Love with a big 'L': Where to take your Literary Lover this Valentines Day
LOVE: The topic of much conversation, many songs and some of the world's greatest stories.
When you're in love a gesture can sometimes be worth a thousand words, but a few words can equally be worth a thousand gestures. For help coming up with the right way to talk love it's a good idea to consult one of the masters, those men and women who have penned some of the finest words on love and loving. And the WR team has recently discovered that those same wise scribes can prove just as useful when bombarded with requests for ideas about where to whisk lovers away to for Valentine's Day.
When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.
Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Set in the Prague Spring, Milan Kundera's novel has some of the most heart-bursting-ly beautiful prose on love anywhere – even after you allow for the text's translation. And language can be one of the most romantic elements of a relationship...especially if you take it to a place where the language spoken is almost familiar, and the only person you can properly understand is your lover...
In Prague, in February and in love it can feel as if everything is being done by candle light. Candlelit churches hold romantic sounding recitals, underground bars and restaurants serving cosy comfort foods are lit with candles and many hotels are similarly warmly illuminated. These gentle lights beckon visitors in from the chill of famously pretty ancient streets, narrow passages filled by impromptu markets and lined with the varied architecture the city is known for and call lovers in off the river.
I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Bath, where stroll the ghosts of Jane Austen's heroines, has also been the kind of pretty city of boutique hotels and cosy restaurants that lovers flee towards for some alone time. The crescents, churches and abbey and of course the warmly bubbling Roman Baths - with the old fashioned Pump Room Restaurant where you can drink of the green tepid pools... hardly a love potion but the rest of this city of old pale stone is more than intoxicating enough to make up for it - comes highly recommended by Jane Austen, she set both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey here.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched, but are felt in the heart
Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient
Recuperate your romance in Umbria like The English Patient. If you fell in love with the film you can visit some of the locations used in its filming: the villa used is just outside Pienza and the church scenes were filmed in the Church of San Francesco in Arezzo. And if you fell in love with the book you can imagine every villa you see along the road to be the one Count Almásy arrives at covered in bandages, and ever orchard to be the one Hana bathes and walks in.
If strolling – or cycling - amongst orchards and vineyards isn't healing enough, remember there's also the healing power of all that fresh produce, cooked in the hearty traditional Italian style, and a healthy dash of locally made vino. Ideal for lovers of lovers of good food and wine and beautiful architecture and scenery.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II
Make like Romeo and Juliet and lay your scene in fair Verona. With a history going back to the Romans, a position that made it a prize in European and Italian power struggles, and some of the finest Roman, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture you’ll find anywhere on the peninsula, when you're wandering Verona's streets on a February evening it might be easy to believe that Romeo and Juliet's tragic love story really took place.
Visit 'Juliet's Balcony' but don't get too carried away, while it's purported to be the home of one of the feuding Veronese families the inspired Shakespeare's play, and while in the days before Facebook it was common to woo a lady from below her balcony, this is definitely one for the tourists. For a small admission charge you can go into a small museum, and your girl can go out onto the balcony for you to photograph her from below. You could always propose - you wouldn't be the first.
Camaraderie—usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feeling proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death—that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam.
Thomas Hardy: Far from the Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy may not be considered one of the most romantic authors of all time, but maybe he should be. Recreate some of his most passionate scenes on the almost perfectly semi circular arch of Lulworth Cove's pale sand, far from the madding crowd in the crisp February air.
The Jurassic Coast is one of the nicest parts of England to spend time in at this time of year, what with the days getting longer and the cliffs being so spectacular – perfect for windswept and interesting encounters – but it's still quiet enough to find your own secluded beach. If you and yours enjoy cosy meals in cheery little inns the same way that Thomas Hardy's characters do then it could be the prefect, romantic mini-break.
Everything Tommy said became part of her forever [and] Tangled with love in the moonlight she welcomed the anarchy of her lover.
F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night
If your significant other is a stylish thing with a penchant for a bit of luxury then they might appreciate Fitzgerald's own French stamping ground, and setting of Tender is the Night: the French Riviera . This sunny stretch of azure waters lined with pretty resorts catering best to those with well stuffed pockets, has long been thought of as the perfect place to whisk someone away to if your intentions were romantic. Champagne, chocolates and Cannes may be an old ploy, but it's still a goodie. And it's a good place to 'winter', or so say the characters in Tender is the Night – and they should know, they're at the forefront of fashionable living.
But it's hard to top the freedom of a road trip along this sunkissed but well manicured stretch of coast: just getting into a car with your lover anywhere between Nice and Monte Carlo and driving until you see the perfect restaurant or hotel to meet your needs as and when...
The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.
Gabriel García Márquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez must surely be one of the most romantic men on the planet, responsible for both Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. Could it be anything to do with his Colombian roots? The sensual atmosphere of the places he grew up in: gorgeous old colonial towns of white buildings, verdant vegetation and the heat of the jungle and the mangrove lined river fanned by the breezes off the bright beaches of the Caribbean Ocean? Surely that's a picture that will get you languidly into the mood for love.
Mompós was the backdrop Márquez used for Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and it's escaped history's net: in that most of its buildings are used in the same way they were during it's Spanish Colonial past. Boys, having read these books will win you brownie points, but bringing your lady here will most likely win you an even better prize.
If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a whole lifetime, he couldn't love you as much as I do in a single day
Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
Made infamous by Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, the feral countryside of North Yorkshire is basic and unapologetic, but oh so romantic for it. Spend your days on the moors feeling alive and impassioned, but your evenings indoors – possibly in the comfort of Swinton Park, a 30 bedroom castle much less dilapidated than Heathcliff's house. The cooking school in the renovated Georgian Stables offers the opportunity to speak the verbal language of love and speak to your lover's stomach at the same time.
It's all a mystery. Love - the idea that there is someone already there in the world who might hold the key to your whole existence.
Boris Pasternak: Dr Zhivago
The epic David Lean film might be more famous even than the book, and the overriding visual of the film, against the background of the very beautiful score, was snow. And while cold weather isn't necessarily romantic, there's nothing quite like being snowed in somewhere with the person you most adore. Of course you'll need to cuddle up to keep warm... A most scenic and romantic place to sit by the fireside with your beloved is Austria's Tyrol Region, for as well as still having plenty of snow in February it's also spectacularly beautiful and the food and chocolate are excellent.
If you're an active pair it makes even more sense, you won't really be snowed in, you can get plenty of skiing done right out of your log cabin. It's even better if you can get one of the ones where you can only reach it via cable car – then you really start to feel like you're in a snow globe for two.
When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun
William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
For the kind of tear to the eye beauty that only nature, perfect beaches and your lover can provide, bring the one you adore to Vieques where you'll then have all three in the same place. It's a little out of the way for most of the globe, but the magic off the coast of this daydream island is the kind of thing perfect proposals are made of: after the sun goes down the waters of Bioluminescent Bay glow with a myriad of tiny lights – it's like swimming in stars – as the micro-organisms in these waters illuminate themselves to protect from predators.
On land expect 28 degree weather, yes, in February, and miles of almost empty white sand, an unspoiled interior and old world rural charm – the US Navy owned the island for sixty years and the tourist industry is only just budding, and with an eco-tourism bent.
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