Travel

World's most romantic places to propose

When it came time to propose to my longtime girlfriend, I chose to pop the question on Valentine's Day in the rotating cocktail lounge at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The 34th-floor lounge offers a stunning view of the City of Angels. As an added benefit, the spinning room left her so dizzy that she wasn't sure whether she was consenting to marry me or agreeing to pass the salt.

Like many American men, I suspect I lack that vital romance gene. This is why most men dread Valentine's Day. To ease their suffering -- indeed, the suffering of anyone who is nervous about proposing -- we consulted travel and romance experts and arrived at this list of the best places to pop the question.

Somewhere traditional: No list of romantic settings is complete without Paris, the city of love. Try this for romance: Make reservations at Le Jules Verne, the restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and arrange for the waiter to put your engagement ring atop a chocolate truffle. If all goes well, your sweetheart will spy the ring, blush and say "Yes." If, however, she swallows the truffle whole without looking, you may be proposing on the way to the emergency room.

Sandra Smith, a honeymoon specialist for Michigan-based Directional Strategies Travel, arranged a dinner like this for a client and is happy to report the former scenario as an outcome. "It's the most beautiful setting," she said.

Somewhere tropical: Imagine checking into a thatched-roof bungalow built on stilts above water so clear it resembles polished turquoise. The light from a coastal sunset fills your room.

That describes Sandy Azain's experience at the Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resorts & Spa in Tahiti. "The ambience of the property is very pretty and very romantic," said Azain, a Santa Barbara-based travel agent for the Auto Club of Southern California. She especially liked the clear-top coffee tables that stand over an opening in the floor so you can watch tropical fish. Over-water bungalows start at about $900 a night.

Somewhere tall: The London Eye resembles a giant Ferris wheel, but the British call it a cantilevered observation wheel; it is 443 feet tall with views of the Thames, Big Ben and the Tower of London. Though it was built to celebrate the Millennium, veteran travel writer Laura Powell says it has become a place to celebrate romance. You can arrange a private "capsule" and have chilled Laurent-Perrier Champagne and roses on hand when you pop the question. Prices begin at $383.

Somewhere really tall: Another time-honored setting for starry-eyed romantics is the observation deck of the Empire State Building, 1,050 feet above the streets of Manhattan. The deck stays open until 2 a.m., when the city that never sleeps continues to shimmer. You can also get married on Valentine's Day at the same spot. Since 1994, more than 220 couples have been married atop the Empire State Building in an annual Valentine's Day wedding event. An express ticket to the top costs $41.52 plus tax, per person. Naturally, you'll need two tickets.

Somewhere aromatic: Keukenhof Gardens, southwest of Amsterdam, is a 79-acre estate that boasts 7 million spring-blooming flowers. Unless she has pollen allergies, she will think she's in aroma heaven. The site was originally used in the 15th century for hunting and herb collecting for the estate of Jacoba van Beieren. Since 1949, it has been open to the public. This year, it is open from March 19 to May 21. Tickets may be purchased online and in advance for about $17 per person.

Somewhere Hawaiian: The Hawaiian Islands are blessed with many romantic spots, but Smith of Directional Strategies Travel thinks the best spot for a proposal is atop the dormant, snow-covered volcano Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet. She once helped arrange for a client to propose at the peak, during a trip that included a helicopter ride and a bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries on a table at the summit. From the peak, the couple could see the steam rise as lava from the Kilauea volcano and the Puu Oo crater poured into the ocean. To arrange a similar setting, go to www.directionalstrategies.com. Or talk about your red-hot love while viewing the lava flowing into the ocean at the end of Highway 130. The viewing area is open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wear sturdy shoes and carry a flashlight. (Visitors often bring a picnic and refreshments.) For information: (808) 961-8093 or www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/lavaflows2.htm.

Somewhere wet: When in Rome, do as the tourists do. Stop at Trevi Fountain, a Baroque monument to the seas. Countless couples have shared a kiss at the feet of Neptune, who towers over the rocks, cascading water and wild horses. If you want the place to yourself, try going late at night when underwater lights cast a romantic glow on the fountain. Legend says that if a couple drinks from the Fontanina degli Innamorati, or the Lovers' Fountain, at the side of Trevi Fountain, they will remain faithful to each other forever. The fountain is at Piazza di Trevi, at Via Poli and Via del Lavatore, northeast of the Pantheon.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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