Who says the Travel PR team isn’t a bunch of old softies?

February 11, 2010

As another eagerly-anticipated (?!) Valentine’s Day approaches, love has certainly been in the air at our St Margaret’s offices. So, whether you’re the type to need a reinforced letterbox for all those cards and presents this weekend – or are more likely to be found browsing microwave meals for one in Waitrose (sob) – we hope the following personal anecdotes warm the cockles of your heart. Names withheld to spare our blushes…

Where’s the most romantic place you’ve ever been?

• “Watching the sunset over the Tuscan hills and the red tile roofs of Florence from the top of the Duomo. Breathtaking, just like the stairs”

• “The 16th floor Gaja Sky Bar at the Swissotel, Istanbul, sipping cocktails while overlooking the Bosphorus. Bliss.”

• “As new (ish) parents…sheltering together in the pouring rain under a kagool, eating chocolate biscuits on the deck of the Isle of Wight car ferry to Cowes for our first weekend without the kids. As we huddled under the plastic, the storm passed over, a beautiful bright light cast over the water and seagulls swooped down to eat the biscuit crumbs.”

• “Enjoying the soft air, sweet spicy smells and exotic sounds of the busy Jamaa El Fna Square as we gazed down from the haven of our Marrakech riad rooftop cafe.”

• “Wintertime in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. It’s at its most romantic at night, the stars twinkle overhead, the temperature is a few below zero, snow is falling and the steam envelopes everyone and everything. Its milky blue waters gently lap in the breeze and soothes tired limbs – it feels like your own private oasis. Hard to beat for an unforgettable experience.”

• “On a trek in Nepal, just outside Kathmandu, emerging from thick cloud to see the smoke rising from a beautiful Tibetan monastery – set against a snowy high mountain backdrop, with birds of prey circling languidly overhead and the distant sound of Buddhist drums. As we staggered breathless up to the monastery, there were hundreds of coloured prayer flags fluttering in the wind, a line of prayer wheels and then the wonderful bright orange robes and happy smiling faces of the monks.”

• “In London, you can dine at all the rooftop restaurants, cross all the bridges and stroll all the parks you want – but I’d dispute that any of those experiences comes close to matching the magic of a day on Hampstead Heath with your partner.  The ideal scenario is this: choose a hot day and arrive during the peak of the heat.  Dip in the mixed pool, then amble, arm-in-arm, up to higher ground for a lavish picnic overlooking London’s cranes, spokes and spires.  After the pickled onions and prosciutto are all gone, bring out a blanket, and cuddle down as the sun slips away.   A nice bottle of wine doesn’t go amiss, either.” (Nor breath mints, presumably, after this particular love picnic?!)

• “It’s cheesy I know, but my best Valentine’s day was spent in picture perfect Paris. A morning spent at the magnificent Musée D’Orsay, an afternoon spent strolling hand-in-hand along the Seine with no agenda, and an evening at a gorgeous little bistro in bustling St Germain de Prés. For me, Paris remains one of the most romantic cities in the world – its charming pavement cafés, picturesque cityscape, fantastic museums and indulgent food are still a winning combination when it comes to wooing your loved one.”

• “Catching the last little boat back from Bryher to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly after a magical day of autumn sunshine, spent meandering around the island and enjoying a delicious lunch of freshly-caught shellfish, washed down will a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so relaxed and at peace. The seals we saw from our dinky vessel seemed to be enjoying the occasion too!”.

• “For me, it has to be Amed, a collection of small villages on the north east coast of Bali that’s so off-the-beaten track, I doubt we would have ever found it without the freedom and flexibility of a scooter. Dependent on salt-making and fishing rather than tourism, we woke every morning at sunrise to find the calm, big blue bay (no Kuta waves here) filled with hundreds of colourful sails as the double-outrigger fishing boats gliding back to shore with their catch. Silent and sublime.”

• “Lit each night by hundreds of hand-dipped candles, for breathtaking romance, it has to be the Hotel Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, the old colonial capital of Guatemala. Dramatically overlooked by the brooding cones of three volcanoes, the former Dominican convent and church is an absolute delight. I burst into tears when we were shown our room – it was so lovely and individually designed, filled with lots of local touches. The perfect place to propose would be over dinner amidst the ruins of the old stone walls – very private and romantic, lit by candlelight but in the open air. You can also get married in the main church of the hotel – a good reason to return!”

• “Being rudely awoken at four in the morning by the honking and shouting of an impatient tuk tuk driver may not seem like it would signal the start of a romantic sojourn but Cambodia is full of surprises! Bouncing up and down along winding roads in complete darkness I wondered if I was mad, but all doubt dispersed when we arrived at Angkor Wat, the best-preserved temple at this awe-inspiring 12th century complex. We made our way to the ponds in front of the temple and took position for the sun rise, the sky turned from inky black to purple, pink then orange – particularly beautiful was the reflection of the temple in the water by my feet.”