We’ve all been busy reinventing every area of our lives as we’ve faced restrictions resulting from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We’re working from home, shopping at home, socialising at home, and finding new home-based forms of entertainment. For my husband Val and I, reading at home has become a paramount pleasure. This month in our online bookclub ‘Travel Europe Through Books’ on Facebook and Instagram, we’re virtually visiting the beautiful country of Spain as we read Maria Dueñas’ epic novel, The Time in Between. This beautifully written work is filled with cultural intrigue, suspense, history, and romance.
But how are we reinventing holidays? Here in the Netherlands we are experiencing a major lockdown, with the first curfews ever since World War II. We made it through an adapted Christmas and New Year’s celebration. Now Valentine’s Day is right around the corner — how on earth can we make it special in a Corona year without the ability to go out?
Val and I have made a point of eating out for Valentine’s Day, and indulging in at least one romantic getaway every year. Travel, by definition, means getting away, but these days only our imaginations are taking us anywhere that feels like an escape. These are time-honored traditions that have lasted the nearly 25 years of our marriage. This will be the first year that we’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day entirely at home. We’ve even renamed it ‘Val-en-Stine’s Day’ to make it more personal. Since these traditions have created so many great memories and have really added to our relationship, I really don’t want to let them go.
But I have a plan.
If there’s one thing the past year has taught me, it’s not to let Corona restrictions spoil the fun. Dating means having fun together, which should never stop, whatever the conditions. Just because travel and eating out aren’t allowed, doesn’t mean that no form of pleasure or celebration is possible. As I’ve paused to think about the anatomy of fun, I’ve found new ways to create it. And I’ve already had a year to practice.
The Anatomy of Fun
I believe that fun is made up of pleasure and excitement. If you base it on the 5 senses, pleasure comes in five forms: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. When Val and I go out to eat we always enjoy at least the senses of taste and smell, and usually also sight (…nice restaurant, my best dress…). With a good pianist or soundtrack at the restaurant we’ll also enjoy the sound. Or maybe our favorite tunes in the car. If the evening really goes well, we may get lucky enough to enjoy the pleasures of touch.
It’s possible to create excitement either through anticipation, or through the element of surprise. This is why holidays, birthdays and anniversaries can be so fun (anticipation), and why surprise parties are so popular. These things require careful planning, but there’s no ban on that.
With a bit of creativity, the pleasures of the senses, and an element of excitement, I’ll be able to plan the perfect Corona-Style Valentine’s date for Val and I to enjoy. Val loves to travel, and has been cleverly using his imagination (he’s a writer) to take him around the world during lockdown. If I plan well I’m sure he will go for my Spanish-style ‘noche de amor’ this Valentine’s Day. Would you like do something similar with your significant other? I’ll share my ideas:
Use the 5 Senses
Sight. I’ll wear the white lace blouse Val bought for me on a trip to Madrid years ago. I’ll light a few candles and set the table with the Spanish ceramic pottery we’ve collected over the years as we’ve made our frequent pilgrimmage to Spain. If you’d like to do something similar, you can look around your place for what you might have to add to the Spanish ambiance. Think of black lace, pearls, fans, colorful tiles, wrought iron candlesticks, a guitar, and seascapes.
Sound. I’ll turn on Val’s favorite melodies from Spain, the velvety voice of Julio Iglesias. I may also add in some Gypsy Kings to bring out the celebratory side of the evening, or some Estrella Morente for really Spanish-style drama. Some other Spanish favorites you might like to try are: Pablo Alborán or Enrique Iglesias. Now there’s some Latin passion! Just set it up on iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube. With YouTube you can watch the videos, and even make a playlist that feels like a home concert.
Smell. Hopefully the smells of the food from the kitchen will be pleasurable enough, but I may wear a hint of perfume to please that sense. Smell is the sense most closely connected to good memories, so you’ll want to maximize on this one. If you own a particular fragrance that your partner will associate with a special memory, wear it. And if you’re very clever, you might want to use an orange or lime-based essential oil to give a sense of sunshine and Mediterranean climate. Warning: Don’t go overboard with this sense. With smell, there can be too much of a good thing, so choose wisely and keep it subtle!
Taste. I plan to prepare a special Spanish meal, complete with paella, tortilla de patatas, red gazpacho, lots of Andalucian olives, and baguette with tomaquet. If you’d like you can add Jamon or chorizo to suit your taste. Fresh citrus and seafood are also excellent choices.
Touch is the last pleasure, and I’ll have to leave that one to your imagination. The way you carry it out will be unique to you.
Add to the Experience
To further enhance the evening, you might enjoy reading a short story aloud together that takes your thoughts away on a sunny Iberian reverie. One recommendation is the longish short story Fate & Longing in Lisbon. Though set in Portugal instead of Spain, it’s romantic, it’s funny, and it definitely brings in some old world Mediterranean charm. Parts of it will take you to soulful Fado concerts in a steamy cafés. It’s like reading yourself into a date. Two of our friends read this story together while they walked the Camino de Santiago together in Spain. Now that’s an extended (and enjoyable) date!
Read 5 Most Romantic Getaways in Europe if you’d like a chance to dream of your next getaway together after Corona.
I’m still trying to decide whether or not I’ll tell Val about my plan. If I do, he can look forward to it with anticipation. If I don’t, he’s in for a big (and hopefully pleasant) surprise!
So even during this era of COVID restrictions, it IS possible to have a good time, to make a memory, and feel like you were able to get away together. Our imaginations are limitless, and they can take us really anywhere we’d like. In some ways, the virus is bringing us closer to those we love. Corona is the Spanish word for crown, but isn’t far off the Spanish word for heart: Corazon.