Valentine’s Day: hearts and flowers and chocolate and champagne, saying “I love you” and “Will you?” and “Yes”. It’s always new but sometimes it’s a little meh with the same box of chocolates and the same dozen red roses. So this week I put my head together with the in-house wedding consultant at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast (our daughter Abby) and came up with ten great new ideas for Valentine’s Day.
1. Flowers. Let’s be real here. Every woman LOVES to get flowers and, while no one would turn down a big bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day, you can really impress your love with just a little more work and probably not much more money. Actually, given the price of roses on Valentine’s Day, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say almost certainly not much more money! Firstly, find out what her favorite flower is (as if you don’t already know this) then take a trip to your local florist. You can’t do this with an online order! You will want to choose a florist who shows a little extra style and flare in her arrangement. So you are going to need to go in and talk to the florist. She should be able to come up with something using your Valentine’s favorite flower which is outside of the usual box. Here in Asheville, we use Shady Grove Florists for all our special arrangements because Courtney has an amazing eye and talent for flower arranging. One word of caution here, the flowers you are looking for may not be in season and the florist may have to special order them so think ahead and do this in the next two weeks.
2. Chocolates. Once again, who would say no to a lovely box of chocolates? Again, a little bit of work is involved. Valentine’s Day is on Friday this year which means you can plan a special chocolate based trip for Saturday. The French Broad Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room in Asheville gives tours every Saturday of their chocolate making facilities. At the French Broad they are so crazy about chocolate (and so particular!) that they bring in the raw cocoa beans and roast them onsite. If are lucky enough to be in Asheville, you will need to call ahead and reserve a spot (828-505-4996). Elsewhere it is worth a trip to talk to the owners of an independent chocolate shop and see what they can suggest. Again, think about the person you are buying for. Perhaps you can come up with a selection based on his or her favorite flavors. Or maybe the chocolate maker can create something just for you.
3. Champagne. Sometimes it’s not what you are drinking but where you are drinking it. We have the not-to-be-missed Battery Park Book Exchange Champagne Bar just a short walk from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. Laid out like someone’s private library with comfortable leather couches and armchairs there are lots of quiet corners in which to sit and enjoy each other’s company and there is usually a classical guitarist or some other form of pleasant music being performed to add to the atmosphere. But what if you aren’t champagne folks? It’s worth spending a few minutes calling around to nearby wine stores and micro-breweries to see if they are holding any special tastings that Friday or Saturday night. Here in Asheville Wicked Weed is brewing a special beer for the holiday. Brewmaster and owner, Walt Dickinson told me “The beer is called “V”. It’s a Belgian beer brewed with 400 lbs of raspberries and French Broad chocolate cacao nibs. Rich and fruity with a dry finish. We garnish it with a raspberry on the glass.” V will be available on Valentine’s Day.
4. Hearts. Get yourself over to your nearest independent bookstore and buy a copy of Drew Barrymore’s Find It In Everything. For ten years Ms. Barrymore has been photographing heart-shaped patterns and objects as she come across them, from a discarded straw wrapper to a wisp of cloud in the sky. Then throughout the day place
unexpected heart shapes where your loved one will find them. It might be a paperclip on the desk or a scattering of pebbles on the sidewalk. Use your imagination! At the end of the day give him (or her) the book. (Actually, you can get this book on Amazon but I would prefer it if you would support a local independent bookstore.) Here in Asheville, Malaprops Bookstore is one of our favorite places. They regularly hold book-signings and readings. For Valentine’s Day they are offering a speed-dating session for book-lovers!
5. “Will You?” Whether it’s “Will you be my Valentine?”, “Will you be my date?” or the more momentous “Will you marry me?”, Valentine’s Day is a good day for asking the question. I love the idea of visiting the Asheville Pinball Museum and after you spending an hour or so playing on the machines, suggest that it is time to stop playing games and ask the question! Of course not everywhere has a pinball museum but an arcade will do in a pinch.
6. “I love you!” You know you want to shout it from a mountain-top, so why don’t you? Weather permitting the two of you can climb to a high peak or rock and you can take turns letting out your inner emotions. In Asheville we would probably suggest one of our favorite hikes, John Rock. If you are not the hiking type, there are peaks which are accessible by car, Chimney Rock Park being one of them.
7. Yes. Say yes to something completely new and different. Take part in an activity with your loved one. How about taking a yoga or dance class together? Then visit a spa for a relaxing soak in a hot tub. Asheville Community Yoga is only one of a number of yoga centers in our town which offers a wide range of classes for all levels. Afterwards, follow it up with a visit to a hot springs or spa for a long relaxing soak. Shoji Spa in the mountains here is offering Valentine’s Day hot tub soaks and massages. If the idea of climbing into a hot tub outside in the middle of winter doesn’t appeal to you, many B&B’s (like ours!!!) have Jacuzzi’s and fireplaces and offer in-room massages.
8. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou beside me singing in the wilderness.”(The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam) You could probably get away with singing for your date but what could be more special than a carefully constructed picnic, complete with poems and quotes? Take a drive together to the Looking Glass Creamery to purchase some of their award winning cheeses. At the time of this writing they were hoping to have their license soon so they could sell wines paired to the cheeses. Then continue on down the road to Hickory Nut Gap Farm to pick up some farm-made cured meats to complete your picnic. Add some poetry which you have carefully memorized (or read it off a note card) and you will be sure to impress your date. Even if you don’t have access to local farms and creameries you probably can find a store which can help you out.
9. Romance at the Table. Take the cliche of the romantic dinner and turn it on its head. Don’t fight the crowds at your favorite restaurant in the evening, try lunch instead! Give your favorite restaurant a call and see if the Valentine’s Specials will be available during the day. Even if the specials aren’t available, a long lingering lunch can be very romantic. Follow it up with a romantic movie. If you are lucky you may have a couch cinema near you which will give you a chance to cuddle up while enjoying the film.
10. Spend the Night Together. I have to honest with you. It’s probably too late to book a room at a romantic B&B (although at the time I am writing this we do have one room left at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast). But you can make your Valentine’s Day twice as long by giving a gift certificate to a stay at our inn as a final Valentine’s Day present. Say the word and we will be happy to add a Romance Package of flowers, chocolate and champagne or create one to suit your needs and tastes. You could even plan a small wedding or elopement here for an intensely personal and romantic ceremony.
Those are just a few ideas to help you on your way to making this Valentine’s Day truly memorable. As for me, here’s what I would like: flowers from Shady Grove, a big (but not too big) heart shaped box of cream filled chocolates (I blush to admit it but in this instance my tastes are distinctly schmaltzy!) and a big hug first thing in the morning–then it will be on to cooking breakfast and making some special treats while hoping our guests enjoy a fabulous weekend.