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Punta Tragara sits high on the rocky cliffs of Capri across from the Faraglioni Sea Stacks, about a 10-minute walk from Capri Town. The splashy 44-room villa-cum-boutique hotel has hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra, Eisenhower, Churchill, and, more recently, Jonathan Adler and Trina Turk. I checked in a few weeks ago and am happy to report that our few nights here were a highlight of our Amalfi trip. Read more
If you happened to be channel surfing this past Monday night, you may have caught glimpses of the gorgeous white sand and turquoise water that are the natural calling cards of the Caribbean island of Anguilla (shown above at left; courtesy of CuisinArt Resort & Spa). This photogenic isle proved to be a soothing background to all the human drama on the ABC reality TV series, The Bachelor. Fans of the series are certainly curious about the spots visited by Bachelor Brad Womack and the six remaining ladies vying for his heart, but even non-fans should know that Anguilla is an ideal locale for a romantic spring getaway – when there are just two of you!
Here’s a rundown of everything featured on The Bachelor, plus a few additional suggestions.
The clock is quickly ticking, but all you lovebird procrastinators (or maybe you’re just spontaneous) still have 19 days to book a last-minute Valentine’s Day getaway. The big day falls on a Monday this year, making it perfect for a long weekend. My inbox has been flooded with possibilities – from great deals to extravagant splurges. Here are 14 packages worth perusing:
1. Cities Across North America: The “Magnifique Romance” package at Sofitel (www.sofitel.com) – which includes accommodations, chocolates, flowers, champagne, and room-service breakfast – is available throughout North America (Montreal, New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago-Water Tower, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles) with rates starting at $140/night if booked by February 13.
2. Riviera Maya: Ceiba Del Mar Beach Spa and Resort, located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast just south of Cancun (shown above at left; courtesy of Ceiba Del Mar Beach Spa and Resort), has a four-night “Romance Experience” package that includes accommodation in an oceanview suite, a champagne cocktail welcome, a private candlelight dinner for two with a bottle of wine, and a 50-minute couples massage, from $1,440 for four nights.
Yesterday (January 18), Oprah Winfrey began airing her four-part taped telecast from Australia, where in December she took 300 lucky audience members (some of whom had never even flown before) on the trip of a lifetime. Their visit included celebrity-studded tapings at the Sydney Opera House (shown above at left; courtesy of Tourism New South Wales) and visits to Australia’s top tourist destinations. While the Land Down Under may be best known for its rugged Outback and Great Barrier Reef adventures, not to mention its only-in-Oz wildlife like kangaroos and koalas, I have visited the country twice and can vouch that it is also dreamily romantic.
Yes, Australia is far away (a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles), but it’s summer there now and all the Oprah hoopla means there are some good deals to be had. Here’s the scoop:
Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but this sunny, easy-access destination in central Florida also has plenty to offer couples traveling without kids – including some historic treasures and sophisticated flavors. In Part 1, I recommended several places to stay – here’s where and how to play without ever setting foot in downtown or a theme park:
Wander Winter Park: If there is a “park” for grown ups in the region, this charming city on the outskirts of downtown Orlando is it. Dating back to the 1880s, Winter Park (www.cityofwinterpark.org) is Central Florida’s oldest (and easily most photogenic) community. At its core is an oak-shaded, 10-block district anchored by Park Avenue and lined with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafes, and wine bars. Across from Park Avenue is 11-acre Central Park, filled with fountains and gardens and home to arts festivals and celebrations throughout the year, including the upcoming Sidewalk Art Festival, March 18-20 (shown above at left; courtesy of the Sidewalk Art Festival). The city is also known for its must-see Morse Museum (detailed below) and its series of seven lakes and canals, three of which can be explored on a one-hour Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour (www.scenicboattours.com) that meanders past the landmark 65-acre Rollins College campus, the Kraft Azalea Gardens and the mansion-lined Isle of Sicily.
“Romantic Orlando” may seem a laugh-out-loud oxymoron – what could possibly be sexy about shrieking kids, endless lines, and faux-everything sprawl? So you’ll probably be surprised to learn that 52 percent of all visitors to America’s theme park capital are adults traveling without children. As I discovered on two recent visits, there is more to this world-famous central Florida playground than that iconic squeaky-voiced mouse.
Orlando has several factors that make it a convenient destination for a quick grown-up getaway: Great airlift from most major East Coast and Midwest gateways (with flights of one-to-three hours and round-trips as low as $169); a moderate climate (with the exception of June to September when temperatures and humidity soar); and several resort complexes that are located amid abundant nature, such as on Shingle Creek (shown above; courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes), and outside of the theme parks, but close enough to allow easy access if you so choose. Here are my suggestions for two exceptional places to stay to enjoy a romantic getaway in Orlando (and watch for Part 2, next week, for details on very grown-up places to play – hint: they involve Tiffany glass, designer bargains, wine-sipping, and more):
When Amanyara opened in Turks and Caicos in 2006, its goal was to be different from everywhere else. Amanresorts’ first – and only – Caribbean property foreswore Providenciale’s 12-mile-long Grace Bay Beach, and built instead on 99 acres off Northwest Point, alongside an 18,000-acre nature preserve and comparatively modest half-mile beach. On the one hand, this spared its guests the Grace Bay commotion (think: a nearly endless coastline flanked by a nearly endless string of luxury resorts). On the other, this left Amanyara’s guests just a five-minute boat ride from Northwest Point Marine National Park, one of the best places to scuba dive in the entire 40-island archipelago, where getting stuck inside a spiral of 60 horse-eye jacks along the 7,000-foot-deep coral wall while Caribbean reef sharks fin past is fairly typical. Guests at other hotels can expect an hour-long ride each way to those same dive sites.
In just a few days, the New Year will dawn – and we all know what that means: Many a resolution will be made. I am writing this now in hopes of urging all couples to make their number-one resolution for 2011 to get the most from their romantic travels in year ahead. Here’s how:
1. Be spontaneous. Sometimes the best trips are planned on very short notice. And at ShermansTravel.com, great last-minute travel deals are just a few clicks away.
2. Try a new Caribbean island. Far too many couples get caught in a vacation rut – revisiting the same spot year after year. Repeat getaways are safe and familiar, but it’s fun to head somewhere entirely new: If you like the Bahamas, consider Turks & Caicos or the British Virgin Islands (shown above at left). If you like St. Thomas, try Barbados or St. Lucia. If you’re a fan of Aruba, try Grand Cayman or Anguilla. If Puerto Rico is your usual spot, give Jamaica or Curacao a try.
If you’re reading this and just beginning to plan your wedding (it is, after all, not only holiday season, but also “engagement season”), you should take a look at Villa Aquamare on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. I stayed here for a few days earlier this year and know that this intimate and luxurious three-villa enclave, which is set above a private beach park with stunning sea and sunset views, makes an ideal spot to exchange vows in front of close family and friends (see wedding set-up at left, courtesy of Melissa Barlow) and keep the party going for days to come.
Rentable by the week (although 3-4 day periods may also be available at certain times of the year), Villa Aquamare’s three five-bedroom villas (shown at right, courtesy of Villa Aquamare) feature 30-foot vaulted ceilings and 24,000-square-feet of living space accommodating up to 36 people (12 people in each villa, including children). With their contemporary décor, spacious living areas/lanais overlooking an infinity pool and the shimmering blue Drake Channel, and light-filled bedrooms with large terrace, deep soaking tub, and outdoor rain shower, they welcome guests with every luxury imaginable.
Is there a more romantic fantasy than saying, “I do” on a white-sand beach beside a tranquil blue lagoon in Bora Bora? Dream no more as Tahiti has legalized destination-wedding ceremonies for U.S. and Canadian couples (in fact, for any overseas visitors over the age of 18 who are not French citizens – with the exception of same-sex couples). Here’s the scoop:
Requirements: If you want to wed legally in Tahiti you will need to start the process at least six months in advance (you can also marry stateside and enjoy ceremonial-only vows in Tahiti with far less paperwork). There are about six detailed documents that need to be translated and filed, including a “Marriage of Foreign Citizens in French Polynesia” document; a letter signed and dated by both spouses and addressed to the mayor of the commune where the wedding will take place; proof of identities (copies of both spouses passports); a certified copy of both spouses’ birth certificates issued less than six months prior to the wedding date, authenticated with an “Apostile,” translated into French by an approved translator and legalized by the French Consulate; a “Certificate of Non-Marital Status” signed by a lawyer, translated into French and legalized by the French Consulate; and proof of residency for both spouses (such as utility bills). For complete details, visit Tahiti Tourisme’s dedicated weddings page (www.Tahiti-Tourisme.com/Weddings).
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