It's February; the month of love. The Feast of Saint Valentine, more commonly known as Valentine's Day, has been observed on February 14th since 496 AD, when Pope Gelasius I declared it a day of celebration in honour of the Christian martyr Saint Valentine of Rome, the patron saint of love (and of the plague, fainting and beekeepers...!). Today, Valentine's Day gives us 24-hours dedicated to romance, devotion and love. Which got us here at Rail Discoveries thinking about romantic holidays, and where exactly is the best place to go on a romantic escape?
We're all familiar with the typical romantic getaways, and while there's no denying the allure of a twilight cruise along the Seine - the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower reflecting off the calm waters - we appreciate that this may be a little too cliché for some travellers. So, read on to discover our pick of alternative romantic holidays, no matter what type of traveller you are. We wholeheartedly believe that any holiday can be romantic when you're with the right person; whether it's a short 'staycation' or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure halfway around the world, exploring the world with a loved one is frankly guaranteed to bring with it fond memories to last a lifetime.
For the adventurous couple… Las Vegas, USA
Famous around the world as the home of Elvis impersonators, lively nightlife, casino tables and shotgun weddings, Las Vegas is perhaps the antithesis of a traditional romantic escape. This is a city that on the surface is loud, flashy and energetic, however, underneath its high-wattage exterior, there are a plethora of luxurious hotels, tranquil spas and excellent fine-dining restaurants to discover. Of course, we could never recommend a trip to Vegas without suggesting you indulge in at least a little of the glitz and glamour for which it is renowned - the casinos, theatre shows, and a stroll down the vibrant strip on a night are experiences simply not to be missed.
For foodies… Sicily, Italy
While the elegant cities of Rome or Venice may be a little too on the radar for your next romantic Italian escape, why not head to the slightly lesser-visited Mediterranean island of Sicily, located just off the 'toe' of Italy. Here, food-loving travellers can indulge in some of the very best of Italian and Sicilian cuisine, from deliciously fresh pasta and seafood to some of the best pizza you will ever taste. And, as the ancestral land of arancini, Sicily is the perfect place to sample this addictive street food, made from rice balls filled with cheese (and often meat ragù) and deep fried until beautifully golden and crispy.
For the homebodies… Yorkshire, UK
A beautiful stretch of rugged coastline, quaint fishing villages, charming market towns, and remote, rolling moorlands… Sometimes you'll find yourself surprised by the natural beauty you can find just beyond your doorstep, and Yorkshire quite simply offers it in abundance. 'God's own county' is the ideal place to explore the beauty of the outdoors with your beloved. Enjoy a stroll along the attractive coastline, spend an afternoon discovering the landscaped gardens of one of the many stately homes, or uncover the wild moors which surround Haworth, famous for inspiring the rousing literary works of the Brontë sisters.
For the wildlife lovers… South Africa, Africa
Africa is perhaps the most remarkable country in the world for wildlife viewing, home to over 50 national parks as well as the land of the famous 'big five' game animals - the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and cape buffalo. On the southernmost tip of the continent, vibrant South Africa is simply an oasis for wildlife lovers, boasting one of the largest game reserves in all of Africa, Kruger National Park. Within this vast wilderness, all five of the big five can be found, giving visitors the chance to spot majestic lions, track herds of elephants or perhaps even catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard as it coolly stalks its prey. If you continue southwest towards cosmopolitan Cape Town, at nearby Boulders Beach you will be rewarded by a truly unique sight; a colony of charming African penguins who have made their home on the pristine white sands here.
For the train enthusiasts… The Alps, Switzerland
While we might be just a little bit biased, we happen to believe there's a whole lot of romance to be found in a scenic train journey. And, there are few trains more iconic than Switzerland's Glacier Express. Known as the 'Orient Express of the Alps' and famed for being the slowest express train in the world, the cheery red Glacier Express delights its passengers with a wonderfully picturesque, eight-hour journey through the snow-capped Swiss mountains, affording incredible views across pretty Alpine meadows, verdant woodland and striking ravines from its panoramic windows.