For some offbeat romance

Offbeat romance

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Krishnaraj Iyengar suggests going beyond candlelight dinners and heart-shaped balloons for some unconventional charms

Aboard the pirate ship Djerba Island, Tunisia

Romance often comes gift-wrapped in clichés. Valentine’s Day is a global revelry of love that couples the world over celebrate with the conventional cards, candles and sweet nothings formula. Gruelling it out through the legendary V-Day bottle necks, the elocution of well-rehearsed taglines and compliments, dressing to kill and swirling-in a couple to set the mood seem passé as those with an eye for the untrodden, take romance off the beaten track.

From recreating ‘50s-style dating to breakfast with the Big Five, cycling down forbidding cliffs to grooving on pirate ships, from the lapping waters of Irish lakes to cavorting with kangaroos, Persian poet Omar Khayyam’s words seem to resound this Valentine’s Day ‘jaami o boti o barbati bar lab e kesht. In har se maraa naghd o tu ra nasyeh behesht’ (the goblet, the damsel and the lute on a verdant field’s edge. This is my paradise on here and now, heaven remains a distant thing.)

Mumbai Irani Café

Retro romancing

“It was on this very table that we sat on that drizzly afternoon in 1954. The creamy, oven-fresh bun maska is still fresh on my palate as is the tantalising chai that I nervously sipped

before finally popping the question to her, gushed my maternal grandpa on his 60th wedding anniversary. The old wooden table still stood tall, the chairs, unblemished, the pink chequered table cloth as if laid out in honour of the born-romantic octogenarian couple who relived their first date at a 112 year-old Mumbai Irani café.

While stylish coffee shops with exorbitant cappuccinos and lavishly priced lattes seem fashionable, who can beat the charm of a quaint old Irani café serving delicacies that are unparalleled for their simplicity? A quick-dwindling heritage, the Irani cafe has blessed many a marriage of hearts. Imagine V-Day over mawa cake muffins, khaari biscuits (savoury, crunchy and fun) and the innocence of the old-world décor.

Dingle all the way

Still looking for quaint? Drive down from Ireland’s capital Dublin to County Kerry in the west of the Irish Republic. The pristinely fairytale town of Killarney will de-stress your senses through a leisurely horse carriage ride that invariably inspires amorous confessions. Don’t worry, the sturdy stallion

will strut in pleasant rhythm, too loud for the eavesdropping charioteer. Not far, stand the gentle Lakes of Killarney, the abode of tranquillity and solace and the perfect setting to discover with your beloved in the silence of the lapping waters. A little ahead stands the one-horse village of Dingle. Jacket potatoes and good ol’ Guinness at a brightly painted old pub and then, cycling down the forbidding cliffs of the Ring of Kerry over the breathtaking blue Atlantic, to a lone, deserted beach, the roaring waves solemnising your vows.

Tunisian tango

On the rustic Djerba Island off Tunisia’s southern coast, recreations of ancient pirate ships await you with heart-thumping folkloric grooves. On board, shake a leg with local lads who sail you to the sought-after ‘L’ile aux Flamant Roses’ or Island of Pink Flamingos.

The white sandy expanse surrounded by the deep blue Mediterranean, mouth-melting local Breek filo pastry, couscous and champagne, a selection of local reds or whites or refreshing mint tea with rugged folk tunes serenading your throbbing hearts. During winters, the surreal sight of pink flamingos will captivate you. Once back on port, walk through the mesmerising maze of colour and culture — Houmt Souk, Djerba’s traditional market, a Rubik’s Cube of handicrafts, carpets and Berber pottery.

King of the jungle, Masai Mara

Wild Valentine

Not the typical piped-in Kenny G album at a brimming city restaurant, but the deep roar of a distant lion. Draped in rough and tough bermudas and a T-shirt rather than smart formals. Voila! That’s V-Day in the wild!

Kenya’s Masai Mara and its exhilarating safari sojourns make falling in love memorable. A bush breakfast followed by a rendezvous with the Big Five leaves you spellbound as baited breath anticipation pays homage to a lioness protecting her newborn.

At the nearby Masai village, warriors draped in bright reds with clubs and spheres welcome you with a lion dance. The guttural grunts of the erstwhile lion hunters accompany the high jumps, the highest wins a bride. The gentler female dance and song however moves you to tears.

Koalas, kangaroos & cuddles

For yet another avatar of wild adventure, down under is for daredevils. Australia is synonymous with its rare species of animals, birds and reptiles. Victoria is the country’s relatively tamer region where you and your partner can enjoy a tryst with the animal kingdom’s endearing buddies.

Koalas are among the most lovable bears, placid teddies that actually move, sleep and throw occasional temper

As you take turns to pet and cuddle them, make sure not to make unusual sounds like whistling, that could startle the docile creature. The sanctuary provides visitors with special food to attract sturdy kangaroos who eat out of your hand as you pet them.

Rule of the thumb — no food, no selfies. They can even turn nasty if petted sans helpings of food. Wombats, dingos, long nosed potoroos, red-bellied pademelons, birds like the banded lapwing, barking owl, reptiles and amphibians astound you with nature’s vast diversity.

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