Lately, I keep reflecting on places I've visited that bring back very romantic memories. Being both a hopeless romantic and a passionate person, I thought I'd share my memories here since my old travel blog containing these destinations was wiped out earlier this year.
NUMBER 1 - PARIS
But of course!
I first visited Paris in 2001. I spent 5 days there without knowing any French. I had a blast and fell in love with this city instantly. It was truly love at first sight. I don't know what it is, but Paris tugs my heartstrings in the deepest way. I feel love whenever I think of Paris. I'd always smile and say to myself, "Ah...Paris..." whenever I see a scene in a movie or on TV being shot there. That's how much I'm in love with the City of Lights. This affair has been ongoing for 8 years and it's still going strong. :)
My first encounter with the Seine River.
Beautiful stained glass inside St. Chapelle dated back to the 13th century. This picture doesn't do them justice!
The Mona Lisa at the Louvre, before they glass-caged her. Yes, her eyes DO move with you! Pretty crazy!
Venus de Milo at the Louvre. Maybe she made me fall in love with Paris. :)
My favorite sculpture of all time: Auguste Rodin's "The Kiss." When I stood in front of it, I was overwhelmed by the love and passion this lifeless statue extruded. I was in awe.
I indulged in Monet and Van Gogh's paintings at the d'Orsay museum. I was like a little kid in the candy store!
The exquisite Arc de Triomphe.
Underneath the Arc.
My first encounter of the Eiffel Tower. So happy! I was 27-year young then. :)
In 2004, I had a 7 hour layover in Paris on my way back from Italy (my first visit there). I decided to spend a few hours in the city before heading back home. I took a train out from Charles de Gaulle airport. On my way into the city, my head kept screaming, "I'm home! I'm home!" I couldn't believe how much I missed Paris and how thrilled I was to be back. I went to see the Eiffel Tower again, and had a hot chocolate-banana-coconut crepe in front the Notre Dame (I ordered it in French this time...so proud of myself!) before heading back to the airport.
NUMBER 2 - BARCELONA
I visited Barcelona in 2006, and what a passionate city it is! I had so much fun getting lost in maze-like alleys only to discover yet another old church with amazing interiors and arts. You can't escape Antoni Gaudi's legacy all over the city. On top of all that, I had a blast going tapas bar hopping and meeting the friendly, carefree, and passionate Spaniards and Catalonians.
Strolling down La Rambla having a wonderful time people watching.
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art. Designed by Richard Meier, the same architect who designed the Getty Center here in Los Angeles. His signature white square tiles are unmistakable as soon as you see the building.
Wandering into a random church. Spanish style of art is definitely different from French and Italian. To me, French is more sophisticated and "rounder" in style, while Italian is more "angular" with "straight lines" in their facial features in paintings and sculptures. Spanish is in between but uses warmer and more vibrant color combination. I could be wrong, but that's my observation. I did, however, meet an Italian art history professor on this trip who was teaching temporarily at the university there, and he quizzed my ability to distinguish different art styles. I'm happy to report that I passed! :)
My first encounter of Antoni Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia as soon as I emerged from the subway. The first thought that came in my head was, "Oh my goodness!!! This is a crazy building!"
One of the facades at the back entrance of the Sagrada Familia.
On top of the Sagrada Familia looking at the entire Barcelona.
My trip wouldn't be complete without some yummy paella!
My favorite building in the entire world...Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batllo. This was built 100+ years ago, but he was so ahead of his time. I thought they remodeled one of the bathrooms inside because it looked so modern, only to learn that it was designed that way in the 1800's!
I *love* Spanish guitar. It's so passionate to me. I'd wander into a plaza and see performers plucking away. It gets me into a romantic mood. :)
My first encounter of the Mediterranean Sea.
A garden eel feeding at the Barcelona Aquarium.
Sunset over the Barcelona port on my last day there.
NUMBER 3 - NEW YORK CITY
My first visit to New York was in 2000 on a business trip. I was actually on Long Island in Port Jefferson Station. I had a rental car, but when I landed in LaGuardia and saw all the busy traffic in Manhattan, I didn't know how I was supposed visit the city before I leave. Luckily, on my last day there, my client and his wife took me out to the city after learning that it was my first time in New York. I was lucky enough to have seen the Twin Towers standing when we drove into the city. The red lights were blinking on top of them as if they were breathing. They were so alive. As soon as we got into the city, I could totally feel the energy and the vibe. It was amazing. I still feel this way whenever I visit NYC, its energy and vibe excite me. It's so vibrant.
My second visit to NYC was in 2005. Since I'm a museum junkie, I had to visit the Met.
My third visit was in 2006. This time, I braved the residual effects from Hurricane Ernesto and went up to the Empire State Building. The view was breathtaking, but it was rainy and oh so windy!
I got to see a Broadway musical on this trip. It just so happened that Usher guest starred in "Chicago" as Billy Flynn. He still needed to work on his voice projection in theatre-style performance, but he did a great job as a pop star. :)
Indulging in some fine jazz numbers at the famous Birdland after "Chicago." Ahh...so nice!
I also got to act goofy with the Wall Street Bull. Haha!
I caught a sunlight beaming through the clouds on the ferry leaving the Statue of Liberty.
Walking around in SoHo during the hot Labor Day weekend in 2007. It felt good to be treated with some ice-cream by my friend! :)
Posing with a Carnival performer at the Brazilian Festival near Time Square. It was so much fun browsing the stalls and people watching.
I've never been a tennis fan, but since the US Open was going on during my visit, my friend got me watching it every night when we went to a park with a jumbo-tron. I'm proud to say that I enjoy watching tennis now!
Catching the last bit of summer in Long Beach, NY. As much as I love the city, I didn't really care for the 45-minute train ride out to the beach...I think I'll stay put here in LA. But, I had tons of fun navigating through Penn Station and around Time Square in my beach gear. I felt like a true New Yorker on this trip because I had a local person showing me around. :)
I've visited Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and even Harlem, but I hadn't had a chance to visit Brooklyn. Well, in 2008, I hopped over to NYC after a business trip to Toronto, and I got to visit Brooklyn on this trip. My friend took me to the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It was breathtaking!
Aren't they beautiful?
I'm just in love with NYC, that's why I keep going back and have been making an effort to go back each year. :)
There you have it, my top 3 most romantic destinations so far. Although each city has its own character (Paris - Romantic, Barcelona - Passionate, NYC - Vibrant), I've had very fond and romantic memories during my stay. My heart always melts when I think of these three cities.
I'm looking forward to visiting other places like Venice, Santorini, and Buenos Aires...perhaps this list will change in the near future!