With the recent Royal wedding announcement and Valentine’s Day upon us, love is well and truly in the air. Here are four fabulous holiday ideas, whether you want to relive the excitement of first love all over again, or find a way to woo that special someone in the most romantic month of the year, or just because you can...
Move over Paris, there’s a new romantic city to adore. Barcelona is enduringly beautiful with plenty to please, from the cultural sights of Las Ramblas and Park Güell to lazy days at the beach.
After an afternoon lapping up the sun and the waves on Nova Icaria Beach, there are plenty of bars and restaurants where you can pull up a table for two to enjoy each other’s company while dining on a delicious traditional dish, such as paella. It is so easy to relax into the romantic, laidback, Spanish lifestyle in this most romantic of cities.
But there are also plenty of historical sights to broaden your mind and cultural horizons, with well over 50 museums and galleries peppered across the cosmopolitan city.
Formerly home to the abstract Spanish painter, visitors can get their artistic fix at the Picasso museum - featuring the world’s largest collection of his works.
To go even more obscure, pay homage to all things alternative and trek to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art to view key pieces that can definitely be said to be on the quirky side of the art world.
For even more reasons to visit, time your break for 23 April, when the Catalonia region is transformed for the feast of Sant Jordi - the Catalan version of St Valentine’s Day.
Celebrated for more than five centuries, nearly every building is draped in the red and gold Catalan flag, or with roses, while couples exchange books and blooms for a novel twist as part of World Book Day.
It might not be the first destination that springs to mind for a couple’s break, but the views of the Buda Castle and Parliament buildings illuminated at night might well have been plucked straight from a fairy tale.
Time your visit for one of the city’s wine, beer or chocolate events for a real cause for celebration.
Pay a visit to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths to languish in the waters of one of the outdoor pools. Built in 1913, it’s one of the capital’s most visited attractions and for good reason. The medicinal hot spring waters in the 18 pools provide a much-needed revival from your holiday overindulgence, while the 10 saunas and steam cabins will leave you with that desirable holiday glow.
After a few days in the city, make the most of the magic of Hungary and retreat to the countryside to make a holiday toast while out in the rural and rustic vineyards in and around beautiful Lake Balaton - the largest lake in Central Europe.
Enjoy the beauty of the shoreline your way. You can cycle, walk or sail around the lake, just make sure you pack some heavenly treats for a picnic, with a bottle of wine from a local vineyard of course.
On the lake's western shores, the town of Keszthely offers an interesting combination of historic and cultural attractions. Pretend to be royals for the day and visit Festetics Palace - Hungary’s third largest palace.
Tour the residence and marvel at the opulence and grandeur of the building, which has been repeatedly reconstructed over time. Chart the stories behind the palace in the onsite museum, before meandering around the grounds outside, with their fragrant flowerbeds, statues and fountains; a setting more than worthy of a romantic Jane Austen novel.
If you’re planning something special for someone special, there are three key ingredients for success in Lisbon, glorious weather, beautiful sights, and tempting food, all of which combine to give this soulful city its character.
Stroll around the old district to marvel at the intricate architecture with fascinating stories to match.
Famed for its succulent seafood offerings, head for Solar dos Presuntos - an exquisite dining venue popular with Portuguese celebrities judging by the photos the owner has given pride of place to on its walls.
Seafood lovers will be in their element here. If you’re feeling ravenous the 2kg portion of crayfish should fill you up! Otherwise, there’s everything from creamy seafood risotto to flavoursome lobster to get your ocean fare fix.
Pair your seafood with a crisp and refreshing white wine, but skip desserts in favour of visiting one of the local gelato shops for a divinely sweet concoction of ice cream with lashings of tasty toppings.
If you don’t fancy the climb after a day spent on the tourist trail, grab a tuk tuk ride from the centre to Miradouro de Senhora do Monte for a unique view of Sao Jorge Castle and the banks of the Tagus River. It’s easy to appreciate how wordsmiths were inspired by the views from Lisbon’s lookout points dotted around the city.
Arrive at least 15 minutes before sunset to get a good spot for the vibrant display, while sundowners from the drinks' cart and live entertainment add to the ambiance of the event.
US Road Trip
Some of the most memorable romantic scenes come from the big screen, so if you are looking to inject a little romance into your annual adventures, you should consider planning a US road trip to take in some iconic locations.
Create your own Act One, Scene [for] Two, and revel in the joys of getting lost together. You have lots of self-drive options but touring the Atlantic east coast offers up some of the most picturesque views having A-list movie-style quality.
Plan a two-week tour, starting in the Carolinas, before hugging the coast on four wheels down through Georgia and into Florida.
First Stop - North Carolina
Wilmington, or ‘Wilmywood’ is at the heart of the silver screen in North Carolina, but across the state, there are numerous locations you might recognise. Scenes from the coming-of-age classic, Dirty Dancing, were filmed at Lake Lure and Chimney Rock.
Meanwhile some of Nicholas Sparks’ chick lit novels, such as Safe Haven and A Walk to Remember, were brought to life in Southport, Brunswick County. Wander the charming streets of downtown, lined with iconic clapboard cottages and spend leisurely afternoons relaxing around the harbours, marshes or beaches.
Second Stop - South Carolina
Cruise down to South Carolina, and make a beeline for Charleston. Following a long drive, the vibrant and historic district of Rainbow Row will perk you up. Dating back to the 1800s, there are many rumours about how the pastel hues came to be, including stories of drunken sailors landing ashore armed with paint brushes, or that the colours were used to allow slaves to identify the types of stores and produce that lay within, as they couldn't read. Both of these stories were later discovered to be red herrings!
Several Stops - Heading South
Continuing south, break up the 300-plus miles drive through Georgia on the I-95, with a few pit stops along the way. Top places include Savannah and its antebellum southern mansions, with oaks covered in Spanish moss, and the white sand beaches of Tybee Island, complete with a pier, pavilion and a still functioning 18th-century lighthouse for a true time-gone-by experience.
Continuing on the history trail, the state is home to some glorious plantations. Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens to chart America’s history, from the Revolution to present day.
It’s home to one of the oldest public gardens, opening its doors in 1870 to allow the public to wander the azalea-lined pathways, with a grand backdrop of sprawling oaks and cypress-tupelo swamps, the latter being home to alligators and egrets.
Before crossing over into Florida, squeeze in time for Cumberland Island - Georgia's largest barrier island, home to one of the most spectacular natural habitats. Board the ferry at St Mary’s, and on arrival keep your eyes peeled for loggerhead sea turtles, hogs, bird life, and one of the most sought-after residents, wild horses roaming free. Legend has it that these horses have bred from a colony which were originally shipped here by the Spanish.
Finish up your epic US drive adventures in Florida to spend a week enjoying what the state does best - sunshine. A healthy dose of beach vibes, served with a generous slice of key lime pie, is the ideal finale to your holiday.
Whether you choose city getaways, as Lorraine has in her blog here, or you are looking for a Valentine's Day hideaway, RCI will have the perfect escape for you. If you are going to create an extra-special Valentine's Day break for your other half, then you should start planning now for next year to get your ideal idyll to be sure you leave a lasting impression on the heart of your loved one. Whether you are an RCI member or not, take a journey through our RCI Directory of Resorts for inspiration to start planning your 2019 Valentine's Day tryst.
Do you own timeshare and are only using it to return each year to the resort where you purchased your timeshare? The great thing about timeshare ownership - or shared holiday ownership as it is known today - is that it gives you access to a world of wonderful holiday experiences. RCI members have more than 4,300 resorts affiliated to our holiday exchange programme in more than 100 countries from which they can select so many different ways to holiday. If you own timeshare and want to see more of the world as a couple enjoying a romance or as a multi-generational family looking for lots of fun times together, click on the button below to see how simple it is to join RCI today.