What does a romantic break look like in 2018?
QI’m dating an amazing woman, but the timing is atrocious. Our first weekend away sits perilously close to Valentine’s Day, and I feel under pressure to plan a romantic city break, instead of just a nice weekend away. Everything I think of is a cliché I’m sure she’ll detest. Please advise.
ARomance is an amorphous substance, and having the apparition of romance looming over our MacBooks as we scroll through Mr-and-MrsSmith hotels is enough to make even the most dedicated traveller and ardent lover slam the laptop shut and seek sexless solace in Center Parcs.
Romance means something different to every one of us. Modern lovers assemble a definition from a buffet of external influences that may include: a Richard Curtis rom-com, Blur’s Parklife, a Nespresso advert featuring George Clooney, something that Barack Obama once said, a paragraph in a Milan Kundera book, a picture of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love you cut out of Melody
Maker and pinned to your locker, James Bond opening a bottle of champagne on a train right before his lady friend gets strangled by a henchman, and that Chris Isaak music video with a sandy Helena Christensen in it. We blindly thrust these influences into a blender, whizz it up and pour out our own personal romance smoothie, which some luckless lover is then tasked with replicating daily.
Some of us ascribe to the “classic” vision of romance – flowers, chocolates, expensive dinners, perfunctory gifts and chintzy hotel suites. Others detest such clichés. Though partners like this save you in cash, they end up costing you in imagination and effort.
The nebulous nature of romance makes designating a trip “romantic” a dangerous game, as Chris Isaak might well have sung. Avoid reverse nominative determinism by shifting your focus to other aspects of the trip, thus allowing romance to seep in around the edges, almost by accident. Select a walkable city with great architecture, such as Krakow, that lends itself to tipsy strolls and stolen kisses in doorways. Opt for a city with affordable and atmospheric dining, such as Barcelona, because nothing nukes passion more ruthlessly than stressing over the bill. Travel to a city with generous and faintly sleazy locals, perhaps Florence, because in Italy everyone just wants you to eat a good meal and go back to your hotel room. Or consider a lesser-known place such as Tallinn, so you have that delicious feeling of discovering something new together. Which, beyond the age of 30, you’re unlikely to feel in the bedroom.
Romance is about showing someone you’ve paid attention to who they are. And that you like what you see. So consider her tastes in music, film and fashion. Does she lean towards the classic, like Rome? Or is she a bit alternative, better suited to the Gothic, mystical Seville? Think about the dates she’s relished so far. Is she a burger obsessive, an avocadoon-toast Instagrammer, a juice bar aficionado? Find the best restaurant match in your destination and show her that you love her despite her fondness for chia seeds. In 2018, my friend, that’s love.