Kate Simon: Do they know it's Christmas time at all?
Sunday 19 December 2010
The big day's nearly here. Christmas? No, Valentine's Day.
At least that's the impression I've been getting from the travel industry over the past month or so.
One of our favourite games on the travel desk is First to Get the Christmas Card. (I believe I won this year, when I received some Glad Tidings in early August.) But while the rest of us have been spending every spare moment ticking gifts off the Christmas list, some in the travel industry have been busy preparing for that very special day in February that warms the hearts of the greetings-card industry.
Even before a certain overprivileged couple announced last month their intention to tie the knot next April, the Swan Hotel at Lavenham, Suffolk, emerged as the earliest love bird, tweeting about its Valentine's intentions. But once the royal romance was out of the bag, a veritable flood of heartfelt offerings hit my desk from operators keen to cash in on the romantic mood and sew up Valentine's Day.
The Grand Hotel Kronenhof, near St Moritz in Switzerland, promised rooms with snowy views of the Alps, romantic horse-drawn coach rides and special couples' spa time. Hot on its heels, the tour operator Travelbag highlighted the suitably gooey-eyed destinations – including, of course, Kenya – featured in some of its tailor-made trips that would befit a 14 February booking.
Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, in the Republic of Ireland, has laid on harp music at dinner and medieval banquets. And the cruise line Norwegian Epic will sail around the eastern Caribbean for a week of dinners à deux and breakfasts in bed set against a backdrop of heart-shaped ice sculptures and crooners singing love songs.
The Athenaeum, a five-star hotel in London, has Moroccan Rose Otto Oil massages and romantic dinners for two all wrapped up for the February anniversary. Across the capital, the Tower Bridge Exhibition cautions that to avoid disappointment we must book early for a special evening on the bridge's walkways, 42m above the Thames, where the views will be complemented by glasses of pink champagne and the strains of a string quartet.
But the winner for the most audacious, if not the first, proposal for Valentine's Day 2011 must go to Frégate Island in the Seychelles. This exclusive resort in the Indian Ocean has joined its formidable luxury forces with South Africa Diamonds and diamond-cutting company Rosy Blue to serve up the world's most expensive dessert. The dish – a chocolate tart garnished with rare diamonds – is worth a staggering $5m (£3.2m).
This indulgent confection will be prepared by Frégate's chef pâtissier, Maître André Barbe, whose team will apply no fewer than 929 diamonds, totalling 151.92 carats, including an 8.04 carat Round Brilliant stone colour graded D (if that means anything to you).
You can also choose the perfect setting on the private island for presenting it to your lucky partner. Fair enough, Frégate does throw in two first-class Emirates Airlines tickets from any destination in the world, and there's a week's full board for your millions, too.
Meanwhile, I suspect the rest of us will probably just be saying it with flowers. After all, there'll still be Christmas to pay for first.
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