By Val Karren
Every year in the midsummer week, I take my wife away on a romantic getaway to commemorate our wedding anniversary. While Europe has a long list of exciting destinations with fascinating history and inspiring works of art and architecture, they are also filled with lots and lots of people.
Our modern, hyperconnected and hyper demanding world can drive us to distraction and turn our hair gray if we don’t take care. So at least once a year I make it a priority to escape, for at least three days, to be alone in a hidden corner of Europe with the one person who I always want to be with.
Here are five of my favorite secluded spots for a romantic getaway to catch your breath and catch up with your lover. These suggestions are also very doable in the middle of a busy European travel and sightseeing itinerary. Taking the time to visit any of these places, for even just a day trip, will pay you back with renewed energy and an enhanced perspective of the places you are visiting.
#5 Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
A day cruise around the islands that lie between beautiful Stockholm city and the open Baltic Sea offer the rushed traveller a chance to take a ‘time-out’ and breathe and to wonder at the natural beauty of Scandinavia without making a huge sacrifice to a travel itinerary. You can get off your feet for two, four, six hours, have lunch or dinner on the ship, sit together in the sunshine and seabreeze holding hands, and still take in some of Sweden’s most breathtaking sights.
Watching from the deck you will start daydreaming about hanging up your own hammock and reading all summer on a rocky outcrop with enough space for just the two of you, a cozy summer cabin and an outdoor dining set.
Seeing how the locals celebrate summer in sailboats and on picnic blankets on the beach reminded me to slow down, appreciate my wife’s company and schedule more down time to relax and play with the kids..(in a high powered speedboat!)
#4 Treehouse in France (no kidding)
One hour southwest from Paris, just outside of the ancient town of Chartres, on a hill overlooking a wide nature reserve, where stargazing is simply unavoidable, if you know just where to look, you will find an isolated tree house built in the limbs of a sprawling oak tree with everything you need for a quiet, relaxed and comfortable get away from the world.
Here, the nights are deep, dark and silent. From the deck of the house the stars are close enough to bump your head on them. Wrapped in a blanket in deck chairs you may be tempted not to even use the bed(s) inside.
Breakfast of fresh baked bread, local jams, handmade butter (from the local farm) and fresh orange juice is stealthily delivered to the door each morning. The view at breakfast in the brilliant mornings were just as stunning as the nighttime sky on the deck.
Nearby villages make is possible to either buy groceries to prepare yourself and eat-in, or to eat-out at quiet cafes that won’t disrupt a residual feeling of seclusion and rest. Guide maps for a restful hike through the nature reserve are available in the treehouse and will guide you around the local farms for walks of differing distances depending on how long you want to disappear from the world.
#3 Maastricht, The Netherlands
One hour east of Brussels or two hours south of Amsterdam, in the most southern stretch of the Netherlands, sandwiched in a sliver of Dutch territory between Belgium and Germany, Maastricht offers the savvy traveller the best of these three countries in a compact provincial capital, filled with cobblestones, gas lamps, ancient Roman bridges over an ancient river, tenth century churches and great food! www.visitmaastricht.com/
Maastricht is the culinary capital of the Netherlands with multiple Michelin starred restaurants in the old town encircled by thick stone walls, built to keep Napoleon out, and let French inspired food in. A better romantic dinner has never been had than in Maastricht. Here, when you a book a table for two, you can expect to sit and talk, eat, make googly eyes at each other as long as you want without being pressured to leave. (and tipping is NOT a thing in Maastricht.)
The centre of Maastricht is (mostly) car free allowing you to casually stroll arm in arm before and after dinner through narrow alleys, on top of city walls and through the city park on the bank of the Maas river. Nearby in the surrounding hills are countless old manor houses and castles that have been converted into B&Bs or luxurious hotels to insure that your hotel will not be a let down after an idyllic, romantic dinner.
#2 Esch sur Sure, Luxembourg
Tucked away in a hidden, crescent shaped river valley, surrounded on three and a half sides by a meandering river, this medieval holm offers comforting hospitality in several well appointed hotels, in a natural setting that will wrap you up in an embrace you won’t want to be freed from. Pine trees line the hillsides from the riverbank to their crests, offering shaded, hushed hiking for nature lovers over soft forest floors covered with pine needles and moss.
The town itself is built under and integrated into the hilltop ruins of a medieval castle with rounded stone watchtowers spread out over the ridge that overlooks the spit that the river flows around. Worn stone stairways ascend and descend the hillside village streets around every corner, between the houses and inns. Arched stone bridges staddle the encompassing river at several points for both people and cars to cross to opposite side and disappear into the woods.
The natural setting and clean air will work up a good appetite while you’re out in it, and you’re going to want it. Dinner is not going to disappoint. Try the shrimp skewers at this restaurant: https://hotel-de-la-sure.lu/
#1 Tamariu in Catalunya, Spain
Ninety minutes north of Barcelona along the winding, dramatic coastline of Costa Brava, in a sheltered cove of warm Mediterranean sea water and sandy beaches one can rest for a night, or a week, and leave recharged and ready to take on the crowds, traffic and tourist traps of the big city again.
Watching the sea change colors from one of the hotel’s several different terraces while eating tapas and sipping cold drinks in the shade, with your favorite person in the world, is just as fascinating and satisfying as visiting the Sagrada Familia or one of Gaudi’s shape changing buildings on Passeig de Gracia.
The coastal walks radiating from the base of the Hotel Hostalillo (http://hotelhostalillo.com) along the rocky shoreline and through arid pine groves provide endless picnic, napping and sunbathing spots with sweeping coastline vistas to help still the hurried soul and rest the weary feet. Taking a day to wonder at the color of the sea, savor the flavor of bacalao cooked in honey and lime and compare impressions and observations with your partner is never time wasted.