As two members of the fairer sex, it's often assumed that we must adore Valentine's Day. Though we appreciate the extra attention and occasional bouquet of flowers, we can do without the cheesiness that's generally associated with the holiday... as can most people, we've found.
So, what to do when your Valentine doesn't get excited by Cupid's arrow? Plan a weekend getaway with a focus on fun.
Sure, Dublin has its fair share of romantic restaurants--Peploe's and Hugo's are two that top our list--but this city isn't the first to come to mind when channeling l'amour. We've never understood this, because really: what says "I love you" more than a pubcrawl via rickshaw?
Start on the ground floor of Kehoes, where you'll make friends with more locals than tourists, or head to the calmer, more civilized second floor for a cozier atmosphere. If you need a break for a more modern atmosphere, stop by Cafe en Seine for a drink before heading to The Brazen Head for late-night music in a traditional oak bar (complete with dimmed lighting to really set the mood).
Whether your date has a passion for Valentine's Day or not, make sure you don't skimp on the hotel. We fully recommend a stay at The Westbury Hotel--perfectly located on Grafton St., the rooms manage to be romantic yet understated (i.e. no rose petals or silk sheets).
Bonus Points: Start your day with a late breakfast at Queen of Tarts. This quaint and cozy cafe is perfect for some one-on-one time before you head out to see the sights.
Yes, a weekend cozied up in a Swiss chalet does sound suspiciously like the Valentine's Day activities we're trying to avoid, but hear us out. Of all the ski towns in Switzerland, we're going to go out on a limb and say that Verbier's vibe is the most laid back. You won't find many people trying to flaunt their ski style--the regulars are much more focused on enjoying their time on the slopes and, more importantly, making the most of their après-ski.
Once you're tired of staring into one another's eyes--or, more likely, exhausted after some playful competition on the slopes--head to Fer a Cheval to mingle with residents and visitors alike. For dinner, get your fill of raclette in the low-key and delicious Caveau Verbier. Best news? The unlimited cheese and potatoes perfectly counters the usual small portions you see in other fancy restaurants.
Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until Valentine's Day February 2014 to pay a visit to their W Residences, but we're guessing it will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, consult the Verbier Tourism website for other ideas on where to stay--as long as you're nestled in the mountains, you can't go wrong.
Bonus Points: Find James Blunt, one of Verbier's more famous residents, and ask him to serenade your Valentine with a little ditty. We're sure he won't mind.
If you've ever had visions of sharing a single piece of spaghetti with your significant other a la "Lady and the Tramp," perhaps Valentine's Day in Italia is more your style. Rather than splurging on Romeo & Juliet's hometown of Verona or the general chintz of Venice, head south to Florence for a weekend of carboloading on pasta and strolling along Ponte Vecchio (coincidentally, a bridge lined with fine Italian jewelers).
Spend the day outside of the city exploring Tuscany by car, bike, or foot--Trenitalia makes a daytrip incredibly easy. After the requisite pose with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, head to one (or two) of the many vineyards and sample some fine Italian wines. If you'd rather stay local, focus your time on exploring Florence's charming streets and many churches. Make sure to stop at the Uffizi and roam the quiet halls hand-in-hand, while appreciating some of the finest Italian masterpieces. Perks of Valentine's Day in Florence? You're visiting at the height of off-season, which means limited crowds and a city almost entirely to yourselves.
After a long day of strolling along, hand-in-hand, regain your strength with fresh pasta and Tuscan bread--hey, that's half the fun of being in Italy, right? We recommend Osteria Cinghiale Bianco or the tasting menu Acqua al 2.
With all the money you saved on skipping out on the over-priced gondola rides in Venice, splurge on a room at Hotel Calzaiuoli in the heart of the city.
Bonus Points: Bring a bottle of chianti back from your tour of the Tuscan countryside to enjoy in your room.
In the end, Valentine's Day should be more about time spent together than the standard box of chocolates and bouquet of roses. You're much more likely to wow your significant other with a weekend away--and while Paris is almost always a good idea, think outside the box when planning your weekend of love.
After all, laid-back Valentines are the best Valentines.