Photos and story by Lisa TE Sonne
February brings the month of love, romance and Valentine’s Day. Have you made special plans yet for you and your beloved? This year don’t just go out; get away. You can “give and go” (pack a bag and drive directly to the airport). Or present your true love with a future trip. The romantic multiplier effect can make not only Valentine’s Day exciting, but your enthusiasm will build as you make plans together. Boomer travel can add romance/ friendship/ love to your life. Right now many of these trips can be secured at a big discount, especially if you book in advance.
British Best—Queenly Cruising
My husband and I are still kissing and telling from our Transatlantic crossing in January on the Queen Mary II (www.cunard.com/cruise-ships/queen-mary-2/) Cunard’s White Star Service. We enjoyed the best of the Titanic without the tragedy, plus modern touches like huge stabilizers, the fastest speeds of any ocean liner, a planetarium, Canyon Ranch Spa, Jacuzzis and a 10,000-book library. Live harp and string quartet music accompanies fresh scones and the Queen’s blend at afternoon high tea. Dance the night away on the largest ballroom afloat any passenger ship. Take your time and enjoy a sense of Old World leisure at formal dinner.
Cliveden House—Legacy and Allure
Cliveden House (www.clivedenhouse.co.uk), with its rich pedigree dating back to the 17th Century, is one of the great private country homes turned five-star hotel. Indulge in the chef’s eight- course taster’s menu in the newly opened André Garret Restaurant. Oil portraits of Queen Victoria and Lady Astor look down as you savor creative and satisfying combinations Chef Garret concocts.
If you love literature, elite gossip and BBC period soap operas, you can walk in some powerful footsteps. Former Cliveden visitors include Gandhi, Churchill, Kipling, Lawrence of Arabia, Charlie Chaplin, George Bernard Shaw, Henry James, and Queen Victoria. Cliveden’s legacy boasts a murder, ghosts, one of the last deaths by duel, and the scandalous case of the Profumo Affair that shook British politics in the ’60s. It served as an overseas campus for Stanford University before its current life as a Relais & Chateaux gem with 376 acres to stroll. It’s a preferred National Trust tourism site by day for sightseers seeking a bit of Downton Abbey.
My husband and I would have been content to stay in our third-floor corner Henry James suite as permanent residents. Rumor has it Michael Jackson did. We fell in love with the sweeping views from the en suite bathtub. This was the ideal base from which to take in views of the geometric topiary gardens extending to the Thames. Like country weekend guest in previous centuries, we had plans in London too.
London Lore—Palatial Hospitality
With its central location in the Belgravia neighborhood, London’s Goring Hotel continues to receive awards and global guests who love good tales and fine things. Opened in 1910, the legacy hotel has served as an annex to Buckingham Palace for royal and VIP spillover. (Allegedly, for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the Norwegian Crown Prince preferred the Goring to the palace because he didn’t have to share a bathroom.) The Goring was Allied Headquarters during World War I and Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor officially and unofficially (his mother lived there for years).
The privately-owned and operated (a 4th generation of Gorings are your hosts), the hotel (www.thegoring.com) is elegant yet integrated with whimsy and wit. Stylish rubber duckies, a stuffed animal sheep and imaginative dimmer switches are juxtaposed with framed historical highlights hanging on the walls alongside contemporary art.
The fare served here defies old clichés about English food. With a suite fireplace and beautiful antiques, this is a grand re-charging station whether heading out to the nearby theater or to tour the Tower of London where the Crown Jewels shine.
Grace-ful Honeymoon—Love in the Galapagos
Sip champagne and celebrate nuptial bliss year-round onboard the same yacht that Princess Grace (aka movie star Grace Kelly) and Monaco’s Prince Rainier spent their honeymoon, a luxurious gift from Aristotle Onassis. Thanks to Quasar Expeditions, (www.galapagosexpeditions.com), the elegant yacht now island hops the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador. A well-trained naturalist leads daily expeditions, hiking and snorkeling. The wildlife includes giant tortoises, sea turtles, swimming iguanas, blue-footed booby (birds), pink flamingos, and, if you are lucky, the enchanting Galapagos penguins.
Romance was in the air when I boarded the 18-passenger yacht last fall. A ’30s-something couple was honeymooning, and another twosome from Connecticut confessed during our last dinner onboard that he’d proposed to his true love at Gardner, the black lava rock on the powdered sugar beach. She had accepted. Cheers erupted, toasts were made, and before we all disembarked in the morning, the Ecuadorian Captain presided over the couple’s marriage in front of fellow passengers passing as happy witnesses to a spontaneous elopement.
Renew your vows on the Grace while at sea. Or head back to the Ecuadorian mainland for a love affair with nature. The Amazon forest, the Andes Mountains and Quito, the highest capital in the world with some of the oldest architecture in the Americas, awaits.
Snuggling Weather—Cool Cruises
Cozy up for a winter cruise in the Fiords of Norway where you’ll thrill at nature’s stellar production, the Northern Lights. The Norwegians are renowned polar experts and the Hurtigruten Lines (http://www.hurtigruten.us)offers fine cruises to the ends of the earth—Arctic and Antarctic.
When my husband and I sailed the FRAM from the tip of South America to the peninsula of Antarctica, January temps hovered in the 40s, much warmer than the weather back home in Northeastern United States. Daily excursions to shore include seeing penguins hatch. That would have made the trip a highlight of my life, but we made this journey even more unforgettable by actually renewing our vows. Our Norwegian ship captain presided from the tallest promontory overlooking Orca whales and penguins below in Paradise Bay. We felt quite high at the bottom of the world!
Looking for some rock-n-roll romance on terra firma? Canada’s Via Rail sleeper cars and dome cars traverse the gorgeous Canadian Rockies in Alberta’s wonderland. Between rails, bunk sumptuously at the historic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton and Fairmont Park Lodge in Jasper National Park at Dark Sky Preserve (www.jasperdarksky.org). In Edmonton, romantics gravitate toward the Fantasyland Hotel with theme floors and rooms—Hollywood, Cowboys, Ancient Rome and more—with indoor access to one of the world’s largest shopping malls and amusement park.
It’s hard to beat luxury river-barging in France or Italy for sensual romance. The cultural and culinary are featured on European Waterways’ (www.gobarging.com) lavish barges with 1 to 1 passenger-to staff ratios. Enjoy private daily forays into villages, wineries and museums. Any day can feel like Valentine’s Day for me, when I think back to my husband holding me in the Grand Canal of Venice as fireworks exploded overhead.
Amor Vincit Omnia- Love Conquers All. Happy celebrating!
What’s your most romantic trip?
If you decide to give travel for Valentine’s Day, I’d love to know. Email me: Lisa@Sonne.org. Lisa TE Sonne has visited and photographed all seven continents and many seas. She has written award-winning movies, television, print and the Internet. She and her husband founded a pioneering non-profit www.CharityChecks.us. Charity Checks' can be given to the over 1.5 million IRS-qualified charities across the country.
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