and natural textiles to reflect the beautiful Smoky Mountain settings.

Most rooms include wood-burning fireplaces, steam showers and private balconies, with some offering outdoor soaking tubs, showers or whirlpool tubs.”

Meals are provided: breakfast buffet, gourmet packed lunch, hors d’oeuvres and a four-course chef-prepared seasonally-inspired dinner. Fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables come from local vendors. A quiet romantic meal for two can be prepared upon request.

Annie particularly remembers their experience because of the fireplaces, porches, views, nature, long walks and conversations. The couple focused on each other and reveled in the slower pace and being able to shut off their usually hectic lives.

“It seemed like David and I were a world away with just the two of us,” she said. “I knew then that this special place would be a honeymoon that we could revisit in our marriage when we again needed to get away and reconnect together.

“We fell in love with that feeling, and we want others to discover it, too.”


“As the first and only boutique hotel in town, The Bristol Hotel is a reflection of the Tri-Cities community and embodies the city’s industrial roots, musical soul and Appalachian spirit,” said General Manager Kevin Cruse. “We offer service on par with the world’s finest luxury five-star hotels and with amenities like a sprawling rooftop bar and regionally-inspired fine-dining restaurant downstairs, The Bristol Hotel gives travelers something they can’t find elsewhere in town.”

“The city of Bristol is an eclectic one,” he continued. “It’s a haven for country music lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. There’s access to the Southeast’s most sought-after adventure destinations for hiking, fly fishing and whitewater rafting, and it’s a jumping-off point to Virginia’s famed music trail, The Crooked Road. With Bristol Motor Speedway, The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, State Street which straddles the state line between Tennessee and Virginia, the Appalachian Trail and South Holston River, Bristol is the perfect locale for those looking for a quick getaway.”

With nearly 3,800 square feet of flexible space, including a ballroom and a private rooftop lounge, The Bristol is also a perfect setting for weddings and special events.


The Emerald Coast of Florida, with its white beaches and turquoise waters, is the perfect place for a romantic vacation,” said Landy Cash, Brand Manager for My Vacation Haven. “With unparalleled shopping, numerous luxurious spas and award-winning restaurants, there are endless opportunities for romance along the Gulf Coast.”

My Vacation Haven offers over 250 beautifully furnished vacation rentals covering the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin and South Walton. From the stunning Scenic Hwy 98 in Destin to breathtaking 30A in Santa Rosa Beach, there is a perfect vacation rental for any sized group or budget.

“Booking with My Vacation Haven provides easy direct booking with no hidden fees, 24/7 service and individualized perks,” said COO Alicia Butler. “Every unit comes with umbrellas, beach chairs, boogie boards and beach toys. We also offer over 100 direct excursion bookings, and our “Added Fun Partners” program offers discounts and promotions available only to our guests.”


Located just minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains in Townsend, Tennessee, Dancing Bear Lodge invites guests to relax, rejuvenate and celebrate on its 36 acre property.

Amenities include feather topped king beds, wood burning fireplaces, jetted hot tubs and private porches with rocking chairs and swings. The Appalachian Bistro offers an award winning dining experience. Christi Silliman, General Manager at Dancing Bear, says “Celebrations at Dancing Bear Lodge range from honeymoons and anniversaries to birthday gatherings and weddings for 100 or more. Our staff works with every couple or family to create Smoky Mountain memories worth repeating and sharing. If you have a reason to celebrate, we welcome you to be guests at our ‘table’ for an unforgettable experience.”

“A stay in one of our cabins is a perfect romantic getaway for couples of all ages and a mountain retreat for families of all sizes, and we are pet friendly, so bring your four legged family members, too,” she continued. “We encourage you to unplug and rejuvenate, but if you want to remain plugged in, complimentary wifi and cable television are included.” “Dancing Bear Lodge is an easy drive from Knoxville,” said Silliman. “We like to say we are ‘nearby but far from ordinary.’”


Alexandra Stockton, owner/travel advisor with Alexandra Stockton Luxury Travel, who traded a position as wedding planner at RT Lodge for a career as a travel advisor, says her services are especially important these days.

“People are inundated with information,” she said. “People are overwhelmed and they don’t know who to trust. Young people and millennials are using travel advisors, especially for their honeymoons, because they’re busy planning their weddings.”

“People are looking for someone to advise them,” she said. “I’m an expert on my clients. I get to know them. I focus on their needs and wants. Every time I work with someone, I find out more about them. I’m able to keep improving their experiences. A website can’t do that.” Working with an advisor can save you money according to Stockton.

“I don’t charge fees,” she said. “I’m paid by commission. Sometimes I have access to unpublished rates, and through my professional partnerships and relationships, my clients get additional perks and amenities. The perks are huge. I have clients who like to do their own research, but they use me for booking.”

“My favorite destinations right now are Greece and Italy, especially the Amalfi Coast,” said Stockton. “The Azores, Bali and Thailand are popular. I like to combine the Maldives and Portugal. Fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ want to go to Iceland and Croatia. Fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ and Harry Potter want to go to England.”

“People come to me because I’m an expert,” she continued. “I’m a trendsetter. I know about new places.”

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