For lovers: Valentine’s Day … or every day

By Janet Steinberg
Special to the journal & topics

A heart in San Francisco (in Union Square…painted by Tony Bennett).

“All you need is love, love… Love is all you need.” In 1967, the Beatles set these words to music. Fifty-five years later, those words still apply. To celebrate love on Valentine’s Day… or any other day… an amorous vibe can be that special something that makes your getaway even better. As a total romantic, I would like to suggest you some of the most idyllic places in the world to pop a bottle of bubbly and leave your heart on Valentine’s Day.

Start blowing bubbles at the Louis XV, Hotel de Paris, in Monaco.

LE LOUIS XV-ALAIN DUCASSE RESTAURANT: This temple of haute cuisine is the crown jewel of the Hotel de Paris in the tiny principality of Monaco. Bounded by the French Riviera to the west and the Italian Riviera to the east, this fairytale principality is the second smallest country in the world after Vatican City. Dining at Louis XV is a very beautiful, very stunning (and very expensive) dining experience that you will want to share with that beautiful, stunning person in your life.

This exquisite restaurant is like no other restaurant in the world. It is a restaurant where tablecloths are ironed before they are laid, cutlery is polished by white-gloved helpers, where filigree silver Christofle hedge sparrows peck at imaginary crumbs and where the average monthly flower bill is five figures.

RAFFLES HOTEL: Singapore’s famous French Renaissance-style hotel (1887), which attracts thousands of visitors to ‘Lion City’ every day, is home to the legendary Long Bar, where you and your valentine can toast to love with a Singapore Sling. The famous pink Singapore Sling was invented in 1915 by Long Bar captain Ngiam Tong Boon. The bar’s earthy interior is reminiscent of a Malay plantation in the 1920s. Sipping this fruity, gin-based cocktail at its birthplace is a travel rite and a must for lovers.

Singapore, the city/state/island colonized by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, is a study in contrasts. It’s a tropical paradise filled with towering skyscrapers and old Chinese shophouses. It’s the noise of commerce and the tranquility of sprawling parklands. It is a “computer age city where the ancient abacus is never far to hand”. Singapore’s once-mysterious present is magically fused with its fabled past; Awesome 19th-century temples coexist with modern skyscrapers. Rickshaws and Rolls Royces share cobblestone streets and concrete ribbons. Though 21st-century Singapore is no longer the romantic Singapore of Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham, an exotic Asia still emanates from this pristine, high-tech city just over a degree north of the equator.

Catalina Casino viewed from The Inn on Mount Ida.

Inn on MT. IDA: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this restored six room Georgian Colonial home is located in the town of Avalon on the island of Santa Catalina. There was only 22 miles of water between Long Beach, California, and Avalon. From the moment you step off the catamaran ferry in Avalon, it’s obviously time to relax. No pulsing, no neon, no traffic lights, no cars… Golf carts, bicycles and leather shoes are cheap means of transportation. You are on island time. Perched regally on Avalon Bay, the circular Art Deco/Mediterranean Revival Casino building dominates the landscape and is a stunning reminder of Catalina’s glorious past. There has never been gambling at this Avalon hangout, which opened in 1929.

In 1919, William Wrigley Jr. quietly acquired most of the island. Soon after the purchase he came to Catalina and fell in love with the island. Wrigley’s son, PK Wrigley, continued the development of the island resort as he took over from his father. The original Wrigley mansion was built in 1921 on a hill Wrigley named Mt. Ada, after his wife Ada. It’s worth driving up the hill.

Enjoy the beauty of the Pitons as you swing above your private pool.

LADERA RESORT: Perched on a forested volcanic ridge 1,000 feet above the Caribbean Sea, two miles from the port town of Soufriere St. Lucia, this resort is the stuff of dreams. With just six villas and 26 suites, this intimate tropical gem is world famous but relatively unknown. Each of Ladera’s open-air villas and suites takes full advantage of the spectacular natural surroundings and has only three walls. The absence of the fourth wall brings an amazing view of the conical twin peaks of the Pitons and the rugged coastline below right into your suite.

And where better to enjoy the view than from a vintage swing suspended over your own private plunge pool? Pop the cork of your bubbly at the resort’s open-air restaurant, Dasheene, where you’ll sit between the two dramatic Piton peaks and enjoy one of the best views on earth.

GUNDEL RESTAURANT: The original restaurant was founded in 1894 in Budapest, Hungary’s City Park (Varosliget). It was restored and reopened in 1992 by Hungarian-born George Lang and Ronald Lauder, whose mother Estee Lauder was of Hungarian descent. In Gundel’s exquisite mansion, refined versions of traditional Hungarian dishes, as well as the aristocratic cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian era, are served in rooms decorated with dazzling chandeliers, paintings by 19th-century Hungarian masters, opulent floral arrangements, and a collection of Gundel memorabilia from a bygone era .

A delightful dinner should be washed down with Gundel’s own bull’s blood wine and topped off with palacsinta, the thin crepe-like pancake filled with homemade jams and/or nuts. During the glorious evening, you and your loved one will be serenaded by a gypsy band and a strolling violinist.

Plunge into the Ciragan Palace Hotel’s pool, which seems to flow into the Bosphorus.

CIRAGAN PALACE HOTEL: What could be more romantic than crossing two continents while taking a dip in the Ciragan Palace Hotel’s infinity pool, which seems to overflow into the Bosphorus Strait? The majestic Ciragan Palace Hotel, situated on the European shores of the Bosphorus and overlooking the ancient city of Istanbul, will make you and your Valentine dream of the luxury and glamor of living in a real Ottoman palace. With its grand style, superb location, mesmerizing views and resort ambiance, the hotel offers guests an unforgettable stay in an enchanting, mystical city where East meets West, Europe meets Asia and the past meets the present.

Istanbul Turkey, formerly known as Constantinople, even had a gold record song written about its name change. “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” is a novelty song from 1953 written to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The lyrics humorously refer to the official renaming of the city of Constantinople as Istanbul in 1930. If you’re wondering why they changed the name, the song explains it with these words: “Why they changed it I can’t say… People just liked it better that way… Why did Constantinople get the works? It’s nobody’s business but the Turks.”

Winner of 54 national travel writing awards, Janet Steinberg lives in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.

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