Romantic destinations

There’s no doubt about it: travel can be romantic.

So, at this time of year when love is in the air, here’s some of our favourite romantic destinations:

1.Venice, Italy – if romance has an ideal backdrop, this is it. Venice seems to emit a romantic energy. No wonder it is known as the City of Honeymoons.

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2. Crete, Greece – what a wonderful island. Rugged scenery, friendly people, wonderful food and an amazing culture.

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3. Lattari Mountain villages, Campania, Italy – within sight of the Amalfi coastline, yet a land lost in time. These villages spell out romance with a capital ‘R’.

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4. Schafberg Mountain, Austria – rising up from the waters of the Wolfgangsee, this mountain takes you to a land above the clouds. In season, catch the Schafbergbahn train to the top and behold the Hotel Schafbergspitze on its snowy peak.

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5. El Maresme costa, Catalonia – Barcelona and the coast to its north are as romantic as anyone could wish

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6. The Gower, southern Wales – a misty and mystic wonderland of green lowlands, rocky peaks, beaches, ancient castles and standing stones, the Gower is good for the soul.

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 7. Lake Bled, Slovenia – commonly described as one of the most beautiful places on earth, Bled has all the ingredients for a romantic stay.  Simply stunning!!

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8. Florence, Italy –  To see the sun sink down, drowned on his pink and purple and golden floods, and overwhelm Florence with tides of color that make all the sharp lines dim and faint and turn the solid city to a city of dreams, is a sight to stir the coldest nature.” – Mark Twain

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9. Athens, Greece – the ancient wonders of this captivating city are matched by the warmth of its people, the superb food and the excitement of the bubbling metropolis.

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10. Rome, Italy – the Eternal City spells romance and excitement at every turn.

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11. Niagara Falls, USA – another honeymoon favourite for a reason. There’s something about Mother Nature at her grandest.

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12. London, United Kingdom – the ‘Capital of Capitals’ has an appeal that must be experienced to be fully understood. We defy anyone to step off the plane at Heathrow and not feel immediately that the city is special indeed.

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13. Prague, Czech Republic – a cobblestone wonder that is as romantic as you will find anywhere.

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14. The Isle of Capri, Italy – every visit to this emerald island will feel like falling in love.

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15. Utah’s national parks – The Coyote Buttes – and who didn’t love cowboy movies?

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16. Scotland, United Kingdom – a rugged landscape, where the air is crisp and the whiskey is smooth.

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17. Paris, France – a perennial favourite with lovers, lose yourself in the boulevards and architecture (but watch the drivers)

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18. Copenhagen, Denmark – the dock of the bay at Nyhaven, one of the many charming highlights of this elegant and friendly city.

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19. The Dolomites, Italy – this limestone mountain range in north-eastern Italy is a favourite with the ski crowd, but its beautiful, rugged landscape is dotted with romantic cabins where solitude comes free of charge.

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20. The North Coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom – scenery to die for.

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Barcelona Features Romance

The romantic call of carousels

You’re never too old for the magic of a carousel.

Perhaps it’s being part of such a long lost craft, or just plain nostalgia for the joys of childhood, but finding wonderful old carousels has become something of a travel ritual for us

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Photo courtesy Popular Mechanics

Carousels are particularly ingrained in European culture and we’ve seen some beauties in France; the United Kingdom; Denmark; Germany; Italy and Catalonia.

They also remain popular attractions in Northern America and Australasia.

Knights go round

Known as ‘roundabouts’ or ‘merry-go-rounds’ in many countries, the carousel was first developed as a cavalry-training device in Europe and the Middle East.

Knights would gallop in a circle while tossing balls from one to another – which doesn’t sound easy.

By the mid-19th century the platform carousel was developed; the animals and chariots were fixed to a circular floor that was rotated by an operator or a team of horses. The steam-powered mechanical roundabout is believed to have appeared about 1861.

These days, carousels come in all shapes and sizes, which is all part of the appeal.

Tivoli’s high flyer

For example, Tivoli amusement park, at Copenhagen, Denmark, boasts one of the world’s tallest swing rides in the ‘Star Flyer’ – or Himmelskibef – an 80 metre (260 feet) high carousel that provides commanding views of the city centre.

 

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

The ‘Star Flyer’ recently celebrated its 10th birthday.

Shadow of the Eiffel Tower

Carousels are numerous in France.

We found many scattered across Paris.

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Photo courtesy Utrip blog

Probably the most striking setting is the Eiffel Tower Carousel, on the Champs de Mars – a green park that runs down to the Eiffel Tower.

A beauty in Florence

In the magnificent city of Florence, Italy, a superbly restored wooden carousel is a highlight of the Piazza della Republica.

This is the antique carousel of the Picci family, which has operated the ride for four generations.

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Photo courtesy Jorge Royan and Wikimedia

On London’s southbank

On our last visit to London, we were delighted to come across a traditional carousel on the Thames Southbank, near the London Eye.

Covent Garden has also been the site of numerous carousels over the years.

Colourful carousels of Barcelona

Like the surrounding city, the carousels at Sould Park amusement area in Barcelona are boldly designed and adorned in bright colours.

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Photo courtesy Mr Richochet and Flickr

In Berlin, Germany, the traditional carousel has been taken a step forward with the high flying ‘Merlin’s Apprentice’ swing ride at Legoland in Potsdamer Platz. We didn’t test ride this one, but it sure looks spectacular – especially for the young.

An Aussie gem

One of the most striking carousels we’ve seen holds pride of place in the Darling Harbour entertainment precinct at Sydney, Australia.

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

Horses for this rare Edwardian carousel were carved in London in about 1885 and the steam engine was made about seven years later at Norwich, England.

Imported to Australia, the carousel was given a galloping motion in about 1910 and became widely known for its appearances at country fairs and agricultural shows throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Central Park’s indoor carousel

One of the highlights of wonderful Central Park, in New York City, is the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel, that dates to 1908.

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

This indoor attraction is one of the biggest carousels in the US.

Jet-powered?

While discussing carousels with friends in the US, we were told about a jet-powered attraction that was given a test run several years ago by the  Madagascar Institute, an arts collective based at Brooklyn, New York City.

Apparently, the aim was to fit jet packs on the backs of each user, stand clear – and hope.

Our friends were unsure how well it worked, but the idea certainly took the ancient carousel to new heights.

(Main page photo: Classic Carousel, Tivoli, Copenhagen. Copyright: Memorable Destination)

 

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Our pilgrimage coincides with upgrading plans for Camp Nou

Barcelona is an awesome city – and football fans the world over are drawn to Camp Nou, the city’s famous stadium.

Join our pilgrimage:

We were fortunate that our visit to Europe biggest stadium came as plans were being announced for a dramatic upgrading designed to create a futuristic and exciting facility.

See how the camp will look after the work, which is scheduled to start in 2018:

Expected to cost €420 million, the new Camp Nou will have covered seating for 105,000 spectators and a new, steeper first tier to improve the view of the action.

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As well as the hallowed turf that has hosted numerous senior international matches, the stadium currently includes a memorabilia shop; training pitches; a chapel; and the FC Barcelona Museum, which is said to receive more than 1.2 million visitors a year.

During our visit, we were in awe at the FC Barcelona trophy-room, which contains shelf after shelf of silverware – every trophy, or a replica of every trophy that the club has ever won.

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Naming rights sponsorship for the new stadium is expected to bring in €200 million for the Barcelona club – which will cover a third of the cost of the renovation.

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Beautiful Barcelona is a lot more than just Gaudi

At the mention of bold and colourful Barcelona, thoughts turn to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi.

The instantly-recognisable fingerprints of Gaudi are all over this wonderful city, not the least being his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia church.

But, there is also a lot more to the face of Barcelona, where the old and the new blend to create a remarkable atmosphere.

The city’s streets boast eye-catching traditional buildings, sometimes almost side-by-side with modern structures that, in turn, draw inspiration from the past.

For example, the history, beauty and culture along the Ramblas – Barcelona’s famous tangle of tree-lined malls and alleys – is something to behold. Here are some of our favourites:

House of Umbrellas

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You’ll marvel at the colourful Casa Bruno Cuadros, which used to be an umbrella shop and has particularly delicate wall decorations.

We were told that this prominent building is known by locals as the Casa dels Paraigües (House of Umbrellas)

It was built in 1858 and remodelled with the current facade in 1883 by Josep Vilaseca Casanovas.

Army headquarters

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This striking building stands at the bottom of the Ramblas, in front of the Christophe Colombus Column.

In its Mediterranean surroundings, the army headquarters is one of several stately buildings in the in the Portal de la Pau square.

Cines Comedia (main photo)

Originally built in 1887 as a grand residential mansion in the heart of Barcelona, this building was converted into a theatre in the late 1930’s.

The architect for the conversion was Rodriguez Lloveras and the first performance in 1941 lasted for four days and celebrated the end of the Spanish Civil War.

In 1960, the theatre was converted into a cinema and three decades later, it became a five-screen complex.

Externally it hasn’t changed and is still an imposing building on a prime location in the heart of Barcelona. Internally it’s five screens have the latest technology.

Casa Lleo i Morera

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This modernist building was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner in 1902 on Barcelona’s top shopping street, Passeig de Gracia.

Casa Lleo i Morera contains the upmarket store of luxury clothing and assessors brand, Loewe.

La Boqueria Market

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Although not in a stately building, Barcelona’s La Boqueria Market, or Sant Josep, dates back to 1217, when tables were apparently installed near the old city gate to sell meat.

The markets lead to a series of quaint alleys, such as this one that leads to  Bacardi Palace, a Colonial property built in the 1850s and housing centrally-located apartments.

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The influence of Casa Milà

Many of the modern buildings in Barcelona clearly show the influence of Antoni Gaudi.

The wavy lines of this structure certainly stand out from its surroundings.

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However, to the untrained eye, this design appears to owe much to one of the city’s most famous buildings, Gaudi’s famous Casa Mila – popularly known as La Pedrera.

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At Barcelona, even the cemetery is an art gallery

Soon after leaving the airport at Barcelona, – at the very gateway to the city – you are faced with a sight remarkable even in eye-opening Catalonia.

Winding up the side of Montjuic Hill, overlooking the sea and looming above the Barcelona cargo port is a huge cemetery – much of it built in the sepulchral style with coffins above ground stacked up to eight high in big communal graves.

Cementiri de Montjuic covers an astonishing 56 hectares on the seaward side of the hill, below the 375 year old former fortress, known as Castell de Montjuic.

Opened in 1883, the cemetery contains about 150,000 burial plots, niches and mausolea.

It is a striking sight and has become an attraction for visitors, much like the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris, France and Highgate Cemetery in north London.652px-Montjuic_Cemetery_Barcelona_IMGP9429

In each case, the necropolis has become an invaluable gallery of what is referred to as ‘funerary art’.

At Barcelona’s Cementiri de Montjuic, architects, sculptors, stained-glass artists and other craftsmen contributed, through the years, to creating beautiful examples of funerary architecture and sculpture.

There are magnificent neo-Gothic mausoleum; eye-catching statues; large family vaults reflecting many architectural styles; and the walls or sepulchral niches, where the coffins rest above ground.

As you walk through the Cementiri de Montjuic, it is like strolling through a miniature city cloaked in silence. In fact, much of the cemetery is built to replicate the layout of Barcelona’s Eixample district.

Famous people at Cementiri de Montjuïc include former president of the Catalan Government, Francesc Macià; musician and composer, Isaac Albeniz; architect, Ildefons Cerdà; founder of FC Barcelona, Joan Gamper; and renowned painter and sculptor, Joan Miro.

At the administration office by the main entrance, you can get route plans to help you see the notable historical and artistic sections of Cementiri de Montjuic. It is open daily from 8am to 6pm.

Photo above of Montjuic Cemetery, Barcelona, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and photographer  Nikodem Nijaki.  The main photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons and photographer Jordiferrer 

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