If you could package up all the elements of a romantic date and sell it, you’d make millions. Everyone wants an absolutely perfect, over-the-top experience that makes your pulse race, your heart swell, and your senses come alive — but it’s not that easy to pull off. The most romantic dates are often the result of alchemy; they combine good timing, planning, execution, luck and a little bit of magic to produce a memory that lasts a lifetime.
Recently, I asked women to tell me about their most romantic date memories. From viewing a spectacular sunset high above the city to boldly reclaiming romance after a lengthy illness, listen as these ladies let us in on the secrets that made these moments so unforgettable:
“My meeting with the boy next door in Paris netted us both a new relationship”
“I’d been looking forward to my overseas trip so much,” says Maryland resident Patricia, 32. “My friend Janelle and I had planned to visit Paris for three days and then take the train to stay with my sister in London. At the last minute, Janelle got sick and couldn’t travel. I was torn about visiting Paris alone. I didn’t speak French; Janelle’s fluent and was going to be our translator… but I’d already paid for both the plane ticket and the hotel, and my sister was expecting me in London. A little voice inside me said: Do it. It’s an adventure. You never do anything alone anymore. So off I went, and the first night, I was terrified. I felt very alone and troubled by the language barrier. As I lamely attempted to order lunch at a bistro in the Marais district on the second day, a man about my age who was eating lunch by himself while intently reading something on his iPad interrupted me. In perfect French, he told the waitress what I was trying to order. I thanked him and we started chatting. Turns out, he’s a teacher from Baltimore who lives 30 minutes away from me and happened to be visiting friends in France and Germany for a few weeks. He asked me if I’d like to have dinner that night, and I said ‘yes.’ He was really cute, we flirted up a storm, and all of a sudden during dinner, I just fell in love with Paris,” admits Patricia.
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“We walked for hours afterwards past Notre Dame and by the river, and he held my hand. Then he kissed me in the moonlight with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I felt exhilarated, scared, free, adventurous… and completely infatuated with this man who was responsible for the most romantic date I’d ever had,” Patricia recalls. So, did she ever see him again? Happily, yes: “We’ve been dating since we both got back home and are now talking about taking a trip in a few months — maybe another rendezvous in Paris?”
“After 15 years, I was reunited with my college sweetheart”
“His email came from out of the blue,” recalls North Carolina native Sarah, 39. “But there it was, a note from Jimmy (my college boyfriend) writing to see how I was doing, ask if I was planning to attend our 15-year college reunion, and also fill me in on the news that he was recently divorced. I’d been in love with Jimmy, but after college, we broke up and went our separate ways — me to New York City to work in the publishing industry; him to Raleigh, NC, where he opened a landscaping business near where I lived shortly after leaving New York. We had mutual friends and kept in touch [with each other] indirectly. He married and had two children; I didn’t, but I’d had a couple of long relationships, both of which were now over. But the idea of meeting Jimmy again at the reunion sounded too cliché to me; these things never work, and it’s always a disappointment because you can’t recapture the past.”
Luckily, Sarah’s long-lost flame, Jimmy, didn’t share her doubts. “He was persistent, and we would be seeing each other in a group, so I said ‘yes.’ The chemistry I felt when he entered the restaurant where we were meeting prior to the reunion was like a wave washing over me,” Sarah recalls. “He walked up to me and we just looked at each other, smiling, for what seemed like forever. That night, we left the reunion to walk hand-in-hand through the campus past the places where we’d both lived and frequented (the ones that were still there, at least). It was the most romantic night of my life, mixing the old memories with feelings that felt very new, too. Yes, we reunited and we’ve been back together now two years. I couldn’t be happier!”
“Watching the sun set over Seattle made me feel like I was in a Hollywood movie”
“My most romantic date ever started with a picnic and ended high above the city, watching the sun set over Seattle,” says Mary, 28, who left her hometown in Oregon because she wanted to discover love and excitement in a big city. “I’d met Patrick online and we’d had two dates already. We decided that for date #3, I’d choose the first activity, he’d choose the second, and we’d surprise each other. I decided on having a picnic at Pike Place Market and brought a blanket, cups, utensils, and a basket so we could load up on goodies from the market and take them to a grassy area not too far away. It was so much fun picking out fruits, cheeses and breads with him, exploring, trying things, talking for hours on the blanket… then came his turn.”
What happened next made Mary feel as though Patrick had read her mind and found the ideal place to end their evening. “He took me back to my house so we could both change into evening clothes and then headed to the Space Needle’s SkyCity restaurant to have drinks and watch the sun set over the water. I’d seen this place in the movie Sleepless in Seattle, and the whole day and evening felt just like a romantic movie to me,” Mary enthuses. “This was exactly why I’d moved — and here it was, actually happening in real life, and with such a nice guy! We’re still dating and thinking up clever new things to try together, but that was my most romantic date ever.”
“We found ways to reconnect on the road to nowhere”
“I’d gotten to the point where romantic gestures seemed rote to me,” says Washington native Suzy. “It’s Valentine’s Day, get the flowers; plan a dinner for the anniversary… nothing bad, but it was all just so expected. My husband Bill and I had been married for 15 years, and I think you get either lazy about connecting — or, in our case, acting a little too by-the-book. Bill and I had been working really hard for several months, and I think he knew I’d grown tired of being over-scheduled. Before my last birthday, he told me very cryptically to be prepared for a day trip. We dropped the two kids off at my sister’s house, and then the fun began.”
As it turns out, the romantic destination Bill had chosen for Suzy’s birthday can’t be found on any map. “He had nothing planned — nothing. All he knew was that we were driving west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains, through Middleburg, and after that… well, we’d just see,” says Suzy. “We stopped along the way for coffee, for delicious food at a country bakery, at a winery, at an old stone church, and at various shops along the way. He held my hand in the car and we listened to the radio — whatever was on, no set playlists or anything. He smiled when he saw how absolutely relaxed I was. He’d figured out the most romantic thing he could do for me was just to get in the car and hit the open road — no plans, no schedule. It was perfect.”
“Her joy in making me happy made this my favorite date ever”
“My girlfriend Melissa knew I’d been dying to see K.D. Lang, my favorite singer, in concert,” relates Tina, 38. “So she got two tickets to her Wolf Trap outdoor theater performance in the Virginia countryside. She took me to dinner beforehand, and she was more excited than I was, I think. Seeing my girlfriend so excited to do something nice for me was deeply romantic. It was a hot summer night, and we held hands during the show. Getting to experience a night with my favorite performer and my favorite girlfriend ever just made it over-the-top special for me.”
“Celebrating getting back to normal was the highlight of our marriage”
“I’d had an awful year, just the worst,” says Marylander Carrie, 43. “I’d had breast cancer, and the treatments — which took a toll on me physically and emotionally — ended in late January. I was not an easy patient. I wasn’t one of those tough chicks who grin and bear it. I was really upset, and my husband of 10 years bore the brunt of my anxiety (with 100% grace I might add). About a month after my treatments ended, I surprised him by getting all dolled up, making his favorite dinner, and opening a bottle of champagne like it was a combination birthday/Valentine’s Day celebration. It was neither, but it was my comeback! I felt strong and healthy, and I wanted to thank him for all he’d done to make that possible, all the dinners he’d made, and all the times he’d sat with me when I was feeling lousy. It was our most romantic date ever because we’d triumphed over something terrible and were able to smile, laugh, love and celebrate again… together.”
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him firstname.lastname@example.org.