'There's nothing half so sweet in life as love's young dream.'--Thomas Moore
It's Cupid's cue.
Romantics will rendezvous this week while love's sweet song is played out in dozens of valentine shelters, from the Mill Rose Inn at Half Moon Bay to Pelican Cove in Carlsbad.
Some will travel only as far as Barnabey's Hotel in Manhattan Beach, while others will motor north to Lili and Doug Vieyra's peaceful Chalet de France and to the charming Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo.
If the heart is full but time is running short, Barnabey's promises Old World charm barely 30 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. Especially on Valentine's Day with a romantic package that will include Viennese dining, cocktails and dancing in the hotel's London pub. This along with 24-hour chauffeur service and guest rooms that promise the enchantment of a European inn.
In Europe, proprietors Pete and Sue Post gathered antiques that grace their hotel. Barnabey's guest rooms feature canopy beds and fireplaces, brass lamps, lace curtains and loads of books. Beveled glass windows were imported from a 16th-Century chateau, and fountains spill musically in the gardens. As a valentine offering, we give Barnabey's four hearts: ****.
For couples seeking serenity farther afield, Doug and Lili Vieyra will set a special table Tuesday at their Swiss-like Chalet de France near Eureka. Later, Doug and Lili will deliver complimentary cordials, with a champagne breakfast served the following morning. With only a couple of guest rooms, Chalet de France is popular with couples seeking total seclusion.
"No noise save for the whisper of the wind," Doug Vieyra says. Guests spin records on a 1917 Edison gramophone, and play darts and croquet while deer graze just outside the window. Perched on a mountaintop, Chalet de France provides a view without so much as another rooftop to mar the scene. A three-heart valentine hideaway: ***.
Six guest rooms furnished with antiques await romantics at an English-style B&B with the fetching name of Mill Rose Inn south of San Francisco at Half Moon Bay. On Valentine's Day proprietors Eve and Terry Baldwin will serve homemade cheeses, valentine chocolates, cookies and liqueurs. (A champagne breakfast will be delivered to one's room the following morning.) Within walking distance of the ocean, the Mill Rose Inn isn't the stereotyped B&B. Window boxes flow with flowers, the garden is abloom with hundreds of roses and a spa steams nearby. Romantic? Indeed. A three-heart valentine: ***.
For dreamers nationwide, thoughts of Valentine's Day relate to San Francisco--and particularly The White Swan Inn on Bush Street, where guests with stars in their eyes have the choice of 26 rooms, each with fireplaces and beds loaded with beribboned pillows. The Swan displays antiques along with fashions by Laura Ashley and French doors that close off the library (an intimate hide-out for couples in love). Red roses will be on order Tuesday along with chocolates. Because The White Swan Inn continues to receive raves from our readers, it gets our own valentine rating of three hearts: ***.
Along the coast near Monterey, valentine treats will be offered during teatime Tuesday at the romantic Seven Gables Inn at Pacific Grove. Sweethearts take note: The Gables, with its museum-like antiques, is only a two-minute stroll from Lover's Point, and there are smashing views from the inn's 14 rooms. Another three-heart valentine: ***.
South a few miles at Big Sur, those with a soul for tranquillity check in at the Ventana Inn, with its candlelight dinners and classical melodies. The Ventana is a rare retreat that distances itself from the troubles of the world, particularly on Valentine's Day. The mystic sense of aloneness is all the more pervasive should the fog roll in to envelop towering redwood trees.
Beyond the windows, deer peer from the forest as do squirrels and raccoons. While guests dine of an evening, classical melodies recall Bach and Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin and other composers in a civilized setting of candlelight and fine wine. Romantics choose from 60 rooms and suites, several with private hot tubs. One whose hearth features a pair of love seats offers a private deck for studying the stars. Named the nation's No. 1 "country house hotel" in a national survey, the Ventana Inn gets our valentine bid of five stars: *****.
Backtracking up the coast a moment, we would be remiss if we failed to mention Stonepine (profiled in the Travel Section Oct. 4, 1987). Set in Carmel Valley, Stonepine attracts romantics of all ages with its carriage rides and gourmet treats, and its elegant Mediterranean-style chateau surrounded by hundreds of acres of emptiness, making this the perfect place to get lost, to meditate . . . and to be close to the one closest to one's heart on Valentine's Day. Stonepine: *****.