From Croatia to Quebec and down to The Bahamas, we visit destinations ripped straight from the pages of a romance novel.
They run, giggling and giddy with the freedom that comes from exploring the unknown, and being unknown. First a left, then a right; a reversal, an about-turn. Running; the shafts of late afternoon sunlight, the scuffing of sandals on uneven stones, and unsteady, heady excitement.
And then, suddenly — a doorway. Unassuming and easily missed in the camouflage of the old, crumbling wall. A modest sign: ‘Cold Drinks’.
Walking through and emerging onto a small, simple terrace, unremarkable save for the view — expansive and uninterrupted over the Adriatic, with its curious and distinctive shade of blue. A bar and a few tables jostling where there’s space between the rocks. The beginning of a sunset has her drowsy in the last rays of the day.
Several frosted bottles of beer later, a sense of bravado. He cocks his eyebrow, a challenge laid out.
A peek over the edge.
A hand to hold.
A leap of faith.
They huddle under the warmth of a wool blanket, with a sheet of stars above them. Puffs of cloudy breath, both human and equine, mingle in the sharp moonlit air. The earthy smell of the horses is oddly comforting.
Viewed from the height of the carriage, the charm of Old Québec is revealed. The winding cobbled streets, Victorian squares and heritage buildings have a transformative effect. They could be in Europe.
Apart from the clop of hooves and the rattle of reins, there’s little sound. They talk in hushed tones, admiring the ‘Paris of the Americas’.
The driver of the calèche pulls to a stop by the magical Fontaine de Tourny. The horses paw the ground with their hooves and nicker. “Let’s make a wish,” he says.
They unfurl from the blanket and climb down. The fountain’s jets leap and whoosh, changing colour with the lights.
And then, he is kneeling, arms stretched before him, his edges softened by the fine mist hanging in the air. For a few surprised seconds, he is unexpectedly vulnerable.
Later, they sip something sparkling, the bubbles fizzing juicily in their mouths. A moment to be savoured, not selfie-d.
They stroll along the beach with sand skittering off their feet, and make their way to the end of the jetty. Lit only by candles and the far-away twinkling stars, the white muslin of the tablecloth billows occasionally in the soft, balmy breeze. A personal butler greets and seats them, as charming as the surroundings, humbling them with his servitude.
The waves shush quietly, a backing track to the melody of metallic cutlery chinks. The sweet scent of the coastal gardenia ebbs and flows; the flowers, sensitive to the sun, bloom in the evening, falling by morning.
They brush hands lightly, enjoying the tingle and bristle of anticipation.
When they return to their overwater bungalow, the sheets have been turned down invitingly, the scattered petals blushing.
Silk slips over bare shoulders, and in a moment of intimacy with their environment, they leave the shutters wide open.
They wake with the dawn and make promises to each other.
They wake to their future.
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