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Last-minute gifts for even the most skeptical Valentine

BEIRUT: To some, a dozen red roses is the ultimate representation of love or at least a means to brighten up a dining room. To others, roses represent another tired cliche, or worse, a wasteful, thorny extravagance.

Valentine’s Day, like roses, often gets abused by its critics. Lovers of fluffy pink teddy bears and caramel stuffed chocolates are fortunate, because these come premolded for the holiday in its modern form. But for those who are more offended than flattered by a sprinkling of glitter, a carefully thought out Valentine’s gift can still exceed expectations.

Local love experts told The Daily Star the key to romance is to know your partner. And if that’s a tall task to ask in the five-day crunch before Thursday, then hopefully this gift guide will inspire.

For the classic and sentimental

Patisserie Cremino on the Airport Road attracts patrons from all over the city to indulge in its French pastries, stuffed chocolates, freshly baked breads and elaborate cakes.

The bakery has a whole section devoted to red fondant-covered cakes in ridiculous heart shapes and adorned with loving slogans. If there’s more than one pair of animal print shoes in your lady’s closet, Cremino’s cake with the edible zebra-pattern detail will do the job.

Or spend the same amount of money – around $25 – on a dozen assorted pastries and cake slices. In the end, she’s bound to love one of them, and you’ll get to help her taste them all.

Homemade gifts often walk the line of cliche. But drawing on light and happy memories can overcome cliche and plant the gift soundly in the land of love.

For him or her, choose songs for a mix CD taken straight from the movies you saw, the concerts you attended, the songs you turn up in the car together, even the elevator music from a common coffee shop.

For flowers, shake things up with a different kind of bouquet: giant, fragrant lilies, sunflowers or white or yellow roses. Or go to Exotica and pick out a mini rose bush that will last.

Up there with roses, jewelry is one of those ubiquitous Valentine’s gifts. But alas, it is also the most dangerous as the nuances of taste can banish a thoughtful pair of earrings to gather dust for eternity.

Giving real precious metals will always be appreciated over costume jewelry, even if the chosen design doesn’t quite jive with your partner’s style. He or she will find a way to wear it. Simplicity is safest if you have yet to master each other’s tastes.

For him, solid metal chains or pinky rings with a hidden engraving are fairly mainstream and masculine. But if even those make you squeamish, engrave initials or a nice motto into a pair of cufflinks or a Swiss Army knife – you can’t get much manlier than that.

For her, a pair of circle- or square-cut earring studs in solid metal, or with a semi-precious stone, is safe and classic. If you want to find something more unique, play it safe and bring one of her girlfriends or sisters with you when shopping.

For the over-the-top

High-maintenance lovers may be a pain, but who can deny them the limelight on Valentine’s Day?

The king of romance, Wael Kfoury, will be performing alongside Elissa at the Hilton Habtoor hotel in Sin al-Fil Thursday.

For a gift that will have your lover relaxed and grateful for the year to come – especially if they like to pamper themselves – the luxurious spa at Le Grey hotel in Downtown has yearlong memberships – which include the pools, Jacuzzi, gym, sauna and steam rooms, and discounts on massages and other treatments – starting around $1,600.

Other hotel deals include the Four Seasons Valentine’s Day package for a minimum of two nights. The offer includes a breakfast buffet and a couple’s massage.

For the

offbeat

For those men and women whose romantic side is usually hidden beneath a cool, sarcastic exterior, stuffed toys and a heart-shaped cake will likely make you the butt of jokes for months to come.

If you suspect that might be the case, opt for one of these surprise activities and maybe keep the word “Valentine” out the night’s conversation.

Vamos Todos, one of Lebanon’s ecotourism groups, will be holding a Valentine’s weekend hiking trip. The group leaves from Jdeideh on Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. for Maaser al-Shouf. Hikers will spend the night at a local guesthouse, which will serve an all-inclusive dinner, breakfast and lunch and host Saturday evening festivities.

The snowshoe hike will take the group through the Cedars Reserve in two intensity levels and will head back to Beirut after lunch Feb. 17.

The two-day trip including meals costs $120 per person or $60 for the Sunday hike only. For more information, visit vamos-todos.com.

DRM club in Hamra will host Arabic musician Ilham al-Madfai on Valentine’s Day Thursday. The performer is known for his fusion of classical Arab and Latin dance music.

If you’re looking for something truly unusual, and perhaps full of laughs, Italian chef Pasqualino Barbasso from Caffe Mondo will be showing off his talents at the Phoenicia’s rooftop Eau de Vie restaurant. Watch the talented pizza maker stretch a pie crust farther than ever imagined, and delight in the authentic end result.

Food Blessed’s volunteer opportunities also offer a funky way to show love not only for each other but for the less fortunate as well. Food Blessed takes food donations from restaurants and individuals and delivers them to the needy in Lebanon.

Spend Valentine’s Day together cleaning out the cupboards, or stop by the grocery store and pick up a plethora of nonperishables – nothing boosts the feel-good vibes like helping others. To donate or ask about volunteering opportunities, call 70-159-337.

For the practical

For years gift guides have condemned those who give gift certificates and vouchers.

But the practical among us know that the best part of having a lover is their knowledge of all those superfluous details: for example, that we have an obsession with Canon camera accessories; that we stop for a Starbucks caramel macchiato in Downtown every morning before work; or that we can’t keep away from the gourmet cheese section at TSC.

In such cases, a gift certificate is actually the most practical and welcomed way to say they accept us and all our excesses. It’s also a sweet way to show a loved one you’ve been paying attention.

Other practical gifts include gift vouchers to the movies, homemade baked goods or quality leather accessories like a belt or wallet.

If you want to treat yourself and your loved one, invest in a mini projector from Virgin Megastore and set up a home theater for endless movie nights.

If all of these ideas seem too over the top, stop by Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in Saifi Village and pick up a few of their wacky candies.

For us more practical lovers, nothing says romance like a $3 bootlegged TV series and a packet of pop rocks; for at the end of the day, none can eschew the call of love, even if it’s issued from the sub-zero Cedars hiking trails.

 

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