Try as I might, I just can’t fall in love with Paris. Now, I’m not denying that it is chic, slick and sexy. Or that the city’s every square inch oozes with history, art and culture.
I just can’t join those who believe that Paris sums up romance in every aspect. Perhaps, due to hopelessly romantic films set in Paris, my expectations get in the way. I go thinking I’ll find the Paris of Amélie, and come away worn out by its standoffish big-city atmosphere, its grey streets and the throngs of tourists everywhere.
I’m no killjoy, though. Normally, I see romance wherever I go. From southeast Asia to central Europe, so many cities have swept me off my feet. Here are just a few of my romance-steeped picks. They’re perfect destinations to consider if you’re looking for late holiday deals on a city break to truly surprise your valentine.
Venice, je t’aime
Yes, I’m aware that Venetians speak Italian. But as far as I’m concerned the city itself speaks the language of love. I’d heard that the place is special, but I wasn’t prepared for what I’d see soon after zooming out of the airport by water taxi. Just one glimpse of that unforgettable skyline across the Laguna Veneta, and I fell hook, line and sinker for the Floating City.
Best for: scenery to make your valentine swoon
Barcelona When It Sizzles
Another one of those flicks responsible for my disappointment over Paris today is Paris When It Sizzles, an Audrey Hepburn comedy from 1964. It’s a thin story, but it’s held together by shot after shot of elegant Audrey draped against the Paris of dreams.
For me, the only city that’s come close to recreating that chic fantasy is Barcelona. It’s a cool and cultured place, and it particularly excels when it comes to romantic scenery – from Montserrat to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc.
Best for: proposal-perfect backdrops
April in New York
I heart New York. And who wouldn’t? I’m secretly hoping my valentine will bowl me over with cocktails in Manhattan this year. But if you don’t make New York for Valentine’s Day, be sure to get there for spring. New Yorkers can be sassy, but they’re at their most loveable in the first warm days following a hard east-coast winter.
Best for: super-sophisticated Valentine’s dates
Midnight in Luang Prabang
In Luang Prabang, Laos, you can hear a pin drop at midnight. It’s a tiny place – just four main roads, peppered with Buddhist monasteries, World Heritage-worthy temples and French colonial mansions – and it’s exceptionally serene. That gentle air, combined with languid tropical weather, will almost certainly put you in the mood for love.
Best for: slow passion
To Munich with Love
Munich is the best place to begin that fairytale adventure known as the Romantic Road. It winds through the German provinces of Bavaria and Baden–Württemberg, taking in a string of castles that make perfect settings to woo your Prince (or Princess) Charming.
Best for: romantic road-trips
So what do you think? Still in love with Paris or do you go elsewhere to find romance? Let us know where in the comments below.