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Best Romantic Vacation Places

Almost everyone agrees, for example, that there’s a certain romance to being near the ocean. And there are plenty of places to make those magical sunset beach strolls happen—like the South Pacific island of Bora Bora, where resorts have thatch-roofed bungalows set on stilts over crystal-blue lagoons, and where the powdery sand stretches for miles. Even for couples who worry about sunburn or who hate the feel of sand between their toes, smelling the salt air and watching seabirds dive from the deck of a tiny ferryboat—like on the ride across Puget Sound to Whidbey Island, just off the coast of Washington state—can be pretty dreamy.

It’s also hard not to feel starry-eyed among the rolling hills and fragrant vines of wine country. California’s Napa Valley, for instance, is a honeymoon favorite for some very real reasons—intimate boutique hotels, superb French restaurants, and world-class Cabernets among them. Oenophiles who prefer to get a little more off the beaten track can find just as much charm in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, where wineries that turn out robust Merlot, Carmenère, and Malbec abut blossom-covered haciendas.

Even big cities, where we take our vacations surrounded by thousands of other people, can offer some surprisingly romantic retreats. Sharing a Cognac in a historic, wood-paneled New York City bar while gazing over Central Park, for instance, or strolling through the snowy streets of St. Petersburg, past the imperial Russian Winter Palace, has inspired amorous thoughts in plenty of couples (and just as many movie directors).So, take your pick: metropolis or sleepy mountain village? Sun or snow? Desert sand or beach sand?All of them can be enchantingly romantic.

Napa Valley
Wine Country A pitch-perfect mix of wineries, restaurants, and decidedly sybaritic hotels makes this the ultimate wine-lover’s escape. But the best part: there’s always something new to discover in the valley. This past fall, celebrity chef Michael Chiarello launched Bottega Napa Valley (dinner for two $76) in the town of Yountville. The menu is Italian, with dishes such as roast pork and honey-sage-roasted apples. Just a half-hour drive north, in Angwin, the new Cade Winery produces vintages in a solar-powered steel-and-wood space. The classics are still a draw, including Angèle (dinner for two $100), a wood-beamed bistro on the Napa River, and Round Pond Estate, known for its robust Cabernets. Check in to the light-filled Auberge du Soleil (doubles from $550), where the rooms-large stone fireplaces; private hot tubs-are made for couples. Or consider the intimate Poetry Inn (doubles from $495, including breakfast), set on a pastoral hillside.

Chassignolles, France
Secret Village Lost at a head-clearing elevation of 3,000 feet in the Livradois-Forez, France’s largest national park, 100 miles southwest of Lyons, Chassignolles invites long, extravagantly lazy days spent communing with cows, admiring the accidental land art created by a farmer with some hay bales, and stopping to smell the rockroses that fringe the lanes. There is only one place to stay: Auberge de Chassignolles (doubles from $58; dinner for two $44). The eight rooms are basic, but the views are ravishing, whether of the village’s 12th-century church or the surrounding wildflower meadows. The English chef-owner Harry Lester, an early and important crusader in the gastropub campaign, will be chalking his menu board with dandelion-and-marigold salad dressed in sunflower oil, a citrusy fresh goat cheese, and a cherry-and-almond tart. If Chassignolles isn’t heaven on earth, it will have to do.

Mountainside Hideaway Snowcapped mountains surround this mining village turned ski resort, where the scent of pine fills the air. Its streets are lined with 19th-century gingerbread houses and family-run shops such as the Between the Covers Bookstore, a cozy bookshop with a cafe; and at Coffee Cowboy locals fuel up on fair-trade espresso before taking on the slopes. At Honga’s Lotus Petal, home to the town’s best après-ski scene, bartender Sean Garatt mixes potent mojitos. For an intimate dinner, reserve a table at La Marmotte (dinner for two $85), a 125-year-old former icehouse. Book one of the new hotels in nearby Mountain Village; the easiest way to get there is by gondola, especially atmospheric at dusk, when the valley lights up from the glow of streetlights. At Lumière (doubles from $319), all residences and penthouses come with a fireplace and oversize soaking tub. Or consider the 100-room Capella Telluride (doubles from $295), set to debut this month. With a personal assistant catering to your every need, you’ll be more than ready to hit the trails in the morning.

On the Waterfront If only every city planner had the foresight of Savannah’s 18th-century founder, James Oglethorpe. His legacy—21 garden-filled public squares ringed by antebellum town houses—is a model of Southern grace. At the Ballastone Inn (doubles from $235), an Italianate mansion three blocks from the waterfront, rooms have canopied poster beds and mahogany armoires. Or base yourself at the newly opened Avia (doubles from $189), on landmark Ellis Square. Browse for jewelry and handbags by up-and-coming artists at ShopSCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design’s boutique, and don’t miss the Jepson Center for the Arts, a contemporary-art space by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. There are dozens of laid-back restaurants in town, but one of the best remains Desposito’s (dinner for two $40), where tablecloths are made from newspapers and the steamed oysters and Low Country basket—shrimp, potatoes, corn—are ideal for two.

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