Every year on February the 14th lovers all around the globe flock in florists, lingerie and jewelry stores buying presents for their better halves. Dinners a deux are de rigeur on that day and so are the –somewhat-over sentimental Valentine’s cards.
Personally I’ve always been a bit of sucker for romance but this year, St. Valentine’s Day acquired an extra special meaning: You see I had just met my wonderful significant other and we were on that ecstatic stage of love’s first flush.
Caught up in the romantic climate as I was, I became interested in finding out more about this annual celebration of love.
Legends of romance
Its story is indeed intriguing. Apparently Valentine was a young Christian priest in 3rd Century Rome, who, in defiance of Imperial orders that had forbidden marriage among certain classes of soldiers, continued to marry youngsters in love. In doing so, he in effect protected young males from going into war. Valentine was however discovered and sentenced to death. As the legend goes, while he was detained he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer, to whom he sent a letter signed: “With love from your Valentine”. From the 1840’s the exchange of small handwritten notes (valentines) between lovers, became commonplace in England. The same fad overtook America aided as it was by industrialization and cheap postage. Over time in light of the globalization and the resulting cultural interchange, St Valentine’s celebration came to acquire the universality that we know today.
This day’s origin’ s however lie firmly rooted in Pagan traditions. In fact, the Romans used to celebrate the Lupercalia in honor of God Faun (Pan) from the 13th to the 15th of February, while a similar celebration, the “Theogamia”, in honor of Zeus and Hera, was held in ancient Athens during the same period.
Now absolutely captivated, I felt compelled to do something truly outstanding in lieu of this year’s St. Valentine’s Day celebration. And what’s more remarkable than a romantic escapade, in one of the most dreamlike, atmospheric destinations worldwide?
Chania: The most romantic city of them all
Molded by its rich, turbulent past, the old town of Chania, Crete, certainly fitted the bill. Venetians and Ottomans, conquerors and benefactors, friends and foes alike, have left their indelible marks in every corner of the city and it was this stunning cultural and architectural heritage that drew me like a magnet.
After some thorough research I opted for the Domus Renier Boutique Hotel. Strategically located at the heart of the old town, once the home of the Reniers, one of Venice’s leading noble families, now enticingly refurbished to offer a unique yet harmonious amalgam of tradition and modernity, it is no wonder that it came highly recommended.
Upon arrival we were welcomed by the friendliest of staff who showed us around the two honeymoon suites, to select for our stay. Both feature romantic decorations, an oriel with external furnished balcony and limitless view to the sea and the Venetian port under the coat of arms of the Venetian Republic, painted ceilings with relief, as well as their very own, private mini spa’s. The choice was indeed a difficult one, but eventually we decided upon the suite Marussa and Renier. It was not only its picturesque chamber with the luscious, colorful cushions on the silk rug, but also the history behind the suite’s name, that did the trick. Indeed Marussa was the only woman of the Renier family who is mentioned in official documents. The hotel’s owners in fact showed us her prenuptial agreement according to which a three storey property in the old city of Chania (apparently the Renier mansion) was to be her dowry. While Marussa Renier was included in the Libro d’oro, her husband, Premarin Renier was of more humble origins. So one of the first things that Premarin did after his marriage was to apply for his newly found family’s inclusion in the book of nobility.
Though fascinated by the hotel and it’s amazing tales, we felt the old town beckoning us. We’d have our alone time together soon enough. After all, the first thing that caught our imagination was a vision of us waking up beside each other in the morning and gazing out over the unforgettable view of the sea & Chania harbor port…
The hotel’s owners and staff had given us some great tips and so we eagerly set out to explore Chania’s ample charms. As we strolled around the deserted, melancholic alleys of the old town, the city’s glorious past came almost hauntingly alive. Gazing at the sun setting down from the emblematic sea side lighthouse was an experience not to be missed or ever forgotten. Still starry eyed we followed this up with a delicious late afternoon cocktail on magnificent Palace overlooking the port and then dinner-a fine cheese and charcuterie selection and some exquisite wine- at charming La Bodega. What with the wine (and our overwhelming feelings), buoyed up, we started making hand in hand our way back to the Domus Renier Hotel. Of course it didn’t matter in the least that we got somewhat lost. The kiss on the forgotten dark narrow passage shall remain forever inscribed in our hearts and memories. And then the stately door of the Renier residency quite magically appeared in front of us. The change of atmosphere was almost palpable as we ascended the old stairs, taking only one moment to rejoice on the rich wooden scent and the grandiose surroundings. It was time for us to be alone at last. Once in the sanctuary of our room with its all-encompassing beauty and splendid vistas, we felt bound together forever as if by magic. For there are moments in life that transcend the mundane reality-time and space even. And such moments seem only possible here, at the timeless Marussa and Renier suite of the Domus Renier Boutique hotel, in the Venetian port of Chania: A mystical place where the panache of times gone by meets with the conveniences, state of the art technology and comforts of the present, ensuring that your (as ours certainly did) special occasion will remain unforgettable forever.