Romantic places help the heart grow fonder

FOR LOVERS ONLY

February 14, 1993|By Joy Lewis | Joy Lewis,Contributing Writer

In an article on the cover of today's Travel section, an incorrect date is given for a quotation from Jonathan Swift. The date should be 1738.

The Sun regrets the error.

Lord, I wonder what fool it was that first invented kissing," said Jonathan Swift. Poor Swift! How exasperated he must have been with the pursuit of love when he wrote that line in 1837.

Whoever the first kissing fool may have been, people in ensuing centuries have gone to great lengths to find time, money and just the right circumstances for romance. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, here are 10 of the best places for lovers.

Sydney, Australia

When two hearts beat as one, many couples steer clear of madding crowds in large metropolitan areas. But then there's Sydney, where sapphire waters curl in and out of headlands, bays and peninsulas.

To immerse yourself in the splendor of Sydney Harbor, take a candlelight dinner cruise. City lights reach to the stars; harbor bridges arch to shore; sails of the Opera House, billowing white, slice the night. As water laps the boat's brow, this seductive harbor belongs to you alone.

Florence, Italy

As lovers walk the cobbled streets of the Renaissance city of Florence, their eyes feast on art and architecture. They're caught and held by Ghiberti's gilt-covered panels on the doors of the octagonal Baptistry and by Michelangelo's David in the School of Fine Arts Museum.

However, at day's end, amid rosy hues of dusk, eyes belong to each other -- and to a view from Piazzale Michelangelo guaranteed to stir the stoniest heart. This 19th-century belvedere overlooks a vista seen in many a Renaissance painting.

As evening light turns the Tuscan hills purple, the ancient Ponte Vecchio stretches its red rooftops across the River Arno. But it's the rhythmic form of Giotto's bell tower and the pink, green and white marble Duomo that most thrill the heart.

No wonder Elizabeth Barrett Browning chose Florence as the place to live and write love poems for 14 years.

Lake Louise, Canada

Deep in the Canadian Rockies, about a two-hour drive from Calgary, a stately hotel stands alone at the edge of a lake fringed by snow-laden mountains. Here, from the Chateau Lake Louise, a sleigh ride ranks right up there with great romantic moments.

As riders nuzzle between blankets, horses trot along the lake. Only their bells break the crystal night. The mountains, imprisoned by moonlight, steal your breath. Like queens in gowns of white, they guard their lake.

Paris

Imagine strolling along a red carpet in the prettiest railway station in Paris, the Gare d'Austerlitz. The carpet leads to a time machine of glittering blue and gold cars -- the fabled Orient Express, a train once patronized by spies and courtesans, kings and kingmakers. Suited for lovers, the trip to Venice in the ambience of a bygone era is a reminder of a time "when it was better to travel than to arrive."

This is the train of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express," of marquetry panels, damask drapes and marble bathrooms. Afternoon tea comes promptly at 4. White-gloved waiters serve le diner. Passengers dance in a bar-salon graced with a grand piano.

A cabin steward, dressed in navy with gold-braid trim, escorts couples to their double-berthed compartments. Near the light switch is a curious brass-rimmed circular object covered in velvet with a small hook at the top. "It's to hold a gentleman's watch," the steward says with delight.

When the train pulls out of Paris, honeymooners and second honeymooners lean back in cushiony seats, lulled by a sound not associated with modern trains -- the creaking of wood. Sarah Bernhardt, Toscanini, Houdini, Herbert Hoover, and Charles, emperor of Austria-Hungary, once were enticed by the same sound.

Surely, between here and there, on this "Train of Kings and King of Trains," there'll be more than one perfect embrace.

Tucson, Ariz.

The desert night sky, stark and omnipotent, is dusted with galaxies of stars. For immersion in such magic, drive about 20 minutes in any direction from the outskirts of Tucson. The best time is in the spring, when flowering lupine, penstemon and Indian tobacco sweeten the air.

Beneath shooting stars, the great saguaro cactuses raise their arms to heaven. Suddenly, an eerie symphony pierces the stillness. Coyotes, boasting over a catch of mice, sing songs of triumph. In this bowlful of stars, couples snuggle a little tighter.

Wurzburg, Germany

Wurzburg, nestled in vineyards and known as the gateway to Germany's "Romantic Road," is the keeper of a sumptuous baroque palace called the Residenz. Located 60 miles southeast of Frankfurt, its Imperial Hall is the kingdom of romance, especially during the Mozart Festival each June.

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