"'The game's going on rather better now,' she said by way of keeping up the conversation a little.''Tis so,' said the Duchess, 'and the moral of that is--'Oh, 'tis love, 'tis love, that makes the world go round!'"
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Photograph by Rory McNamara
Best Place to Wear Oversized Bathrobes While Cuddling on the Plush Carpet in Front of a Fireplace and Looking Out the Window at the Sun Setting Over Mt. Tamalpais
The Acqua Hotel in Marin County--among the most romantic new hotels in the North Bay--is perched in an unlikely spot: right off Highway 101 at the edge of Mill Valley. Once inside, however, the freeway disappears, literally. All rooms face out on Richardson Bay, a perfect reflecting pool for a full moon and not a bad scampering spot for the mists and fogs that stroll down from Mt. Tamalpais. With its simple, Zen-inspired decor and upscale perks--robes in every room, spacious tubs in every bathroom, complimentary espressos served during breakfast on the sun-drenched patio--the Acqua is classy, cool, and very romantic. 555 Redwood Hwy., Mill Valley. 800.360.8038.--D.T.
Photograph by Rory McNamara
Best Lush Atmosphere in Which to Gaze Lovingly Into a Sake Cocktail
Lounge sounds sexy, whatever's placed in front of it, and Zebulon's is as good a word as any to pair with lounge. The bar emits a warm, red glow from the street, and once inside, the glow envelops everything. If you can tear your eyes away from the amazingly sparkly tables, glittered by co-owner Karen Cole herself, take a minute to gaze fondly at the menu of carefully chosen wines and sake cocktails. Sinking into a lush Merlot is as comfortably as sinking into one of Zebulon's velvety banquettes. Indeed, it's a romantic place whether you're there with a significant other or not. Going solo can be romance enough when there's nightly live jazz or local literati reading from their work at Tuesday's LiveWire Literary Salon (sometimes romantic--the Kensington Ladies Erotica Society spiced things up one night). 21 Fourth St., Petaluma. 707.769.7948.--D.B.
Best Way to Propose with Hot Air
In the early morning on good days, you see them floating silently in the air. They seem stately and peaceful hanging there above the landscape. Up & Away Ballooning in Windsor holds balloon flights throughout the year, when flying conditions permit. The trips start out at the Sonoma County Airport and travel from three to 10 miles, depending on wind currents. When the pilot isn't adding heat to the balloon, all is peace and quiet as you look down at the view, which may be the Napa Valley, the ocean, or just beautiful Sonoma County scenery. Could a guy (or girl) get a better opportunity to pop that all-important question? Afterward, you can pop some champagne too at the champagne brunch, included in the price, where you are pampered with romantic delicacies like chocolate-dipped strawberries, cheese, pastries, and fruit. Le Sigh . . . 800.711.2998 or www.up-away.com. --J.L.
Best Offbeat Place to Propose Marriage
Anyone can drop to one knee in a crowded restaurant or an angry father's living room. But to really prove your sincerity--and a sense of adventure worth spending a lifetime with--you've got to propose marriage in an offbeat place. The carousel at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa is perfect. Once perched on the chosen pony, you could say, "Honey Bear, I just don't want to go round and around in this crazy world without you," and then show him or her the ring. Another unexpected betrothal spot is the petting zoo, also in Howarth Park. "Honey Pie, I just don't want to live any longer on this crazy zoo of a planet without you here to share it all with me." Of course, at the petting zoo you'll have to be extra careful not to drop the ring, or you'll be telling stories about having to dissect a goat to finish your proposal. 630 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa. 707.543.3282.--D.T.
Best One-Night Honeymoon
The fact that it was a wring-the-wet-laundry dreariness of a Monday made the decision to suddenly decamp to Healdsburg for a pseudo one-night honeymoon all the more salaciously appealing. By midafternoon we had successfully fled the Petaluma ordinary to spend 12 short hours pretending to be in Spain (the lobby), Italy (the outdoor veranda), London (the stylishly decorated rooms), Atlantis (the deep, marvelous tub replete with citrus-rosemary shampoo, enough of which simply can't be stuffed into just one purse), and that leisured Wine Country aerie (the restaurant) we seem to have read so much about and actually experienced so little of. With weekday rates significantly lower through April, the Hotel Healdsburg becomes a possible splurge for ravenous local love puppies. Room packages start at $370 a night and include dinner for two appealingly just next door. 25 Matheson St., Healdsburg. 707.431.2800 or www.hotelhealdsburg.com. --G.G.
Best Place to Hold Hands in Public
Isn't it romantic? Sitting out under the stars, holding hands with your favorite person as people all around you check their star charts with infrared flashlights and point their telescopes into the milky heavens--there's just nothing quite like it. Fortunately, the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association has been putting on a monthly public star-watching night at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Kenwood. The observatory--a lovingly tended mecca for North Bay star gazers--has a thriving volunteer base devoted to the place, with numerous events and education programs scheduled year round. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood. www.rfo.org. --D.T.
Other Best Place To Hold Hands In Public
The annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade and Celebration in downtown Santa Rosa, attended by folks of all stripes and labels, has been growing every year. It's a beautiful thing. The next parade will take place on Sunday, June 8, 2003. Spread the love. For more info, check the website at www.sonic.net/~webscrbe/pride.--D.T.
Best Place to Shop for Wedding Rings After Body Surfing in the Pacific
You've either popped the question or responded to it in the affirmative, and now you need to buy the wedding rings. Where do you go? The most economical and convenient spots for such purchases are your nearby shopping mall or big-box stores, but these are also--get ready for an understatement--the least romantic places on the face of the earth. And shouldn't your quest for rings be as loaded with romantic trappings as possible? We joyfully suggest a trip to Duncans Mills. The destination--a tiny rustic community--is just part of the whole romantic pastiche. The journey itself will take you through some of the loveliest scenery in Sonoma County. Once there, mosey along the tiny stretch of Highway 116 that constitutes Duncans Mills' downtown. The galleries have loads of unusual items, including handmade jewelry--and wedding rings--that you won't find in any megamall. An ideal setting for browsing, staring into each other's eyes, and mapping out mutual futures.--D.T.
Best Sexy Slogan
"Pleasure Heals." That's the oh-so-practical statement emblazoned on bumper stickers and advertisements propagated by those sexy, pleasure-happy folks at Sebastopol's much- loved (ahem) Sensuality Shoppe. A blue VW with Sebastopol plates was recently spied in a Marin County parking lot with three bumper stickers, saying simply, and in order, "Peace Rules," "War Sucks," and "Pleasure Heals." We couldn't agree more.--D.T.
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