Long-Distance Couple Shares Best And Worst Valentine’s Day Travel Dates

long distance valentines day
Credit: @ferlacayo

We think just being in the moment is really what matters the most. A couples trip is about connecting and learning about each other. Trips are a really great way to form a bond. One tip we can offer is to make sure to turn your phone off or put it on ‘do not disturb’ during date night.

Another tip we have is helping each other conquer your fears. We went to Guatemala and Michael had never been a fan of heights. Adding to this, his best friend tragically died by suicide which made it very hard for him to be close to edges. We ended up climbing Indian Nose Peak and at the top of the mountain Michael felt a sense of relief that he never knew he had inside. He was able to step to the edge of the cliff with no fear.

Yvette’s biggest fear is flying on a plane with turbulence. Through that process, Michael guides her through meditation and breathing. Another thing we like to do is get the best playlist together and then listen to music we haven’t heard before. A lot of the albums we listen to transport us back to memories about a trip we’ve had together.

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Valentine’s Day Love Letters to California

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking about love.

Not romantic love, but an equally real, possibly just-as-corny type of affection — for the state of California.

Dozens of you wrote to me about why you love Carmel-by-the-Sea, Atascadero, Napa, Laguna Beach or the Golden State as a whole. As is appropriate for this holiday, your proclamations were sweet, passionate and largely unconcerned with our state’s shortcomings.

You told me: California might be burning, drying up, wildly expensive and slipping into the sea, but you adore it all the same.

Honestly, me too. Enjoy.

(P.S. So many of you wrote that I will keep sharing your submissions in the coming weeks. As always, you can reach me at [email protected])

“I tried to move away from San Francisco during the pandemic, back to my hometown Baltimore. I made it one year and three months before the City by the Bay called me back.

Every block of San Francisco holds some sort of beauty. Magical succulents, gorgeous hilltop views, colorful Victorians, and people, being themselves in whatever way they want to be. I have felt the most intense sense of belonging since I have returned. My heart will always be in San Francisco. I am in love with this city.” — Ali Moss, San Francisco

“Having grown up in Minnesota where winters are quite cold, I especially love winters here in Escondido. The clear blue sky, ridges of hills surrounding you and the warmth of the sun on your skin even with a cool 60 degree breeze. Add to that the sounds of all the birds and it is a magical morning. After 2 years of Covid, taking a deep breath is truly a pleasure I enjoy every day.” — Mark Vaughan, Escondido

“In 1964, my family moved to Hacienda Heights, and for the most part, I have been a Cali Girl ever since. Hacienda Heights is almost the perfect place to live. We’re close to the beach and the mountains. On clear days, from the roof, we can see the snow-topped Big Bear. The freeway access is wonderful, although rush hour traffic has radically changed.

I took my first freeway drive on the 57 freeway the day it opened to the public. There were no cars, so our drivers ed teacher let us go 65 m.p.h. What a thrill!” — Mari Turner, Hacienda Heights

“The Golden State nourishes my soul/Her bounties both tactile and visual/

A state so bounteous with culture and spirit/ More than enough for just the residents in it/

Her sunshine pours, warm honey on skin/Feed upon her riches, from barbacoa to vin/

Patchwork quilts of flax and pine/ Deserts, mountains, shimmering coastline/

California, mi amor, will you be mine?” — Masahana Kato, Los Angeles

“Though I am grateful to be studying in Europe this semester, I dread spending Valentine’s Day without you, my dearest Berkeley.

If there is one thing that this distance has made me realize, it is that nowhere in the world can outshine your indisputable strangeness. From the dinosaur man of Sproul Plaza, to the street artists on Durant, to the contrast between the $8 lattes and $1 tacos, no two days in Berkeley can be the same.” — Jessica Blelloch, Madrid

“My Dearest California,

I tried to leave you once. It was decades ago, and you’d put me in a funk for the same reasons you drive others away — the traffic, the cost of housing, and, for me, missing my family and a hometown I still adore.

So I got into my car and headed for the coast. But before I reached Big Sur I realized why I had to stay. Where else in the world could I get in the car and, in hours, arrive at the white beaches of Carmel? The cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe? The neon mustard on the Kelly green hills of Napa? Even though your scope and intensity can drive me completely mad, you’re the most gorgeous, complex state I know. I love your geography, your ambition and your open-minded, forward-thinking people, which I shall never take for granted.

California, we have been through much together these past few years — fires, drought, Covid. And yet, those unfortunate developments have only made me fear losing you and intensified my appreciation. As I gaze out my window at the beauty of bare oaks against a cornflower winter sky, you, my dear, are my home. Even when you break my heart, I will always love you.” — Lisa Wrenn, Walnut Creek

A vegan version of the typical hard-shell taco.

Today’s travel tip comes from Cynthia Nunn, a reader who lives in Santa Maria:

“One of my favorite ‘staycation’ destinations is Cambria, located on the central coast. It’s about 10 miles south of Hearst Castle (San Simeon) and is a gem of a small town. Lynn’s Restaurant features the best pies on the West Coast. Hotel prices vary by season and it isn’t cheap but there are several small inns that are worth the cost ($300+ per weeknight right on the beach). There are several hiking trails on or near the water. Cambria is not exactly the cultural hub of the West Coast but it is just a really nice small town to spend a three-day weekend exploring.

I live about 50 miles south of Cambria, so it’s been a favorite destination of mine for many decades.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

At a time when environmentalists are often pitted against agribusiness in California’s water wars, conservationists and farmers are uniting to protect salmon.

Read more from Reuters on an experiment in Northern California that’s a decade in the making.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Humor with a twist (5 letters).

Jonah Candelario, Lyna Bentahar and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

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They met on Valentine’s Day while hiking in the Himalayas

(CNN) — It was Valentine’s Day 1996 when Lee Green walked into a mountain lodge in Nepal, surrounded by the snowcapped Himalayas, and encountered Mandy Halse for the first time.

Green and Halse were thousands of miles from their respective homes in England and New Zealand. Both were backpackers in their twenties determined to see as much of the world as they could. They’d found themselves in Nepal by a series of coincidences.

When Green entered the Nepalese teahouse, the stage was set for a memorable meet-cute.

Except on February 14, there were no sparks between the two travelers.

Two weeks later it was a different story, one that’s still ongoing 26 years later.

A meeting in Ghorepani

Here's Mandy Halse in Nepal on the morning of  February 14, 1996.

Here’s Mandy Halse in Nepal on the morning of February 14, 1996.

Kirsty Bloom

For Halse, Nepal was a spontaneous layover en route from Auckland to the UK, where she was set to visit an old friend. She’d been exploring Thailand and Malaysia, and a travel agent had recommended breaking up the journey with a stint in Nepal.

After learning of Nepal’s trekking routes, she met a British woman, Kirsty, while in line for a permit to hike the Annapurna Circuit. The two decided to join forces to tackle the trail, which winds through Nepal’s central mountains, taking in picturesque villages and incredible views along the way.

Halse, who’d had no idea what to expect, was awestruck by the spectacular landscape, particularly when she and fellow hikers arrived in the village of Ghorepani, where they set up camp in a “teahouse” mountain lodge.

“It was the most beautiful setting,” Halse tells CNN Travel today.

She was sitting in the lodge’s common area with her new friend Kirsty and other backpackers when Lee Green walked in.

Green, a mailman from the English town of Coventry, was traveling Nepal on a career break with colleague and good friend Murray. The two men had originally intended to use their sabbatical to embark on a cycle ride from the UK to India, but had abandoned the plan after just 200 miles, realizing navigating northern Europe in winter on bike was going to take too long.

Instead, they’d ended up flying to India, trekking through the northern part of the country, before making their way to Nepal.

The two friends arrived at the city of Pokhara, and set off on the Annapurna trek. Like Halse, they’d befriended other travelers en route.

Green (second from left) and Halse (third from right) embarked on Nepal's Annapurna circuit with a group of other backpackers they'd met along the way.

Green (second from left) and Halse (third from right) embarked on Nepal’s Annapurna circuit with a group of other backpackers they’d met along the way.

Kirsty Bloom

“There’s one path that links village to village to village, so most people that go trekking tend to overlap each other, meet up with each other at the tea houses, along the path,” Green tells CNN Travel today.

When Green’s group entered the teahouse, they were warmly greeted by Halse and the other travelers. The backpackers ended up chatting through the night, playing cards by candlelight.

“It was really nice, it was really chilled,” says Halse. “The teahouse was gorgeous.”

The travelers spent a couple of days there, before continuing as a group onto the next leg of the trek.

Halse and Green were friendly to one another on their first few days hiking, but they didn’t have much opportunity to chat one on one.

“We didn’t talk much in the beginning as we were both very quiet, and we walked in different parts of the group: me in the middle with Murray, and Lee at the back with Kirsty,” says Halse.

A growing connection

The backpackers were trekking through spectacular landscapes. Here's the group near Muktinath Valley in February 1996.

The backpackers were trekking through spectacular landscapes. Here’s the group near Muktinath Valley in February 1996.

Kirsty Bloom

When the travelers reached the Annapurna circuit’s 5,400-meter-high Thorung La mountain pass, they found their way blocked by heavy snow, forcing them to turn back.

Some of the group decided to give up at that point, making their way back, via plane, to the trail’s gateway town of Pokhara. Halse and Green, along with their friends Murray and Kirsty, decided to make the full return trek by foot, just the four of them.

So began another two weeks of walking — and it was in this period that Halse and Green started to grow closer.

“We’d become quite good friends, and as we’re walking along I started feeling the vibe, the tingles,” says Halse.

When the group arrived in Tatopani, just up the trail from their original meeting place in Ghorepani, the town’s balmier climate and beautiful hot springs were a welcome change to the snows they’d just emerged from.

“There’s oranges and lemons growing everywhere, citrus fruits growing, it’s like a little Garden of Eden. It’s a great place to relax and chill after the hard trekking,” says Green.

Halse and Green grew closer as the trek continued.

Halse and Green grew closer as the trek continued.

Kirsty Bloom

Lounging at the hot springs over the next few days, Green and Halse grew closer still. They recall braiding one another’s long hair and talking about previous adventures, their lives back home and travel goals.

“We soon realized we were very similar,” says Halse.

“We both wanted to travel, we were prepared to work hard and save money, and to achieve our travel goals, which is what we both wanted to do,” adds Green. “We realized it would be quite nice to do it together.”

They shared their first kiss on February 29, 1996, a leap year. From that day onwards, they were inseparable.

But while they were swept up in their new romance, the two remained keenly aware that travel flings don’t always last, so Green and Halse focused on enjoying the moment. They decided, along with Kirsty and Murray, to extend their time in Nepal and embark on a trek to Everest.

The only issue was Halse had somehow lost her passport. Before continuing any further, she had to head to Kathmandu to get new papers.

So the pair said goodbye to one another, hoping it would just be a short separation, as Green and Murray went on ahead.

A couple of days in, it looked like Halse’s passport would be arriving sooner rather than later. With no internet or cellphones to convey the news, Halse scribbled a hand-written note updating Green, letting him know she’d be hot on his heels before long.

Note in hand, Halse hopped onto the bus that was heading to the Everest trail, and asked if anyone heading that way would look out for the two men and pass on the message. She included a description of Green and Murray on the back of the note.

Here's one of the notes Halse passed along the trail for Green.

Here’s one of the notes Halse passed along the trail for Green.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

She did the same thing the following day, and the day after that — and then before long, Halse had her new passport and she and Kirsty were en route to Namche Bazaar, the gateway to Everest, hoping to catch up with the two mailmen.

The notes successfully made their way up the trail to Green and Murray.

“As we got closer and closer to Namche Bazaar, all of a sudden people started walking up to us on the trail with these notes, and they were like, “Oh we’ve got a note for you guys,” — you know, in the middle of the mountains in Nepal,” recalls Green. “We open the note and it’s from Mandy.”

The two men couldn’t believe it.

“More and more people started giving us these notes,” says Green. “So we wrote some notes back.”

They passed these replies to trekkers walking the opposite way, describing Halse and Kirsty, and hoping the notes would make it to the two women successfully.

Here's Halse and Green on the trek to Everest Base Camp.

Here’s Halse and Green on the trek to Everest Base Camp.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

Meanwhile, Halse and Kirsty were walking as fast as they could to catch up — so much so, they ended up overtaking Green and Murray.

Eventually, the group were reunited in the small village of Jorsale, between the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park and Namche Bazaar.

From there, they headed to the 5,357-meter Gokyo Ri peak, because Kirsty had read that the view of Everest was more impressive and that the trail didn’t have as many trekkers. It turned out to be a highlight of the trip.

“We were walking on a frozen lake, which if I’d thought about it, I think I would have been scared, but the snow was up to our thighs,” says Green.

Six weeks in India

Halse and Green went on together from Nepal to India, here they are at the Taj Mahal.

Halse and Green went on together from Nepal to India, here they are at the Taj Mahal.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

By the time they returned to Kathmandu at the end of April, Halse and Green were certain their connection was more than a fleeting holiday romance.

“We realized that we wanted to be together,” says Green.

After Murray decided to fly back home to the UK and Kirsty went off on her next adventure, Green and Halse were suddenly alone for the first time.

They both had six weeks before they were due to fly on to the UK — Halse to visit her friend on a pre-arranged trip, and Green to return to work — so the two decided to fill the time with a trip around India.

They traveled largely by rail, whiling away the long journeys staring out the window and chatting to one another and fellow travelers.

They reunited with Kirsty in the southern India state of Kerala, and again at Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. The trio traveled together to New Delhi, before Kirsty parted ways again.

It was an amazing six weeks for Halse and Green, but they also navigated some trickier moments together — such as when, towards the end of their trip, they fell ill. But they supported one another through these ups and downs, and ended the journey stronger than they’d started.

“You can tell whether you’re compatible with someone if you have to go through tough times together, and we went through some challenging traveling experiences in India, and we came out of it really well,” says Green.

By coincidence, the friend Halse was set to visit in the UK lived in Birmingham, which was only 30 minutes away from where Green was based in Coventry.

“This was the amazing thing — two people from the other side of the world met halfway, and were going in the same direction and heading to the same place,” says Green.

When Green got home, he dumped his backpack, went to see his parents and told them he’d be heading to Birmingham the following day to see Halse.

“I met this Kiwi girl. I quite like her and she’s just down the road,” he recalls saying.

Green had sent his family postcards from his travels, but hadn’t mentioned that he’d met a girl. Halse, meanwhile, had written long letters home to her sister describing her chance meeting with Green.

“I told my sister everything,” Halse recalls.

Her sister still has the 11-page letter Halse wrote her from Nepal, describing in detail how she felt about Green.

“Lee and I slowly developed a wonderful relationship,” Halse wrote on March 16, 1996. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

Long-distance romance

Halse stayed in the UK for the next few months. Green went back to work, but they continued to see one another whenever they could.

It was Halse’s first time in the UK, and she wanted to see the sights. The two recall walking part of England’s South West Coast Path from Newquay to Penzance. They also visited cities including York, Oxford, Blackpool and London.

Then Halse had to return down under — her brother was getting married in Australia, and her grandparents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in New Zealand.

Halse arranged to meet up with Green again in New Zealand in six months time. Green had negotiated another sabbatical with his employers, so the couple planned a second stint traveling together.

Meantime, they navigated a long distance relationship.

“I think we racked up $1,000 worth of phone calls,” says Halse of this period. “We wrote to each other, we wrote aerograms.”

Back in Auckland, Halse busied herself working. She missed Green, but she worried that he was finding the separation even harder going.

“Lee was pining, he was working crazy hours at the Post Office,” says Halse. “He was sounding more and more depressed as the time went on.”

“I decided ‘screw it.’ We discussed things and I decided to fly back to the UK to spend the four months with Lee and then start traveling together from there.”

Halse arrived back in the UK on Christmas Day 1996. Green was waiting for her at the airport.

“I’d just come from New Zealand and everyone was tanned and because it was December, Lee was pale, and he looked very different,” says Halse.

“It was a bit of a shock at first. But then we got on the bus, went back, and we were together in Coventry for four months.”

It was an opportunity for Halse to get to know Green’s family, who welcomed her wholeheartedly. And when these four months came to an end, Halse and Green flew to New Zealand, before traveling together through Central and South America for the next six months.

A lifetime of travel

Green and Halse at Auckland Airport in 1997, about to embark on their travels.

Green and Halse at Auckland Airport in 1997, about to embark on their travels.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

From there, Halse and Green started a pattern that would continue for many years.

“Half of the time has been spent working in Australia, New Zealand and England, and the other half spent backpacking, just following our dream and seeing the world,” explains Green.

Halse and Green had been on the same page from the beginning — they didn’t want to settle down, they didn’t want children, and they weren’t interested in a wedding.

But as an international couple with a foot on both sides of the globe, after a few years together the two decided marriage would make living across two continents a bit easier.

Their nuptials took place in New Zealand in August 2001, and Green’s family flew over from the UK for the celebrations. The couple were married in Halse’s mother’s backyard.

“We set up food and drink in the double garage, then later on various family members played guitars, and we sat around singing until the early hours of the morning,” recalls Halse. “It was such a great day, and definitely not a conventional wedding.”

The couple in Thailand in 1999.

The couple in Thailand in 1999.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

The couple had also bonded early on over a commitment to living frugally, and prioritizing spending money on travel.

They say years avoiding splurging allowed them to retire in 2017, when they were in their late 40s.

“We worked out that if we live on a budget of between 20 and 25 US dollars a day, we can travel indefinitely,” says Halse.

Post-retirement, one of the first items on their travel agenda was a return trip to Nepal, just over 20 years since they’d first met there.

This time round, Halse and Green completed the Annapurna Circuit, and also trekked to Everest Base Camp, sans porters or guides.

The two say Nepal had changed in the intervening two decades, but it was incredible to be back. The couple returned to some of the teahouses they’d stayed in on that first trip, and even reencountered local people they’d met the first time round.

“It’s still my favorite country in the world, I think, of all the places I’ve been,” says Green. “I don’t know if it’s because I met Mandy there and that’s where my life changed.”

The couple returned to Nepal together in 2017, this time sucessfully passing through the Thorang La mountain pass.

The couple returned to Nepal together in 2017, this time sucessfully passing through the Thorang La mountain pass.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

“Our goal is to give valuable budget travel advice to help others achieve the travel goals we have accomplished and to show how easy it is to travel the world as we do,” says Green of the project.

The Covid-19 pandemic temporarily grounded Halse and Green — first in Poland, and now in Portugal. But they’ve enjoyed this extended time in Europe. When the two were younger, they’d set themselves ambitious travel goals, aspiring to visit as many countries as possible, but more recently, they’ve enjoyed savoring travel experiences.

“We’re quite happy to travel slowly and see places at a leisurely pace, rather than race to tick off countries,” says Green.

A Valentine’s Day romance

Green and Halse at Everest Base Camp in 2017.

Green and Halse at Everest Base Camp in 2017.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

Today, Halse and Green live the life they both dreamed of when they met as twentysomething backpackers.

“I think it’s really helped that we’ve been together because I think if I’d have been on my own, I might have just carried on working, maybe stayed in the UK and taken some holidays,” says Green.

“It’s just so nice to know that you’ve got someone with you — a bit like a best friend, but different than a best friend — a total soulmate,” says Halse.

They two consider February 29, the leap year, as the day they became a couple, so they enjoy celebrating that date when it rolls around every four years. During the intervening years, they celebrate on March 1, and always raise a glass on their August wedding anniversary too.

“It’s a great excuse to have multiple celebrations and we try to celebrate life every single day!” says Green. “We usually celebrate with a meal out or having a special experience together.”

Green and Halse have enjoyed over two decades over travel together, including to Tajikistan, pictured here.

Green and Halse have enjoyed over two decades over travel together, including to Tajikistan, pictured here.

Lee & Mandy/Frugal Travellers

As for Valentine’s Day, the romantic holiday is another chance for Halse and Green to reflect on their life together.

“We always celebrate Valentine’s Day as the day we first met, because that is very special for us,” says Green.

Over two decades later, the two never cease to marvel when they reflect on the moment they crossed paths in the teahouse in Nepal.

“I honestly think it was fated, so it was meant to be,” says Halse.

“A million decisions were made for us to come together. It’s incredible. It blows my mind thinking about it,” says Green.

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Last-minute Valentine’s dates that’ll woo and win in Dallas-Fort Worth

In football parlance, we’re at the two-minute warning. Valentine’s Day is Monday, but Valentine’s “weekend” is now. If you’ve failed to make a strategy to woo your beloved or wow a hot date, you’re running out of time. In honor of Super Bowl Sunday (which, love it or leave it, further complicates the weekend), here are some winning game plans — beyond dinner-and-a-movie — you can still execute with a few hours’ or days’ notice. Meaning: They’re ticketed events across Dallas-Fort Worth that, as of press time, still have spots left.

A word about dining: We’ve got long lists of restaurants doing special Valentine’s weekend menus in  Fort Worth (here) and Dallas (here). Tables are filling up quickly, so if you see your favorite place on the list, be sure to check online for reservations, and at this late hour, call to see if they have anything available. (Tip: You might have better luck on Sunday while everyone’s watching the big game.)

Want to treat your sweetie to the most decadent desserts around? Here is a quick list for Fort Worth, and here are some ideas in Dallas.

Special food and booze events

February 12-14: Decadent Valentine’s Dreams Chocolate Tour

Dallas by Chocolate Tours presents Decadent Valentine’s Dreams Chocolate Tour, featuring magnificent bonbons, a decadent chocolate shot, swoon-worthy French chocolate pastries, and other temptations. Guests travel around Dallas via heated motorcoach; admission includes transportation in a private motorcoach, a wide variety of dessert samples, great beverages on-board, and a rose for the sweethearts. Guests can also purchase add-ons like a dozen roses, and a 16-piece box of chocolates from one of Dallas’ finest chocolatiers. Tours are offered at 1 pm and 6:30 pm Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Other Valentine’s-themed tours are also available; find a list here.

February 14: Virtual Beignet Making Class

The owner of Dusty Biscuit Beignets in Fort Worth will lead a Valentine’s night virtual class in which he gives step-by-step instruction on how to make his famous beignets at home. All skill levels are welcome, even kids (with adult supervision). It’s $20 per group, and the class takes place from 7-8 pm. Tickets and more information here.

February 14: Valentine’s Latte Art Class

Skip the crowded restaurants and take a latte art class instead. Lazy Daisy Coffee, a coffee shop on Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie Boulevard, will treat class participants to a glass of prosecco while they learn how to create a heart out of latte foam. The class is $20 per person and begins at 5:30 pm.

February 14: Rainbow Vomit presents Valentine’s Day: Rainbow in the Dark

Rainbow Vomit will present Valentine’s Day: Rainbow in the Dark, an immersive art experience designed to transport patrons to a world of art, light, and sound reminiscent of a journey into the fantasy of flight. The event is created by award-winning chefs and designed to take senses into a smorgasbord of culinary delights. To add to the experience, there will be a special surprise designed to connect patrons to their senses and help them deepen their connection with love. It all gets started at 7:30 pm, and at this point, call for ticket availability, 469-248-0953.

Find more Valentine’s-related food events here and here.

Love on stage

February 12: Major Attaway’s Magical Cabaret Disney Date Night

Fort Worth native Major Attaway was the first actor to take over the Tony Award-winning role of The Genie in Aladdin from James Monroe Iglehart, and he currently holds the title of Broadway longest running Genie with over 1,500 performances. At this event at Downtown Cowtown at the Isis, he will sing the best of Disney love songs to help bring true love to everyone in the audience.

February 12-14: Backdoor Comedy Club presents Champagne, Chocolates & Comedy Valentine’s Day Celebration

Backdoor Comedy Club’s Champagne, Chocolates & Comedy Valentine’s Day Celebration will feature comedian Paul Varghese from Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, and Showtime. Also performing will be Emmy winner Linda Stogner, former Funniest Comic in Texas winner, plus other Backdoor favorites. Tickets to the nightly show in Richardson include a glass of champagne, a box of chocolates, and a ticket to a future show.

February 11-14: Upright Theatre Co. presents Duets
Duets is a gloriously funny examination of the chaotic world of love, relationships, and why the grass is never greener. The production, playing at Upright Studio on Main in Euless through February 20, contains four stories, four sets of characters, and four crucial moments, including two people on a blind date, a couple on holiday in Spain to finalize their divorce, and a woman getting married for the third time to the dismay of her brother. Playing nightly, plus a Sunday matinee. (Continues through February 20).

February 11-14: Amphibian Stage presents The Pleasure Trials

When Rachel and Callie start clinical trials on their new female libido enhancement drug, willing participants come out of the woodwork looking for an internal revolution. Quickly after the first dose, the effectiveness of the medicine is undeniable, but the overwhelming pressure for its success may corrupt the experiment and everyone involved. Playing nightly, plus a Sunday matinee. (Continues through February 27.)

February 11-14: Art Centre Theatre presents The Vagina Monologues

Through her interviews with more than 200 women, Eve Ensler chose some of the greatest stories about vaginas to include in The Vagina Monologues. The stories range from happy, to sad, to angry, to confused, but they are all spoken in an effort to empower women and celebrate the vagina. Nightly performances (through February 19) at Art Centre Theatre in Plano.

Romance with dance

February 12-13: Ballet Frontier presents Swan Lake

Fort Worth’s Ballet Frontier will present the hauntingly beautiful classical ballet Swan Lake, in which the princess Odette is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse. The ballet will feature Tchaikovsky’s dynamic score, brand new sets & costumes, and iconic choreography. The production will be performed at I.M. Terrell Academy on both Saturday and Sunday.

February 11-13: Texas Ballet Theater presents “A Tchaikovsky Evening”

Texas Ballet Theater presents “A Tchaikovsky Evening,” a mixed repertoire production featuring George Balanchine’s iconic Serenade and two world premieres — Star Crossed by Ben Stevenson and Violin Concerto in D by TBT Associate Artistic Director Tim O’Keefe. There will be four performances, Friday through Sunday, at Dallas’ Wyly Theatre before the production heads to Fort Worth next weekend.

February 11-12: Avant Chamber Ballet presents “Bach, Brahms, and Bartok”

Avant Chamber Ballet presents a trilogy of epic ballets with live music. The production will include Brahms Trio, a famous musical trio performed by violinist Lauren Haseltine, pianist Mikhail Berestnev, and horn Kevin Haseltine; George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, music made visible as two ballerinas each depict one of the instrumental soloists in Bach’s virtuosic double violin concerto; and a world premiere by Katie Puder with music by Bela Bartok. There will be performances on Friday and Saturday at Dallas’ Moody Performance Hall.

Culture and pop culture

February 12-14: National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame presents “1883: The Journey West”

Visitors to the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame can get up close with props, costumes, and photography from the Paramount+ series 1883 when viewing the new exhibition, “1883: The Journey West.” 101 Studios, the studio responsible for 1883 and Yellowstone, curated items for the exhibition, including an authentic wagon, a camp set-up, and wardrobe worn by ​Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (who play everyone’s favorite new TV couple James and Margaret Dutton), Sam Elliott, and LaMonica Garrett; along with behind-the-scenes photography. The museum is open daily (exhibition runs through March 20).

February 11-13: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra presents Back to the Future

Calling all nostalgia geeks: The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will highlight the music of Back to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. The film is the 1.21-gigawatt blockbuster that topped the 1985 box office chart, spawned two wildly successful sequels, and stamped an enduring imprint on pop culture. The film will play on a big screen while the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performs Alan Silvestri’s dazzling musical score. There will be three performances, Friday through Sunday at Bass Performance Hall.

February 12-14: “Immersive Frida Kahlo”

Immersive Frida Kahlo is a space where visitors can explore the world through the eyes of Frida Kahlo, a brilliant, uncompromising painter who created some of history’s most awe-inspiring artwork. Visitors will see the Mexico-born artist’s work come to life on a grand scale thanks to large-scale projections accompanied by a musical score. Guests will be able to discover the people, events, and obstacles that made Kahlo the extraordinary woman she was. The immersive exhibition is on display daily at Lighthouse Dallas (through at least April 17).

February 11-13: Stolen Shakespeare Guild presents Hamlet

Young Hamlet returns home from university to the shattering discovery that, not only is his father newly dead, but that his mother has married his uncle, Claudius. Late one night, the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to him, accusing Claudius of his murder and urging Hamlet to revenge. This sets in motion a train of events that cause Hamlet to examine both his own mortality and his sanity. The production, part of the Stolen Shakespeare Festival, runs in repertory with The Merry Wives of Windsor (starting February 18) at Fort Worth Community Arts Center through March 5.

Special V-day concerts

February 14: Kacey Musgraves in concert

Country star Kacey Musgraves, who’s come a long way from her little hometown of Golden, performs in Dallas in support of her new album, Star-Crossed. This is the big-ticket concert of the night, at American Airlines Center, and it starts at 8 pm. 

February 14: Valentine’s Love Jam featuring Stephanie Mills and The Whispers

Stephanie Mills and The Whispers come to Dallas for a special Valentine’s Day concert at Music Hall at Fair Park. Mills launched to stardom in 1975 when she created the iconic role of Dorothy in Broadway’s The Wiz. She is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist with five bestselling albums and ten Billboard No. 1 singles. The Whispers are one of the longest-running R&B supergroups ever to grace the stage and one of only a few “old school” groups that can boast of having 40+ years in the industry with all of their original members.

February 14: Granada Theater presents A Valentine’s Day Double Feature with Ricki Derek

Granada Theater will present A Valentine’s Day Double Feature with Ricki Derek. The evening begins with performances from Derek and The Vegas Six, followed by a screening of the classic film Casablanca. The event starts at 8 pm at the Granada.

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Valentine’s Day: Europe’s most romantic destinations and mini breaks – ‘beautiful’ | Travel News | Travel

Now that vaccinated British tourists no longer have to take a test after arrival in the UK, international travel has become far easier. Which spots are the most romantic in Europe?


Research from WeThrift found that the gorgeous Venice canals in Italy was the world’s most romantic tourist attraction.

The research looked at the amount of Tripadvisor reviews that used the word ‘romantic’ or ‘couples’.

A gondola ride around Venice’s seductive canal system could be the perfect romantic trip abroad.

Couples visiting Venice could also visit the Isola di Murano. The series of islands are linked by Venice’s bridges.

One reviewer said: “The island is absolutely beautiful” while another said it was a “special experience”.

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Opatija, Croatia

The gorgeous coastal hotspot of Opatija is the perfect destination for a Valentine’s Day off the beaten track.

A spokesperson from the Croatian National Tourist Board said: “Enticing European glitterati of the 1800s and wanderlust filled couples of tomorrow, this charming town has a sun-kissed 12km long seafront promenade.”

Lovers visiting the town could also indulge in Opatija’s delicious sweet treats as the spot is well known for chocolate artistry.



Want a second Valentine’s Day this year? Romania celebrates its romantic day, Dragobete, on February 24.

A legendary character in Romania, Dragobete was chosen as the Guardian of Love and watches over Romanian youths.

On Dragobete, couples regularly head into the Romanian countryside to pick flowers and explore together.

British tourists could opt for a break in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, or the charming town of Timisoara.

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Small-town chocolatiers a sweet stop for Valentine’s Day

Planning a romantic Valentine’s getaway? Don’t forget, along the way, to pick up sweets for your sweetie.

Wherever your travels take you in the Buckeye State, you’ll find some tres bons bonbons nearby. (Pro tip: During a romantic getaway, it’s also a plus to speak a little French.)

Ohio is blessed, perhaps by Cupid, with an abundance of big-taste small-town chocolatiers and candy stores, many of which have been established for decades — or much longer. 

Janet Wittich carries on the candy business started by the Wittich family in 1840.

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Wittich’s Fine Candies in Circleville

When it comes to sweet, sweet history, it’s hard to top the oldest family-owned candy store in the country. Candymaking doesn’t get much more venerable — or tasty — than at Wittich’s Fine Candies (117 W. High St., www.wittichscandyshop.com) in Circleville’s downtown National Historic District.

“At least we think we’re the oldest,” said Janet Wittich, the current matriarch of sweetness.

“Nobody’s been able to say we’re not,” Wittich said.

Shoppers make hard decisions at Wittich's Fine Candies.

“There’s an older candy store in Salem, Massachusetts, but it hasn’t been in the same family.”

The shop, in addition to an indisputable pedigree, sports an authentic 1940s soda fountain and counter, moved to Wittich’s in 1997 from an ice-cream shop closing in Columbus.

It’s a great place to sit and watch Wittich’s candymakers work their magic at a molten-chocolate worktable just behind the main display cases. 

All of Wittich’s candies, in fact, are handmade fresh daily.

The shop also sells a wide variety of candymaking supplies for do-it-yourselfers.

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Candymakers prepare bonbons for Wittich's Fine Candies.

Dietsch Brothers in Findlay

Dietsch Brothers Chocolates and Ice Cream (400 W. Main Cross St., www.dietschs.com) in Findlay dates back to 1937, and has become a destination stop for visitors to the Hancock County seat.

The ice cream at Dietsch Brothers is nearly as popular as the candy, with favorites such as Buckeye, a mix of peanut butter ice cream, chocolate sauce and miniature “buckeye” candies. Dietsch also makes delicious ice cream cakes and pies.

But this time of year, it is chocolates that must reign supreme. And the huge Main Street store is lined by counters stuffed with a wide variety of mouth-watering chocolates and other sweet treats. Dietsch Brothers also has a second Findlay store at 1217 Tiffin Ave., and also sells via a number of retail outlets around the state, including Hills Market in Columbus.

Brummer’s Chocolates in Vermilion

Brummer's Chocolates is one of many delightful shops in downtown Vermilion.

Brummer’s Chocolates (672 Main St., www.brummers.com) in Vermilion was founded in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1904. Bob Brummer brought the family’s chocolate-making expertise to the Lake Erie shore in 1980.

Sadly, the New Jersey Brummer’s closed in 2020 after 116 years in business, but the shop in Vermilion is still going strong — and sweet — and the chocolates there are still made with the same century-old family recipes.

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Brummer’s also sells a variety of fine wines (nothing to sneeze at during a romantic trip), unique gift items and an interesting selection of colorful Polish pottery.

It’s easy to see why Brummer’s is a popular stop in Vermilion’s pretty little downtown, which attracts visitors year-round, including to the annual Ice A Fair festival scheduled this year for Feb. 5.

Marie’s Candies in West Liberty

A stained glass window depicts the founder of Marie's Candies, Marie King.

Marie’s Candies (311 Zanesfield Road, www.mariescandies.com) in West Liberty was started in the family farmhouse in 1956 by founder Marie King to make ends meet after her husband was disabled by polio.

The current generation, including Rebecca King Craig, Marie King’s granddaughter, now operates the store and candymaking operation from West Liberty’s historic train depot.

The depot, built in 1926, was moved to its current site and restored by Craig’s parents in 1993.

“My parents just couldn’t bear to see the old building fall apart,” Craig said.

Marie's Candies is located in the restored historic train depot in West Liberty.

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So her family incorporated the depot into the family business, where it serves as a beautiful and functional showroom for all the tasty varieties of Marie’s Candies, including Marie’s original signature piece, an unusual and delightful chocolate peppermint chew, that is pulled like taffy.

Although West Liberty has fewer than 2,000 residents, the candy shop has, fortunately, become a well-known stop for travelers in the area visiting nearby landmarks such as Ohio Caverns, Piatt Castle Mac-A-Cheek and Indian Lake, Craig said.

And if you’re looking for even more tastiness around Ohio, the sweet folks at the Miami County Visitors Bureau have complied a Buckeye Candy Trail guide (https://www.homegrowngreat.com/tour/ohio-buckeye-candy-trail/ ) with 37 stops around the state. 

Steve Stephens is a freelance travel writer and photographer. Email him at [email protected].

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How to Have the Perfect, Martini-filled Valentine’s Day, According to Designers Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent

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‘Have a heart, stay apart’: Californians urged to celebrate Valentine’s Day virtually amid pandemic

Health officials urged Californians to protect their loved ones from the coronavirus by celebrating Valentine’s Day virtually this year.

“Have a heart, stay apart,” the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services tweeted Saturday with an illustration of a man and woman toasting the holiday over a video conferencing.

San Francisco public health officials took a more direct approach by updating a six -page tip sheet this week on how to have sex as safely as possible during the pandemic.

While stressing that people should avoid close contact — including sex — with anyone outside their household, the city’s public health department told the San Francisco Chronicle it was updating guidance it first issued last year “to reflect the latest science on COVID-19.”

“When it comes to COVID-19 risk, outdoors is MUCH better than indoors, and large, well-ventilated spaces are better than enclosed, small, poorly ventilated ones,” one tip says.

Another tip in the document is: “It seems obvious, but the fewer people, the better.”

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at University of California, San Francisco, told the newspaper she thought the guidelines’ specificity may actually cause more confusion than benefit.

“It’s getting into ludicrous territory when you overprescribe like this,” she said. “I think we have to trust the public with again, knowing about core things … and let (them) decide for themselves how they will be conducting such personal things such as their sex lives.”

She said by this point in the pandemic, people should be continually reminded of the simple core messaging: masks, ventilation, and social distancing.

California is emerging from its worst stage of the pandemic. New virus cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically in the past three weeks, and deaths that topped 3,500 a week also have started to decline, though more slowly.

The state reported 9,421 new cases on Saturday, along with 9,414 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — numbers that have fallen dramatically in the past three weeks. And the number of deaths that topped 3,500 a week have started to decline, though more slowly.

California this week edged past New York in the grim statistic of the number of deaths due to COVID-19. California’s death toll has reached over 46,435. New York has seen 45,751 deaths.

California has administered nearly 5.8 million vaccine doses to date. The state opened many mass vaccination centers in the last several weeks but they aren’t operating close to full capacity because of vaccine shortages.

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New Hampshire DOT Shares Valentine’s Road Safety Messages – CBS Boston

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