Romantic Rides for Valentines in California

As Valentine's Day approaches on Monday, February 14, 2011, romance is just around the bend-and there are a 1,000 ways to love. One of the favorites in California is the gondola ride. And, one of the oldest, most popular rides is in Naples, Calif., a community of Long Beach. The authentic Venetian gondola steered by a real gondolier winds under bridges and along canals styled after Napoli in Italy. Of course the gondola reservations fill up for Valentine's season but the bookings go from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, so be sure to call Gondola Getaway and check to see if you can make a reservation.

One of the best gondoliers from Naples spun off his own gondola company just a few bays away in Huntington Harbour. Tim Reinerd operates Sunset Gondola, named for the spectacular sunsets you'll see setting over the beaches of Sunset Beach.

We've ridden in the Huntington Harbour gondola ride and it has its very own charm that's different from the Naples excursion. Both last just under an hour, and what really makes them so spectacular are the gondoliers. In that account, Sunset Gondola staff are the finest anywhere.

Other gondola rides you can experience include Newport Beach, Coronado Island gondolas at Loews Coronado Bay Resort, a gondola ride at Redondo Beach next to the Redondo Beach Pier, and we hear there's a ride on Lake Merritt in Oakland, as well.

If you've never ridden a gondola, it is a peaceful experience that allows you to focus on your guests you've invited — or a special love interest. Try it and you'll be singing in Italian, or at least kissing under every bridge (supposedly a custom).

Interesting tidbits: We asked questions a few intimate questions from several gondoliers and here's what they said:

Q. What is the most extreme thing you've seen when steering a gondola?

A. I've seen it all, I believe. If discretion is required, I and the other gondoliers are trained at that.

Q. How many proposals have you witnessed?

A. Thousands. We've even supplied the wedding gondola for several who got married on a gondola.

Q. Has anyone ever turned down a proposal on a gondola ride?

A. Very few have said no. You can count them on one hand.

Q. When is the best time to ride?

A. There's never a bad time. But many do prefer sunset rides.

Q. Do you have any tips or advice for first time riders?

A. Bring sweaters or jackets. We supply blankets. You may bring wine, your own foods and and love potions such as chocolate covered strawberries, or rose petals. Contact us ahead and we'll help you create an impression customizing your event & ride.

Q. How many can ride a gondola?

A. Most our gondolas handle up to six people. There are some special, larger gondolas that can seat 12, however.

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