The Romance of Travel

-By Emily Benson

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Everybody knows romantic love can’t last forever. Numerous studies attest to the inevitable attrition of the chemistry between lovers over time, or especially during the course of a marriage.
But there is something you can do to keep the spark alive.

According to Tara Parker-Pope, novelty is the secret. In a New York Times article “Re-inventing Date Night,” she explained this theory which is based on brain science: “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.” (2008) www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/health/12well.html

So, breaking the routine is really important for falling in love, again and again, year after year. Rather than getting take-out from the same Chinese restaurant, and watching a video, why not sign up for a tango class or even play a game of Twister?

The most obvious and extreme form of novelty is travel. Traveling almost anywhere, even if it involves hopping in the car and driving to small town you’ve never been to before, is one of the most romantic things you can do as a couple.

Our Top Three Romantic Travel Ideas:

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photo by Ivan Walsh

1. Book a Weekend in a Castle in Dublin.
Even though the Middle Ages are often associated with widespread disease, short life spans and tyrannical control by the church which resulted in Western Europe slipping into an intellectual coma for an embarrassing number of centuries, this same era also brings to mind chivalrous knights and sighing damsels waiting to be rescued from the oppressive boredom of their fiefdoms.
Furthermore, castles strike that difficult balance of being both hugely luxurious and also intimate and cozy. It’s almost guaranteed to rain at least once a day in Ireland, and even in the summertime, it’s more often cold and rainy which makes for a nice excuse to stay inside your castle.

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We recommend Clontarf Castle in Dublin, Ireland–an old castle dating back to the 12th century which has recently undergone a ten million dollar renovation so it’s now half castle and half luxury hotel. The lobby is part of the old castle, adorned with tapestries, a suit of armor and a dauntingly large fireplace. The rooms are sumptuously authentic with damask curtains and four-poster beds. Not to mention, the hotel is nicely updated for the twenty-first century and the rooms are all equipped with flat-screen TVs. Even though it feels like miles and centuries away from the modern world, the Clontarf Castle Hotel is only two miles from the city center in case you decide to don a raincoat and visit Dublin’s many enticing attractions.
http://www.clontarfcastle.ie/

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2. Rent Bikes and Ride around Florence.
Florence, with its narrow meandering cobblestone streets, relatively small population and bridges arcing over the river Arno, is a much more cozy, manageable and romantic city than Rome. The Boticellis in the Uffizi, talented accordionists playing in piazzas, and profusion of intimate trattorias, make Florence an inherently romantic city. It’s fun to explore on foot, but even more fun by bicycle. Nobody really takes biking seriously here the way we do with our ten speeds helmets and hi-vis gear. In Florence people hop on the equivalent of a beach cruiser– clad in suits or dresses and impractical shoes, steering with one hand and eating gelato with the other.
The best is riding aimlessly around the many wide open cobblestone piazzas, in a thoroughly serpentine and irresponsible manner, admiring the jubilant colors of the Duomo’s facade or watching irreverent pigeons perch on the heads of an endless array of statues and fountains.
The bikes often have big baskets, perfect for storing fresh figs, tangy pecorino cheese and focaccia for an impromptu picnic. Our favorite romantic picnic spot is Piazza Michelangelo, which is a popular spot to take in the sunset and offers stunning views of Florence.

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3. Kayak out to a Sandbar in the Florida Keys
Most people aren’t rich enough to buy an island. But if you paddle out to a sandbar at low tide– you’ll feel like you’ve discovered your own private island. We liked Islamorada sandbar and the one in Tavernier. Depending on the time of year, particularly in the summer, the Islamorada sandbar can be a chaotic party scene where everyone beaches their boats and languishes away the day drinking and blasting music.
Tavernier sandbar we found to be consistently more quiet and more suitable for romantic outings.
Our first time out, we saw a sting ray undulating across the white sandy bottom like an underwater bird, and a yellow crowned night heron bursting out of a nearby patch of mangroves. Otherwise, we were entirely alone, elated by our latest discovery,
and completely in love.

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