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Top 5 Valentine's Day Ideas

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Look around, see something different? Red roses appearing more and more? Little cardboard cut-outs in the shape of red love hearts strung about? An increase in junk mail catalogues filled with gift ideas for your "special him or her"? Is it February already? It must be Valentine's Day, you think with a small start of panic. And it's true, that one day a year made simply for those in love, is less than two weeks away. It may be, arguably, all a big marketing scam, driven by the flower and card industries, enough to make cynics out of the most love struck of us.

However look beyond the sickening commercialisation of the day, avoid the red roses and go for hand picked daisies, and find a way to enjoy a day with your partner, lover, or best friend, remembering that whether or not you are in a relationship, love comes in all forms and this day can be enjoyed in whichever way you please. If you are feeling a little lost, or still a little panicked, about what to do, here are some tried and proven methods to make the day special.

Romantic: Dinner for Two.

It's traditional, for sure but the romantic dinner for two is so somehow so much more special than a regular, ordinary meal. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly due to the effort involved prior to the event. There is the act of choosing the restaurant and making a booking, then of getting ready, dressing up in something other than your usual jeans and t-shirt. For an extra special look, you should consider getting yourself done up professionally at the make-up counters at David Jones or Myer.

Then of course there is the dinner itself, in which the pleasure is simply in spending an hour or two doing nothing but being served delectable food in lovely surroundings and talking with your Plus One. As for where to go, well, Melbourne is incredibly blessed with eating options to suit all palates.

There's Cookie, a long time crowd favourite tucked away in the Curtain House on Swanston St. Offering a mix of thai influenced dishes, an epically long beer list, which incidentally features Epic Ale, a rather nice New Zealand brew, and an incredible cocktail list, on which you should most definitely their Coca-Cola Lolly Cocktail, Cookie is bound to please most punters. It's busy and loud, but that just means you will have to lean in closer to whisper your sweet nothings, or you may be lucky enough to score a table on their balcony overlooking Swanston St. Filled with charm, you'll be hard pressed to find better service or a nicer decor to woo your beloved in.

Classic: Pizza and a Movie

It may sound cheesy, but that's just the toppings - I promise!
This is a combination that works. Whether it be pizza out of a cardboard box in front of a good DVD, or something more upmarket

If something a little cheesier, food-wise that is, is more to your palate then you should check out 39 Pizzeria, a most authentic little restaurant tucked into Little Burke St. Like Cookie, it's often packed but it's not difficult to realise why. Their pizza menu features a wide range of ingredients and combinations that you just won't find at your average Lygon St pizza joint, and their blackboard specials are regularly astounding. Add to this the romantic charm of being able to see your pizza being cooked in the huge pizza cooker out the back, and the trendy mix of old and new decor.

All cinemas were not created equal and some just make for better dates than others. For example, the Halfpipe, where you can cuddle up in a beanbag made for two while watching the film. Also there is the Astor, which is filled with Art Deco charm and plays a mix of old classics and new blockbusters, in the old tradition of showing double features. Then there's the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens and the Rooftop Cinema atop the Curtin House for a romantic outdoor experience, and ACMI, Kino and Nova if you are looking for an eclectic sort of film with style over effects to woo your date with. Check out Google's cinema listing page for showtimes.

Sporadic: Something you haven't done in a while.

Like the zoo. Remember the zoo? That place you used to love when you were a kid? Well it's still there, and is possibly even better now that you are tall enough to see over some of the safety barriers surrounding the enclosures and can buy your own ice-creams, or the ice-creams of your special friend. What's more, going back as a wise and mature adult is bound to bring back fond memories of being a young and impulsive child, perfect to get you in the mood for running round and frolicking, which, and this is scientifically proven kids, will raise up those happy endorphins, raising your chances of stealing a sneaky kiss in the butterfly enclosure.

Naturalistic: Enjoy the outdoors

It's one thing to enjoy being served by a waiter in a fancy restaurant, but it often doesn't stack up to the pleasure of preparing your own food and packing it in a basket, ready to be eaten atop a colourful picnic rug. Especially if you place that picnic rug in some mighty beautiful surroundings, of which Melbourne abounds.

Classic picnic spots include the Botanic Gardens (five minutes out of the city on St Kilda Rd), which are large and spread out enough to ensure some level of discreetness for you and your picnic partner, as well as other, smaller, but also lovely, parks in and around the city such as the Fitzroy Gardens (on the corner of Clarendon St and Wellington St), the Flagstaff Gardens (head for the corner of William St and La Trobe St) and Faulkner Park (take a train and walk or a tram to the corner of Park St and Toorak Rd in South Yarra).

Alternatively, should the weather be up to it, the beach is a longtime favourite due to its beautiful sunsets and propensity for long walks. There are a number of good beaches within a reasonable travelling distance of the CBD, the Frankston train line being dotted with some especially good ones between Mordiallic and Seaford stations - just hop on the train and look out the window until you see a stretch of blue water that's calling you and jump off. Other top spots include Brighton Beach on the Sandringham line and the St Kilda Esplanade, which, although the beach itself has a reputation for not being the best place to swim, is a perfectly romantic spot for a long walk along the pier or up to Luna Park, where a ride on the roller coaster offers spectacular views and a thrilling end to an evening.

Experimental: Make something up

Who says Valentine's Day has to be about traditional romance, anyway? One year, my best friend and I made plans to go and buy hamburgers and drive them to the local swamp to eat them in deliberate rebellion against the traditions of the day. Well, we couldn't find a swamp in the end, but the burgers were delicious and we had fun trying. So if the love hearts and cupids are getting you down, take heart. You don't have to buy into anything you don't want to; flowers, fancy dinners, romance are not essential to enjoying the day, neither is being in a relationship. Grab your friends, go op shopping, or whatever you normally enjoy doing. The day is yours to do whatever you want with, so make sure you do something that makes you happy, and have fun!

RESTAURANTS MENTIONED:

COOKIE
1/252 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 7660

39 PIZZERIA
362 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9642 0440
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Why? Because doing something special will in turn make you feel special.
When: February 14th (or whenever you are feeling romantic)
Where: Anywhere
Cost: Varies
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