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February 10, 2015

2

Romantic Breaks in Europe

by Julianne Mooney


I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. It feels more like a commercial ploy to fill the space between Christmas and Easter than a day for people to demonstrate their love for one another. I prefer little gestures throughout the year; bars of my favourite chocolate delivered to my couch, spontaneous weekend lunches, home-cooked dinners and flowers, simply because.

Of course, that’s not to say if my lovely man were to jet me off to a deserted island on Valentine’s Day I would object. I just hate that restaurants force you to eat from a fixed menu with hiked up prices in a dining room packed with couples, a cheesy love CD playing in the background and food being served in the shape of love hearts.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a hopeless romantic and if you were to ask my friend, Siobhan, she would tell you that her most romantic holidays and weekends away have been with me. I can’t help but seek out small, quaint villages and unearth rustic villas with four poster beds and meals served in pretty courtyards. Why can’t a girl’s holiday be romantic too? After all, it’s another relationship needing to be nourished and treasured.

One of my loveliest Valentine’s Days was when my Mum came to visit me in London. Dad had given her a little package marked – Only to be opened on Valentine’s Day at 12pm. This to me is like a big massive sign saying OPEN ME NOW! Despite my pleas, Mum stayed firm and we were to wait the 18 hours till we could open it.

We spent the morning wandering around the V&A and then found a little café and when the clock struck 12pm we opened our envelope. There sat a Valentine’s Card with sterling inside. His scrawled note wished us a wonderful weekend, Happy Valentine’s and told us to enjoy afternoon tea at The Savoy.

Knowing Mum and I wanted to have afternoon tea in The Savoy, my sixty-something year old Dad, had rung The Savoy in London to find out how much afternoon tea was, went to the bank and exchanged his money for sterling. We re-read his card, looked at the sterling and smiled like Cheshire cats. It wasn’t the money, or the fact we were going to The Savoy,  it was the fact Dad had taken the time to plan the whole thing, rather than just hand Mum the money as she was leaving. The romantic gesture was for both Mum and I, and it was one I will never forget.

No matter if you love or hate Valentine’s, there will come a time in the year when you crave a romantic weekend away with the one you love. Strolls on deserted beaches, lazy lunches in sunny squares, coffee in local brasseries and candle-lit dinners. These are the times when you slow down and simply spend time being together.

Visit Paris, the city of love, eat and drink your heart out in Beaune, take a gondola ride in Venice, or read below for more inspiration. Or you don’t have to leave Ireland to get romance. Try the stunning Causeway Coastal Drive. Below is some more inspirational romantic hotspots!

Happy Valentine’s Day xx

BATH,UK

A UNESCO heritage city, replete with a Roman Bath House, stunning architecture, beautiful surrounding coutryside and an abundance of restaurants and bars, Bath is the perfect romantic getaway.

The city of Bath is easy to navigate, small enough to stroll around, yet big enough to keep you occupied. The Roman Bath House has the UK’s only hot spring and here you can explore and learn the history of the ancient baths, relax beneath the cloisters and then retreat to the Pump House Restaurant for a swish afternoon tea, whilst being seranaded by the Pump House Trio.

Not to be missed is a walk around the beautiful 18th century landscaped gardens, Prior Park Gardens. Savour the views over Bath from the Palladian bridge, where many a proposal has been made and then wander the quiet pathways through the forest. Afternoons can be spent browsing the cities many boutiques, bookshops and museums. Ladies will love being pampered at the Thermae Bath Spa  with its incredible roof top pool, filled with warm, natural spring water.

For the fit, climb the 212 steps of the impressive Bath Abbey tower, where you will be rewarded with a birds eye view of the city. Gentlemen, if you’re looking to clock up major brownie points, it’s possible to book a bottle of champagne to enjoy at the top. What more could a girl want? A tipple of champagne, a perfect view and a snuggle with her man.

Those feeling adventurous can take a champagne hot air balloon ride from Royal Victoria Park. If you suffer from vertigo, I’d stick with a hot chocolate and a stroll around the lovely park.

There’s plenty of culture in Bath, for the fashionistas there’s the wonderful Fashion Museum, or the literary romantics will enjoy The Jane Austen Centre.

You will be spoilt for choice in the evenings, take in a show at the Theatre Royal, dine in one of the many restaurants, finishing up with drinks in one of Bath’s lively bars.

Getting There – Flights Direct to Bristol from €80 return. Get a taxi to Bath or a cheaper option is to get a bus to the train station and it’s only 13 mins on the train to Bath.

Special Offers

Boutique Hotel – Queensbury Hotel from €150 per room per night

Luxurious Hotel – Royal Crescent from €350 (B&B and 5 course dinner for two)

Countryside Retreat – Homewood Park 

Self-catering –  The Georgian Stables

LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND

Lucerne sits in the centre of Switzerland, nestled on the shores of the picturesque Lake Lucerne and surrounded by views of snow-capped mountains. Only an hour by train from Zurich, it’s the perfect place to visit on a romantic weekend.

Meander through the maze of cobbled streets in the old quarter, taking a break to enjoy hot chocolate on one of the quaint city squares. Lucerne has a great selection of restaurants and some fantastic shopping, but the city is also rich in culture and wonderful architecture including a Baroque church, a 12th century Water Tower and the beautiful Chapel Bridge, a 14th century covered wooden bridge.

Take a boat trip on the lake, take a visit to a nearby lakeside town, have a hot chocolate on a mountain top or be pampered in one of the cities many spas.

 Flights – Fly direct to Zurich and trains leave from the airport to Lucerne a few times an hour.

Special Offers

Palace Luzern from €300 per person (2 nights B&B, spa + 100CH towards food & beverage in room)

Wilden Mann from €300 per person (4 Star hotel, 2 nights B&B, champagne on arrival and 3 course meal)

Theatre Package from 100 per person for one night B&B in hotel and theatre tickets

LISBON, PORTUGAL

The narrow, winding streets and crumbling building facades of Alfama, leading to Castelo S. Jorge (St George’s Castle)hold a true old world charm that transports you into another time and place. Getting lost in the tiny streets, immersing yourself in life in Alfama is one of Lisbon’s most memorable experiences for me.

Visiting the castle is a must, where you can skirt the castle walls and enjoy 360 degree views over the city of red roofs. In the evening, restaurants appear as if by magic, down tiny laneways and you are led to them by the sound of music and singing. This is the traditional music of the fishermen, Fado and while you enjoy a meal of fresh fish and tasty sides, you are seranaded by the often mournful tunes of men singing about life at sea, poverty and their fate.

The city should be explored by day, with some fantastic shopping in Baixa (downtown) a perfect blend of contemporary and traditional shops. Avenida da Liberdade is a mile long equivalent of the Champs-Elysee in Paris and here you will find designer shops, high-end restauratns and a roadway lined with palm trees that leads away from the river and brings you to a park, where on weekends you may be lucky to stumble upon an outdoor book market or some other treat.

The Bohemian Quarter – Bairro Alto is a treasure trove for those in search of quirky boutiques and art gallerys, but expect to simply stumble upon these, as during the day the area appears deserted. By night however, doors are opened to reveal wonderful restaurants, lively bars and fado houses teeming with people.

A more sophisticated area is neighbouring Chiado, with charming bookshops, old-style cafes and theatres.

In striking contrast to the old quarter of Lisbon, East Lisbon is a more modern affair, Parque das Nações with a large shopping centre, Ocenarium and futuristic architecture.

Getting There fly direct to Lisbon

Special Offer – Clickandgo.com – €195 per person includes flights, hotel and taxes

Valentine’s Special Offers

AROUND IRELAND SPECIAL OFFERS

Cashel House Hotel – €179 pp – 2 nights B&B and 1 dinner

Ballyvolane House – €165 pp – 1 night B&B, champagne on arrival, 4 course dinner

Rathmullan House – €215 pp – 2 nights B&B, 1 dinner and a hazel tree planted in the garden!

WATCH SLOT ON IRELAND AM


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