With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you might be in the process of mapping out a romantic trip with the one you love. And that process may seem daunting. Should you go with something romantic, fun, or quirky? Take a deep breath: here are four questions that will guide you in the right direction as you plan your special day.
1. Near or far?
The first thing to decide is whether you actually want to go somewhere. Weekend escapes can be great, but don’t discount those romantic places just around the corner. Surprise your honey and book a table at your favorite restaurant or play tourist for the day. For instance, if you happen to be in New York, take your date for a romantic carriage ride in Central Park or attempt a gutsy pirouette on the ice at the Rockefeller Center!
2. City or country?
Few cities can hold a candle to Rome and Paris when it comes to love, but they don’t have the romance market cornered. If you’re homing in on a bustling metropolis for Valentine’s Day, the options are endless. Create your own affair to remember at the Empire State Building Observatory, go for a gondola ride in Venice, or take in the sights from the London Eye. If you prefer a more tranquil setting, opt for a bed and breakfast in the countryside where you can enjoy long romantic walks and champagne toasts by the fireside.
3. Sand or snow?
Valentine’s Day provides the perfect excuse to seek out a sunny destination to deflect the winter chill (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Liking the sound of Bali or another island in the sea? Get ready for some hand-in-hand strolls on the beach (and don’t forget the sun block). But don’t rule out the winter alternative. Chilly climes up the cozy factor. Just picture having a candlelight dinner at a cabin in the woods while watching the snow fall quietly outside.
4. Aaaah or adventure?
Looking for some relaxation? Head to the nearest spa for some made-for-two pampering. (Take it from me, massages give a boost to any relationship!) But if you are an adventurous couple on the look out for new thrills, see the world from a new perspective…in a hot-air balloon or during the exhilarating free fall while skydiving.
In the end it really doesn’t matter if you stay at home or travel somewhere on Valentine’s Day, as long as you’re with the one you love.
Choose Your Own Adventure: Valentine’s Day Hanna Snarberg , romantic trips , Sam and the Dunes , valentines day
The West Village is a labyrinth of shady brownstone-lined streets, hidden gardens, corner shops, and a mix of sophisticated culinary temples and casual downhome joints. It’s also a place I’m proud to call home.
I often find myself thinking I feel like I’m on the set of a movie while wandering this charming Manhattan neighborhood. Only, in this corner of New York, I actually often do find myself stumbling onto film sets. In fact, some of the movies and TV shows filmed here have become worldwide cultural phenomena, drawing millions of visitors each year to spots like the Friends building and Carrie’s apartment from Sex & The City.
Despite all the rubbernecking, I love my neighborhood and have spent a great deal of time exploring its offerings. I should say getting lost. The West Village’s haphazard streets were laid out before the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 cemented the city’s much-celebrated grid, so it’s very easy to lose your way. It took me years to understand why W. Fourth and W. Tenth streets intersect, and how Seventh Avenue cuts through the streets. But that just adds to the neighborhood’s charm.
Here’s my guide to getting lost in the West Village:
Take a walking tour to get acquainted with the West Village’s unique history (I recommend one led by Context Travel), including its rich Native American heritage, the impact Dutch settlers had on the neighborhood’s character, and the Bohemian poets and artists who have called it home over the years.
Bleecker Street has always been the Village’s buzzing main street. If you start at Sixth Avenue and work your way west, you’ll find Amy’s Bread and the famous Murray’s Cheese Shop (they offer classes). Bypassing frozen yogurt and souvenir stores brings you to more sophisticated shops like Reiss London, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mulberry, Michael Kors, and Ralph Lauren.
Greenwich Avenue, which runs northwest from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue, is rife with vintage shops, casual eateries, and design stores like Jonathan Adler. It’s also a traveler’s dream. Pick up a cool passport cover and luggage tag at Flight 001, then stop by neighborhood staple Per Tutti to peruse the delightful assortment of luggage and umbrellas on offer. Looking for gifts? Myxplyzyk is a gold mine.
Hudson Street is another main thoroughfare that’s fun to wander. Here you’ll find Myers of Keswick for all things British, Beasty Feast for great finds for the furry friends in your life, and some of the West Village’s most popular restaurants and bars.
Other quintessential West Village streets: Grove, W. Tenth Street, Charles, Perry, W. 11th, Bank Street, W. 4th Street, and Christopher Street.
The IFC Center shows the best documentaries and independent films around, but it also resurfaces movies we’ve loved for decades. Last weekend, they screened Fight Club at midnight, and soon to come is Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Hudson River Park is a neighborhood gem. On beautiful days, there is nothing better. Pick up a sandwich or salad at Better Being Underground or San Panino, claim a bench, and settle in for some great people watching in this lovely green space.
Jefferson Market was once a courthouse that faced demolition. Public outcry took the 19th-century icon off the chopping block and led to its designation as a national historic landmark. The truly unique building is now a branch of the New York Public Library and opens up its incredible urban garden to visitors in the warmer months of the year.
Shop Smart. Peruse the shelves at Three Lives & Company, a bookstore that teems with soul and creativity, make the short walk around the corner to Greenwich Letterpress for the most appealing greeting cards and invitations in the city, then head to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks for rare and out-of-print volumes as well as vintage copies of magazines like Gourmet and Cook’s Illustrated. After all that thinking, treat yourself to some sea-salt caramels at Varsano’s.
For Date Night: Try Barbuto for al fresco dining, dell’anima for killer housemade pasta (just make your reservation well in advance), The Little Owl for a classic, cozy West Village experience (try the meatball sliders based on a recipe passed down by chef Joey Campanaro’s grandmother), or L’Artusi, where every single thing looks and tastes fantastic. Wash it all down with a faux-illicit cocktail at Little Branch, an above-board speakeasy that only lets new people in when others leave.
For Ethnic Elan: Hit up Buvette, a French “gastroteque” that serves small plates (try the croque madame and fresh-squeezed OJ), Cafe Condesa for delicious, affordable dishes with Mexican flair in an under-the-radar setting, Karahi for an impressive array of Indian cuisine served up in a shoebox-sized space, Kin Shop for a truly unique take on Thai from Chef Harold Dieterle, who took home top honors in Top Chef‘s first season, Tertulia for Spanish tapas that rival the best on offer in Spain, or pick up some falafel at Taim Falafel (it’s the best I’ve ever had).
For Quick Bites: Waste no time getting to
Cafe ‘ino‘ for inexpensive comfort food (try the much-loved truffled egg toast), Joe’s Pizza for one of the best slices in Manhattan,
Patisserie Claude for flaky fare (the pain au chocolate is a neighborhood favorite), then enjoy a mid-afternoon cappuccino, croissant, and great people watching at Sant Ambroeus.
For Neighborhood Favorites: Impersonate a West Village local at Cafe Cluny, a French country bistro that serves a mean mid-week breakfast, Morandi, a spacious, family-friendly Italian trattoria, Pearl Street Oyster Bar for New York’s version of a Maine mainstay (the lobster roll), The Spotted Pig, an ever-popular British/Italian gastropub, or Tavern on Jane, a casual corner place with seriously good food.
What’s your favorite thing about the West Village? Tell me by leaving a comment.
The Best of the West Village Amy’s Bread , Annie Fitzsimmons , Barbuto , Beasty Feast , Better Being Underground , Bleecker Street , Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks , Buvette , Cafe ‘ino , Cafe Cluny , Cafe Condesa , context travel , dell’anima , Greenwich Avenue , Greenwich Letterpress , Hudson Street , IFC Center , Jefferson Market , Joe’s Pizza , Karahi Indian Cuisine , Kin Shop , L’Artusi , Little Branch , Morandi , Murray’s Cheese , Myers of Keswick , new york city , Patisserie Claude , Pearl Street Oyster Bar , Piccolo Angolo , Rosemary’s , San Panino , Sant Ambroeus , Taim Falafel , Tavern on Jane , Tertulia , The Spotted Pig , Three Lives
The last ten days has been extremely busy for me. I’ve traveled from Costa Rica to the Canadian Yukon and then south again to El Salvador where I am writing this today.
Traveling from Central America to northern Canada in the Winter and back has to be the most jarring change in climate that I’ve experienced in all my travels. Nonetheless, I managed to handle the transition pretty well. I picked up cold weather gear in Texas that had been sitting at my manager Amy’s house since I got back from Antarctica. That plus the gear I was able to borrow in Whitehorse made the experience very doable.
I visited the Yukon back in the summer of 2011 and it was a very memorable experience. Returning in the winter was no less so, but totally different. I was there as part of a media trip to photograph the Yukon Quest sled dog race, but we managed to fit in many other things as well.
One of the things was actually going dog sledding and running my own dog team. We went to the Sky High Wilderness Ranch outside of Whitehorse where they keep a kennel of 150 dogs. Each member of our group had a team of 4 dogs and went out for a 16 mile run.
It was one of the best experiences I’ve had during my last 6 years of traveling. The dogs are extremely anxious to run. There is no way to make them go faster, nor is it necessary. There is only a brake to slow them down. If you fall off your sled the dogs will not not stop for you. They will just keep running.
I also got to travel back up to Dawson City, which is 175 miles below the Arctic Circle. It is an interesting place in the summer and it is even more so in the winter. The people who choose to live in Dawson City during the winter are an interesting lot and what makes it such a great place to visit.
My trip to the Yukon was also a bonanza for photography. I’m very pleased with the images I captured and you will be seeing them in the upcoming weeks. I plan on editing most of them while I am in Central America.
As for my time in Central America, I am on my first trip of the year with G Adventures. It is the Mayan Ruins & Culture tour which goes to three countries (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala) and 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It will give me a chance to visit a part of the world that I haven’t really explored before and will also serve as a great bookend to the trip I took to the Mayan Rivera back in September, 2012.
Most of us are familiar with some of the most famous Carnival celebrations in the world – Rio, Venice, and New Orleans among them. But Carnival is celebrated all over the world in nearly any place that has a strong Catholic background, so there are plenty of places where you can enjoy Carnival festivities even if you’re not in Brazil or Louisiana this year.
Here are the countries with some of the more interesting Carnival celebrations around the world.
Sure, we’ve all heard about Carnival in Rio, but there are celebrations in other parts of Brazil, too. One of the other cities that does Carnival in a big way is Salvador, where the traditional Brazilian dancing is accompanied by live Bahia music performed by bands carried on the back of big trucks through the city center. Virtually anywhere you go in Brazil during Carnival, however, you’ll find some kind of party.
Venice’s Carnival masks and ornate costumes are legendary, but for something even more strange in Italy you’ll need to visit the town of Ivrea during Carnival. Ivrea’s Battle of the Oranges pits orange-throwing teams against one another. It’s a food fight of epic proportions. The town of Viareggio takes a more stately approach toward Carnival, with its parades of caricatures of famous people.
You’d be forgiven for thinking, “Carnival? In Belgium?” But the Carnival in Binche, Belgium dates back several centuries and is now on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Binche celebrates with three days of parades, during one of which men known as Gilles, dressed in colorful costumes and clogs, throw blood oranges into the crowds.
Another Carnival celebration that makes UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List is La Diablada Carnival in Oruro, Bolivia. The Diablada is a particular dance that features prominently in Oruro’s Carnival parades, when nearly 50 different groups of dancers form a procession each Saturday during Carnival. The religious roots of Oruro’s celebrations date back to pre-colonial times, when the indigenous people would make offerings to Mother Earth and a God of the Mountains.
Cold places aren’t ideally suited to scantily clad parade dancers, but the weather lends yet another reason for a celebration that’ll warm the spirit. So in Moscow, the week before Lent is marked by locals stuffing themselves silly on the thin pancakes known as blini. Moscow’s Carnival-esque week is called Mslenitsa, translated as either “Pancake Week” or the even more fattening “Butter Week,” and celebrations also include masquerade balls and outdoor winter sports.
Mexico celebrates Carnival in cities throughout the country, but the biggest Carnival celebration happens in the seaside city of Mazatlán. Some smaller towns incorporate the indigenous traditions of those towns, but in Mazatlán the Carnival celebrations are similar to the ones you’ll see in other parts of the world, with costumes, parades, and live music. The popular local blend of Mexican and polka music, called Banda, is what you’ll hear most often during Carnival in Mazatlán.
The Indian state of Goa is well-known for its festive atmosphere, so it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Goa is home to India’s biggest Carnival celebration, too. This is partly thanks to the influence left from Portugal’s centuries of rule over Goa, and partly thanks to Goa’s modern residents who have incorporated their own Hindu elements into Carnival. Carnival in Goa lasts for three days, during which you’ll see fireworks and parades of costumed characters, as well as revelers dumping buckets of colored water on spectators.
Residents of Nice will tell you theirs is the oldest Carnival celebration in the world, dating back to 1294. Whatever the truth of that statement is, Carnival in modern Nice is a great spectacle with parades of huge floats over multiple days during the festival, which lasts more than two weeks. Nice’s party may not be as famous worldwide as that of New Orleans or Rio, but it’s well-known enough to attract more than one million revelers each year.
Trinidad and Tobago
The capital of Trinidad and Tobago claims to have the biggest Carnival celebration in the Caribbean, and although some of the elements are familiar – outlandish costumes and big parade floats – some are unique combinations of Catholic and local features. Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago lasts for months, with a Carnival Steel Pan competition happening before Carnival, so to really get the full flavor of the festival you might want to plan to stay awhile.
Quebec City, Canada
Carnival is a moving target, the dates changing each year with the Catholic calendar, but in Quebec City they’ve removed the date-related confusion. Quebec’s Winter Carnival is held in late January/early February each year, and highlights include ice and snow sculptures as well as a variety of outdoor winter sports. You won’t see the skimpy Rio-style attire in Quebec, but you can attend a masquerade ball (indoors!) and stay warm with Caribou, a heated drink made of wine, whiskey, and maple syrup.
Portugal might have exported its Catholicism to places like Brazil, thereby influencing the original Carnival celebrations there, but these days Portugal has imported Brazilian-style Carnival traditions back across the pond. Carnival celebrations differ across the country, but most Portuguese regions incorporate things like elaborate costumes and samba parades. In some regions, large masks or figures are made and then burned in big bonfires.
Carnival Celebrations Around the World belgium , Bolivia , brazil , carnival , featured , France , Goa , Italy , mardi gras , Mexico , Moscow , Nice , Portugal , quebec city , Salvador da Bahia , Trinidad and Tobago
When you see something interesting happen once, you think, well that’s interesting. Twice, its a coincidence. More than that, well, that’s a trend. Recently we’ve begun to notice a delightful trend on Viator – a fair number of people are proposing to their partners while on a Viator excursion.
We look forward to seeing a picture of the happy event!
Todd hopped a helicopter to the Grand Canyon:
Tam proposed while on a scenic helicopter flight over Los Angeles:
Rob asked on a Romantic Horse and Carriage Ride through Paris:
As well as Lisa’s mate:
Benjamin popped the question at the Empire State Building while using their New York CityPass:
Eric came down on one knee while on a tour of Neuschwanstein Castle. Says Stacey, “Once at the gorge, we got a closer look at the waterfall that started at the top of the gorge. This is when Eric got down on one knee and proposed to me. I said YES! And here is a photo to commemorate our moment.”
Congratulations to the happy couples!
We’re nothing but thrilled that these travelers trust us to share in their special day, and we hope that we’ll be there when they take their honeymoons, second honeymoons, and the many more trips they’ll have ahead together.
If you’re thinking about popping the question, check out some of the romantic travel ideas on our blog and on Viator.com. A private gondola ride in Venice, a night flight over the Las Vegas Strip, or a creative romance package in Paris, while no guarantees of a “yes”, certainly can’t hurt your chances. We’ll do our best to help you pop the question, have an amazing honeymoon, and maybe someday, keep the kids entertained with family-friendly activities.
Love is in the Air Grand Canyon National Park , los angeles , new york city , Paris , romantic travel
Psst. Want to know a secret? February is my favorite time of year. Few of my fellow residents of the arctic Northeast share my sentiment, particularly right now. Nonetheless, I appreciate this month because of the magical celebration situated smack dab in the middle of it: Valentine’s Day. What’s not to like about a day set aside to celebrate the love in your life? The delectable chocolates, beautiful roses, and oh-so-adorable Valentine cards are just an added bonus to an already delightful occasion. While some folks may be content to let this potentially enchanting day pass without the attention it deserves, the magic-makers at Disneyland and Walt Disney World certainly won’t miss this opportunity to celebrate love in all its grandeur:
- Disney Parks have dubbed 2013 as the year of Limited Time Magic. Acknowledging that life’s most precious experiences are often fleeting, they are introducing fanciful surprises throughout the year that last for only a week. As magically as they appear, they will disappear just a short time later. The good news for those of us who love Valentine’s Day is that Disney will dedicate an entire week to celebrate this holiday in 2013. If you visit the Disney Parks during “True Love week” (February 11th through 17th), you’ll find exciting new ways to celebrate with your special someone. You and your beloved can fill an entire scrapbook with the photographs captured in romantic nooks in the Magic Kingdom. While Disney’s princesses typically greet guests solo in the parks, for this special week they will be accompanied by their princes. For guests who enjoy taking advantage of an uncommon photo opportunity, you won’t want to miss the chance to get a shot with Disney’s royal couples. Frequent visitors to the parks will tell you that the option to pose with the princes is rare indeed.
- Imagine dining with your sweetheart at one of the enchanting restaurants in the parks or at Downtown Disney. Consider the San Angel Inn at the Mexico pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot or at Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand Californian Resort. You deserve some time to relax and enjoy a blissfully romantic candlelight dinner.
- Then, cap off your evening by basking in the glow of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty Castle. For True Love week, these majestic structures will be bathed in beautiful pink, red, and lavender hues. While the Disney Parks have always been popular places for wedding proposals, I can just imagine how many love-struck guests will be inspired to pop the question amidst the romantic ambience of True Love week.
So, if you’re looking to re-kindle a long-established love or to ignite a new one, head to the Disney Parks this month. Something tells me Valentine’s Day may just become your favorite holiday too.
Disney Insider: Valentine Magic at the Disney Parks Disney Vacation , Valentine’s Day travel
The Moulin Rouge, which was first opened in 1889 is located close to Montmarte in the district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy. This famous building, with its iconic red windmill is known as the spiritual home of the Can-Can. It was immortalized in the works of Toulouse Lautrec, and more recently in the eponymous hit movie directed by Baz Luhrman. With all this history in mind it was hard not to be excited as I was fortunate to be able experience the new Viator VIP: Moulin Rouge Show with Exclusive VIP Seating and 3-Course Dinner.
From the moment you arrive outside the Moulin Rouge, the VIP experience begins. It is hard not to get excited as you watch the red windmill turning in the evening sky. The first thing you notice is the long queue snaking around out of the door, and down the street. Of course, these people have already prebooked, months before, but still had to queue to waiting to be seated. We, however with the included skip the line access, could walk past the queue and straight to the entrance.
With a dash of French glamor the man on the door raised the red rope and guided us along the red carpet right past the snaking crowd of people all queuing to check in their coats and take their place for dinner. Our escort eased us to the coat check in to remove our coats, and before we knew it we were being taken through the slowly filling up theater to our seats, situated on a raised mezzanine level above the main dining area. These really where the best seats in the house, and we could not be better place to watch and appreciate the costumes, set and dancing! But first it was time to enjoy the 3-course dinner.
Our personal waiter was on hand to meet our every need, and immediately, it was time to open the champagne and present us with our aperitivo. During this time we could take a look at the complimentary program that was handed to us, and see what was in our gift bags that where presented to us at our seats on arrival.
The first thing I noticed on the menu was my name at the top; the personalized experience was present in all areas. Once we had chosen our food, the waiter could recommend the wine the accompany each course. My choice for dinner was the Duck foie gras with sea salt, mango vinaigrette, “Roquette” salad and grilled toast for the starter, the Sirloin steak, small fried potatoes with thyme, French Beans with fresh butter, pepper sauce for the main and the Moulin Rouge Opera pastry, chocolate wings, chocolate hazelnut sauce for dessert.
Following the meal, it was now time to sit back and relax and watch one of the most famous shows in the world. But first, as the performance started we were presented, a selection of delicious macaroons, in a variety of interesting flavors.
The current show is Feerie, which comprises a number of different scenes, including a pirate scene and a circus scene.
Throughout the evening, it was the small things that also made the difference. Just before the end of the show our coats were presented to us; something we hugely appreciated as we saw the long queues of people waiting to collect their coats on the way out.
VIP: Moulin Rouge Show with Exclusive VIP Seating and 3-Course Dinner featured , France , Mouin Rouge , Paris