With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, love is truly in the air here in Wales. It’s customary for people to write cards to their ‘valentines’ and perhaps send a box of chocolates or a bunch of flowers too. Each year in Britain, we spend roughly £503 million on keeping this tradition alive; meanwhile, over in the States, over $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for this day alone. Whilst most of us are satisfied with some chocolates and a card, the most fantastic gift of love was the Taj Mahal in India which was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in the mid 17th century. Now a popular tourist destination, many of us won’t associate it so quickly with love as we might do with, say, Paris: widely accepted as the most romantic city in the world. The ‘pont des arts’, a pedestrian bridge over the Seine, has become iconic for its ‘cadenas d’amour’ (love padlocks) where there are usually 2,000 padlocks attached to the bridge at any one time, all emblazoned with their own personal messages of dedication and devotion. Local politicians recently declared war on these lovers, saying that ‘defacing the monument has to stop’ and that the bridge cannot hold the weight of so many padlocks. But luckily this hasn’t stopped couples from locking their souls together onto the bridge and then throwing the key into the river. The tradition has actually spread all over the world too, with similar padlocks appearing in Southern Hungary, on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy and on a bridge in downtown Moscow in Russia.
Another European city which is fast becoming associated with romance is the Italian city of Verona, where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lived, which receives about 1,000 letters each year addressed to Juliet. Some are stuck to the outside wall of the former inn which was supposedly the inspiration for the story. Others are sent to ‘Juliet’s secretaries’ a voluntary group who receive letters by the sack load requesting advice on love and relationships and asking for Juliet to cast lucky spells on their love lives. Most are addressed simply to: Juliet, Verona, Italy. However, for those of us without a valentine this year to send letters or cards to, it is becoming more and more common to share the day with our beloved pets, with estimations that 3 per cent of pet owners around the world will give Valentine’s Day gifts to their furry friends this year.