Myriad lists today describe the "top ten places to kiss," the "top ten places to propose," the "top ten places to honeymoon," etc. I have been fortunate with the opportunity to travel extensively, and have taken note of special destinations imbued with charm. This compilation is quite subjective; for example, there is no mention of Venice, but rather - for me, 10 magical places of innate beauty about which I am passionate, all capable of re-kindling warm memories. These are not listed in order of rank.
1. Paris' Eiffel Tower at night is an iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars named after engineer Gustave Eiffel. At night, it sparkles, and children playing soccer at its base simply adds to its charm. The third level observatory's upper platform at 279.11 m provides an overview of the city. The tower's open lattice shape suggests airiness and strength, softened at night by the lights, and definitely dedicated to all who love.
2. Whistler Village at the base of the ski lifts is a winter wonderland where one can enjoy the "Village Stroll," savour a good meal and browse through unique shops a mere 125 kilometres north of Vancouver. The village has won numerous design awards, and Whistler has been voted among the top destinations in North America by major ski magazines since the mid-1990s, a great place for sipping wine in front of a fireplace. Again, at night, it becomes magical!
3. Stratford's Avon River may seem an odd choice, but what could be better than a picnic lunch along the quaint riverside with white swans sailing by intermittently like miniature feathered cruise ships, effortlessly gliding? That and a sparkling performance at the Stratford Festival up the nearby hill is a terrific date for any two people in love. The agriculturally-based city is always a joy to walk through, and one unforgettable peak experience involved the
Canadian Brass, each gifted member playing his instrument from on top of a different downtown tower!
4. Québec City: why bother to fly to Europe? Take a VIA Rail train and soak up Québec's French atmosphere right here in Canada. Stay in the heart of the Old City near the Chateau Frontenac, an imposing architectural gem that commands the city skyline. Walk to the Parliament Buildings to view the Fontaine de Tourny, a gorgeously lit fountain donated by La Maison Simons, a local business since 1812. Sit on a park bench, listen to a mellow saxophone player, and romance fills the air.
5. Salt Spring Island is one of the gem-like Gulf Islands dotting the Strait of Georgia between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. It's inhabited by easygoing, green-oriented free spirits of all ages who share one thing in common: they've opted out of the fast lane for life in a largely unspoiled paradise rich in community spirit and brimming with forested trails, lovely beaches and see-forever vistas. Within a few hours, you feel peaceful, relaxed, and of course, romantic! If you missed the 60s hippie movement, you can sample it here.
6. Tintern, Wales is a village on the west bank of the River Wye in Monmouthshire, close to the English border, slightly north of Chepstow. Tourists visit for the natural scenery and the ruins of Tintern Abbey. The abbey is magical for me because the great Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, wrote "Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey" here, often abbreviated to "Tintern Abbey." I'm reminded of University days when I studied the Romantic poets with their unbridled enthusiasm for nature, particularly Wordsworth and his "visionary gleam."
7. Ronda is a tiny city in the Spanish province of Málaga, about 100 kilometres west of the city of Málaga with a population of approximately 35,000. It is picturesque, situated in a mountainous area about 750 m above sea level with the Guadalevín River running through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep, 100 plus meters deep El Tajo canyon upon which the city perches. Ronda seduced Americans Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles who spent many summers here in the old town quarter, La Ciudad. Both wrote about Ronda's beauty and famous bull-fighting traditions. Ronda reminds me of a delicate bird about to take wing.
8. Petra is Jordan's great tourist attraction, carved into the sheer rock face by the Nabataeans who settled there more than 2000 years ago, transforming it into an important junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. You enter through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1km in length, flanked by soaring, 80m high cliffs. The colours and formations of the rocks are dazzling, and as you reach the end of the Siq, you catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh, the Treasury, an awe-inspiring experience. Even better is to walk this route at night in silence guided by lit candles and upon arrival at the Treasury, sit amidst hundreds of candles illuminating the facade as you sip warm tea delivered by a Bedouin in a white frock, and listen to ancient musical instruments play in the star-lit night. Another wow experience!
9. Savannah, Georgia attracts millions yearly who enjoy the city's architecture and historic buildings, and the accessible downtown area includes the Savannah Historic District and 22 park-like squares. This city exudes southern comfort and charm; soon, one talks slowly and easily just like the natives.
10. Sometimes you get lucky and actually live in the "prettiest town in Canada." Niagara on the Lake, the Victorian beauty sits at the intersection of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, with its horse-drawn carriage rides, VQA wineries, vibrant flowers blooming everywhere, the Shaw Festival and a gorgeous Niagara Parks administered riverside parkway that attracts picnickers, bikers, strollers and need I mention, yes - lovers?
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
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