Valentine's Day 2014
By Jeremy Berger
on 2.12.14

The argument has sound logic: your wife was technically on vacation when she came along to provide support during your last attempt at Leadville. She used up her vacation time, after all, and you did book a couples massage. But logic rarely prevails when you’re being an idiot. There’s nothing romantic or decent about compression socks and 3 a.m. wake-up calls. You’ve got to take a real vacation, complete with novelty shops, sweeping ocean views and fragrant cuisine you can point to on the menu but not pronounce. This will get you back to good. We’ve got three suggestions for romantic destinations that may not have been on your list.

MORE TRAVEL: Exploring Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave | Harvesting Veuve Clicquot Champagne | 72 Hours in Edinburgh | Valentine’s Advice from 12 Great Women

Santa Fe, New Mexico

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New Mexico is an easy long weekend from almost anywhere in the U.S., and it isn’t short on vacation spots (we’ve addressed the virtues of Taos pow in our Skiing Issue). Santa Fe has all the trappings of a classic getaway, rich with Native American and Spanish heritage, a thriving contemporary art scene and plenty of burritos doused in green chili. We suggest a walk around the Plaza in old Santa Fe and a visit to the New Mexico History Museum to get started. The Santa Fe farmers market is open all year and is considered one of the best in the country, particularly because it also has an artisan market with locally made pottery, sculpture and jewelry. If you packed your turtleneck — and take this as a green light to do so — wear it to SITE Sante Fe, a world-class visual art space that hosts exhibitions throughout the year, including its biennial of contemporary art. The food in Santa Fe is also exceptional, whether you opt for a James-Beard-endorsed option like Compound or something a little more rustic like Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen.

The Inn and Spa at Loretto is a pristine launching point for any downtown destination, not to mention an ideal place to seek shelter from the heat of high noon or the surprising chill of desert evenings. Its 136 rooms are all meticulously decorated in high south west style, many with private working fireplaces and balconies providing views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Saint Francis Cathedral, Loretto Chapel or the Inn’s private garden. Romantic supplies are easily in striking distance too; uniquely flavored Nut, Chili, and Liquor dark truffles from artisanal Kakawa’s Chocolate house are a short block away, while La Casa Sena off Cathedral Park stocks all manner of local and premier wines from around the world.

Valparaiso, Chile

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Chile was cemented in our minds as an intriguing place a long time ago by Thornton Wilder’s The Eighth Day, in which accused killer John Ashley disappears to the narrow paradise while evading capture. Our first visit was memorable, especially Valparaiso, a gritty port city of 42 hills jammed with colorful houses and cobblestone streets overlooking the Pacific. Formerly an important trading hub, Valpo lost some of its luster in the early 1900s, but in 2003 it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site, and in the following years a boatload of funding has been directed toward its revitalization. It doesn’t get any more romantic than Palacio Astoreca Hotel, a newly renovated Victorian mansion with 23 rooms and a restaurant helmed by an El Bulli veteran. The hotel is in Cerro Alegre (cerro is “hill”), which is home to many of the city’s best bars and restaurants, like Poblenou (for tapas) and Cafe Vinilo (for coffee). Although it’s easy to get around Valpo, you’ll want a car. The city is just a short car ride north and west from Santiago, and you’ll also be able to take a day to explore the vineyards — the Casablanca Valley and the Aconcagua Valley are both close — set in Chile’s dramatic coastal and mountain geography.

Istanbul, Turkey

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History gives a place its character and depth, and Istanbul’s history is remarkable: this is Constantinople, capital of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Ottoman Empire. It’s a massive, sprawling place, more than 5,000 square kilometers filled with more than 14 million people, making it the third largest city in the world, one that sits at the intersection — the Bosphorus Strait — of Europe and Asia. Visitors can narrow their focus: the Cihangir and Karaköy neighborhoods are good places to start. Cihangir is an affluent area with plenty of cafes (try Savoy), restaurants (Hayat) and bars (Smyrna). Karaköy is a slightly less polished area that has attracted new businesses, the gem of which is Kilic Ali Pasa Hamam, a Turkish bath dating from the 1500s that reopened in 2012. Stay nearby at the Karakoy Rooms guesthouse, or consider other housing options like renting a beautiful self-catered loft at a fraction of the price of a luxury hotel. You could spend a whole day in Istanbul drinking coffee and browsing at the used book bazaar, Sahaflar Carsisi, so plan on making this trip a long one.

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