Romance. For some it means champagne and roses; for others, sharing the beauty of nature. Still others equate romance with thrill and adventure. Whatever your personal definition may be, here are a dozen ways to celebrate love this Valentine's Day.
Love train Rendezvous with your sweetheart in a private sleeper car on the Pacific Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle. The rugged coastline gives way to Mount Shasta, then the lush Northwest. First class features daily wine tastings of local vintages. Information: (800) 872-7245;www.amtrakwest.com.
Vines with a tryst Tucked away in Justin Winery, the Just Inn has trellised English gardens and is surrounded by miles of oak-covered hills. The inn is an unlikely hideaway with just three beautifully appointed suites—the Tuscany, Provence, and Sussex. Candlelight dinner with award-winning wines in the elegant tasting room has tryst potential. Reserve early. Just Inn, 11680 Chimney Rock Rd., Paso Robles, CA 93446; (800) 726-0049; justinwine.com.
Where angels dare to bed Get stranded with your loved one(s) among the native bay, oak, and madrone trees in the middle of San Francisco Bay—on Angel Island. Hike, bike, or fish by day, then watch the city light up before snuggling into your tent in one of only nine campsites on the entire island. Information: 5757-A Sonoma Dr., Pleasanton, CA 94566; (415) 897-0715;www.angelisland.com.
An affair to remember It's easy to see why stately, discreet, elegant Chateau Marmont is a celebrity love nest. The Norman-style castle's walls are two feet thick and routes (that avoid the lobby) to rooms have inspired nearly a century of stellar romances. Cuddle up in one of the legendary suites or a cozy garden bungalow. Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046; (323) 656-1010.
Head in the clouds Your heart's pounding, your stomach is churning with butterflies, your palms are sweating. Love? Perhaps. Or maybe you and your honey are white-knucking it above the Sonoma Valley on a "kamikaze" flight aboard a vintage 1940s Boeing Stearman. Wind down with a glass of champagne at nearby Gloria Ferrer. Vintage Aircraft, 23982 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, CA 95476; (707) 938-2444;www.vintageaircraft.com.
Sagebrush romance Slip into the romance of the Old West at Old Pioneer Garden Country Inn, in Unionville, Nev. Hike tree-shaded canyons, ride endless horseback trails, or soak in steaming sulfur pools near the tiny ghost town of Unionville. Later, kindle passions by a roaring fire, in overstuffed chairs in the library, or in a sunroom with creek views at this 1861 inn. Information: (775) 538-7585.
Your floating chariot The perfect date begins when you board a 33-foot sailboat to embark on a sunset cruise across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland's Jack London Square, where you'll disembark to enjoy live jazz and sushi at Yoshi's. Other itineraries include Angel Island and Sausalito. Classic Yacht Charters, Pier 39 HM Box 25, "C" Dock, San Francisco, CA 94133; (415) 433-2373, (877) 724-5237.
Fling Français The AAA Five-Diamond Provençal-inspired Chateáu du Sureau has shale-studded stucco, tile roof, eiderdown comforters, canopied king-size beds, and the gastronomically acclaimed Erna's Elderberry House. It is the next best thing to a fling in southern France. If its paths, fountains, and swimming pool aren't enough nature for you, drive 16 miles north to Yosemite. Chateau du Sureau, 48688 Victoria Lane, PO Box 577, Oakhurst, CA 93644; (559) 683-6860,www.chateausureau.com.
Spa de deux The Kenwood Inn & Spa feels just like a Tuscan villa with its arbored courtyard, fountains, and persimmon, fig, and olive trees. But this is la dolce vita Sonoma style. Breakfasts are homespun and sumptuous. Guests can get their libido flowing in tandem with the Ti Amo, a massage for two in their suite with candlelight and champagne. Kenwood Inn & Spa, 10400 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood, CA 95452; (707) 833-1293.
Express your love The meticulously restored 1917 Pullman dining car of the Napa Valley Wine Train has hand-rubbed Honduran mahogany, polished brass, and damask linens. That's more than enough to transport you to the elegant era of train travel as you're whisked through pastoral wine country and treated to gourmet dining. Information: (800) 427-4124, www.winetrain.com.
Misty bliss Here's a whole sleepy hamlet, perched on the rugged Mendocino coast, that delivers romance in several styles. Tiny Elk's handful of inns offer plenty of pampering. The Harbor House Inn, (800) 720-7474, for example, features dramatic ocean views, private beach access, fine dining, and indulgent breakfasts. The Griffin House, (707) 877-3422, has secluded cottages with wood-burning stoves and the Bridget Dolan pub on its premises, a cheery place to duck in for a pint. At the edge of Anderson Valley, Elk is perfectly situated for winetasting. Outdoors lovers will find adventures from horseback riding tours at Ross Ranch to sea kayaking at Force 10.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in January 2001. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.