Cheryl Fenton writer
Holding hands—a tryst of the wrist. The idea of this effortless gesture conjures up visions of togetherness. Two people joined together in a simple bond that is gentle, comforting and, if the suggestions are there, romantic.
The conditions under which these hands find each other change with each opportunity for touch. Perhaps one grabs another to assist in a hoist onto the summit of mountain majesty. Maybe they grasp through the darkness of an empty beach at night, the light from moon and star their only guides.They might reach across a table for an excited squeeze before beginning a four-course dining experience.
We’ve seen the images countless times—pairs strolling together along those empty, sugary beaches or wandering through foreign cobblestone streets. These images retain their magic.
There are some places that make us want to fall in love all over again. Here are a few of those destinations that go hand-in-hand with romance.
The Outdoor Enthusiasts: Sedona, Arizona
Become starry eyed under the stars with a trip to Red Rock Country. Voted the “No. 1 Most Beautiful Place in America” by USA Weekend, Sedona is a mesmerizing, picturesque city surrounded by red-rock monoliths reminiscent of a painter’s palette. This four-season playground is a wealth of historical, cultural, even spiritual explorations.
A wildly wonderful portrait of colored visions, Sedona lies at the mouth of the beautifully breathtaking chasm Oak Creek Canyon. Its impressive natural endowments also include the 1.8 million-acre Coconino National Forest, which essentially engulfs this city and encompasses seven precious wilderness areas. Sedona visitors can spend a day hiking, horseback riding, or bouncing in a Jeep on the trails and dirt roads that crisscross the area. (Note: When parking in the Coconino, you’ll need a Red Rock Pass available at self-service machines, the Sedona Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, and the Red Rock Ranger Station Visitor Contact Center.)
Follow in the footsteps of Native Americans, who long ago would visit Sedona to celebrate life, relax, and rejuvenate. Sedona boasts some of the world’s best spas, where you can relax your tired muscles or just unwind with restorative body polishes, soothing massages, and renewing body wraps. A global power spot, the Red Rock City has drawn some of the world’s most amazing healers, artists, and spiritual guides.
With picturesque scenery encompassing Sedona, art imitates life within the walls of more than 25 unique galleries. Drawing inspiration from every corner of this breathtaking natural area, more than 300 artists create beautiful works of Sedona landscapes, Kachina dolls, handmade pottery, sculptures, and Native American jewelry. Two galleries to not miss: Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village and Hozho Galleries.
Sedona also affords day adventures to not-so-far-off lands, such as the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Montezuma Castle National Monument, the Navajo Reservation, and Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks, to name a few.
While it’s possible to see some of Sedona’s famous red rocks walking down Main Street, to really get a good look at world-famous Red Rock Country, consider a Sedona sightseeing tour. These guided journeys visit ancient ruins, pristine canyons, and Sedona vortex sites via Jeep, rail, horseback, even hot-air balloon. A few to try: Sedona Adventure Tours (SedonaAdventureTours.com), Sedona Trolley (sedonatrolley.com), Sedona Tours & Guide Services (sedona-tour-guide.com), Red Rock Western Jeep Tours (www.redrockjeep.com), A Day In The West (adayinthewest.com), and Pink Jeep Tours (pinkjeep.com).
For lodging and tour guide information, visit www.VisitSedona.com.
The Ocean Adventurers: Windstar Yacht European Cruises
There’s something so romantic about traveling the ocean wide with its endless horizons, listening to the calming sound of waves lapping. Combine that with a destination of old-world European cities, and that’s amore.
Now imagine the privileged feeling of sailing on your own private yacht, with the romance of being at sea under sail as you visit rarely-accessed ports of call. Windstar brings all of this to you and your travel companion. Created with the vision of an alternative to the typical cruise, the Windstar passenger sees the world from a romantic sailing ship with luxurious accommodations, a casual yet elegant atmosphere, and exquisite service and cuisine. Windstar’s motor-sail-yachts are a three-ship fleet—Wind Star, Wind Spirit, and Wind Surf—that cruise to over 47 countries worldwide.
The upscale line sails into the exotic locales and hidden harbors that larger ships cannot access—magical and mysterious places like Capri, Italy; Porto-Vecchio, a part of France on the island of Corsica; or Mayreau, Grenadines. The Amalfi Coast, Nice, Monte Carlo, Rome, Venice, Barcelona, and Lisbon are a few of the popular destinations within Windstar’s Mediterranean and Adriatic European Cruises. Full days of exploration are the norm not the exception on these personal cruises. Embarking at each port in the morning, you can create your own day adventures or set up a guided shore excursion.
Carrying just 148 to 312 guests, Windstar ships exude a private-yacht-like atmosphere creating camaraderie and lasting friendships between fellow sailors.
Aboard, you’re surrounded by classic elegance: teak decking, rich wood interiors, an attentive service staff, eclectic artwork, signature cuisine, and extensive wine lists. Each of the three crafts has its own comforts and amenities to engage you, including a casino, spa services, health centers, libraries, and multi-media stations.
With over 10,000 square feet of open deck space on the Wind Star and Wind Spirit, and over 22,000 square feet on the Wind Surf, you’ll find hidden nooks for private moments and a feeling of being on your own private verandah. In your stateroom or suite, you’re cradled in comfort with ocean views, a sitting area, flatscreen TV, DVD, and CD player, iPod Nanos and Bose SoundDocks systems, a mini-bar/refrigerator, luxurious pampering toiletries, and plush terry cloth robes.
The popular seven-day voyage from Barcelona to Rome provides a taste of the Mediterranean with stops in Mahon, Palma De Mallorca, Alghero, Porto Vecchio, Portoferraio, and Rome. For an island-hopping experience, board for an Athens-to-Istanbul course that includes Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kusadasi, and Bodrum, Turkey.
Unfurling in two minutes at the push of a button, towering billows of white sails reach to the sky and you’re off on your next adventure. All functions are operated from the ship’s bridge by computer microchips and navigational devices, so you sail without a care in the world.
For more information on itineraries and pricing, visit www.windstarcruises.com/europe-cruises.asp.
The Beachgoers: Dominican Republic, Caribbean
Handholding takes on a lazy-day feel in the Caribbean, as you lounge on a palm tree-lined beach or stroll under the romantic umbrella of lush jungle land. Perhaps the other umbrellas (those adorning your tropical drinks) won’t be the only things causing a stir, as together you discover exotic tropical gardens and dramatic mountain landscapes.
The Dominican Republic is a colorful tapestry of Spanish, French, Haitian, and African influences woven by a rich history. Diverse terrain and extraordinary natural beauty is a hallmark of the area’s regions, with fantastic combinations of environments capturing your imagination and refreshing your soul. Rolling mountains, pine forest, coral reefs, unspoiled beaches, and arid desert co-exist side-by-side in this magical land.
The picturesque North Coast is famous for exciting eco-adventure and miles of breathtaking shoreline. Romance is everywhere—within the low-land mist of Salto del Limon in Samaná’s150-foot cascading waterfall, or suspended in a cable car high above ground (2,565 feet up to be exact) on top of Mount Isabela de Torres.
While stunning countryside and breathtaking beaches of the Samaná Peninsula attract many visitors seeking natural beauty, the East Coast also boasts an abundance of award-winning resorts, marinas, and designer golf courses. Steal a kiss in the Cuevas de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders) during your exploration of crystallized minerals with some 500 petroglyph wall etchings of ancient Taíno Indians.
The South Central region is home to Santo Domingo, the nation’s capital, and is ideal for experiencing a cosmopolitan area with countless culturally rich opportunities. For an undiscovered tropical paradise, visit the Southwest region, considered a hidden treasure, with unspoiled beaches and rustic cities like Barahona and Pedernales.
To keep your mind off of everything except each other, stay at one of the many all-inclusive resorts on the Dominican Republic. A few favorites: Iberostar Grand Hotel Bávaro (www.iberostar.com), the adults-only Excellence Punta Cana (www.excellence-resorts.com), and the Paradisus Palma Real (www.paradisuspalmareal.travel/). Or rent a glorious villa on the ocean at Sea Horse Ranch (www.sea-horse-ranch.com/eng/rentals.php).
For additional information, visit www.godominicanrepublic.com.
What’s your fancy? Peaceful red rock scenes or rocking out in a trendy European club? A sleepy village or thriving metropolis? Setting sail on the ocean or sitting down on the beach? All of them can be enchantingly romantic. Just make sure you’re holding the right person’s hand to enjoy them.