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Let these virtual Valentine’s Day activities transport you from Verona to Virginia

Photo collage featuring Jean Honoré Fragonard's "The Love Letter"
Virtual Valentine’s Day is in full swing. / Postcard No. 1: A socially distant act of love
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, travelers. Instead of enjoying fancy dinners and romantic getaways, many of us will spend Valentine’s Day at home this year, as the pandemic continues to affect Southern California and beyond.

In the spirit of staying home and staying safe, this week I’m bringing you virtual Valentine’s Day destinations that will take you from northern Italy to a national park in Utah. As always, my inbox is open for virtual or nonvirtual travel recommendations — let me know if you’ve discovered close-to-home gems you’d like to share.

Note from our designer Jade Cuevas: All of the graphics in this newsletter double as Valentine’s Day postcards! To access printable versions of the art, click and download this PDF. Be sure to select the “double-sided” option when printing and, if you can, use thick card stock to create that classic postcard feel.

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No worries about wasting precious color ink — printer-friendly grayscale versions of each Valentine’s Day postcard are also included. Don’t have a printer? You can download the images as you scroll through the newsletter and text them to your beau.

All imagery has been digitally collaged with artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new Open Access initiative. This is, in my own way, a love letter to art. Happy mailing!

💑 Tour Romeo & Juliet’s hometown


“Two households, both alike in dignity / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...”

Take a trip to fair Verona, Italy, the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” with this virtual tour.

Of course, Romeo and Juliet are fictional and never actually walked the city’s streets — but nonetheless, Verona expert Marina Sorina will take you to the uber-popular Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House), as well as destinations such as the Piazza delle Erbe and the Scaliger Tombs. And attention all literature lovers: The tour also includes a section about Dante and the time he spent in Verona.

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Tickets for the live one-hour tour cost $13.99; private tours can be booked as well.

Photo collage of Romeo & Juliet with the phrase "We're an iconic duo"
See where it all started for Romeo and Juliet (virtually, of course). / Postcard No. 2: An ode to the iconic duo Romeo and Juliet.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📖 Share your love story with a museum


Dubrovnik, Croatia, has more to offer than its impressive Old Town and “Game of Thrones” film tours. It’s also home to the Love Stories Museum, which includes exhibitions on the romantic myths of Old Dubrovnik and the history behind famous love songs.

Although planning a vacation to Croatia isn’t recommended right now (U.S. citizens are banned at least through Feb. 15), you can still engage with the Love Stories Museum by sending your personal love story for possible inclusion in its collection.

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Who knows — maybe in a year or two you’ll visit Dubrovnik and see your love story immortalized in the museum.

Photo collage of Kajita Hanko's "Love Letter" with the phrase "It says, I like like you"
You can share your meet-cute moment with the Love Stories Museum. / Postcard No. 3: Some of the best stories in life are love stories.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

⛰️ National parks are for lovers


I get goosebumps when I see marriage proposals, whether in some jaw-dropping destination abroad or right here in L.A. You can experience that feeling over and over again with this video created in 2013 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Titled “The coolest Valentine’s Day video you’ll watch all day,” it shows a montage of couples getting engaged on public lands across the country, from Haleakala National Park in Hawaii to Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina.

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“As stewards of America’s National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and other public lands, we get to see many wonderful events on a daily basis,” the video’s description reads. “None of which are more exciting than when we see visitors using our Nation’s public lands for their most memorable moments.”

Hang in there until the end, where you’ll see a unique proposal — not for the faint of heart — in Utah’s Arches National Park.

Photo collage featuring art from Richard Parkes Bonington and Egyptian and Roman rings with phrase "We're a golden couple."
See love blossom in national parks with “The coolest Valentine’s Day video you’ll watch all day.” / Postcard No. 4: As songstress and preeminent love expert Taylor Swift once said, “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings.”
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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💔 Join this lonely hearts club

Not every love story has a happy ending. That’s the premise behind the Museum of Broken Relationships, “created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions.”

Although the museum has locations in L.A. and Zagreb, Croatia, you can tour part of its collection for free on its website. It includes mundane yet oddly poignant donated items that memorialize past relationships. For example, a clothes iron from Norway has this description: “This iron was used to iron my wedding suit. Now it is the only thing left.”

Like the Love Stories Museum, people are invited to share their personal story or donate items that symbolize their broken relationship.

Collage featuring Bartolomeo Coriolano's "A sleeping cupid" and 19th century Valentine with phrase "This love thing is hard."
Take a stroll through the donated items of broken romantic relationships. / Postcard No. 5: Love can be draining ...
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)
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💌 Put this destination on your list for next year

Sending valentines in the mail is a sweet way to celebrate Feb. 14. But postmarking your cards from Valentines, Va., is even sweeter.

The tiny town, with fewer than 1,000 residents, is a destination for many visitors leading up to Valentine’s Day, Amber Rupinta reported last year for KABC-TV Channel 11 in North Carolina. She explains that several weddings, anniversary photo shoots and road-tripper selfies have happened outside the charming post office.

“It’s just one of those time-honored traditions where people come in here and get their Valentine’s Day cards stamped,” postmaster Bryan Watson told Rupinta. “Customers really seem to love it.”

So, next year, if you find yourself traveling through southeast Virginia in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, you might consider a stop by Valentines.

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José Guadalupe Posada's photorelief art of Cupid with the phrase "You always have my stamp of approval."
In the small town of Valentines, Va., you can give your Valentine an extra stamp of love. / Postcard No. 6: Love letters never go out of style.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading


  • “I can’t travel, but a girl can dream. So I’m learning Italian until the day I can fly,” writes Times contributor Sara Cagle. Read about her experience studying Italian during the pandemic.
  • Catalina Island is reopening to visitors in time for Valentine’s Day. Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds reports on the Catalina Express’ new schedule.
  • Plane, train and bus passengers without masks now face fines up to $1,500. Times business reporter Hugo Martín explains what you should know about wearing masks on public transportation.
  • Denmark is developing a digital passport that will show whether travelers have received a COVID-19 vaccination, reports Jan M. Olsen of the Associated Press.
  • Canada has announced stricter restrictions on travelers. Associated Press reporter Rob Gillies has the latest.
  • Iceland is rethinking tourism for the long haul. Julia Eskins explains the coming changes in Condé Nast Traveler.
  • Forest selfies are helping save British Columbia’s old-growth trees. Malcolm Johnson reports in Outside on a skateboarder-turned-conservation photographer’s work documenting the impact of logging.
Joseph-Charles Marin's "Female Bust" with "Ti amo!" in text bubble paired with phrase "I would never leave you on read."
Catch up with Sara Cagle and her journey studying Italian during the pandemic. / Postcard No. 7: Love is a language we all hope to be fluent in.
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Photo of the week

A glowing sunset over Catalina Island as viewed from Huntington Beach on the Winter Solstice
A glowing sunset is viewed lighting up the sky over Catalina Island as viewed from Huntington Beach on the Winter Solstice Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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🎸 Road song


This week, I’ll leave you with a classic love song for travelers: “Two for the Road” by Henry Mancini.

In the words of Mancini, thank you for “wandering through the world with me,” fellow adventurers. Until next week!

Collage featuring Isoda Koryūsai's "Lovers" & Brewster & Co.'s carriage with phrase "Road trips are always better with you."
Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road” is a song to make you swoon. / Postcard No. 8: Traveling with someone you love is always fun (minus fighting over the road trip music).
(Metropolitan Museum of Art Open Access; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)


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