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Travel: Romantic winter weekends

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Winter. Love it or hate it, living in the Northland you just can't escape it. And, the truth is, by the time the post-holiday blues kick in, even die-hard winter couples might be ready for a break.

Whether it is a small town get-away, luxurious treatment or just some time with your loved one, you don't have to travel far from home for a romantic, relaxing weekend. And, while cozying up by the fireplace with that special someone, you might just realize that winter in the Northland is what you make of it.

Small town escape

David and Pat Mast of first were attracted to the Rittenhouse Inn bed and breakfast in Bayfield years ago because they love music. They went for evenings of good food and holiday music in the 1990s, and have returned at least annually since - sometimes for Wassail Dinner Concerts during the

holidays and sometimes just for a relaxing, romantic winter weekend away from home, but not too far.

The Rittenhouse is located in two original Victorian homes of the Wisconsin

town. The inn, which also has a cottage, houses 20 guest rooms and suites. Features include private bathrooms and a variety of amenities such as steam showers, seethrough fireplaces, window seats and expansive views of Lake Superior.

In addition to spacious accommodations, the inn has a gourmet restaurant that is an experience in itself, Pat explains. "The gourmet chefs even use local food service when they can, which I really appreciate," she says. In

addition to a five-course gourmet meal, there are special wines offerings selected specifically for each dish.

"We get a lot of repeat customers from all over the world that love coming to Bayfield," Innkeeper Mark Phillips says. "In addition to it being the gateway to the Apostle Islands, Bayfield is a great city to visit in the winter."

One spectacular winter attraction in the area is the Apostle Island Sea Caves. But there are plenty of other uniquely winter activities in the area, including the only official county ice road in the nation between

Bayfield and Madeline Island and the Apostle Island Sled Dog Race Feb. 5-7.

Visit the inn's Web site at

Cabin in the woods

The Gunflint Lodge isn't exactly your Laura Ingalls Wilder cabin in the woods experience. The lodge's cozy, one-bedroom romantic cabins include stone fireplaces, spas, fully equipped kitchens and they overlook Gunflint Lake.

General Manager Bruce Kerfoot says the level of service, attention to detail, and the wilderness setting make Gunflint Lodge a destination. "If we can provide a great experience where people have the opportunity to see a moose every now and then, we've succeeded," he says.

The Gunflint Lodge staff aims to allow you to escape the frustrations of Northwood's winters in the pristine wilds. If you want to curl up with a book in your cabin, you can look out your window and see wildlife. If you

prefer skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing, the quiet of the snow-covered landscape will be music to your ears.

"When you quit fighting winter and instead take in all that it has to offer, people really do experience some magic moments. It is hard to not be moved by a serene, beautiful, white setting with wolves howling in the

background," Kerfoot says.

If you want even more, you can have all kinds of extras, including pre-dinner delivery of appetizers and wine to your room or even a dog sledding day trip.

Gunflint Lodge is on the Web at:

Back to basics

If you want to slow down and enjoy life without interruption from the outside world, Naniboujou Lodge might be the place for you. "This historic resort really is different from others along the North Shore," says

Naniboujou co-owner Tim Ramey. "The real draw to this resort is its location."

Naniboujou sits on the shore of Lake Superior between Grand Marais and

Hovland at the edge of Judge C.R. Magney State Park.

The rooms are small and basic. They aren't equipped with phones or televisions, and cell phone coverage is sparse this far north. But that doesn't stop people from returning each year. "People come here to

read, write, hike and spend time with those they love," Ramey says.

And eat. The historic dining room dates back to the 1920s when Naniboujou was an exclusive private club. Today, it serves up some exquisite fine-dining delights. In addition, guests are frequently awed by Minnesota's largest native rock fireplace. Weighing 200 tons, it is surrounded by an intricate Cree Indian design painted by French artist

Antoine Goufee.

During the early months of the year, the lodge is only open weekends. You should plan on a two-night stay. While visiting, be sure to bring your snowshoes or skis to enjoy the beautiful trails along the North Shore and

forget life's daily stresses.

"Naniboujou really allows you to disconnect and focus on what matters,"

Ramey says. Naniboujou is on the web at: