TRAVEL: Recalling romance on foreign shores
ALTHOUGH I've never been whisked off to a romantic destination for Valentine's Day I have had more than my share of romance during my many years of travel.
Most of these romantic adventures have come about by simply being in the right place at the right time, and that made them all the more special.
One of the most romantic things I've ever done was to send off a sky lantern on a beach in Thailand. Pity I didn't have my man with me at the time. I was surrounded by a group of rowdy travel writers but we all succumbed to the romance of writing our dreams and wishes on paper and sending them up in the lanterns to light up the night sky with hundreds of others. It was a romantic spectacle never forgotten.
I remember another night in Paris (with the husband this time), just arrived after the long-haul flight from Australia and unable to sleep, going out in the streets at 3am and finding a small bistro still open, not willing to feed us but willing to open a bottle of wine.
Sitting in the empty restaurant at a window table, looking out into the quiet Paris night, the empty wet streets softly lit by the glow of street lights, was as romantic as it could get. Pity we nodded off at the table.
On a visit to Montalcino in Tuscany one year we stayed in a castle lavishly renovated into a hotel. The romance was embodied in every ancient stone of the Castello di Velona crowned on a hill with commanding Tuscan views and their rich country colours: cool greens, rustic browns, buttery yellows.
Our room looked into the castle courtyard, romantic enough, but the best view was from the bathroom, or more specifically, the loo.
An arched window that reached to the floor opposite the loo was the frame for a picture-postcard of undulating Italian landscape: round haystacks and tall cypress trees.
Over aperitifs in our sitting room, the husband decided the view into the castle courtyard was not romantic enough and we should remove ourselves to the bathroom and have our drinks there to fully enjoy the splendid Tuscan ambience.
It didn't sound so silly after our first glass of Rosso de Montalcino, so we carried our chairs into the bathroom with a plate of cheese and ciabatta.
However, there wasn't enough room for the chairs between the loo and the window so the husband, always one to come up with a solution, removed the chairs, came back and said: "You sit on the bidet and I will close the toilet lid and sit on it. You hold the cheese."
For just one capricious moment, I considered it. But straddling a bidet while balancing a wedge of gorgonzola on my lap was not the romantic vision I had of myself during the Tuscan cocktail hour.
There have been many small moments of romance in our travels: dinner a deux on a beach on Koh Samui surrounded by candlelight with the waves lapping at our feet; a giant king-sized bed with soft and textured bedding, draped in swathes of chiffon falling from the ceiling in a boutique hotel in Florence; being served chilled champagne from a silver bucket on a beach in the Greek island Mykonos while looking out to super yachts - the list goes on. Now we are of a certain age we do not go looking for romance but, come to think of it, we never did.
But it has often found us and when it drops in unexpectedly, we welcome it, offer it cocktails and hospitality in the hope it will stay. Perhaps it is the same for you.