Not Just for Valentine’s Day: From Paris to Prague, Phuket to Palm Beach, Romance is in the Air

Jekyll Island Club, Georgia, an island retreat, is a member of Historic Hotels of America © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Romance, like beauty, is clearly in the mind of the beholder. And while we mark romantic occasions with chocolates, flowers, teddy bears, even jewelry, it is a feeling, an experience, ephemeral and effervescent. Travel evokes that same kind of excited sensibility, being together in some new (romantic) place. What could be more romantic than whisking away to Paris or Prague, Phuket or Palm Beach. So here are just a sampling of travel treats – and a suggestion: if you can’t actually get away for Valentine’s Day, the promise of a getaway, and all that anticipation that is evoked, is romance itself.

Here are some ideas to inspire you:

To find a romantic place for your getaway, you can’t go wrong with Historic Hotels of America, a membership organization of hotels and resorts  which tend to be the grand dames that have distinct personalities, character, and a very special sense of place and sensational ambiance. Also, they tend to hearken back to an era of style and service. The website, www.historichotels.org, has a whole section on “Romantic Getaways” (historichotels.org/romance).

For example, Cavallo Point (dating from 1901) in San Francisco, California, a sustainable luxury hotel, known for its green living. Resort amenities include shuttle service to San Francisco and Sausalito, morning yoga class, access to Healing Arts Center & Spa and outdoor meditation pool, daily afternoon wine hour, and valet parking.

Also: The Heathman Hotel-Portland, Oregon (where we stayed, and which is set right in the heart of the city’s cultural center, but more to the point, The Heathman Hotel-Portland served as one of the settings in the popular and romantically themed 50 Shades of Grey book and has many extravagant and romantic services and packages available for guests with romance in mind); Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York, one of the last remaining Gold Coast mansions; the Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, NH (stay and ski free); The Vinoy Renaissance, St. Petersburg, Fla.  Another on my list of favorites is the Jekyll Island Club Resort, on a Georgia island (island destinations have particular romantic appeal). The list goes on and on.  You can get ideas for romantic getaways and destinations at historichotels.org/romance.

Established over a century ago, Relais & Châteaux (www.relaischateaux.com) is an association of some of the world’s finest hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs that has set the standard for excellence in hospitality by emphasizing holistic experiences. Relais & Chateaux member, Langdon Hall Country House Hotel & Spa, is on the Ontario side of Niagara Falls, which once was the world capital for honeymoons and romance. To find Relais’ most romantic locations and packages, visit www.relaischateaux.com/en/sejours/romantique.

As a group, you can’t go wrong with Kimpton Hotels, which pioneered and continues to set the standard for boutique hotels. The group currently has 62 hotels and resorts in 26 cities in the US, including the charming Hotel Monaco in Washington DC, and nine boutique hotels in San Francisco, where the company began. Special touches include free WiFi (standard), a nightly hosted wine hour. complimentary use of bikes, and if the love of your life is your pet, Kimpton accommodates them too at no extra charge (kimptonhotels.com).

Small Luxury Hotels of the World

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, there is no better excuse to surprise loved ones by whisking them off on a romantic weekend. Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) offers a whole host of specially-designed packages around the world. For those that aren’t able to get away for the actual day, there are plenty of other special Valentine-themed treats at SLH hotels. Here’s a selection of some of the packages that are still available; for more Valentine’s ideas, visit slh.com):

Carmo’s Boutique Hotel, Ponte de Lima, Portugal: Sitting in the oldest town in Portugal, Carmo’s Boutique Hotel is an intimate and stylish residence where you can experience the traditions, cultural heritage and romance of the beautiful Minho region. SLH’s two night Romantic Saint Valentine’s Getaway at Carmo’s features Portuguese cuisine, fine wines, candles, spa treatments and other romantic surprises. The package, valid Feb. 13-15, includes breakfast and evening meals including a gourmet Portuguese dinner with matching wines-and a traditional candlelit meal with live music and a champagne toast. It also includes two aromatherapy massages an in-room hot bath ritual and access to the pool and Jacuzzi at Carmo’s spa.

Hôtel Juana, Juan Les Pins, on the French Riviera: Nestled amidst a pine tree forest and just steps away from the Mediterranean, the Art Deco styled Hôtel Juana is wonderfully understated and ideal for a romantic getaway, close to both the beach and the chic town of Antibes. SLH’s Sweet Valentines package allows couples experience the glamour and romance of the French Riviera with a night’s accommodation, a Valentine dinner in the hotel’s trendy new restaurant “Bistrot Terrasse”, homemade chocolates on arrival and breakfast the following day.

The Ampersand Hotel, in London’s South Kensington is serving a dedicated Valentine’s Afternoon Tea in the romantic setting of the hotel’s Drawing Room, with freshly baked white chocolate heart-shaped scones, savory gougères and a selection of other romance-inspired sweet pastries. Throughout February, The Ampersand is also inviting guests to personalize their pillows with a special message or image for a unique Valentine’s gift. The hotel will print a design of your choice onto two crisp white pillows, ready to surprise your other half when they’re about to lay their head for the night.

Château de l’Ile, Strasbourg, France: For the archetypal Valentine’s treat in a 19th century castle, complete with an extravagant French candlelit meal, live music, indulgent spa treatment and plenty of Champagne, look no further than Château de l’Ile. The enchanting castle sits in parkland on the banks of the sleepy River Ile and is a wonderful setting to while away a romantic few days. The one night Romantic Valentine’s Break offered by SLH includes a four course dinner of exquisite local French fare with Champagne and live music, half bottle of Champagne in the room, buffet breakfast and a spa treatment in the Asian Villa spa, which also has a sauna, Hamman and swimming pool.

L Hotel Seminyak Bali, Indonesia: The focus at L Hotel Seminyak Bali is on ultimate relaxation, rejuvenation and re-energizing, making it a peaceful retreat to spend some quality time with a loved one. With SLH’s Valentine Package, guests will experience a Balinese massage and special Indonesian dinner in the cozy restaurant Lola, featuring the aptly-named Love Bar for an intimate after dinner cocktail. Every guest is assigned a personal butler on arrival, dedicated to servicing their every need during their stay, while guests on the Valentine package will also receive special romantic gifts and amenities in their room.

The Bannister Hotel, Samana, Dominican Republic: Nestled between the mountains and the sea on the Samana Bay coastline on the north east of the Dominican Republic, the intimate Bannister Hotel has a two night My Funny Valentine package that offers couples an automatic upgrade to a Deluxe Ocean View Suite, breakfast each morning at the hotel’s Le Deauville Restaurant, and a three course romantic dinner with a glass of sparkling wine at the Café del Mar.

Anticavilla Hotel, Cuernavaca, Mexico: Romance is the theme of the month at Anticavilla Hotel in the heart of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City, which has special Valentine’s menus at its Maikiki Spa and at its VerdeSalvia restaurant. The specially-curated spa menu for couples offers guests side-by-side massages in the candle-lit private couple’s suite with an ‘antioxidant’, ‘relaxing’ or ‘activate your senses’ package. The packages include a full body chocolate exfoliating massage and antioxidant facial.

The Chesterfield Hotel, Palm Beach: Sitting along the palm-lined boulevards of Florida’s elegant Palm Beach, the historic Chesterfield Hotel offers couples the perfect combination of beach, city, nightlife and award-winning dining for a Floridian romance. SLH’s Lover’s Escape package at The Chesterfield Hotel includes a bottle of Champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a single red rose on arrival, a romantic turndown with rose petals and candles, and English breakfast the following morning.

What a View! Bavaria’s Sightsleeping Hotels

Bavaria’s collection of Sightsleeping® hotels are a new option in experiential travel, where arts and culture are as important in the hotel where you stay as they are in the destination you visit.

Membership in this exclusive collection, which is under the aegis of the Bavarian Tourism Organization, is based on agreement by a jury of art experts, professional designers, journalists and tourism experts based on their aesthetics. Their motto: “Sleeping with an eye for art”.

“Sightsleeping® stands for a new type of travel, in which the hotel experience plays a central role. You are as you sleep. The arts are your muse,” explains theme manager Kristina Nagl.

For example, you can stay in a castle hotel like Burg Wernberg; a design hotel like the InterContinental Berchtesgaden; or a traditional Bavarian style like Hotel Maximillian.

Included among Bavaria’s Sightsleeping Hotels is the 12th century castle, Hotel Burg Wernberg (photo supplied by Bavaria Tourist Office).

Included among the Sightsleeping Hotels is the 12th century castle Hotel Burg Wernberg. Painstakingly restored and furnished with all contemporary luxuries, each room is individually appointed with antiques and designer furniture. The picturesque courtyard, the romantic chapel and the elegant ballroom draw visitors to the castle, which is part of Relais & Chateaux. Burg Wernberg’s gourmet ”Kastell“ restaurant of Michelin star-awarded chef Thomas Kellermann is the epicurean heart of this hotel. A short walk from the castle is the ”Gedankengebäude“ – the contemporary seminar building created by the Milan based designer Michele de Lucchi with its airy wood and glass construction stands in sharp contrast to the ancient walls of the castle. The castle is set in the heart of the Upper Palatinate forest nature reserve. Golfing fans need only to travel just a short distance from Burg Wernberg to the Schwanhof golf club which has an 18-hole landscaped course designed by the US-Open champion Jerry Pate.

Staying at the Landhausvilla Eichholz is like sleeping in a 21st century “Russenhaus”. This Sightsleeping-Hotel is noted for its wonderfully atmospheric rooms and suites with paintings by Gina Feder adorning the walls and sculptures in the Karl-Förster garden, which dates back to 1935. Enter one room and you will be met by Antoni Tàpies, in another you will be greeted by a print by Tom Wesselmann. Exhibitions, readings, concerts, painting and sculpting courses are staged. Adjacent to the Art-Hotel am Eichholz is Feder’s art gallery in Murnau displaying  paintings, sculptures, photographs, objets d’art in wood, glass and ceramics by international artists. Art lovers will also enjoy trips to the Murnau castle museum, the Münter Haus and the Buchheim Museum in Bernried. The lakes around Murnau, the amazing panoramas of the Upper Bavarian mountains and the Zugspitze itself  provide artists with plenty of inspiration.

So far, there are 43 hotels in the collection. The Sightsleeping® jury meets each year to decide which new candidates to admit. Information about Sightsleeping® hotels, events and a downloadable catalogue are available at http://www.bavaria.us/sightsleeping-hotels-bavaria.

Seven Most Romantic Hotels in the Czech Republic

Walking in castle gardens, dinner in a gazebo lit only by candles, a top wellness center where pampering is the order of the day. The Czech Republic is inviting you to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the spirit of undying romance.

Prague – rustic-style luxury under Prague Castle: The 4-star Romantik Hotel U Raka offers a fusion of luxurious facilities with the romance of the streets of Old Prague. The intimate atmosphere of the hotel built in a rustic style is enhanced by an open fire in indoor and outdoor areas, a garden full of herbs and the luxurious, but cozy room interiors. The history of the building U Raka, of which the hotel is part, dates back to 1739, when stables were built there. The whole area of the hotel is a registered historic landmark and captivates with its unique atmosphere and location in the heart of Prague. The hotel has an art gallery (www.romantikhotel-uraka.cz/en/).

Aristocratic tradition in the castle chambers of Central Bohemia: The ecological five star castle hotel Chateau Mcely offers an elegant castle interior, wine cellar from the 17th century and spa. 23 castle hotel rooms and suites, the patio restaurant Piano Nobile (winner of the national competition for the best restaurant) and the castle park with an outdoor jacuzzi and sauna house are used by romantics and lovers of luxury wellness holidays. The hotel also offers specially adapted children’s apartments for princesses, baby baths, tea parties and picnics held in the park or alchemical mixed drinks according to medieval recipes (www.chateaumcely.cz/en/)

Renaissance romance in the heart of Český Krumlov: One of the most extraordinary boutique hotels in the Czech Republic with the poetic name Rose, is situated in the building of the former Jesuit college from the 16th century and the local university. The hotel features original Renaissance elements, ancient frescoes and paintings. The Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav and the Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman as well as former president Václav Havel, have stayed at the hotel which opened in 2000. Steeped in the heritage of the Rosenbergs, the hotel is located in the heart of the historic center of a city registered on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage and offers a wellness center with spas built along the lines of spa healers with wooden vats, where it is recommended to pamper your body in peat wraps. (english.janhotels.cz).

Ancient romance in the heart of the city of the Hussites: Hotel Nautilus, a boutique hotel named after Captain Nemo’s submarine, is located in the heart of South Bohemian Tábor surrounded by a landscape dotted with ponds. The spacious rooms with antique furnishings, , oil and acrylic paintings and the stained glass door panels look directly on to the square Žižkovo náměstí. Enjoy Valentine’s Day romance in the region of lakes and ponds and pamper yourself on silken cushions. In the hotel spaces, 380 million old fossils and over 180 million year old limestone tiles, that adorn the bathtubs in hotel rooms, are preserved. On Valentine’s day, have a toast with the local wines offered from the New and Old World (www.hotelnautilus.cz).

Virtuous privacy on the border of Bohemia and Moravia: Halfway between the two largest cities in the Czech Republic, Prague and Brno there is a small village called Počátky, surrounded by two dozen ponds. Summerhouse of St. Adalbert preserves the atmosphere of the so-called First Republic, between the first and second world war), a  haven of luxury for romantic souls escaping the city bustle. It offers 11 exclusive suites and rooms with original antique furnishings with modern elements – large bath tubs placed directly in the bedroom, four-poster beds, original renovated tiled stoves and armorial decoration in the rooms. A stylish atmosphere is also provided by the local restaurant offering contemporary dishes. In nearby Počátky you can also visit Saint Catherine Resort with an extensive spa and wellness center, including massage cabins, steam baths and saunas built according to the principles of pilates, which is practiced daily there, along with yoga (www.svatyvojtech.cz, www.katerinaresort.cz/en).

Luxurious getaway for romantics: The wooden cottages standing on the edge of the deep forest of the Moravian-Silesian Beskids are the ideal choice for romantic adventurers, who seek maximum comfort. The cottages Orlí hnízdo (Eagle’s Nest), Vlčí doupě (Wolf’s Lair) and Medvědí skála (Bear’s Rock) are located on the edge of the forest under the highest mountain in the Czech Republic and can accommodate up to ten people, including children, who can experience a real adventure in the surrounding woods. The fully equipped dining room, home theater connected to a game console, a passive fireplace with a meat smoker, private jacuzzi and sauna provide the guests with every comfort. Let yourself be beguiled by a romantic stay in the unspoiled countryside of the Moravian Beskids (http://chaticka.eu/).

For more information, visit www.czechtourism.com.

TripAdvisor’s Most Romantic Hotels

TripAdvisor has just come out with its 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards for Top Hotels.. The list is based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travelers worldwide and feature winners in eight categories, including top hotels for romance:

Top 10 Romance Hotels in the United States

1.       Inn on Oak Creek – Sedona, Arizona

2.       Desert Riviera Hotel – Palm Springs, California

3.       Hotel California – Palm Springs, California

4.       Bardessono – Yountville, California

5.       Wentworth Mansion – Charleston, South Carolina

6.       Old Edwards Inn and Spa – Highlands, North Carolina

7.       Olea Hotel – Glen Ellen, California

8.       Orchid Key Inn – Key West, Florida

9.       The Wine Country Inn – St. Helena, California

10.   Belamere Suites – Perrysburg, Ohio

Top 10 Romance Hotels in the World

1.       The Place Luxury Boutique Villas – Ko Tao, Thailand

2.       Riad Noir d’Ivoire – Marrakech, Morocco

3.       2Inn1 Kensington – Cape Town, South Africa

4.       The Old Rectory Hotel – Martinhoe, United Kingdom

5.       Akademie Street Boutique Hotel – Franschoek, South Africa

6.       La Fortuna at Atitlan – Santa Cruz La Laguna, Guatemala

7.       Anastasis Apartments – Imerovigli, Greece

8.       The Dairy Private Luxury Hotel – Queenstown, New Zealand

9.       La Minerva – Capri, Italy

10.   The Clarence Hotel – Portsmouth, United Kingdom

To see all 8,151 winners of the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards for hotels go to: www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Hotels. Travelers can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #travelerschoice.

More Romantic Getaways

Eau Palm Resort Manalapan, Florida, is reimagining “Palm Beach” luxury with a combination of indulgence and playfulness © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com)

For a grand resort stay and the most indulgent spa experience anywhere, choose the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa which has re-imagined a “new-fashioned” Palm Beach experience with touches that are both unexpected and playfully indulgent. For winter, receive a resort credit of up to $600 for stays through April 19, 2015. (Eau Palm Beach, 100 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan, Fl 33462, 800-328-0170, eaupalmbeach.com).

French-Inspired Weekend Escape to the Westgate Hotel, San Diego:  Valentine’s Day brings out the creativity in hoteliers. For an over-the-top amorous escape, look no further than the The AAA Four Diamond-rated Westgate Hotel, an iconic property in the heart of downtown San Diego designed to rival the mythical palaces of Europe. The glamorous French-inspired locale is offering three getaway packages including the extravagant $3,300 Etre Amoureux package which features a private chef and in-room butler! All packages include an exquisite suite, a romantic four-course dinner for two complete with wine pairings and of course all the traditional Valentine’s Day trappings: roses, chocolate and champagne. (See www.westgatehotel.com/events-promotions/special-events/valentines-day-events, visit www.westgatehotel.com, call 619-238-1818).

La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa just opened by La Réserve Hospitality Collection following two years of fastidious work by more than 120 artisans. The 40-room hotel and spa,  designed by Jacques Garcia, occupies a Haussmannian mansion previously owned by the designer, Pierre Cardin, off the Champs-Elysées at 42 Avenue Gabriel, tucked away in the 8th Arrondissement – a stone’s throw from the Palais d’Elysée and Place de la Concorde – with views of the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais, Pantheon, and Luxor Obelisk. La Réserve Paris is a serene escape from the bruit de fond of France’s capital city. Interiors of the 26 spacious suites (including four Presidential Suites) and 14 rooms that pay homage to the chic style of the Belle Époque. The large rooms feature period antique furniture, rich fabrics, regal colors, and muted lighting. It also offers a private lounge, bar, courtyard, smoking parlor, library, and a seasonal French restaurant Le Gabriel, helmed by Jérôme Banctel, former Chef du Cuisine of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Senderens. Suites include personal butler service, and in-room wine coolers.The spa consists of three treatment rooms, gym, sauna, and a 52 foot indoor pool. The treatment menu features the world-renowned Swiss anti-aging treatment, Nescens.La Réserve Paris Hotel and Spa, 42 avenue Gabriel, 75008 Paris – France,  +33 1 53 70 53 70, hotel@lareserve-paris.comwww.lareserve-paris.com/en.

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