I’ve never been into celebrating Valentine’s Day. The reason is less politically motivated (it’s just a Hallmark holiday! it leaves out people who aren’t in relationships! it only considers one kind of love!) and more practically motivated: the holiday always creeps up on me and I’m always too late to figure out the right way to celebrate it. Something about it being in the middle of February or something…who knows.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, I wrote a post in anticipation of anti-Valentine’s Day about the 5 most unromantic places I’ve ever been. In the post, I highlighted 5 places I’d traveled to–all of which I’d taken in my early- to mid- twenties–that, for whatever reason, really seemed to zap the romance out of the moment. These places included: a statue of a little boy peeing in Brussels, Belgium, a red-light district in Bangkok, Thailand, an underground catacombs where lots of dead bodies are stored in Valletta, Malta, and a giant shopping mall in Minneapolis, USA. All remarkably unromantic, right?
Today, thinking back to this post and considering all the other weird places I’ve been to since then, I thought it might be fun to come up with a list of the top 5 most unromantic dates I could come up with from my travels.
Here, then, are my 2020 picks for most unromantic dates, curated from my travels over the past few years. Should you go, take your date at your own risk 🙂
1. Have dinner with the oldest, dustiest bottle of wine in the world in a hotel that used to be a dungeon.
If you’re ever in Nassau, Bahamas and want a very unromantic dinner date, go check out the Graycliff Hotel’s wine collection. You won’t be able to afford the oldest bottle of wine in the world (unless $200,000 doesn’t make you blink), and you’ll likely cough up enough dust for a lifetime wandering through the dungeon while looking for it, but you’ll be able to say you ate a meal in a dungeon while looking at a bottle of wine you couldn’t afford that would probably be absolutely revolting to drink. I wrote about this place for Perceptive Travel in 2019.
2. Sit through a church service with the skeletal remains of an ancient Biblical figure peering down at you from the altar.
I mean, I know necromancy (and church?) is some people’s thing, but it’s definitely not everybody’s. I can appreciate a good skeletal arm as much as the next person, but maybe not for a romantic Valentine’s Day date. Writing this piece, which I researched after going back to Malta for the first time after living and working there for a summer in 2004, made me realize that you never know what you might find in an old church crammed into an old city somewhere. In this case, you’d find what is rumored to be St. Paul the Apostle’s wrist bone, encased in a silver arm and put on display at the altar. My research came back inconclusive, but I still wouldn’t call this a romantic date. A weird one, maybe?
3. Stay at a bed and breakfast in this Southwest town where all the ghosts are prostitutes, poker players, headless revolutionaries, and dead cats.
Ok, need I add any more to this? Basically, everybody knows the Southwest is a pretty haunted place (there are lots of scorned folks living out here, it turns out), but it wasn’t until I researched a round-up of the worst ghosts in the Southwest that I truly realized how bad the ghosts out here in the desert are. Under no circumstances would I like to be haunted by an angry cat, for example. Staying in any of these rooms would be, I think, highly unromantic.
4. Visit a beautiful colonial home advertised as a history museum and find out it’s really a mortuary for torture devices.
So some of the assumptions here are probably my fault–why didn’t I assume that a history museum in a city that had been the site of many conquerers would have a plethora of torture devices left behind? Truth be told, though, the museum is actually called the Palacio de la Inquisicion (The Inquisition Museum), and it’s located in an otherwise perfectly respectable area in downtown Cartagena, Colombia. When you walk in (as I did), hoping to brush up on your Spanish history, you’ll instead be assaulted by the history of a gazillion Spanish torture methods from the 16th century. (The one that would stretch a person’s body to the point where they would crack was definitely an eye-opener). You’ll also learn that the museum itself is located inside a building–an otherwise perfectly lovely Colonial home–that was once a place where the country’s worst criminals were incarcerated and awaited their death sentences.
Should you get upstairs, though, you’ll be greeted by a refreshingly nice History Museum, which will actually teach you about the city’s complex collision of cultures, traditions, and histories. Why the contents of the two floors aren’t switched is beyond me. But, romance? Unsure about this one, but it will definitely stir up some unexpected (or completely awkward?) conversations.
5. Go to a sex museum in Russia and discover that Gregori Rasputin’s dismembered member is stored away in the back room.
Enough said. But really, there is a sex museum in St. Petersburg (the first one of its kind in the country) and it really is a thorough curation of artifacts, photos, and pleasure devices, but I’m not sure it would be the most romantic place to spend Valentine’s Day. Plus, did you see the second part of this date idea?
When I went, I ended up bringing my mom along (something else that, should you replicate this, would be highly unromantic) but instead of asking her to stroll around inside the museum with me, I recommended she do some shopping while I went into the bowels of the museum to find Rasputin’s man parts (which I think really belonged to a giant pig, but that’s for another time).
So, regardless of how you plan on spending the upcoming holiday, I hope you enjoyed this curated list of the top 5 worst date ideas for Valentine’s Day!