It’s true, you could probably get away with a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day (Trader Joe’s is touting a dozen for $14.99), but really you could be so much more creative. To help jumpstart that effort — for if there were ever a time that we could all use some more love, it’s now — we hunted down nine ways to, in the words of Michael Emery of the Inn at Bowman’s Hill, “relax, celebrate, connect, and remember.”
We also know that money is an object these days for many of us, so these ideas represent a wide range of costs.
And if you find that somewhere you want to go is booked on Valentine’s Day itself, all of these venues offer gift certificates that you can present to your Valentine and use at another time. So if your beloved is a chocoholic, art lover, yogi, foodie, budding chef, spa fanatic, barfly, or just wants to run away from home, read on.
Maybe it’s just because I have an old house with a bathtub that would make Bob Vela run straight to the nearest Motel 8 that I covet nice bathtubs so much. I want it all — jets, bubbles, the works. So where would I go if I wanted to run away from home with my Valentine but not put too many miles on my Camry lease? I had no idea but I figure New Hope would work, and I think breakfast in bed would be nice too (with no beagles staring me down), so I Google “fabulous bathtub + breakfast in bed + New Hope” — really), and what comes up at the top of the list? The Inn at Bowman’s Hill. I scroll through the website and find the Manor Suite: perfect bathtub for two (no beagles allowed), a separate 11-head shower, and a bed so big I feel sure it has two zip codes.
Since opening in 2005, the Inn at Bowman’s Hill, two miles south of New Hope’s Main Street, has won accolades galore. The crown jewel: it is the only AAA four-diamond establishment outside of Center City Philadelphia. In 2009 the inn was named one of the top 10 romantic inns in the U.S., Europe, and Mexico by Forbes Traveler. Ralph Collier, a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, whose syndicated programs are heard on 32 radio stations, wrote in June, 2009, “How long has it been since a destination left you entirely speechless? The Inn at Bowman’s Hill may just be the ultimate escape.” Six gorgeously appointed rooms, and all but one have a two-person heated whirlpool tub. You can have breakfast in bed (in fact a multi-course breakfast) with a different menu every day, or you can have it by the pool in the summer, or by the fireplace in the winter.
Owner Michael Emery, a native of Cornwall, England, retired from Bristol-Myers Squibb five years ago, after 35 years — when he left he was a VP in the wound care business — and turned his home into an inn. He says in the five years he has been open he’s had at least 50 couples come from the greater Princeton area. “We’ve had lots of people from all the pharmaceutical companies — Merck, J&J, B-MS, the biotech companies — who want to take their wives away for an escape.” Gary Udell, a retired airline captain and a Newtown, PA, resident, brings his wife to the inn four times a year to the same room. “(The Udells) say it’s like being in Europe,” says Emery, adding that five percent of his guests come from a 10 to 15-mile radius, and he has lots of repeat local guests.
“The world is full of romantics. We do the chocolate-covered strawberries, the ubiquitous roses, extra flower arrangements. I can’t explain the vibes but the iron gates are a big thing. Guests must first ring a bell and then the gates open slowly, and they drive down a long drive, and that gives us time to have someone come out and personally greet them. When they drive through the gates they feel they’ve gone almost to another country.”
He attributes the inn’s prestigious reputation to attention to detail. “We have a working gas fireplace in every room. Heated towel racks. I knew hospitality as a consumer because I traveled a lot (for B-MS). I wanted bathtubs with water that circulates and stays warm. The breakfast is very high-end. We have king-sized featherbeds with 600-800 thread count sheets. We have a team of six massage therapists who do in-suite massage. Right now we have a meeting going on (the inn has its own board room that seats 12 to 15) with VPs from all over the country; some have already told me they want to come back and bring their wives.” There are 5,000 people on the inn’s E-mail list, and celebrity clients have included the Earl of Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother.
Nature lovers will appreciate the 100+ acres of the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve adjacent to the inn and the 20 acres of unspoiled woodlands at the back of the inn. “We have a lot of nature,” says Emery. “We have our own free range chickens and get 20 eggs a day from them. We have 20 birdfeeders and nest boxes with wireless cameras. Working with Cornell University’s Ornithological Institute, we counted 100 different species in two days. Last night I heard a great horned owl.”
But romance is what drives people most to the inn. “I would say 80 percent of our guests are celebrating a life event. A lot of them are very moving. We’ve had people who are going to Iraq the next day or have just come back from Iraq. We’ve had 30 to 40 engagements here, many in the conservatory. We’ve had couples where one person is going in for major surgery the next day. Last week, a woman blindfolded her husband before taking him into their room. We’ve had a 50th wedding anniversary. And our babymoons are very popular, where a couple comes for a stay before the baby is born. A lot of brides and grooms send their parents here as a thank you after their wedding. Our motto is ‘relax, celebrate, connect, and remember.’”
So where would Emery go if he wanted a romantic escape? “The Ladera Resort in St. Lucia. I just love the rainforest. I’ve been there many times. You can see the endangered parrot species. It was rated the number one resort in the world at one time.”
The Inn at Bowman’s Hill, 518 Lurgan Road, New Hope, PA, 215-862-8090. www.theinnatbowmanshill.com.
The sign on the front door at Onsen for All says it all: “Please enter quietly, relaxation in progress.” In the reception area a giant Buddha sculpture in a serene pool of river rocks emits an aura of such calm that you feel as if all your meridians have been instantly rebalanced. Poor Liz Gilbert — she had to spend three months in India in “Eat, Pray, Love” to find the kind of peace that settles about you like the driven snow the moment you walk through the door at Onsen. You can’t buy that kind of energy. A building either has it or it doesn’t.
My husband and I come for the Onsen Aroma couples treatment. We are asked by the receptionist to fill out a form that asks for a short medical history. It includes a drawing of a front body and a back body, for you to indicate areas of concern. My husband circles the entire body. There is a section listing medical conditions; my husband writes in: “wife.” He is skeptical and hesitant about coming here in the first place and doesn’t want anyone touching him. I ignore his protestations.
We are each given a robe and slippers and instructed to shower before the first part of our treatment: a 20-minute soak in the private cedar tub outside in the garden (one of four tubs designed after the traditional Japanese onsen soaking tub). It is quite something to immerse yourself in 105 degree water under the open sky. My husband lowers himself into the bubbling water, closed his eyes, inhales deeply, and pronounces, “This is good.” Sold.
In the couples treatment room upstairs in the painstakingly renovated 300-year-old building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, we meet our massage therapists, Mame and Preeti. Already putty from our soak, we each lie on a table and give ourselves over to them. The Onsen Aroma begins with a dry brushing of your whole body to exfoliate your skin, which feels not unlike a cat licking you. It’s remarkably soothing. Then you are lightly spritzed with an essential oil hydrosol — we have lavender — followed by an integrative massage with an essential oil blend (choice of anti-stress or detox). I’ve had massages before, and I can tell instantly if someone is the real deal or not. Preeti and Mame are the real deal.
As each of my limbs is expertly taken into Preeti’s strong yet tender hands, I close my eyes and actually feel each layer of stress dissipate, as if I were an onion being peeled back to my most essential center. Let me tell you I do not relax easily. In fact it is so difficult for me to relax that I don’t bother trying. It’s so much easier to load the dishwasher or scrub oatmeal out of a pot or take a spinning class. But about 20 minutes into that massage I think to myself that maybe, just maybe, if I live a good life, and not eat too many Oreos or curse too much and remember to renew my membership each year to WWFM and tell my son I love him no matter what his grades are, I will go to heaven and this is what it will be like.
After my massage is done and I’ve been wrapped to allow the oils to penetrate my skin, I slowly open my eyes and peer sideways in the direction of my husband, raising my eyebrows as if to say, “Well?” A slow Cheshire cat grin spreads over his face. “Can we live here?” he says.
Onsen for All, 4451 Route 27 (corner of Raymond Road), 609-924-4800. www.onsenforall.com. Valentine’s special, Friday through Sunday, February 12 to 14: Yorisoi Sweetheart Package (yorisoi means snuggle in Japanese): private soak for two and one-hour side-by-side massages in front of the fire, $245/couple. Upgrades for deep tissue massage and 90-minute massages available. Preregistration and prepayment required. Onsen’s regular treatment offerings and soaks are also available on Valentine’s weekend.
If your Valentine loves to eat at the bar and is looking for the proverbial bar-where-everybody-knows-your name, you need to meet Craig Holcombe, the bartender at One53 in Rocky Hill. On Valentine’s Day weekend he’ll be serving his signature Pearway to Heaven, a wickedly tasty and deceptively light elixir of Grey Goose pear vodka, pear brandy, ginger-infused simple syrup, and champagne ($8).
One53 has the coziness of a neighborhood bar, because it’s small, but the cosmopolitan aura of a first-class restaurant, which it is. The regulars here are upscale working professionals looking to unwind over spinach gorgonzola ravioli, char-grilled mahi mahi, cassoulet, or a Kobe beef burger with hand-cut French fries and house truffle mayo on the side.
The uninitiated come to One53 for the food, but the hard-core regulars, and there are dozens, come for Craig. Handsome and friendly, Holcombe puts you instantly at ease. And you need only go there once for him to remember the beer you like on tap or that you prefer dry red wine or that you take your martini with the vermouth just waved over the top and three olives.
Holcombe grew up in West Windsor. His father worked in accounting for General Public Utilities and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. He started bartending while attending Columbia University where he graduated in 1994 with a bachelors in history. His first paying job was as a barback at the Rainbow Room. “That’s how you learn to make drinks,” says Holcombe.
A veteran of Triumph and the Alchemist & Barrister, he was invited by Joe McLaughlin, co-owner of One53 with Caron Wendell, who are also the owners of Lucy’s Ravioli on Route 206, and a childhood friend of Holcombe’s, to come on board three years ago. “The first night was kind of fun. They just threw me in and let me do my thing,” says Holcombe. “From the first day the customers were very friendly. We get mostly professionals, a late 20s and up crowd. There’s more of a foodie quality; they really appreciate good food, nice wine, good presentation. And we’re friendly and nice.”
One53, 153 Washington Street, Rocky Hill, 609-921-0153, www.one53njcom.
Other bars to cozy up in: The Swan Hotel (with a woodburning stove), 43 South Main Street, Lambertville; the Boat House, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville; the banquettes at the new Peacock Inn, with the promise of a romantic dinner once the restaurant opens, 20 Bayard Lane; and Lahiere’s, where there’s no TV! — and you can savor our favorite chocolate dessert, see “The Chocoholic” below, 11 Witherspoon Street.
I discovered perhaps the most perfect chocolate dessert quite by accident. A close friend and I were having our annual Christmas lunch and this year chose Lahiere’s, because the lunch menu is a lot less expensive than the dinner menu. Since one doesn’t count calories at Christmastime, we did not do our normal oh-no-couldn’t-possibly wave at the waiter when he brought the dessert menu. Au contraire, we studied it intently, and decided on the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Anglaise and Ice Cream ($8.50), to split, of course.
You know when you take brownies out of the oven too soon? A little crust on the outside and gooey but not too gooey on the inside. That’s the consistency of this warm chocolate cake in a pool of chilled raspberry puree so smooth it’s practically translucent. A scoop of vanilla ice cream sits on top, punctuated by fresh strawberries, a sprig of fresh mint, and a dusting of powdered sugar. I could use any number of superlatives to describe it but suffice it to say that it hasn’t been taken off the menu since it was put on there four years ago, the invention of pastry chef Jennifer Robinson.
After going back once more with another friend, who says her boyfriend orders it every time he dines there, I caught up with Robinson on the phone at her home in Marlton, where she lives with her husband, Paul, who is the chef at Lahiere’s, and their three daughters, ages 10, 6, and 3.
Raised in Jenkintown, PA, Robinson, a 1989 graduate of Johnson & Wales, started her career in Philadelphia, where she started dating Paul, who was recruited to become sous chef at Lahiere’s. In 1993 Robinson was herself recruited as pastry chef. Paul became executive chef about four years ago.
Robinson developed the Valrhona dessert at the request of Joe Christen, the owner of Lahiere’s, who had had a molten chocolate cake in a restaurant in New York. “He said the cake was a warm chocolate cake with a center that ran out when it was cut open and was denser than a souffle.” After testing a couple of recipes from cookbooks, Robinson developed her own version. The cake is made from three kinds of semisweet chocolate, with Valrhona, a French chocolate, being the highest percentage; butter; eggs; sugar; and flour. The individual molds are prepared with nonstick spray and granulated sugar, which Robinson says gives it that sugary crunch on the outside. The batter is poured in and a little homemade ganache truffle is tucked in the center before it is baked. Before serving it is warmed and plated with raspberry puree from Paris Gourmet in north Jersey, a few fresh raspberries or strawberries when raspberries are not in season, and vanilla ice cream from Arctic, also a New Jersey company.
“It’s a crowd pleaser,” says Robinson. “We tried to change the flavor of the cake a couple of times but people requested the original. It’s become a staple item like our roast duck. It’s never coming off (the menu).”
Robinson says she is “absolutely a chocoholic.” She takes her children to Hershey Park every year, believes “a piece of chocolate every day is good for the soul,” and is a sucker for Lindor truffles. She says her parents did not have a sweet tooth — “we had no cookies or soda in the house” — and attributes her love of chocolate to her “dear friend in sixth grade. We used to run home after school together, and she introduced me to boxed brownie mix. We ate it warm out of the oven, and I was hooked.”
If you’re on a budget that does not allow for even lunch out, you can just go to the bar and order the dessert only, until 9:30 p.m. on weeknights, and 10 p.m. on weekends or when the kitchen closes.
Lahiere’s, 11 Witherspoon Street, 609-921-2798. www.lahieres.com
The Spa Lover
You might raise your eyebrows at a the idea of a spa in a gym, even a high-end fitness center like Can Do in Forrestal Village, but here’s a secret. In the lobby of Koi Spa is an unobtrusive door with a very small sign that says “No Cell Zone” and reminds me of those clubs in New York that have no signs — you just have to be in the know to know about them.
Stepping through that door is like stepping through a portal — once you enter, you have absolutely no idea there is an outside world. It’s not 21st-century; it’s 23rd century. I half-expected to see Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation walking down the long, curved dimly-lit hall with its only decoration recessed cubes each bearing a back-lit Asian-stark flower arrangement. This is definitely where Data would come for a little deep tissue massage or a chocolate sugar scrub.
My husband and I are escorted past the giant aquarium built into the wall, teeming with koi and other tropical fish and after several twists and turns are shown our private dressing room. Then, once robed and slippered, we step into the waiting room, all sleek, modular curves and also twilight-dim, where we see the other side of the fish tank (and the tray of Hershey kisses does not go unnoticed). It is so utterly quiet I can hear my heartbeat.
We are here for the Geisha Grand Soak for Two and a Deluxe Exotic Body Polish in the Bamboo Suite, which is the couples treatment room. After a 20-minute soak in a giant candlelit Jacuzzi (with fresh strawberries and lime Perrier on the side) with pulsating jets and a rain shower (you know your time is up when the jets stop automatically), we each take a table: across David’s is one large towel (he is glad he brought gym shorts and tells me to make sure I write that suggestion for men who might like that option), and across mine are two smaller towels, one folded into, well, let’s just say, a bikini shape. This is not the time to be a prude. Go with it.
Our massage therapists — Donna for me; Susanlee for David — politely knock and enter. Donna begins with a green tea sugar scrub, applied with what I can only describe as what the Buddhists call loving-kindness. I have a yoga teacher who has said that we all crave touch. But let’s face it, we either don’t get enough of it or we won’t admit that we crave it. It is a remarkable experience to give yourself over to a pair of expert hands, whose touch is sweet and purposeful, and to close your eyes and forget the world outside.
After the sugar scrub is gently removed with heated moist towels, a moisturizer is massaged into your skin. At about the point when Donna gets to my right arm, I hear a distinct sound, the one that has driven me into my guest room on more nights than I care to admit: David is snoring. Out like a light. I am mortified and ask Donna if he is the first. Oh no, she assures me, happens all the time. I say “David” in a sharp stage whisper, and he wakes with a start. I roll my eyes, put my head back down on the table, and try to pretend we’re not married. I retreat back into my serene cocoon. Ah, bliss. For days afterward I notice that my skin is as smooth as a child’s.
Koi Spa, 125 Main Street, Princeton Forrestal Village, 609-720-0099. www.koispa.com. February specials: chocolate couples spa pedicure, $100 for two, one hour; chocolate sugar scrub, $50 for 25 minutes; Geisha Grand Experience, $315; and the Couples Connection, Swedish massage, $170 for 50 minutes for two.
This one’s a no-brainer. Book the chef’s table at Elements. Make sure Joe Sparatta, the sous chef, is going to be there and his lovely wife, Emilia, who is the sommelier. Tucked away from the rest of the restaurant, the chef’s table (there are actually two) is situated in its own nook with a full view of the open kitchen, which our food writer, Pat Tanner, says runs like a well-oiled machine.
There are no histrionics here, no Iron Chef tantrums, just an ultra-professional team who will make you feel like you own the place. Hint: wear something chic but comfortable, especially around your waistline. You will be eating a lot, and deceptively so, as you will be brought, slowly, over the course of a couple of hours, a nine-course tasting menu that will rock your world.
It is a foodie’s dream. Before you even start Joe asks you what you’re particularly interested in and he takes it from there. I say, “fish.” At least three people ask you if you have any food allergies. Every dish is tailor-made for you at the whim of the chef, dishes no one else in the restaurant is eating, and we learn that some products are brought in to the restaurant exclusively for chef’s table guests.
At the beginning of each course, Joe comes over and gives you the inside skinny on every aspect of what you’re eating. Before our first course I start our little party with one of bartender Mattias Haglund’s specials, the Pink Queen ($12), made from Snow Queen vodka (an organic vodka from Kazakhstan), pink grapefruit juice, lemon thyme, pink peppercorn, and Saumer brut rose. Already the edges of my day are beginning to soften.
Our first course is served in three oversized tasting spoons: one delectable bite each of steak tartare, scallop ceviche, and soup made with local turnips. While we nibble Joe tells us that many of the restaurant’s vegetables come from Zone 7, a Lawrenceville company run by Mikey Azzara that links local farmers to restaurateurs (U.S. 1, March 25, 2009), and that later this year Elements will be working exclusively with a farm in Lawrenceville to grow basic organic vegetables.
Course two arrives: seared Kindai toro (the belly) and Kindai tuna tartare. Joe explains that Kindai is the only sustainable blue fin tuna in the world grown from the embryo stage and is penned off in parts of the ocean off the coast of Japan. The operation is overseen by the Kinki University of Japan and protected by the country. Kindai tuna goes for $50 to $60 a pound, and only two or three come to the East Coast a week, with only a handful of restaurant getting some, including Le Bernadin and Per Se (the New York restaurant of famed chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Napa Valley), and Elements.
As the courses keep coming we learn that some of the restaurant’s dried spices come from Le Sanctuaire of San Francisco, run by Jing Tio, who comes from a family of spice growers in Indonesia and scours the globe for the best dried herbs; that the Mangalista Iberico pork is raised in Hungary and sent to Spain to be finished with a feed that includes chestnuts; that an Arctic char is a kind of hybrid between salmon and trout; and that the pork belly is prepared with a technique called sous vide, vacuum-sealed and bathed for 72 hours in a piece of medical equipment called a thermocirculator, like a big Jacuzzi, with circulating water heated to a constant temperature of 60 degrees celsius so the meat cooks in its own juices. The 48-hour short ribs are done the same way.
According to Beth Rota, private events coordinator, there are plenty of customers who book the chef’s table on a regular basis. Greg Heilbronn, a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch, who commutes to Manhattan, and his wife Melissa, have come a dozen times since Elements opened, often with their six-year-old twins, Olivia and Isabella. Michael Bitterly, a managing director at BlackRock in Plainsboro, has been six times, often with his nine-year-old daughter in tow.
My favorite course is one of Joe’s signature chef’s table dishes — a bridge between the savory and the sweet courses, called Bacon and Eggs. On one side of the plate is a blown out eggshell with the top lopped off, then layered from bottom to top with brioche French toast, bacon custard (Joe tells us the restaurant makes its own bacon), and a smoked maple foam with smoked sea salt. On the other side is a mini French toast and bacon tuille in a pool of maple syrup that is aged in bourbon barrels.
Our last course includes a homemade KitKat with hazelnut chocolate and caramelized white chocolate on top: Joe brings out the blow torch and shows us exactly how he makes the milk chocolate croquant (like a sugar tuille). By the time coffee arrives — an exclusive blend made for the restaurant by Small World Coffee — we are ready to sign up for the Chef for a Day program where, for $295, you get to spend a day in the kitchen working side by side with chef Scott Anderson, on dishes tailored to your interests.
Elements, 163 Bayard Lane, 609-924-0078. www.elementsprinceton.com. Six-course Valentine’s Day tasting menu, $105, Friday through Sunday, February 12 to 14; a la carte menu also served Friday and Saturday. Valentine’s Day a la carte brunch (appropriate for families), Sunday, February 14, 11:30 to 2 p.m.
The Chef Wannabe
When Caitlin Gilbert, who works in the financial department at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, wanted to give her boyfriend, Jason Nyrop, a chemical engineer at Merck, something he couldn’t return to the store, she contacted Anne-Renee Rice-Soumeillant and said she was looking for a private French cooking class for the two of them.
“She said her boyfriend had done a lot of Italian and American recipes and wanted to know more about French cuisine,” says Rice-Soumeillant, who teaches cooking classes out of her Hamilton Square home. She worked with Gilbert ahead of time to develop a menu tailored to Nyrop’s interests, which turned out to be “something pretty classic with a lot of technique involved.” The menu included braised duck with chestnut and veal stuffing, glazed turnips, braised celery root, and orange mousse in demi orange “cups.” Gilbert and Nyrop learned classic cutting techniques, practicing on shallots and celery root. They trussed a duck and blanched bacon, and as a bonus, because Nyrop wanted to know, learned how to make a rolled omelette. At the end, they ate their meal a deux in Rice-Soumeillant’s dining room, pre-set with china and silver.
“I take care of everything,” she says. “Everything is set up for them. I sent her a printed menu on nice paper from the Paper Source to give him as a kind of gift certificate ahead of time. They get a set of laminated recipes for the menu they prepare. The set-up is classy: little pastries, waters and juices. When they’re done I do all the cleanup. I can do it at my house or yours.”
Rice-Soumeillant grew up in Cary, NC. Her dad was a purchasing manager with Corning Glassworks in Raleigh; her mom was a homemaker. She graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill in 1991 with a bachelors in French and journalism. “I’ve always been passionate about cooking and a big Francophile from as far back as I can remember,” she says.
She went to Paris her junior year, met the Frenchman she would later marry, and returned after graduating to work as a technical writer. Once married, she had French nationality, which enabled her to attend a French technical school to study French cuisine. When Bristol-Myers Squibb closed the lab outside Paris where her husband, an organic chemist, worked, they moved here when he took a job as a project leader with B-MS in New Brunswick. She previously worked as a sous chef at the Institute for Advanced Study. The couple have two young sons who magically disappear (thanks to her husband) when she gives classes. On Wednesday, February 10, she will give a class called “Bistro Meal for Your Sweetheart.”
Cuisine by Anne-Renee, Hamilton Square, 609-915-1119. www.cuisinebyannerenee.com.
The Art Lover
"Most people just think of our highlights tour, which is given every Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., but we also give private tours,” says Laura Lilly, interim manager of marketing and public relations at Princeton University Art Museum. While the museum can’t give private tours for just one couple, you can pull together four couples for a total of eight (that’s the museum’s minimum)and have a tour tailored to your interests, whether it’s Asian art, Impressionism, or virtually anything else.
The museum’s new director, James Steward, has energized the museum’s public outreach and image with late hours, live music, and refreshments on Thursday nights and is in the process of both transforming the way the museum arranges and displays its collections and introducing low-tech and high-tech interpretive tools that will greatly expand the viewer’s experience. The museum’s new Facebook page already has 800 followers, and Steward himself often posts reports on his visits to art exhibitions in Europe and comments on recent art critiques in newspapers.
“One of the most-requested private tours focuses on Western art or world cultures,” says Lilly, either of which will give you an in-depth view of one half of the museum. “If you know you’re more interested in Western art, your tour can cover any range of examples from medieval up to contemporary. We can do Portraits, which has a history element. The American collection has some fantastic works, some with a close connection to Princeton, from the Revolutionary period onward. We can also do an outdoor walking tour of the 20th century sculptures around the campus; most people have seen these but a tour s a great way to learn about these pieces and how they came to Princeton, with more context than you would get simply walking by.”
The museum has tailored private tours for people interested, for example, in the way nature is portrayed in art, or the way mythology is portrayed throughout the ages — ancient Mediterranean, Western, and contemporary. “The tours can really be anything you want them to be,” says Lilly. Tours should be booked three weeks in advance and last 45 minutes to an hour.
Lilly also recommends that couples have a leisurely brunch in town on a Saturday or Sunday and then come to the regular highlights tour. There is a tour on Sunday, February 14. Another option for couples, says Lilly, is to go out to dinner on a Thursday, then come to the museum, which is open on Thursdays until 10 p.m. Yet another option is to attend a gallery talk, which start up the week of February 19 and are given by a graduate student, curator, or guest lecturer. A gallery talk on “The Art of Love in the Middle Ages” takes place on Friday and Sunday, February 26 and 28.
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton University campus. To book a private tour, call Bryce Batchelor-Hall at 609-258-3043, between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. weekdays. Private tour for eight: $45.
If you would like to meet the universe halfway, practice living in the present moment, cultivate more compassion for yourself and others, learn to tame your “monkey mind,” and develop a great yoga butt along the way, you probably already know how restorative and challenging yoga can be. That’s why they call it yoga practice, not yoga lesson. If your Valentine is a yogi, you might step outside your own box of limited perceptions and sign yourselves up for a partner workshop. Here are a handful:
Partner Yoga Workshop, Sunday, February 21, 1 to 3 p.m., Yoga Above, 80 Nassau Street, www.yogaabove.com. Instructor Linda Domino, who will be leading the workshop with Gemma Farrell, says, “Partner yoga brings people together through movement, play, breath, and touch. In this practice, partners will support each other and mirror poses building strength and flexibility.” She promises “communication, trust, and some laughter!” $40/couple if pre-registered.
Love and Partnership, Yoga Style, Saturday, February 13, 2:30 to 4 p.m., Holsome, 27 Witherspoon Street. Learn about the philosophy of yogic partnership and how to safely sequence and adjust each other’s yoga postures. $42.
Partner Yoga Workshop, Sunday, February 14, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Onsen for All, 4451 Route 27 (corner of Raymond Road), 609-924-4800. www.onsenforall.com. Experience the benefits of yoga while sharing with and supporting your partner. Limited to seven couples. $26 per couple. Pre-registration and pre-payment required.
Thai Yoga Massage for Couples, Sunday, February 14, 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, 50 Vreeland Drive, Suite 506, Skillman, 609-924-PCYH. www.princetonyoga.com “Share your energy through gaze and breath before moving on to partner asanas, in which you will have the chance to practice trust and loving support. Delve into relaxation through the relaxing techniques of Thai yoga massage.” $95/couple: $85 by Sunday, February 7.
Also, Yoga of Love and Relationships, Sunday, February 21, 2 to 5 p.m. Workshop with John Welsons “explores the dynamics of successful relationships. You will gain tools and insights that will help you to heal the relationships in your life and make relationships with others the most fertile ground for your own inner growth and happiness.” $30 suggested love offering — no one turned away. Register.
Partner Yoga, Sunday, March 21, 10 to 11:45 a.m., Center for Relaxation & Healing, 666 Plainsboro Road, Building 600, #635, Plainsboro, 609-750-7432, www.RelaxationandHealing.com. Brigitte Aflalo-Calderon leads a workshop in which partners will practice poses together and create new ones, coordinate breathing and movements, and “laugh a lot.” $22 per couple. Register.