Valentine’s Day breaks have a bad rep: a single wilted rose on the bedside table, overcrowded restaurants, and headache-inducing red and pink everywhere – and who needs a headache on Valentine’s night? Boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs. Smith have sifted through the schmaltz to find Valentine’s packages that will really set hearts aflutter (and won’t involve soggy petals clogging the plughole). Here are 10 hot properties that offer something a little bit different…

The Connaught, London

Set in swanky Mayfair, the Connaught has old-fashioned values (top-notch butler service, antique furniture) as well as modern frills (the UK’s only Aman Spa). With their ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ package, you’ll enjoy a one-night stay, champagne on arrival, an edible Valentine in-room treat and English breakfast. And just this once, you’re encouraged to take home the (personalized monogrammed) towels.
Valentine’s package price: From £385
Dates: 1–29 February

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire

This hotel has it all: an award-winning spa, croquet lawn, equestrian center  (horse riding for two can be arranged) and tennis courts are all feathers in this handsome hotel’s hat. Arrive to pink champagne in your room, then tuck into dinner at the Michelin-starred Park restaurant; next morning, enjoy a full English breakfast.
Valentine’s package price: From £470
Dates: 14 February

St Moritz Hotel, Cornwall

A multitalented modernist resort overlooking the Camel Estuary, the St Moritz Hotel has a Cowshed spa, activities galore and a buzzing restaurant and bar. February has been declared the ‘month of love’ and their romantic package includes one night’s stay and a top-secret ‘Luxe Love’ box of adult treats.
Valentine’s package price: From £195
Dates: 1–29 February

Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire

Fancy living it up at an imposing stately mansion? Indulge yourselves with a one-night stay, dinner and breakfast, a personalised cake for two, chilled champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries. They’ll also give you an SPC bath and body oil collection – ideal for trying out the sort of massages they don’t provide in their incredible spa.
Valentine’s package price: From £470
Dates: 10–14 February

Lime Wood, Hampshire

This stately pile has a serious air of luxury, with devotedly designed interiors, a super spa and two tantalizing restaurants. Lime Wood’s five-course Valentine’s feast (designed to be shared) includes truffle-baked clams, roast Hampshire mallard carved at the table and baked Tunworth cheese with homemade bread – perfect for dunking à deux.
Valentine’s dinner price: £170 per couple, excluding drinks. (Why not make a night of it, boutique bedrooms from £295 on Valentine’s night?)
Dates: 14 February

Aquapura, Douro Valley, Portugal

Portugal’s sexiest spa retreat offers views of the valley in all its sweeping vine-clad majesty as well as a tempting Valentine’s package: during your two-night stay you’ll be welcomed with a cocktail, pampered with a 55-minute spa treatment for two, and wined and dined with a delectable three-course meal.
Valentine’s package price: From €285
Dates: 9–15 February

A’jia Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey

Sleek design and a grand Ottoman exterior entwine on the banks of the Bosphorus: inside, your Romance Suite awaits. Sip cocktails at check-in, then luxuriate during a 30-minute massage for two, followed by dinner with wine. Next morning, discover the delights of a Turkish breakfast.
Valentine’s package price: From £540
Dates: 14 February

Canal House, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This Dutch masterpiece boasts both a romantic-hideaway garden and some seriously seductive bedrooms. Escape to Amsterdam for the night and enjoy homemade chocolate truffles, a Green & Spring candle in your room and a three-course dinner, with a full breakfast laid on the next day.
Valentine’s package price: From £228
Dates: 10–18 February

La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco

Ravishing and regal, this legendary den of decadence is set in royal gardens, styled with a medley of art deco and Moorish opulence, and as sensuous as a seraglio. Arrive for your two-night stay in a chauffeur-driven Daimler, then prepare to be spoilt: your Moroccan adventure involves a 30-minute massage, a 45-minute helicopter tour of the Atlas Mountains, dinner, breakfast and a 60-minute Shiseido spa ritual.
Valentine’s package price: From £2,140
Dates: 9–20 February

Grand Hotel Villa Cora, Florence, Italy

Built in the 1870s by Baron Oppenheim for his wife, Grand Hotel Villa Cora is a love letter in art and architecture: it’s opulent in the extreme, but by no means over-blinged. Book through Mr & Mrs Smith and receive an upgrade to a deluxe room, a special gift and breakfast in bed.
Valentine’s package price: From €250
Dates: Until 31 March

For more on Mr & Mrs Smith or to book one of the hotels above, please visit www.mrandmrssmith.com

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Celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton et al have all been snapped sporting large circular bruises – the telltale giant spots from an ancient Chinese detox method called cupping – on their backs, in recent months. Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray is another A-lister who swears by this alternative to acupuncture, so CD-Traveller thought it was high time to find out what all the fuss is about.

Victoria Beckham Cupping

I nervously tried this traditional Chinese remedy – reported to boost blood circulation and suck out toxins – late one night in Beijing (Beijingers do love their late night treatments) at Oriental Taipan. This serene spa has long been a favorite with locals and laowai (foreigners) alike in search of some rejuvenation and, with several locations all over town, chances are there’s always one nearby.

The session started with a wonderful oil-free (personally I’ve always been rather alarmed by the pungent oils used in Ayurveda) message: a therapist kneaded my body from head to toe using a magic muscle melting combination of Swedish and deep tissue techniques. So far, so “spa-vellous" – but then the cupping commenced…

It wasn’t pleasant (make no mistake; this treatment is definitely more productive than pampering). My therapist showed no mercy as she moved the suction cups across my back hovering up swathes of skin in quick succession, so as to encourage the flow of qi (energy) around my body. Fast forward 15 minutes and I was left with a mass of sore, swollen and angry looking red welts – the more toxic you are, the deeper the bruising – proof that I had definitely overdone it during the festive season.

Afterwards, however, while enjoying some health-conscious cuisine against a backdrop of the soothing sound of pan pipes, I did feel strangely invigorated and my shoulders certainty felt looser – though that might merely have been relief that my torture was over.

CD Traveller’s verdict? If you’re planning a trip to China, give the cupping craze a go: it’s authentic, affordable, good enough for Gwyneth and, if nothing else, makes a great dinner party story.

Oriental Taipan has branches throughout Beijing. See www.taipan.com.cn. Typically the spa is open from 12 noon-12 midnight daily. Oriental Taipan recommends the full body massage (RMB168 for 60 minutes) to help get you relaxed and ready for the cupping services which costs 68RMB for a further 20 minutes.

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