Instead of being forced to be all lovey-dovey for one specific day of the year, Andrew Matthews takes a look at some genuinely romantic options for amores throughout the annum…

The great cheese festival of Valentine’s Day is behind us for another year. I hope you were among the lucky few to receive a dozen, long-stemmed white roses in  your suite at Le Georges V. But if not, you were in good company. I know there are people out there still sitting in stunned silence staring at grizzly scarlet underwear/multi-functional cordless drills/two tickets to a Bon Jovi tribute night/Ryanair luggage vouchers…

The 14th February can be a tough test for the strongest bonds. Let’s face it, if your love bought lingerie that screams ‘Victoria’s Secret Shame’, how well does he really know you? And the female of the species can stop prancing around thinking this doesn’t apply to them. Tell me I’m not the only man who’s received a teddy bear with a red plush heart in his time – I’m South African, I’ve hiked terrain, I’ve eaten biltong!

Mercifully Valentine’s is only one day out of 365, leaving you another 364 to redeem yourself. And how hard can it really be to get it right? A few observational skills, the gentle art of listening occasionally and some imagination.

Start by putting love in the bank right now. So when next Valentine’s Day rolls round you can claim devotion fatigue and just give the whole wretched farce a complete miss. Sounds like a plan to me!

Gothic Romance

credit: Jim Linwood

Don’t dismiss the loved one who hankers after the darker drama of romance. A fondness for mummified saints, jewelled relics and the occasional ossuary does not a potential psychopath make (unnecessary freezers in a dark, damp basement on the other hand…).

If you missed the surprise weekend in Paris for Valentine’s this year, think about Spring in the city instead. More specifically think Père Lachaise Cemetary in Spring. And most specifically of all, think Abélard and Héloise. The grand passion and vast correspondence of this 12th century pair has long since captivated romantics given to a bit of brooding melancholy rather than puffy hearts and cuddly toys. Personally I think Héloise would have been better off quitting the convent and getting out more. And as for Abélard, well it seems he was the first man to coin ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ as an exit strategy, enough said.

Abélard and Héloise’s tomb is considered to be one of Père Lachaise’s loveliest, it’s in Division 7 (plot 7). If a map feels unromantic, go it alone by all means – Père Lachaise is huge and circuitous and you’ll get magnificently lost in about 3 seconds. The bones of Abélard and Hèloise were interred together in 1847 and it’s long been a tradition to lay love letters on the delicately carved stone effigies of the lovers atop their tomb. Find the Père Lachaise Plan at and make a day of it in the company of other doomed, romantic souls like Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Modigliani and, of course, Jim Morrison (most underwhelming grave ever).

Vintage Romance

credit: Amanda Claasen

Jewellery is a one-off statement that could easily carry you through several years’ worth of dodgy Valentine’s gifts. But it can also be fraught with moral dilemma. The solution is an old one, literally: vintage.  Keep your good conscience by avoiding precious stones and look for pieces that come with a story then even the smallest gesture is romantic.

Grays in the centre of London has over 80 specialist antique jewellery stalls selling everything from enamelled Suffragette pins to signet rings and tiaras. Grays, 58 Davies Street & 1-7 Davies Mews, London W1

Eternal Romance

A tatty, mixed bouquet does not a grand romantic make. My recommendation for a lasting impression is to follow the lead of an impressionist and travel 80km north west from Paris to Giverny. Monet’s house at Giverny was gifted to the Academie des Beaux Arts in 1966 and is now one of the most romantic, beautiful and fascinating domestic museums and gardens in the world. If your true love tends to the obsessive they’ll be entranced by Monet’s dictate that ‘tablecloths should be rolled for storage to avoid fold-lines on the dinner table’. While the free-spirited will love the romance of the artist’s vast, enchanting garden (water lilies are many). Most romantic way to reach Giverny is by train from Paris to Vernon

Movie Romance

A classic to finish with I think – The Tuschinski Theatre, Amsterdam. The most beautiful cinema in the world, built in 1921, restored in 2002 and adored by millions. For a movie night like no other, reserve Pullman seats and a picnic with wine. Tuschinski Theatre, Reguliersbreestraat 26, 1017 CN Amsterdam.

Helpful on the route to romantic redemption? I hope so. And if you’re looking something to gladden the heart of a hard trekking, leather chewing South African, get in touch and I’ll be happy to advise.

This post was written for Urban Travel Blog by Andrew Matthews, resident travel pundit for holiday rental experts If you enjoyed this post, you should read Andrew’s take on Top New Design for 2014.

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