Romantic Europe

Romantic adventures and adventures and cheap car hire aren’t two things you’d automatically put together. Perhaps it’s that in your romantic fantasies no cost is ever spared. There are rose petals on pillows in luxury hotels, Champagne and truffles by a whirlpool bathtub and fluffy bathrobes. Arrival is by chauffer driven gorgeous automobile. Or all of that sounds way over the top and cheap is fine as long as it’s thoughtful.

There are plenty of people who ache a little inside when they hear stories of the man who knowing his girlfriend was flying in to London surprised her not only by meeting her at the airport, but by having booked a cheap flight to New York leaving soon after her arrival. They had only to turn a corner to be headed out there for a romantic weekend. Or more simply, the guy who arranged an impromptu surprise Eurostar trip to Paris. Whole pages online and in magazines are devoted to the most romantic proposals worldwide – from a hawk flying to the fiancée-to-be with the ring, to the question being written out in the sand by hotel concierges before you arrive for dinner on the beach. It’s true that the best romance-filled experiences are the ones that are surprises, the places you discover with your other half that weren’t on the itinerary. As such, recommendations can’t show these places up for you. However, here are some of the loveliest places within the great destinations in Europe where you can appreciate your other.

Grand Place in Brussels is beautiful. It is possible to walk past the Mannequin Pis, have an inexpensive meal nearby served by charming staff, before turning a corner and suddenly being right in it. Then looking happily in wonder at the resplendent square – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best time to see it is in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when it is completely transformed. The Town Hall often has lights on it that flash different colours, sometimes in time to music. There is a nativity scene with real sheep and a huge Christmas tree at the centre, covered in lights. Every two years in summer, for a few days a carpet of flowers is laid out in the centre of the square.

The Tuileries Garden in Paris provide a beautiful and grassy spot to hang out away from the main bustle of the centre of Paris, while being right in it at the same time – much like Central Park in New York. There is a wonderful water fountain at the entrance as well as some sculpture dotted about, including a Henry Moore. The Café de Pomone in the shade at the centre of the gardens is a lovely place to sit and drink and people watch together.

Finally, the Trafalgar Hotel in London has a secret. (Okay, it isn’t that secret). At the top of the building is a roof terrace from where you can eat and drink and look down on London from above. A good view is after all, very important.

Marco Pasquale is not a hopeless romantic, but recognises a good spot for spending quality time with someone when he sees it. He spends much of his time between large cities, where finding these places keeps a person sane.

Image: Toni Kaarttinen

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