I'm generally not one for 'Hallmark' holidays. I can often be heard to 'bah humbug' (or the seasonal equivalent) at Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day.
Being an atheist, Christmas and Easter don't mean much to me except 8 parts family + 2 parts gifts (Christmas), and 8 parts chocolate + 2 parts hot cross buns (Easter). Similarly, the origins of St Valentine's Day, beyond poetic romanticism, don't capture my heart, as it were.
The fact that I don't 'believe' in St Valentine's Day doesn't mean I'm not a hopeless romantic when I want to be.
This time last year, Kyle and I stayed in a gorgeous little cottage: a converted chapel in Baldersdale, County Durham, I found on the cottages4you website. It has everything going for it apart from an internet connection, though that in itself was probably a good thing most of the time.
Located on a country lane, mostly isolated apart from a few nearby farmhouses that have also been converted into holiday accommodation, it was the perfect location from which to explore not only County Durham, but the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, and York itself; the Lake District; and Scarborough and the northeast coast. Arriving when the snow was still on the ground, it was extremely picturesque.
Totally self-contained, it provided us with the perfect place to return to of an evening after full days of sightseeing, picture-taking, pub lunches (and dinners) and, in some instances, pub quizzes. Being that way inclined, we'd often return from the cold outdoors after a long day to indulge in a game of Monopoly (or three) in the warmth with wine or cider and cheeses, and Guinness and baked goods, respectively.
On St Valentine's Day last year, we explored Rievaulx Abbey, Helmsley Castle (I might have photographed a pigeon carcass, which wasn't particularly romantic to most people's perception!), and Egglestone Abbey at sunset. Our days before and after were filled with picturesque and historic villages, snow, grand homes, abbeys, churches, graveyards, beaches, parsonages, and such-like. A veritable feast for our eyes, cameras and imaginations.
This year, unfortunately, we once more spend this time of year apart. Kyle has just moved house to settle in Brisbane until he finishes his degree and readies himself to head over here. Though I spent a month in Australia with him over Christmas and New Year's, I missed sharing the thrill of snow with him again this year, which he experienced for the first time last year.
However, all going to plan, he will be here to enjoy the snow and St Valentine's Day with me next year. If I knew the exact date, you bet I would be counting down the days.