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Queens Chronicle

Valentine’s Day gift and travel guide

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Posted: Friday, January 27, 2012 1:00 pm | Updated: 2:14 pm, Thu Feb 16, 2012.

There is a lot of pressure finding that right gift for that someone special anytime, let alone for Valentine’s Day. Here are some ideas that should help.

Let’s deal with those traditional romantic standbys, flowers and sweets.

Rising rents have made both the neighborhood florist and bakery an endangered species. Teleflora, and 1-800-FLOWERS, founded by Woodside native Jim McCann, can prepare and deliver practically any bouquet and floral arrangement.

Counting calories should wait for another day as companies as Sweetstreet, William Greenberg Desserts, and Crumbs Bakery are all on the web and get their sinfully delicious confections to consumers overnight. If you want a healthier yet still tasty option, Harry & David’s have a fruit-of-the-month club.

Many scientific studies are showing that red wine is good for heart health. You can’t go wrong with a bottle of Pinot Noir from the Pacific Northwest such as Oregon’s Benton Lane. If you prefer Cabernet Sauvignon from Northern California, try a bottle of Sterling from Napa Valley or Sonoma’s Clos du Bois. D’alessandro Nero d’Avola from Sicily is another red option that has a full body and mild taste. If you prefer other spirits, Grey Goose, Svedka and Stolichnaya all make smooth flavored vodkas. Johnny Walker has long been synonymous with quality scotch and there is no better time to enjoy it than in cold weather. Liqueur fans should try Cointreau and the delightfully named Ole Smoky Moonshine which mixes Tennessee whisky with cherries.

It is not surprising that Valentine’s Day is more important than the Christmas/ Chanukah holiday season for the jewelry industry. If you want to go all out, visit a Judith Ripka boutique. If you want a quality necklace or bracelet at a reasonable price there are plenty of options. Companies as Lia Sophia, New York-based Jennifer Fisher, Sweethearts Jewelry, and Housewives Jewelry, founded by Long Island designer Nancy Rosen whose designs are worn by the ladies on Bravo’s various “Housewives” franchises, all sell products with price points under $100. If you want more jewelry options, log onto  thelimited.com or endless.com. If you want to keep your jewelry from tarnishing, Shine, a cleaning mousse  from Colle Products gets the job done.

Watches are both practical and very cost-efficient. You can get a very stylish timepiece for a very small price. Fossil, Almar, Rumba Time, and Long Island City’s own, Armitron, all make top-notch watches that will tell you the same time as such pricy lines as Tag Heuer, Rolex, and Movado.

Handbags run the gamut in price and quality. Vera Bradley is popular with women because of its fun patterns, ample space, and reasonable prices. The major drawback is that they are not waterproof. Olivia & Joy and designer Danielle Nicole make fine wristlets and clutches.

Domestic goods can add a romantic touch. Luxor Linens, which manufactures plush bathrobes, also makes Egyptian thread bath sheets and high thread count linens. Christiane Lemieux has quickly become on one of New York City’s top interior designers. You can order pillows and other home accessories at her company’s website,.dwellstudio.com. Kat Burki is another New York-area interior designer whose scented candle collection helps enhance evening ambience (katburki.com). The Museum of Modern Art Design Store (momastore.org) is another good source for knickknacks for your home.

A visit to a spa is always therapeutic although you should expect some discomfort on your pressure points if you have a massage. There are a number of spas in the area such as Red Door, which has branches in both Long Island and Manhattan), Spa Martier, located just across the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge on Manhattan’s East Side, and the Mandarin Oriental Spa, that offer his and hers facials, pedicures/manicures and massages. If you want to know about spa promotions in the New York area log onto spaweek.com.

Smartbox (smartbox.com) is kind of like the famed Entertainment books in that when you buy one of their books, it gives you options as to which spas, restaurants, and a myriad of other activities you can share with that special someone at a bargain price.

You can always bring the elements of a spa home to you. Brookstone and Sharper Image (even though they’ve closed their retail stores they still sell products via their website) have foot & calf massagers that relieve the inexorable aches and pains that come from exercising and merely standing.

Everyone wants to look their glowing youthful best and its no wonder that the skin care business is a billion dollar industry. You can’t go wrong with body lotions, moisturizers, and washes from such leading companies as Avon, Thymes, Clarins, Davines, Comfort Zone, Jack Black, and Burt’s Bees. The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works are good brick and mortar retailers that sell quality personal care products that fit nearly every budget. Amway’s new Artistry brand promises to rid wrinkles and other aging signs rapidly. You don’t need to know an Amway rep as you can purchase products at amway.com.  Sephora’s Lorac brand has quickly become one of the biggest selling cosmetics lines.

Women still outnumber men when it comes to consuming a lot of the products that I have described above, and a few companies are smartly using humor to attract guys. A Lower East Side store, Grit N Glory, sells ManCans, which are candles made from recycled cans and have such masculine scents as gunpowder, pizza and sawdust. Along the same lines, Demeter Fragrances, run by Great Neck resident and long-suffering Mets season ticket holder Mark Crames, has colognes that remind one of bubble gum, dirt, vanilla cake batter, and gin & tonic. Not to be outdone a company which calls itself Hey Dude (so much for subtlety!) makes shaving and other dermal products intended only for men.

2(x)ist and Victoria Secret’s Pink line make playful and sexy undergarments for guys and girls respectively. Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21 are just some of the many retailers who sell NFL Women’s Apparel. Guys, if you want your girlfriend or wife, to spend Sunday afternoons on the couch with you, this could be a smart purchase!

We all know from the movies that New York can be one of the most romantic places on this planet. You can’t go wrong on a boat ride around the town. World Yacht, Spirit Cruises, and Hornblower’s Statue Cruises all offer various lunch and dinner packages that take you up and down the East and Hudson Rivers.

An inexpensive way to enjoy New York’s countless attractions and museums is to pick up either a card from CityPASS or its chief competitor, The New York Pass. Both cards allow you to see as many sights as you can for one price but the trick is that you have a limited time in which to do it.

Even the most gung-ho New York City resident needs a change of scenery. Even if you can’t get away with that special someone on February 14 you can still plan for a romantic getaway.

If you enjoy late winter/early spring skiing, California’s Lake Tahoe has many resorts and it’s only a half-hour drive from the poor man’s Las Vegas, Reno, NV. You can check out a lot of the resort in the Canadian Rockies as well as British Columbia by traveling on VIA Rail Canada, our neighbor to the north’s version of Amtrak. VIA Rail offers deals with ski resorts and with NHL teams if you are a hockey fan. If you want to stay closer to home, Vermont has quite a bit to offer. Forest Hills’ own JetBlue flies into Burlington, a town with considerable charm that is located on Lake Champlain.

If you want to escape the cold (even though it has so far been a mild winter by Queens standards) and break out your stylish Solstice sunglasses there are several great options. Miami, (along with Philadelphia) likes to think of itself as the sixth borough. If you like to play golf as well as enjoy a dip in the Atlantic, the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura is highly recommended. If you want to be in the hustle-bustle of South Beach, both the Ritz-Carlton, the Loews South Beach and the Delano offer prime location, top-notch service, and fine dining.

JetBlue has long flown to both San Juan, Puerto Rico and to neighboring St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. The good news is that JetBlue now has flights between San Juan and St. Thomas making it easier you to visit both places during the same vacation.

Southern California is beautiful anytime of the year. The Grande Colonial Hotel in San Diego’s upscale La Jolla Village is on the nation’s historic hotel register and is a wonderful place to enjoy a view of the sun setting over the Pacific and it’s a five-minute walk to La Jolla Cove where you can watch the harbor seals and sea lions frolic. Los Angeles is always an intriguing place with lots to see and do and the Hyatt Regency Century City in West LA has an ideal location as its near Hollywood, Beverly Hills and such beach towns as Santa Monica and Malibu.

If you enjoy gaming and warm weather getaways, Las Vegas is ideal. I haven’t stayed there but those intriguing TV ads for the Cosmopolitan Hotel play up an unexpected romantic side to a fairly new hotel on “The Strip.” For more info on Las Vegas hotels, shows and restaurants log onto  smartervegas.com.

Been to Vegas often and are tired of it? Check out Biloxi, Mississippi, which has both casinos, great seafood restaurants, and pristine beaches nearby. Biloxi has made a nice comeback from the 1-2 punch of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill.

North Carolina beach areas as the Outer Banks and Wilmington are packed in the summer but are great spring values. The fishing is fabulous and by April you should be able to sit out by the pool and even dip your toes in the Atlantic.  

Atlantic City is a great spring bargain that is only a three-hour drive from Queens. The Taj Mahal is located on the northern end of AC’s five-mile boardwalk and it has both reasonable room rates and fine restaurants that won’t break one’s budget.

If you’re in Atlantic City, you might as well take the hour drive south to Cape May and enjoy its Victorian homes and Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean shorelines. One of those Victorian mansions is now the site of the Hotel Virginia where you simultaneously can enjoy the benefits of a 21st century hotel and still feel like you’ve traveled back to the 19th century.

Happy Valentine’s Day.   

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