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You'll fall in love with these romantic destinations
When it comes to a little Valentine's romance, there's a special place for everyone. Consider these Top 10 excursions across the globe for lovebirds struck by one of Cupid's arrows:
The seaside city of Savannah, Ga., with its unique blend of history, striking 18th and 19th century architecture, and modern-day appeal, is romantic in any season, but especially in winter when the weather is mild enough for long, leisurely walks down cobblestone streets and through those verdant and famously sun-drenched squares adorned with massive magnolias and oaks. And River Street, with its rows of cafes and taverns, is perfect for sitting outside and savoring an espresso and sampling local pastries. Savannah is also well-known for its bed-and-breakfast inns - the historic Ballastone Inn is a renowned local favorite - many of which offer Valentine's packages complete with everything from champagne and strawberries to crackling fireplaces. Contact Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (877) SAVANNAH (877-728-2662) or visit www.savannahvisit.com. Contact the Ballastone Inn at (800) 822-4553 or visit www.ballastone.com.
The Smoky Mountains town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., might not be on everyone's list of romantic places, but for Southerners it's always been a well-kept secret as a haven for honeymooners. The town of Gatlinburg, billing itself as the "Wedding Capital of the South," is pure kitschy hillbilly charm, but hidden among the great woodlands, bubbling streams, wildflower-dappled meadows, and forested peaks of the Smoky Mountains is a fusion of romantic and charming chalets, rustic log cabins, luxurious bed-and-breakfast inns, and mountain lodges, all within steps of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Contact Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce at (800) 568-4748 or visit www.gatlinburg.com.
Few places evoke more vivid images of romance than California's wine country in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. It doesn't seem possible that anyone would ever tire of visiting here, indisputably one of the prettiest places in America, if not the world. The melange of rolling hills resplendent with vineyards, alluring small towns, endless epicurean delights, roadside farm stands, and winery after winery after winery all combine for romance and intrigue. My favorite wine country inn is the Honor Mansion, a small but stylishly elegant property in Healdsburg in Sonoma County. Contact California Tourism at (877) 225-4367 or visit www.visitcali"forni"a".com. Contact Honor Mansion at (800) 554-4667 or visit www.honormans"ion.com.
As promised, there's something for everyone in this story, including single women. Ladies, consider booking a trip to Scotland for Valentine's Day, where there are, at last count, more than 450,000 single men between the ages of 20 and 40. Talk about hot spots for hot Scots! Just think, almost a half-million Ewan McGregors, Sean Connerys and Rod Stewarts in those cute little kilts. Once you arrive and can tear away from the Highlander hunks for a while, you might also want to check out the dramatic, ethereal beauty of Scotland's lochs, castles, and purple heather-covered mountains. Contact Scotland's National Tourist Board at www.VisitScotland.com or www.DateaHotScot.com. Continental Airlines (www.continental.com) flies directly into Edinburgh and Glasgow from the United States.
Exploring the countryside of Italy's Tuscany region is like opening a treasure chest of cultural jewels. From the great Renaissance artwork and museums of Florence, to the sumptuously undulating, vineyard-covered hills, to the grand Italian architecture, to fields of poppies and sunflowers, to rustic farmhouses, to the finest of wines, to the best of gastronomic delights, to medieval towns, Tuscany has all the ingredients for a romantic Valentine's getaway. The Villa San Michele, a 15th century monastery near Florence that has been transformed into a picturesque hotel, is tailor-made for starry-eyed lovers and moonlit nights. Contact Italian Government Tourist Board at (212) 245-5618 or visit www.italiantourism.com. Contact Villa San Michele at www.villasan"michele.com or reservations at (800) 237-1236. Alitalia (www.alitalia.com) flies from major U.S. gateways to several cities in Italy.
If you're looking for the ultimate getaway for romance, take a train ride from Zurich through the Swiss Alps to the stunning village of St. Moritz, and then let the gracious staff of Badrutt's Palace Hotel pick you up in its vintage Rolls Royce and whisk you to this historic five-star hotel that is a favorite retreat for celebrities, royalty and everyone in between. After sipping wine in the hotel's Renaissance Bar, the place to see and be seen in St. Moritz, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, complete with jingle-jangling of sleigh bells and cuddling under warm blankets, or ski in tandem down slopes of snow as fine and powdery as confectioners' sugar. Contact Badrutt's Palace Hotel at www.badruttspalace".com or reservations at (800) 223-6800. Continental Airlines (www.continent"al".com) flies directly into Zurich, the closest international airport, from the United States.
Zanzibar. The word conjures images of this romantic and exotic place, where so goes the adage "Africa meets Arabia." Known as the Spice Island, Zanzibar - a part of Tanzania - is famous for its intoxicating scents from the spice plantations, its sugary white-sand beaches edged by the shimmering emerald waters of the Indian Ocean, and its ancient Stone Town, where sultans once ruled. A trip to Zanzibar is the perfect accompaniment to safaris and sunsets on the Serengeti in Tanzania. Flights are available from the U.S. on South African Airways (www.flysaa.com). From Europe, choose from Kenya Airways (www.kenya-airways.com), British Airways (www.britishairways.com), or KLM (www.klm.com). Contact Tanzania Tourist Board at www.tanzania"touristboard.com or Zanzibar Commission for Tourism at www.zanzibartour"ism".net.
One of the great hotel legends of the world is Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Montego, Jamaica. Round Hill, a former sugar, pineapple, allspice and coconut plantation, is steeped in history and tradition. No, it's not one of those snazzy all-inclusive resorts that pepper the island (although all-inclusive rates are available), but more laid-back, quiet and elegant with its lush gardens and cozy villas. Playing host over the years to Noel Coward, John F. Kennedy, and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Round Hill is one of the Caribbean's treasures. With Valentine's Day packages that include chocolate truffles, you can't go wrong with a stay here. Contact Round Hill at (800) 972-2159 or visit www.roundhill"jamaica.com. Air Jamaica (www.air jamaica.com) flies from several U.S. gateways into Montego Bay.
To really impress your sweetie for Valentine's, take him or her Down Under to Australia and the Chateau Yering, a Victorian estate set on 250 acres in the Yarra Valley north of Melbourne. Located in the heart of Australia's wine country, this luxurious Relais & Chateaux property, dating to 1854, awaits with dazzling sunsets, vineyards ready for early morning strolls, relaxing massages, four poster beds, wood-burning fireplaces, claw-foot tubs, lavish gardens, and blue skies just right for hot air ballooning. A kangaroo or two hippity-hopping over the grounds completes the picture. Contact Chateau Yering at www.chateauyering.com or reservations at (800) 735-2478. Qantas Airways (www.qantas.com.au) flies from the United States into Australia.
If you and your Valentine ever wanted to travel to the ends of the earth, then romantic, windswept, mythical Patagonia, an uncrowded and unspoiled region in southernmost Argentina and Chile, beckons. Stretching for about a thousand miles from the center of Argentina to Tierra del Fuego on the very tip of the South American continent, Patagonia is a melange of wide-open spaces, snow-capped mountains, oceans, lakes, rivers and an incredible menagerie of colorful wildlife and birdlife, including penguins, seals, whales, the llama-like guanaco, pumas, rheas, parrots, the spectacular Andean condor and even ibises. Contact Patagonia Calling at (800) 440-2000 or visit www.patagonia"calling.com. Buenos Aires is the gateway to Patagonia, with direct service from the U.S. on Delta (www.delta".com), Continental (www.continental".com), and American Airlines (www.aa".com).