ONE of the region's most historic towns has been voted the least romantic in the North-East. In the hope of disproving the assertion, reporter Chris Webber and his date went in search of romance in Stockton.
NO one is suggesting that Stockton can rival Paris when it comes to romantic icons.
There's no Eiffel Tower or Louvre art gallery and you might be stretching things to suggest that, even when the sun beats down, the River Tees can pass for the sweeping Seine.
But the ninth least most romantic place in Britain and most unromantic in the North-East?
That might be the result of a survey of 2,000 people commissioned by Hotels.com, but we found love almost straight away, in the form of Norman and Patricia Hogarth.
On the wind-swept riverside, the couple, aged 82 and 79, were to be found walking hand-in-hand.
Married 54 years ago last week they still go on dates, on this occasion to Cafe Infinity with its spectacular views down the Tees.
"I do think it might have been a bit more romantic in our day," Mr Hogarth conceded. "Our first date was probably at the Maison de Dance, a dance hall on Yarm Lane. We had wonderful times there."
At that, the old lovers glanced at each other, breaking into smiles.
But what about creating a few new romantic memories of our own?
The obvious place for myself and my date to start was the riverside and the magnificent Infinity Bridge. It was bold, beautiful with swans swimming nearby, but it was also bone-chillingly cold.
Arm in arm, we scuttled off to find some warmth, the aforementioned Caf Infinity offering hot food and cold drinks with river views.
After a visit to the neighbouring Joe Rigatoni's restaurant, we called in at The Arc, the arts and entertainment centre on Dovecot Lane. Sadly, there were no plays or concerts, just the sugar-sweet 1990 Hollywood smash Ghost, with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.
As there's only so much saccharine an old hack can take we did what hacks do and opted for the pub.
We found one place that looked promising, but was in fact a bit too rough and ready for those on a date, swearing loudly seeming almost obligatory. So with that we headed to the more laid-back Storytellers and our thoughts drifted back to Norman and Patricia.
"We've been here all our lives," the retired joiner had told us as he stared into his wifes eyes, no doubt in the same way he had all those years ago.
And there, in that moment, was the point. Its not where you are, but who you are when it comes to romance and for this happy couple Stockton has just as much to offer as gay Paris.
HOW STOCKTON AND PARIS COMPARE
Paris: Dinner at the Plaza Athenee, £200 per person.
Stockton: Dinner at Joe Rigatoni’s, £30 per person.
Paris: Cafe de la Paix in the Place de l’Opera, £5.
Stockton: Cafe Nero, Wellington Street, £ 2.95.
Paris: Happy heart necklace from Chopard jewellers, £900.
Stockton: Nine-carat gold diamond and ruby necklace from Hinds jewellers, £275.
That ‘Little Black Dress’
Paris: £300 from Gallerie Lafayette.
Stockton: £45 from Marks and Spencer.
Paris: Eiffel Tower, £5 entry.
Stockton: Infinity Bridge, free.
Paris: Cruise down the River Seine, £11 per person.
Stockton: Cruise down the River Tees, £9.95 per person.
Paris: From about £9.
Stockton: Arc £6.