Feel the love at an unexpected locale. (Photo: Alamy)
The Eiffel Tower. The Empire State Building. A sugary sand beach in Bali. They’re the stuff of wanderlusty daydreams. But does the fairy tale live up to the reality? In honor of Valentine’s Day, we separate the mood killers from the destinations that will make you weak in the knees.
Leave It: Eiffel Tower
Love It: Sacre Coeur
Paris is one of those places that always delivers—whether it’s rainy or hot, snowing or steamy, it’s every bit the steadfast (yet sexy) lover. But if you’re looking to admire its classic good looks, might we suggest you skip the selfie-stick mobs packing the Eiffel Tower’s observation decks and head instead to the literal heart of Parisian romance, Sacre Coeur. Set high above the charming Montmartre neighborhood, you can climb to the basilica’s dome for 360-degree views of Paris, minus the interminable lines and vertigo.
New York, NY
Leave It: Empire State Building
Love It: Rainbow Room
We hate to break it to you, but if you’re looking for your Hollywood ending, you’re unlikely to find it atop the Empire State Building. Deborah Kerr and Meg Ryan didn’t have to wait in multi-level lines with everyone else and their boo (and grandmother and school-aged children) in order to get that birds-eye view of Manhattan. And that whipping wind will do a number on your ‘do.
Instead, gaze upon the city’s dreamy spires from your table for two at the newly reopened Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of Rockefeller Center. Sip Manhattans and sup on beef Wellington while the lights of the city glitter below. Now that’s an affair to remember.
Leave It: Green Bowl Beach
Love It: Nusa Dua
What you’re picturing: Emerald cliffs behind you, sugary sand beneath and crystalline waters ahead. That’s what made you decide to hike past the monkey-filled temple and down hundreds of stone stairs to what was supposed to be a deserted beach. Alas, much like many of Bali’s beaches, the admittedly stunning Green Bowl has relentless touts, endlessly pressuring you to buy trinkets and beach massages. Paradise lost.
Where can it be found? Along the sandy stretches of Nusa Dua, like the pristine curve fronting The Mulia. These private stretches are free from kitsch sellers, meticulously maintained and with calm waters perfect for lazy floats. And that stone temple hovering on the cliff above doesn’t hurt either.
Leave It: Ponte Vecchio’s Love Locks
Love It: Boboli Gardens
It’s romantic in theory: affix a padlock in your favorite destination as a symbol of your love, throw away the key, dream of revisiting some day with your kids, grandkids. But the so-called love locks that thousands of couples have attached to Florence’s Ponte Vecchio have damaged the bridge to such an extent that the government has started removing them.
Instead we’d suggest making some memories with an afternoon picnic in the dramatic Boboli Gardens, where flowering vines arch over secret pathways, manicured hedges curve mazelike amid fragrant rosebushes and you can gaze upon your lover’s reflection in the tranquil fountains.
Leave It: Stone Town
Love It: Eastern Coast
Honeymooners post up to this African isle with visions of Spice Route exoticism and castaway fantasies. Though its capital city of Stone Town has a fading grandeur—all crumbling colonial facades and winding streets—there’s also the harsh reality of shanty towns, crime and trash-strewn beaches. Our advice? Make the city your one-day stop and bed down amid the stunning beaches to the north.
Leave It: Super Paradise Beach
Love It: Fokos Beach
Take one part Girls Gone Wild, mix in some Jersey Shore, add endless body shots and thumping house music and you’ve got…Paradise? Yeah, not so much. If you’re looking to bliss out with your one and only, we’re going to let you in on our little secret stash of sand. Accessible only by a winding dirt road, Fokos Beach stretches along a sapphire cove bordered by a little open-air taverna serving up freshly-grilled shrimp washed down with icy glasses of retsina. And though it may not be as debauched as Super Paradise, it’s just as racy: clothing is optional.