Valentines' Special: Lunch in Geneva, Drinks In Cannes - Let's Fly

It's the ultimate frivolous gesture - hire a jet for a day and whisk your loved one off to the Continent. Kate Simon climbs aboard
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The Independent Travel

Our green-minded readers will be poised pen to paper at this point. What is an Independent on Sunday journalist doing on board this global-warming private jet? I'm on the plane because these trips are, well, taking off. Like it or not, some of your fellow readers are happy to climb on board.

But our eco-conscious readers have a point. Private jet flights may amount to only a tiny percentage of air travel out of the UK, but according to the environmental trust Climate Care, this is one of the most nefarious ways to travel, using two to three times as much fuel per passenger as a larger plane.

The trip I'm about to make, from Biggin Hill to Geneva, over to Nice and back to Farnborough, is likely to spend around 2,000 litres of fuel and I should cough up about £75 to offset its carbon emissions through the trust's conservation projects. A return flight to Geneva or Nice on a regular plane would cost you about £5 to offset. Wherever you stand on this argument, it makes you think.

Still, we're up in the skies at 29,000ft and off to a posh restaurant on the edge of Lake Geneva - for no good reason. Captain Colin is not happy that we are flying low. "How high we can fly is dictated by the amount of traffic in the skies, and this is a busy time," he explains. The higher we fly, the straighter our route and the quicker the trip, I'm told. That's the big draw of the private jet. Take a look on the website of our host, Gold Air International, and click on Time Efficient Travel. Why, they have you out to a business meeting in Milan and back before your double on the scheduled flight is just coming into land on his return hop to the UK. Like we care. We're munching our way through a breakfast of fruit kebabs, pastries and champagne and the views of the Channel are glorious.

Switzerland's mountains are soon in sight as we come in to land. A flash of the passport to a customs officer, into the private cars, and we're off to the Hotel du Parc des Eaux-Vives, an 18th-century mansion on the banks of Lake Geneva, for gastronomic delights.

Our table has views of the park and the lake - though the famous fountain is off today, shame - and we gorge on foie gras, fish and lamb. We're offered the finest concoctions of Swiss chocolate for dessert, then a stab at a cheeseboard sweating under the weight of its offerings. We're truly stuffed. Yet one of our party finds time to nip into town to buy a Patek Philippe watch, retail price "very expensive" but 20 per cent off here, he assures us. And we still manage to reconvene at the airport in time for take-off.

Well, we're a few minutes late. But, when you've got a plane-cum-taxi, such tardiness is excusable. Not by the standards of the "big computer in Brussels", according to Captain Colin, who, like our other hosts, is perplexed that it has decreed that we must now wait 20 minutes for a take-off slot. But we humble journalists are too used to cheap flights to be upset by this mere blip. In any case, if we hadn't already imbibed enough fine wine, we'd be well into the lounge's free bar by now.

Quicker than you can ring a Swiss cow's bell, we're cleared for take-off. Another glance at our passport (immigration really is no problem for the rich) and we're off to Cannes in the south of France. And soon we're rounding the Côte d'Azur - Nice to our right, Cannes straight ahead.

Down again and we're whisked into town, along the Croisette before being dropped off for some shopping in the boutiques on the beachfront. I'm not a great shopper. I'm more interested in a G&T in the bar at the Hotel Carlton.

Back on the plane, we head for home. A splendid cold platter is served, though you can order what you fancy if you hire the jet. "One of our regular clients asks for Rooibos tea," explains our host. (Such low expectations, the true sign of a VIP.) We put on a CD and indulge in more champagne. So how much would a similar trip cost Joe Public? "A day trip will set you back £4,000," my host advises. "But four couples could hire this eight-seater for £500 each." Put like that it's almost reasonable. Just don't forget your conscience payment to Climate Care.

Kate Simon travelled as a guest of Gold Air (01959 578400; goldairint.co.uk). To offset carbon emissions go to climatecare.org

1 Amsterdam

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

hire a bicycle for two and cycle along the canalsides. And we'll pop by the floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt, to choose a beautiful bouquet

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT... Pastini, Leidsegracht 29 (00 31 20 622 1701). It's a cosy Italian restaurant in a lovely setting on the corner of two of the city's prettiest canals

2 Verona

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

pin a love letter to the wish tree at the San Francesco monastery, site of "Juliet's tomb". We can take a look at that famous balcony too

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT...

Al Pompiere, Vicola Regina d'Ungheria 5 (00 39 045 803 0537), an intimate little osteria I know in the historic quarter. It serves the best Italy has to offer

3 St Petersburg

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

see all those wonderful Impressionist paintings in the Hermitage Museum. We might even take a box at the ballet if the Kirov are in town

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT...

Restoran, Tamozhenny per 2 (00 7 812 327 8979). I hear it's the place to sample classic Russian dishes with a postmodern twist

4 Vienna

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

get a taste of old Europe, wandering around the city's medieval alleyways and squares, admiring all those Habsburg palaces. And, of course, we'll stop at a coffee shop for cakes

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT... Immervoll, Weihburggasse 17 (00 43 1 513 52 88), to join the thesps and designer crowd in its modish dining room for a lighter taste of traditional Viennese cuisine

5 Dubrovnik

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

walk the city's walls and drink in the wonderful views of this ancient Adriatic port. We could enjoy a shot of café society on the Stradun too

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT...

Atlas Club Nautika, Brsalje 3 (00 385 20 442 526), in the old town. We'll never forget the taste of the seafood or the wonderful views from its terrace

6 Rome

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

declare our undying love by placing our hands in the Bocca della Verita - the mouth of truth. And we can throw some coins in the Trevi Fountain in the hope of returning safely - and together - some day

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT... Piperno, Monte de Cenci 9 (00 39 06 686 1113). It's in a pretty little square, and they fuse the best of Jewish and Italian recipes

7 Cannes

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

walk along the Croisette. And, hell, let's flex those credit cards in Dior, Chanel and Gucci on the beachfront

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT...

La Mère Besson, 13 Frères Pradignac (00 33 4 93 39 59 24) for delicious Provençal cuisine with more than a hint of garlic

8 Geneva

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

take a boat ride on the lake. Maybe they'll turn on the fountain just for us?

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT... Hotel du Parc des Eaux-Vives, Quai Gustave-Ador 82 (00 41 22 849 75 75). We'll try their Winter Flavours menu and dine on truffles with everything

9 Seville

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

climb the Giralda at sunset and watch the last rays play on the Moorish mosaics

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT...

Enrique Becerra, Gamazo 2 (00 34 95 421 30 49). We'll snack on tapas and sherry at the bar before moving into the elegant drawing room for bull's tail and venison

10 Paris

IT'LL BE SO ROMANTIC TO...

stretch our legs in the Jardin des Tuileries, take in the views from the top of the Eiffel Tower, climb up to Sacre Coeur - take your pick. Or we could just canoodle at a pavement café

I'VE BOOKED A TABLE AT...

Le Cristal Room at Maison Baccarat, 11 Place des Etats-Unis (00 33 1 40 22 11 10). It's a spectacular setting for dinner in the world's most romantic city

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