I’ve enjoyed more romantic-hotel breaks than most. Not because my profession is the world’s oldest or due to developing a penchant for married men, but because it’s my job to review sexy stylish bolt holes. No really, that’s my job. (Easier for me to explain at border control than my friend’s job which is social media for a juice brand. That passport guy in Marrakech could not grasp her getting a salary for creating Facebook posts using funny fruit pics.)
Career hotel reviewer: tough gig, but someone’s got to test those bed linens and minibars, so you don’t get duds for precious weekends away. What do you mean you still use TripAdvisor? Would you go to the supermarket and canvas bargain-browsing strangers on where to have your honeymoon, then book from that?
Since you probably have a job that involves allocating less of your professional time to lying in bed, I’m going to share my hard-earned intelligence on where best to be supine. You’re welcome. First off – don’t be fooled by a hotel’s website. Top tip: go to the gallery and eyeball the bedrooms to test an address’s sex appeal.
Even the most illustrious luxury hotels wow with grand marble lobbies with dazzling chandeliers, then let you down. Sweeping staircase hero shot on the homepage? It may not lead to aphrodisiacal accommodation, but a beige box built for business time. And I don’t mean that kind of business time. A multi-pin plug socket, Bloomberg in widescreen and a trouser press are all very well, but they won’t light your fire during time away as a twosome no matter how much champagne they have on ice.
For an amorous ambience, more-is-more interiors work wonders. For the full fantasy, you can’t go wrong with a luxe canalside palazzo amid centuries-old balconied townhouses and domed Baroque churches. Remember how the world swooned as George and Amal Clooney stepped out of Aman Venice? Exactly. Blakes in Kensington is no slouch in the style stakes either; this decadent den is redolent of a Golden Age of travel. The lavish décor whispers sweet nothings in seductive Arabian and Asian accents and four-poster beds are layered with the finest linens.
Sumptuous fabrics don’t always signal glamour, though. I’m remembering an awkward bathroom situation. A first-ever weekend away to Brighton was going to plan till I realised all that separated the bed from the loo was a velvet drape. The fact I’d drunk a 2L bottle of water on the car journey there quickly felt distinctly unglamorous. The suite also had a freestanding tub as its centrepiece. Claw-footed and cute, sure, but unless you’re a supermodel, you may prefer to preserve a little mystery when it comes to ablutions in the early days.
Then there are the design hotels that surprise you with glass walls. Voyeurism is appealing in the right context – the floor-to-ceiling windows of The Standard, High Line provide a mighty lookout over NYC’s world-famous skyline as well as give insight into what you get up to for walkers on Manhattan’s west side. Exhibitionist? Salute the snow-white-marble bathrooms at The Baccarat; the size of hammams, there are at least shutters so you can choose whether to put on that show from the shower.
Outdoor bathtubs are a different matter – alfresco in the tropics is always a winner. For the ultimate in open-air escapades, the spine-tingling suites at Jade Mountain in St Lucia expose you to the elements. Its canny architect-owner dispensed with walls on one side; the Piton-facing spaces set into the hillside boast private pools on the terrace and there’s only a railing between you, your sanctuary and the fresh Caribbean Sea air.
Hotels with heart-stirring views can mean memories-to-last-a-lifetime. For butterflies-in-stomach paradise landscapes, make for the Maldives. Nine out of ten marriage guidance counsellors would surely recommend snorkelling at Baros. Just be sure to choose an Indian Ocean resort which keeps you both happy – desert-island ennui can test a relationship rather than enhance it.
History and culture float your boat? Hotel Grand Bretagne in Athens promises a rooftop vista which is a postcard come alive. Tick off the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Temple of Olympian Zeus from your sightseeing list as you enjoy breakfast. For dramatic Greek-island panoramas guaranteed to inspire declarations of love, hop over to Santorini and get thee in a private plunge pool at Canaves Oia. This honeymoon-worthy Aegean escape lays on star-scattered skies and private dining away from prying eyes. Best enjoyed with a glass of the island’s excellent mineral-rich wine – but don’t blame us for spontaneous proposals – that caldera lookout is powerful stuff.
Provence is another destination generous with its vineyards and views. Journey to Crillon le Brave and this medieval village north of Avignon has terraces aplenty from which to toast coupledom over a Côte du Rhone. Hilltop hideaways in the South of France are especially appealing for cyclists – just leave the Lycra at home. Skin-tight polyurethane is a hard look to pull off at the best of times, let alone when you’re with a lover.
The real trick to romantic diversion? To unplug and switch off. Can’t get to that off-the-grid eco-resort in Costa Rica? Inventive cocktails also do the trick. The Experimental Cocktail Club has an intoxicating city B&B formula – their boutique ‘bed and beverage’ hotels include the intimate Grand Pigalle Hotel in Paris and the new Henrietta Hotel in Covent Garden. Bottoms up. You may not be able to put a price on love – but you can splash out on a stylish escape.