Some say Valentine's Day is the saddest holiday. So this year, when the huggy-huggy schlock that represents February 14 hits the shelves, consider casting tradition aside. In its place, make a rendezvous with these alternative -- and decidedly unromantic -- Valentine's Day adventures. Cutie Cupids need not apply for these destinations. We've found the most unromantic spots to fall in love with the human condition in all its everyday glory.
Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia
You won't find self-help instruction at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. Instead, bring along an item from your own painful past to donate to the collection. Curators transform love talismans into works of art at this award-winning museum. The exhibits display cathartic tales of love long gone. One, An Ex Axe, tells the story of a jilted lover who spent his passion breaking up his ex's belongings while she cavorted with her new lover. Can't get to Croatia? Now through March 2, you can donate your love-life detritus to the traveling exhibit showing at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam.
Hotel Ohnoya, Atami, Japan
First there was Lars and the Real Girl, the movie about a man and his blow-up doll, then came Her, the one about a man and his operating system. Hey, we don't judge such relationships; find your turn-ons however you like. Want a virtual lover, too? Hang out with the perfect avatar on the Nintendo game LovePlus from Konami. Want to take the relationship a step further? Feel the love in Atami, Japan, where you can schedule a virtual honeymoon. Hotel Ohnoya caters to men checking in with their LovePlus avatars—yes, they check you both in (at a double rate). For real virtual nerds, Konami's next version of LovePlus won't be ready for Valentine's Day; it's due to be released in late March. How unromantic of them.
Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavik, Iceland
To heck with romance, this place knows what guys and gals really think about. Museumgoers in Reykjavik aren't flaccid about the Icelandic Phallological Museum. They perk right up at the more than 215 different mammal penises and penile parts on display. The collection includes big ones, tiny ones, pointed ones, and even ones that look like little wrinkled balloons. Size matters. At least 57 of them come from whales. And yes, the museum has received four specimens legally donated by Homo sapiens. Run by a second-generation phallologist, the museum gets excited about unwrapping new ones. The gift shop makes a lovely spot for a memento of your date.
Archipelago, London, England
Yes, dearest, those are ants perched atop your arugula salad. They make a crunchy garnish. At Archipelago in London, you can also sample panfried crickets with quinoa. The exotic menu features worldly recipes that redefine farm to fork -- a dinner date here will put a new spin on romance. The setting is richly adorned with dark tables and religious curiosities, though we doubt you'll be praying. Instead, order the smoked python hugging a sweet chili sauce or the crocodile wrapped in vine leaves. Both will leave you breathless. And don't skip dessert, either. Choose from the Bushman's Cavi-Err -- caramel mealworms on delicate blinis in a coconut cream and vodka jelly -- or the simple chocolate-covered locusts. We think it will create quite a buzz.
Jeju Loveland, Jeju Island, South Korea
Some observers theorize that South Koreans may need a bit of prodding to reproduce because the country has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. So the Jeju Loveland sexual theme park seduces them to get their creative juices flowing. While Jeju Island claims the honor of the top honeymoon spot in the country, its adults-only theme park is for those seeking a bit of foreplay. Visitors to Jeju Loveland enjoy more than 140 salacious sculptures of coitus and its attendant activities, including life-sized doggie duos doing it right next to humping humans. Be sure to have your picture taken while riding the giant green penis and pedal awhile on the masturbation bike. It's a stimulating experience.
New Valamo Monastery, Heinavesi, Finland
Monastery stays are hot right now -- unless you're in Finland in February. Then you might get a bit chilly. Nevertheless, hang out with the monks at the New Valamo Monastery in Heinävesi and join in the monastic life for a day or two. The uber peaceful and nature-oriented spot quiets any ardor you may bring with you. There's a library for perusing, nature for walking, and services for kneeling. You may even take a class in icon painting. No matter your own beliefs, you are welcome to spend a night or two here (from $55). Hot water is included, but you might need a cold shower while you're here.
Paris Sewer Museum, Paris, France
No shouts of amour from the top of Tour d'Eiffel on this tour. Get down and dirty in the Paris Sewer Museum, Le Musee des Egouts de Paris. While the journey omits stops at street-side cafes and bridges clasped with love locks, it takes you into the City of Love's 1,300 miles of underbelly, from the rough sewers of the Middle Ages to the engineering marvels of the 19th century to the present. It's actually a good way to learn about how Paris developed. Along the way you can waste an hour or so contemplating a clean glass of water. No wonder you have to ask for a refill in those cafes.
Patpong Night Bazaar, Bangkok, Thailand
Deflate the romance of a night in Bangkok at the Patpong Night Bazaar. Once an illicit red-light district during the Vietnam War, the market now boasts nighttime bargaining of knockoff designer goods and hawkers drawing foreign visitors into go-go bars. Beware of exorbitant prices for the goods, drinks, and services throughout Patpong. While you can talk down someone selling ersatz Michael Kors by 50 percent, the bars are notorious for fights with customers who don't spend enough.
Trenton, New Jersey
You don't have to travel around the world to find an unromantic date spot for Valentine's Day. The folks over at Foursquare counted the number of reservations made on Valentine's Day to determine their list of the Least Romantic Cities in the U.S. Good old Trenton, New Jersey, took the prize last year. While the famous governor likes to indulge in Italian dishes at pricey restaurant Settimo Cielo, Jersey's capital is better known for date nights at the local Taqueria el Mariachi, where you don't really need a reservation. Go for it, big spender.
Divorce Hotel, Nieuwegein, the Netherlands
While lovebirds head to the chapel, the other 50 percent could go to the Divorce Hotel. Ditch the "Just Call Chuck" divorce lawyers bellowing their services from billboards and book a weekend at this hotel that focuses on quickie weekend divorces. This Dutch idea brings together couples who aren't fighting over tough issues, lodges them in separate rooms at a lovely hotel, and helps them emerge on Sunday with an agreement in hand. At Divorce Hotel properties all over Europe, guests can chill in the spa, lounge by the pool, and sweat it out in the sauna. And some couples even do a last-night hoorah before their big split. Sure beats divorce court (rates are typically around $3,400 per weekend).
--By Annette Thompson
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