Trip Coach: February 6, 2007

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Paris Permenter & John Bigley, editors of Lovetripper.com, answered your questions about romantic getaways.

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: Hi, We're Paris Permenter and John Bigley, a husband-wife team of travel writers ready to answer your questions about romantic getaways around the world.

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Atlanta, GA: I'm looking for an island getaway for us. My husband loves to golf and I'd like to enjoy some spa treatments while he's on the course. We'd both like to hang out on the beach, but we don't want a hectic atmosphere. What would be a good option? We live in Georgia.

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: Bermuda is the golf capital of the world with more courses per square mile than any place...and it's also very romantic (and an easy hop from Georgia)! We'd especially recommend Cambridge Beaches, an elegant property that's perfect for a romantic getaway. In fact, we celebrated our 20th anniversary at the resort last year with a stay in one of the cottages.

For our anniversary dinner, we had a private, in-room dining which is quite a treat. A private waiter comes to your room with menus, returning throughout the night to bring drinks and multiple courses (don't miss the Bermudian chowder).

During warm weather months (remember Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean so temperatures are spring-like except for June through August), one lucky couple at a time can opt for Island Dining, a private evening dinner near the resort on what's deemed Honeymoon Island. The couple is transported by boat, along with a private butler and specially-prepared dinner, to the island then left alone for an evening of romance. The resort is also home to the Ocean Spa, a 10,000-square-foot facility that includes a Roman style solarium as well as elegant spa.

Bermuda is a very safe getaway, perfect for exploring on foot, bicycle, and by public bus. (In fact, there are no rental cars on Bermuda so you'll have to rely on other modes of transportation.)

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Houston, TX: I'd like to plan a B&B getaway, but my husband doesn't like B&Bs because of the group breakfasts and the feeling that you're visiting relatives. Do you have any suggestions?

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: From Houston, a good option is Fredericksburg, located in the Texas Hill Country. With over 300 B&Bs, Fredericksburg is Texas's B&B capital. What makes it perfect for you are its many guest houses; unlike traditional B&Bs, they don't have onsite hosts so the two of you have the cottage or home all to yourselves! They really have a home away from home feel; some are in traditional homes while others are in log cabins or historic Sunday houses that German farmers once used when they made weekly trips into town. When you arrive in town, you'll go to the local reservation office to pick up your keys and a map to the property then it's all yours! Many of the reservation services leave a microwavable breakfast in refrigerator so these truly are B&Bs.

One particular B&B in Fredericksburg is particular popular with guys: Fredericksburg Bed & Brew. Located at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, the B&B has 12 themed rooms (11 of them over the brewery, one downstairs). And the "B" in this case doesn't stand for bed...but for brew. Guests get a sampler of the brewery's product. The location is great as well; the B&B sits right on Main Street and is just steps away from the many unique shops and restaurants for which Fredericksburg is known.

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Dallas, TX: Hi! My husband and I got married in Cancun nearly five years ago and I would love to go back for our anniversary. I'm worried about damage from Hurricane Wilma, though. What would you suggest? Thanks, Mary

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: Definitely go! We were in Cancun in September and the progress since the storm is remarkable. You will see a few properties still undergoing work but many are actually undergoing extensive renovations that they planned for the future.

We stayed at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa which was wonderful; the hotel was in pristine condition for its reopening in September, and we had a great time. (We'd also suggest you check out the hotel's Mayan-inspired spa; we had a couples' massage there and would recommend it!)

One of the most remarkable things about Cancun's renovations is its beach recovery. The sand that washed away during the storm was dredged up and brought back in and now the beach is larger than ever.

Another plus for romantic travelers: the "new" Cancun is more upscale and elegant than its former self. Once a favorite with spring breakers, Cancun is now attracting more couples and experienced travelers thanks to its renovated hotels that are more elegant than ever before; spas, upgraded rooms, and fine dining are now seen more and more throughout Cancun.

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Springfield, MO: I would like to plan an all-inclusive getaway (possibly in Jamaica) for our anniversary this summer but people have warned me that the all-inclusives really encourage you to stay on property. I think I would like the convenience of an all-inclusive, as we have a limited vacation budget, but I would like to get out and explore, too. Any ideas?

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: Sometimes travelers make the mistake of feeling that they have to stay on property at an all-inclusive since their meals and drinks are already paid for as part of their stay. However, we really encourage travelers to get out and explore; even with some day trips and meals off property, you'll find that you're not "wasting" your all-inclusive package and you'll get plenty of benefit from it in terms of transfers, all the other meals you have on property, drinks, and, often, freedom from tipping.

Since you'd like to get out and explore, check out the quieter South Coast of Jamaica. Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa is the first all-inclusive to be built on the South Coast, and we found that it really makes it easy for couples to get out and explore the region with many optional tours. It's also very easy to set up a private driver for the day to take you to local jerk stands (we recommend Billy's Place, just a short drive from Sandals Whitehouse) and seaside restaurants (check out Little Ochie, a beachside restaurant that's very popular with local residents).

Another benefit of the South Coast is that you won't find the hassling that bothers many visitors on the busier North Coast. Because tourist development is new on that side of the island, the pace is very relaxed and visitors feel freer to get out, explore, and take part in the community. There are also several unique attractions on the South Coast like Black River where you can take a cruise up the Black River to spot crocodiles. Appleton Estate offers an excellent tour of its distillery that includes some history about how the island's most popular product was produced in the early days.

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Baltimore, MD: Good day. The coastlines of Italy, Greece and Croatia fascinate me. I can see it now; A beautiful cruise on a small chartered sea vessel along the edge of these most awesome coasts with my fiance (who doesn't know how to swim). Imagine scenes from the movie "The Talented Mr. Ripley". Just not as rich as the characters. An ideal cruise would be as few people on board as possible, maybe 12 or fewer including crew, stops in small ports, maybe some fishing, diving, and plenty of opportunity to enjoy life. September 2007 sounds like a great time to explore. Our gateway would be either Atlanta or NY Kennedy. Thank you so much for your consideraton. Christa

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: That region is a great place to explore by boat; for a small cruise of that size, you'll want to look into chartered yachts. Sunsail has a large fleet of bareboat charters (where you crew the vessel yourself) or you can charter a yacht crewed by a skipper (which isn't always as expensive as it might sound if you can get together with other couples and share the cost.)

A less expensive option is a small ship cruise; we toured the area aboard Star Clipper, one of several tall ships operated by Star Clippers. The cruise held just over 100 passengers (mostly Europeans) and its size made it possible for it to visit smaller ports than the larger cruise ships. We cruised the Aeolian Islands, very romantic, small islands that see few tourists.

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Los Alamitos, CA: Hello, I am traveling to London to spend Valentine's week with my British boyfriend of 5 years. We've spent several holidays together, but this will be our first Valentine's Day together and I'd like to make it extra special (without breaking the bank). Any suggestions? Thank you!

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: London's definitely a romantic city and one with lots of options for lovers. If you'll be booking a hotel room, consider one centrally located to minimize travel time and to maximize romantic strolls. We've enjoyed stays at the Crowne Plaza London St. James; unlike some other hotels in the neighborhood, it's not a budget buster but still has many romantic amenities including a spa, several trendy restaurants and a bar, and a romantic courtyard (plus it's just a five-minute walk from many attractions like Buckingham Palace).

A very romantic option in London is a ride aboard the London Eye and they're celebrating Valentine's with several romantic options. You can book the "Valentine's Champagne Flight" after dark and watch the city lights while you enjoy champagne and chocolates (the package also includes a red rose); the 30-minute experience is priced at £59.98 per couple. If you have more to spend, for £299.00 you can book your own private capsule; a host serves champagne and chocolates and, after the 30-minute ride, you enjoy a three-course meal at a partner restaurant. On Valentine's Day only, the London Eye is offering a special adults-only cruise on the Thames; for £40.00 per couple you'll enjoy champagne as you drift by London's landmarks.

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Philadelphia, PA: I'm attending a conference in San Antonio this summer and my wife plans to come along with me. What romantic activities would you suggest for our free time?

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: San Antonio is one of our favorite romantic cities! Even though it's a top convention destination, you'll find plenty of romantic attractions, from strolls along the River Walk to sidewalk cafes.

Since you'll be attending a convention, River Walk hotels are very convenient for your conference and for free time fun. We recently stayed at the Watermark Hotel and Spa, an elegant hotel with just 99 rooms. It's located on the South Bank, a part of the River Walk that's increasingly known for its dining. The hotel itself is home to Pesca on the River, featuring fresh seafood from around the world. We'd also recommend the hotel's spa and their couple's massage.

Just across the river, you'll find a longtime River Walk hotel, Omni La Mansión del Rio, known for its Spanish Colonial style. Be sure to ask for a room with a river view and a balcony if it's available!

While you're on the River Walk, be sure to take a ride aboard one of the barges. The tours are fun but for a real romantic treat, have a meal aboard one of the barges. Many of the river restaurants offer meals onboard so just ask at a restaurant that appeals to you if they offer barge meals.

For a bird's eye view of the area, head up to the top of the recently renovated Tower of the Americas. There's a bar at the top as well as a revolving restaurant, perfect for a romantic dinner.

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Salem, Ore.: Hello--My husband and I are planning a trip to New York and Washington D.C. this fall. We'd love some advice on romantic hotels, romantic but inexpensive restaurants and romantic things to do. This will be our first vacation together since getting married five years ago, so we'd like to make it special and fun. Thank you, Sally

Paris Permenter & John Bigley: The key to any romantic getaway is a romantic spirit you bring to the trip so don't feel that you have to spend a lot of money to have a memorable, romantic getaway. (After all, romantic fun like hand-in-hand strolls don't cost a cent!)

NYC & Company, the tourism department for the city, has a long list of free activities here. From free trolley rides to free museums and gardens to free special events, you'll find fun to make your vacation budget stretch further. Another budget stretcher we love? Pack a picnic for Central Park (then splurge on a snuggly carriage ride!) Similarly, the official Washington DC tourism site also includes many free attractions.

Both resources can be good starting points for budget saving packages. And don't rule out business hotels for romantic weekend getaways; rates are often far lower on the weekends so you can splurge at a hotel might have thought was out of reach.

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Paris Permenter & John Bigley: Thanks so much for all your questions! You can always find us over at Lovetripper.com and our Texas travel site, TexasTripper.com. Happy Valentine's Day! Paris & John

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