On Valentine’s Day, what could be more fitting than recalling the magic of the most romantic places you’ve ever been? We all have a different list, but here are my top five:
The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
“A story of eternal love and friendship such as the world has never known before, lies shrouded in the mists of history. Much of that story has been forgotten and become blurred in the memory of men, but it has left behind a symbol of such rare beauty and unwavering devotion that it can never be forgotten. That symbol is the Taj Mahal.” – Mantoshe Singh
The Taj Mahal, the breathtakingly beautiful monument to the love of Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz, is a wondrous site to behold. Yes, it may be crowded, and yes, at certain times of the year, such as in August when I went, it will be scorchingly hot. But seeing it with your own eyes is an experience of a lifetime.
See it at dawn, when the early light transforms the marble into shades of petal pink. At noon, the marble appears pearl white beneath the blazing sun. In the evening, darkness unfolds, casting silver shadows over the walls while delicate moonbeams dance overhead.
Aït Benhaddou, Morocco
Not far from ouarzazate, a honey-colored kasbah called Aït Benhaddou rises from the shimmering sand, resembling a palace out of the Arabian Nights.
Here, ancient camel caravans once plied the lonely road to the desert.
Park your car, your camel, or your donkey. Cross the shallow, reed-strewn river as the sun rises high in the sky, painting the landscape in the muted shades of the desert – salmon, dusty pink and tawny gold. The kasbah’s chaotic jumble of red-ochre dwellings seems to spill down the rocky bluff, coming to rest at the village’s outer walls.
Climb the narrow, rutted stairs to the turreted rooftops, where you can view the sun-kissed fields that stretch for miles to the desert beyond. high upon your turret, it’s not hard to daydream of the caliphs and sultans of the past, of veiled princesses and of the deeds of conquering tribes.
Down below in the alley, a man in a sapphire-blue robe leads his camel into the shadows. He dismounts and embraces a slender, dark-eyed woman. Reluctant to let go, they look around anxiously – then steal a lingering kiss in the dark.
The silence of the empty alleyway whispers of stolen kisses and secrets hidden amongst these ancient walls. A place for romantics, most definitely.
The Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain
“It absolutely appears to me like a dream; or as if I am spellbound in some fairy palace.” – Washington Irving
Here, in this Moorish realm of legends and dreams, I sought refuge from a summer storm in the magnificent royal garden of the The Palacio de Generalife, once the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid sultans of Granada.
On the Patio of the Sultana, I sheltered in the shadow of an ancient brick doorway. Gazing at the garden, an old, dead tree caught my eye. Held steady by an iron brace, I realized it is the Cypress tree where the Sultan’s wife, Sultana Zoraya hid, waiting for her lover. I wondered – how many people had sheltered here before me? So many people had lived and loved and dreamed here, in this garden meant for romance.
Sweetheart Abbey, New Abbey, Scotland
This beautiful Cistercian Abbey, just 8 miles south of Dumfries, was one of my favorite stops on a recent trip to Scotland.
The caretaker, an elderly gentleman with snow white hair, took some time to tell us a romantic tale.
Sweetheart Abbey was founded in 1273, he said, by Lady Devorgilla of Galloway, daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway, in memory of her husband John de Balliol.
When her husband died, she had his heart embalmed and placed in a casket made of ivory and silver. She carried his heart with her everywhere, and, upon her death, she was laid to rest in front of the Abbey church’s high altar, holding her husband’s heart close to her own.
This graceful ruin is a peaceful place, lush and green and quiet. A perfect place to share with someone special.
Burns Country, Scotland
“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June: O my Luve’s like the melodie, That’s sweetly play’d in tune.” – Robert Burns
It’s only fitting to include Burns country, Scotland, on my list, on this very romantic day. Visitors can follow in Burns’ footsteps from the humble cottage in Alloway where he was born to the medieval Brig O’Doon, setting for the climax of his famous tale, Tam O’Shanter. Then drive along the coast and settle down for a pint in the Globe, Burns’ favorite howff (pub) in Dumfries, the city where he spent his last years.
What are your top five romantic destinations for a kiss?
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