As it’s Valentines Day, we thought we’d offer some tips from our grand tour for getting in the mood for romance. It may be too late to get on a flight to Marrakech or book a beach house in Costa Rica, but there’s nothing stopping you from cooking your special someone a special meal or taking a slow stroll somewhere. Some inspiration…
There are few places more romantic than Venice, where lovers can glide down canals on gondolas or get lost in a labyrinth of lanes, or Paris, where you can stroll the elegant boulevards and picnic in parks or on the banks of the Seine. But think beyond the traditional cities of love, and there are a wealth of places to propose, tie the knot, celebrate an anniversary, or spend time alone. The sandy beaches at Cape Town and Costa Rica, where the locals have perfected the art of doing nothing, are made for slow hand-in-hand strolls. When it comes to sultry destinations, late night cities such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Mexico City can’t be beaten.
Getaways don’t get more romantic than a long weekend from Cape Town to the bucolic wine regions of Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch. Unless you’re escaping chaotic Marrakesh to the wide, windswept beaches and whitewashed old down of Essaouira, or getting away from the mania of Mexico City to the languid streets of San Miguel de Allende (see this video to see what we mean!). In San Miguel you may even be lucky enough to witness one of the lively weekend wedding parties that take over the old town’s squares and streets.
Hotels might immediately come to mind for most when planning romantic getaways, but we think holiday rentals offer couples more privacy, freedom and flexibility. Want to sleep in and eat breakfast late? No problem. Don’t feel like answering the phone or letting the maid in to clean?Fine. The most romantic properties we stayed in on our grand tour? A beach house in Costa Rica just steps from the sand, a traditional Balinese villa with infinity pool, a palazzo apartment on Venice’s Grand Canal, and this romantic riad in Marrakech where staff scattered rose petals on the bed and a fountain tinkled in the courtyard. (See our tips for renting riads here.)
One of the world’s most romantic restaurants must be Dar Yacout in Marrakech, where the experience is made special from the moment you arrive and are escorted down an illuminated alleyway by a handsome man carrying a lantern to post dinner drinks by the still pool. Don’t believe us? Take a look at this short atmospheric slideshow. For foodies, a decadent meal of oysters and côte de boeuf at a traditional Parisian brasserie or a tasting menu of contemporary Catalan cuisine at one of Barcelona’s elegant bistronomics is hard to beat.
If your relationship is young and your style fun, then you’ll probably prefer the sexier options of cocktails at a dimly-lit New York speakeasy, a late night tapas bar crawl in Madrid, or a ‘boteco’ bar hop, feijoada, and heady cairparinhas in Rio de Janiero.
On a tight budget or simply prefer to stay in? Then why not cook a romantic dinner at home? Perhaps a luxurious beef filet with truffle sauce for main course? For dessert, you can’t beat a decadent soft centred chocolate cake. And maybe a breakfast in bed of scrambled eggs with salmon, caviar, and champagne the next morning?
ROMANTIC THINGS TO DO
Show him that you love him by enrolling in surfing lessons in Costa Rica, or prove to her that you’re smitten by signing up for a macaron-making course in Paris. Or book yourselves in somewhere for some ‘couple time’ – an ‘at home’ spa treatment perhaps?
While most women love to receive chocolates, such as these decadent sweets from Barcelona, Paris and Mexico, for me there’s nothing more romantic than getting an exotic gift from the Middle East, such as these hammam products from Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or babouches (slippers), kaftan and jewellery from Morocco. Bespoke presents from Venice, such as these handmade notebooks and Venetian slippers are always welcome, while I’d be equally satisfied with a pair of sexy Brazilian bikinis. How about you? What Valentine’s Day gift are you dreaming about?