Disastrous dinner date?Before you answer, let me add that a few years later, that woman married me. And, fair enough, some time afterward divorced me. But I'm pretty sure neither eventuality was the result of what we both still fondly remember as the Japanese Lobster Incident.
A little further into the relationship we had a similar meal in Tokyo's nightlife district, Roppongi, and far more successfully, perhaps because there's something about the intersection of food and romance and travel that shows all three to advantage. The unpretentious little bistro around the corner is fine—perfect for that dinner commemorating a significant event—but it doesn't hold an alluringly flickering candle to the unpretentious corner bistro across the ocean.Those are the places—especially when they're surprise discoveries, unexpectedly stumbled upon—that you go back to whenever you can, and that you think about whenever you can't. (If absence makes the heart grow fonder, distance makes it fonder still—and when the love object is a surpassingly fine pastry kitchen several time zones removed, all the better.) They become part of your shared history: All that trouble you had finding a table in Barcelona at midnight—and how well worth it all that trouble was. Or that lunch of mussels in Deauville, when it became hard to see each other over the pile of plates and bowls and wine bottles. And that lime-infused ceviche—down in Mexico, on the terrace, with the palms swaying in front?
It might simply be a matter of travel heightening experience, which at its best it certainly does. Because it's great if the chef is on fire, and if the company's a delight, better still—but transplant that to Alónnisos, or Ürümqi, or Rarotonga, and then sparks will fly. Just make sure to ask how the lobster is served.
11 Park Tower Suite
The Park Tower Suite is for those who want to be left alone. On the ground floor of a 19th-century house overlooking the verdant Florapark, 15 minutes outside Amsterdam in Haarlem, Dutch interior designers Janneke and Peter Schoenmaker have studiously arranged a global collection of antiques in a solitary bower for two. Outside, stately wrought-iron fences surround a private garden of tall rhododendrons and reflecting pools. Inside, the apartment's formal salon has a wood-burning fireplace, oak floors, and crystal chandeliers. In the sunny bedroom, Egyptian linens cover a Swedish Hästens bed backed by a wooden Pakistani gate. For a real Haarlem night, order rijsttafel at a nearby bistro and walk along the canal banks in solitude.
Haarlem, the Netherlands; 31-23/534-7773; www.parktowerhotel.nl; $646.
Eat Your Heart Out Hungry for romance?Let the experts at hotels and resorts around the world arrange an enchanted dinner for two. 12. JACKSON HOLE Bundle up for a horse-drawn hayride on the open range in the National Elk Refuge, then defrost at Snake River Grill (307/733-0557; www.snakerivergrill.com; $100) over oven-roasted artichoke fondue with wild game sausage. As snow falls on the Tetons, share your 18-ounce buffalo steak with your pardner. 13. MALDIVES The Four Seasons Resort Maldives (960/444-888; www.fourseasons.com; $200) transports couples to a remote Indian Ocean atoll. On land, waiters serve steamed mussels in ginger-fennel broth and chocolate cake with passion-fruit sabayon late into the night. 14. ROME Reserve the Terrazza della Zarina at the Hotel de Russie (39-06/328-881; www.roccofortehotels.com; $734), a secluded balcony with views of the Villa Borghese and Trinità dei Monti church. A violinist performs Verdi during an alfresco repast of sea bass carpaccio. 15. INDIA At the Taj Exotica (91-832/277-1234; www.tajhotels.com; $100) in Goa, on the south-west coast, fishermen arrive bearing lobsters for your sunset beachside barbecue. Under a gauzy tent overlooking the Arabian Sea, a private chef prepares tamarind-infused fish curries and lemon-chile sorbet for dessert.
BY RICK MARIN, AUTHOR, CAD: CONFESSIONS OF A TOXIC BACHELOR (WITH AUTHOR ILENE ROSENZWEIG)
It was Ilene's idea to spend the last day of our honeymoon on a sheer cliff face in Australia's Blue Mountains, gazing at the misty valley below. And it was also she who stood frozen with fear on this gusty precipice, tingling with dread, while I wished we were still in Italy, where we had just married, soaking up sea-level sun and a bottle of Barbaresco.
Like many couples who've been together awhile, we'd had our share of typical romantic destinations: cobbled streets, remote inns, white-sand beaches. For our inaugural married excursion, the stakes were higher. We wanted to go somewhere that would not only inspire memories but also symbolize the life we were about to share together. We were looking for an adventure that would let us test our limits, conquer our fears, and possibly qualify us for the next season of Survivor.
We wanted an anti-honeymoon.
For many newlyweds we know, bucking the traditional hand-holding, beachcombing, and mindless mooning means a heli-safari in Botswana or tree swinging in Costa Rica. But because we're not exactly the carry-your-own-toilet-paper types, we needed a destination that offered both rugged thrills and concierge service. Haute cuisine, plus 10 of the world's deadliest snakes. Wild yet civilized. So we set out for the antipodes, for our honeymoon, with no itinerary but a plan to experience as many natural wonders as could be squeezed into two weeks. Winging it added to our sense of freedom and suspense—and justified having had no time to make proper reservations.
At first glance, Lizard Island is your classic honeymoon paradise. On a private island in the Great Barrier Reef, this boutique resort receives no more than 80 guests at a time. Its wood-paneled bungalows have a Zen-den vibe and sexy amenities, like outdoor beds on verandas overlooking the Coral Sea. But in the land of Oz, behind every picturesque façade lurks mortal danger. Or so it seemed from the welcome speech. Ominous warnings about the killing sun, lethal tides, and a malevolent one-legged seagull sent me into a panic, and Ilene rushing to the sign-up desk.
Dramamine alert! The dive boat crashed through pounding swells toward the forbidding frontier where the continental shelf drops off a cool 9,843 feet. Knowing that I feared any water over my head that isn't coming from a shower, Ilene figured that I would never jump into this. But she discovered that your mate can still surprise you, even after you're married. As soon as I dropped into the whitecapped water, I set off, snapping away with my underwater camera, frolicking farther and farther out, leaving Ilene alone to dart between the reef sharks. And barracuda. And eels. She splashed back to the boat, breathless and distraught, as my snorkeling pal, Stefano, and I resurfaced, brandishing a souvenir sea cucumber.
And looking, Ilene said, as if we'd just shared a "special moment." On a honeymoon at sea, the imagination swims in uncharted waters. I assured her that nothing happened.