Can’t Think of the Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift? Try a Creative Trip This Year

Croatia's Heart-shaped Island, Credit: Ivo Pervan

Croatia

Croatia has a trio of unusual attractions to help you arrange a creative romantic-themed getaway. I can’t think of anywhere more romantic than the heart-shaped Galešnjak island in the Adriatic Sea near Turanji on the mainland near Zadar. You don’t even need to give a heart-shaped box of chocolates or grab a heart-shaped doughnut for your love. As your flight comes closer, the sight of the island will set your sweetheart aflutter. After your beach stay in Zadar, travel to another z-town, Zagreb, where you’ll enjoy licitar, a heart-shaped biscuit traditionally made with gingerbread (and now other ingredients) that is both the symbol of Croatia’s capital city and an enduring token of love for centuries. These hearts are found decorating homes and in designs throughout the country and are especially popular at celebrations of love like Valentine’s Day.

Licitars, Credit: Seanpu1 – Own work

As a humorous contrast, you might want to visit The Museum of Broken Relationships, located in Zagreb’s center, although you’ll need to carefully position it as something that doesn’t apply to you and your sweetie. Certainly one-of-a-kind, the museum, founded by two ex-lovers, is home to a collection of unwanted keepsakes accumulated during happier times. There, you’ll see dried flowers, photographs, letters, clothing and even an “ex-axe” donated by a woman from Berlin who used it to destroy her ex-lover’s furniture after he left her for another woman. You have to love this one. Dinner, of course, will be at the Brokenships Bistro where you can feast on Croatian regional specials and Croatian vintages while patting yourselves on the back for having a strong, loving relationship.

Broken Relationships Museum, Zagreb

If you’ve celebrated a lot on Valentine’s day, perhaps drinking just a tad too much Malvazija (malvasia), you’ll find consoling souls at the Museum of Hangovers where a collection of sotted drinking stories and the objects playing a major role in these blackouts offer moments to make your head hurt just a little bit less. Like the Museum of Broken Relationships, where you’ll see items happily discarded after a bad break-up, this museum lets you laugh at those alcohol-induced moments that you’d rather forget. This museum is also in Zagreb. It kind of makes you wonder what’s going on in Zagreb – do you have a hangover before you break up or vice versa?  

Montenegro

As if all this weren’t enough, you might want to head south to Montenegro, charming and historic and still relatively uncrowded. The Regent Porto Montenegro has a sexy land, sea and sky program to celebrate Valentine’s Day through the entire month of February. You’ll luxuriate with private sightseeing by helicopter over Boka Bay, a couples spa treatment in the Regent Spa and a private guided tour of Kotor Old Town with a photographer to capture the day. Your base is in Porto Montenegro, a glamorous nautical village where you can spend your time simply staring at the gorgeous sunset from your sea view junior suite, or dive into a romantic bath curated by the Regent Bath Butler. You might have to emerge, though — dinner is at the hotel’s Murano restaurant with a pre-dinner cocktail in the garden. Turndown is a romantic surprise as well.

Adriatic Views, courtesy of Regent Porto Montenegro
Regent Porto Montenegro, courtesy of Regent Porto Montenegro

Barbados

Refined island bliss with a touch of spice awaits in the tony island of Barbados at The House, an adults-only boutique hotel on St. James’s gorgeous West Coast. The calm blue waters aren’t the only attraction, though. The small size of The House, with only 34 rooms, ensures that you’ll have a romantic holiday with a great deal of privacy. You won’t have to pack more than your bathing suit, cover-up and a couple of outfits for the evening – the hotel has pretty much thought of everything and will even give you a jet lag massage (ask for a couples’ version to add some early spice to your stay). You’ll be pampered throughout your getaway with 24-hour Ambassador service to address any whims at any hour. Would you like strawberries and Champagne to toast Valentine’s Day at breakfast? No problem – that’s what you’ll get. Prefer to have it outdoors instead? Ambassadors will take care of you at the beach and the pool as well. You’ll have nothing to do but focus on the two of you.

The House, Barbados, courtesy of The House

But there’s more…. If you really want your sweetheart to feel like a Spice Girl, book the “LX by The House” package. This experience includes a private, A-list shopping day at high-end island shopping center Limegrove, fueled by Champagne and led by a personal shopper; a private Mount Gay Rum distillery tour and tasting; luxury airport transfers; and a private three-hour catamaran sail to watch the Caribbean sunset with an on-board chef creating a culinary feast with unlimited wines and spirts. You can also add a quick island day trip via flight charter to the neighboring islands of Mustique or the Grenadines.

Don’t miss trying some of the Bajan dishes that are truly special like pepperpot, a seasoned soup spiced up with hot peppers, beautifully washed down with rum punch made with Barbados’ own Mount Gay, the oldest rum in the world.

Rihanna birthplace, Credit, Meryl Pearlstein

And you know that at least one of you will want to walk by Rihanna’s house in Bridgetown. That will add even more spice to your romantic holiday. 


Cruise the Caribbean, Mexico and Louisiana

Princess Cruises, the “Love Boat” line, is hosting two special sailings for Valentine’s Day. They are attempting to break the Guinness World Records for the largest vow renewal and will be hosting mass ceremonies on two ships on February 11. The Regal Princess will visit the Caribbean, hosted by “Love Boat” captain Gavin MacLeod and his “daughter” Jill Whelan; and the Royal Princess will sail from the West Coast to Mexico, hosted by America’s first “Bachelorette” Trista Sutter and her husband Ryan. Plan for romance: you’ll be visiting Lover’s Beach in Los Cabos.

Couple enjoys Balcony Dining; server pours champagne

But don’t think you have to grab your passport to have a romantic Valentine’s Day holiday. Look what the creative folks at McGee’s Swamp Tours in Henderson, Louisiana are offering for the entire month of February. Called “Atchafalaya Amour,” you’ll have your romantic Valentine’s Day dinner aboard a boat with six other couples as you drift through the Atchafalaya Swamp Basin. Timed for sunset, your romdin (“romantic dinner,” my creation instead of a romcon) includes wine and live musical entertainment as well. And you’ll leave with a framed photo of your evening, a bottle of wine, and a rose. This definitely turns the concept of a dinner cruise on its head!  Book the gorgeous Victorian Room at historic Mouton Plantation in nearby Lafayette, one of my favorite U.S. cities. At this 19th-century plantation, you’ll be treated to warm, Cajun hospitality with the flair of real Acadiana.

Mouton Plantation, Lafayette
Atchafalaya Amour swamp tour, courtesy of McGee’s

A Yoga Retreat in Western Massachusetts

And here’s one that will satisfy your spiritual needs. Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in the Berkshires has a couples-centric gift for Valentine’s Day. Their special R&R Relationships Retreat from February 9-14 offers a schedule of daily workshops designed to strengthen your ties to the people you care about most. Throughout the week, you’ll learn effective ways to mindfully communicate and engage with loved ones; experience yoga and movement classes focused on how to better listen to your body; explore tools and practices for self-love, self-care, and self-compassion; and connect with nature on guided snowshoeing excursions. 

Mindfulness session at Kripalu, credit Meryl Pearlstein

If the weather cooperates, you can join in on a walking meditation through the forest on the center’s grounds where you’ll learn how to be at peace with yourself and hopefully translate that experience to your significant other. I found it to be an incredibly insightful hike. Regardless, you’ll take away a healthier outlook on your relationship while enjoying healthful dining and learning healthful habits. If the dates don’t work, no worries – this is, after all, a Zen type of experience. They have other programs in February and throughout the year.

Yoga Walk Guide, credit Meryl Pearlstein

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