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Valentine’s breaks: Ways to soften the hardest heart

PADDED cards, heart-shaped balloons and teddy bears which say, ‘I wuv you’ when you squeeze them. Urgh! Call me a Grinch but I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. Like New Year’s Eve, the expectation to have ‘The Best Night Ever’ puts untold pressure on any relationship, whether you’ve been together two weeks or ten years. And as Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday this year, a romantic mini-break à deux will be on the cards for many.

While I grumble over enforced romance, it’s not to say I haven’t been on my fair share of romantic mini-breaks. So here are a few tips and tricks from an old cynic to make sure it’s as successful as it can be on February 14.

The first mini-break is a major milestone in any relationship but there’s always an expectation that you’ll be swinging from the chandeliers from noon till midnight, smooching on a moonlit beach or sharing a plate of spaghetti in a backstreet trattoria (hold on, isn’t that Lady And The Tramp?)

To quote the wise words of psychologists all over the world, the key to happiness is low expectations. Let’s face it, most of us will start the weekend by being passive-aggressive over the directions to that remote country hotel you found on Groupon. But before you even start off, lower those expectations. A bit more. And some more. There you go.

If you’re going to a romantic destination such as Venice, prep yourself for competitive romancers on the flight. You know the ones — smug couples with armfuls of red roses, sipping champagne and flashing twinkling gems on their ring finger.

And stick to the UK or Europe. While a long weekend in Las Vegas would be amazing, is Valentine’s Day worth getting into that much debt for? Also, if you can’t afford something decent, leave it this year and save up until you can.

The first mini-break I ever went on with my husband was to Paris. We stayed in a two-star hotel in Pigalle, which surprisingly didn’t charge by the hour. However, the mouldy sheets, thin walls and broken bed springs certainly put a dampener on any ardour.

I’m not saying book the honeymoon suite at the Athenaeum with massage for two and champagne breakfast in bed thrown in but, equally, a £35 Premier Inn on a Merthyr Tydfil trading estate doesn’t scream ‘I love you’ either.

Finally, make sure you manage your expectations of ‘sexy’. Do you want a hotel that punts the erotic dream by offering heart-shaped hot tubs, rotating water beds and mirrored ceilings? Or will some pink champagne, chocolate truffles and the odd rose petal strewn across the bed just do the trick?

And while not all romantic mini-breaks will be as successful as Bridget Jones and Daniel Cleaver’s, remember, it’s just a weekend away with the person you like the most. How hard can that be?