by Hannah Fielding
I was born in a house overlooking the Mediterranean, and from an early age I would gaze out at the azure sea and dream of the lands that lay beyond. My yearning for travel never diminished, and over the years I have visited many countries to drink in their cultures and customs and architecture and beautiful scenery. It is no surprise, then, that when I sit down to put pen to paper the stories that flow out are set in some of the most romantic settings I have encountered, from Kenya (setting for my first novel, Burning Embers, whose inspiration was the Kenyan sunset/sunrise), to Spain, Italy and Egypt (settings for my upcoming books).
What is it about a place that heightens the romantic sensibility? Of course, if you are with your soulmate, you can find romance any time, any place – an airport lounge, a subway train, a doctor’s waiting room; any location can become the backdrop for a tender moment. And yet there are some places, I have found, that seem to embody the very essence of romance. You breathe in the air and at once you become misty-eyed and smiling. Where you were tired, you are energised. Where you were jaded, you are full of faith. Where you were defensive, you are melting and open. Where you were caught up in the stress and routines of daily life, you are free and lost in the sensations of living, and loving, life.
The following places are romantic settings that I count among my favourites.
1. Venice, Italy: Gondolas and serenades, fine wine and delicious food, sublime architecture and artworks, and all around, lovers lost in each other. Home to world-famous lover Casanova, of course. Take the lift to the top of St Mark’s Campanile bell tower and you’ll have the most breathtaking view over red rooftops and the Venetian lagoon to the mountains beyond.
2. The River Thames, Oxford, England: A punt on the river on a lazy summer’s afternoon, cooled by the dark waters combed by green water weeds, gazing up at the spires of the city and daydreaming of all the famous Oxonians who’ve looked upon the vista, from John Donne to Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Christopher Wren to Oscar Wilde, Percy Bysshe Shelley to Lewis Carroll… the list is long and inspiring.
3. Aswan, Egypt: A felucca trip on the Nile at sunset is a most romantic and soothing experience. I love to take lunch at the Old Cataract Hotel: built on a granite promontory in the Nubian Desert on the banks of the Nile, this dark pink edifice in the style of Belle Époque villas of the nineteenth century has retained all the beauty and splendour of yesteryears. (For those of you who watch Agatha Christie films, the hotel is the setting for Death on the Nile.)
4. Le Mont St Michel, Normandy, France: A place of wild beauty, full of ghosts of thousands of years of history. The views across to France are spectacular. A place to escape from civilisation (the island’s population is just 44) and enjoy a leisurely picnic.
5. Cadiz la Joyosa, Spain: A white and blue town of pale domes and spires that sings and breathes of the sea. Sip a sangria, share a paella and watch the beautiful flamenco dancers perform their age-hold dance of seduction and passion. Que romántico!
What about you? Which settings would you add to the list? What places, for you, make the world fall away so all that is left is you and the person you love? City, park, beach, countryside? Hot, cold, rainy, arid? Europe, America, Africa, Asia, Australia? What’s the perfect backdrop for a moment with the love of your life?
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