Frothy fountains, cobbled piazzas and scooters for two…
With Rome being the city of St Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, it’s no wonder it’s up there among Europe’s most romantic.
Rome, Havanna, Istanbul & home...
It’s all padded ceilings and brooding black and purple at the glitziest hotel in town. The swing hanging from the chandelier in the foyer of Leon’s Place says it all! Also, it’s one of the few hotels in Rome that boasts a Turkish steam bath.
Say ‘I DO’
“The San Silvestro Church in Rome was a stunning backdrop to our special day with a Soprano leaving us awestruck,” reminisced an enthusiastic Roman wedding fan. “The trick is to find a reputable travel agent, who will organise everything from paperwork to flowers, photographer, and reception so all you have to do is rock up and say, ‘I do’.” We recommend:www.weddingsinitaly.com
Honeymoon rules dictate nothing less than a champagne breakfast. So, meander over to the Spanish Steps for a sunrise photo opportunity and then slink into Babington’s Tea Rooms, at their base, for bubbles and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Zip around on a scooter to the Bocca Della Verita (Mouth of Truth) to recreate Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s moment in Roman Holiday. Hire your scooter from:
The former capital of the Ottoman Empire appears time warped, with its exotic, silhouetted mosques. But, it’s the bars, clubs and glut of restaurants that brim with 21st century sex appeal…
Just a five-minute walk from the Blue Mosque, and an easy stroll from the Grand Bazaar; Hotel Empress Zoe has marble hammam-style bathrooms, canopied beds, private terraces and original frescoes – all in a historic, Old Town side street.
Say ‘I DO’
Turkey is obsessed with weddings! Just drift down any street and, dotted in between the cafes, you’ll find a tsunami of wedding dress shops. Only civil marriage is recognized in Turkey so as long as you have that, you can choose any religious ceremony you want. Also, good to note is that Turkish officials cannot perform a marriage, which would not be approved in your own country. For more info:www.turkeytravelplanner.com
Pick a Venue
In Old Town, we love Imbat Restaurant, atop the Orient Express Hotel, where you can gorge on a candlelit feast with fantastic views of the historic city.
Sultry Sultan Nights
18 storeys up, on the roof at Mikla, your sky-high Martini will induce quivers of excitement.
Then, in bohemian Beyoglu, cafés are warm with fairy lights and jovial banter. Settle in at Refik, a bohemian Turkish tavern, for a flurry of meze: sardines, tomato and aubergine salad and hummus too.
Get lost in the labyrinth of lanes in the Grand Bazaar. Stop for a fragrant cup of sweet tea at Fes Café and ferret out the towers of Turkish Delight in rose, pistachio and pomegranate.
Take sun, rum, vintage vehicles and Colonial buildings, add a salsa soundtrack and you have Havana - Latin America at its most sizzling!
Just a fumble away from the gaudy Plaza Vieja (the Old Square), in the heart of Old Havana, Hotel Los Frailes’ convent theme is the perfect place in which to spend a sinful night. www.hotellosfrailescuba.com
Say ‘I DO’
More than 500 foreign couples a year wed amid the astonishingly beautiful beaches of the Cuban archipelago. For an urbane, Colonial affair, sweep up the staircase of what looks like an abandoned palazzo, past the starched tablecloths hanging out to dry and into intimate La Guardia – a terraced restaurant that looks like an island version of Gone with the Wind.
The seafront Malecón promenade is where loved-up Cuban couples fritter away their afternoons. Cosy up in a vintage taxi and rumble into Old Havana with strains of the Buena Vista Social Club crooning out the window. Also, drop in at one of the many salsa studios where skilled dancers will help you perfect your moves.
Liven up your mornings with thick hot chocolate sold from stalls on most busy street corners. Choose between the traditional Cuban cocoa, with cinnamon and vanilla, or an Aztec, spiked with nutmeg and chilli. Then, when the sun goes down and it’s something stronger you want, head to the old-world ambience of Bar Rosa Nautica, overlooking the sea.
Box: For the Black Book: tour guide Jorge knows Havana inside out, contact him here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lonely Hearts Club
We get it, not everyone is loved-up, so here are a few fun options if you’re going solo:
The perfect place for singles to mingle and the fastest growing tour option worldwide. Locally, the MSC Sinfonia has it all: swimming pools, a casino, more bars and clubs than there are Happy Meals at McDonald’s; and even a Vegas-styled variety show.
Like ‘MSC Starlight’ and gain access to special rates and competitions.
The trick to really enjoying a solo holiday is to seek out likeminded folk. You might technically be travelling alone, but if you’re with a posse of people who share your passions, you’ll never be lonely.
Check out the ‘ANCIENT SECRETS - exotic food & travel’ Facebook group where tours abroad are regularly arranged to all sorts of interesting places, primarily with a focus on food, culture and history. The next one in September, is to the Himalayas.
Men are from Dubai, Women are from Latvia!
Travel website Ebookers conducted a survey to find out where solos are most likely to become duos. For women it turns out to be the United Arab Emirates, where boys outnumber girls by 214 to 100. Guys – surprise, surprise – are better off in Eastern Europe. Riga, the Latvian capital, to be precise, with 84 males for every 100 females.
Closer to Home…
A Medieval Affair
Adorn yourself head to toe in crushed velvet period costumes, swig mead, and adopt the parlance of the time because at Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom, in Johannesburg, everything is themed – from the dress (they have an on-site costume shop), to the entertainment (expect lots of song and dance). You’ll be crowned King and Queen, with your attending Lords and Ladies, and you’ll all be entertained like royalty. They have a beautiful old thatched chapel, boasting truly romantic stained-glass windows for the ceremony, and an enchanting four-poster wedding suite. DURBAN READERS: There’s a Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom in KZN too!
Fancy a Fairy Tale?
At Rapunzel’s Tower, in Clarens, you’ll have an entire castle, nestled in the heart of the Maluti Mountains at your disposal. This self-catering guesthouse, with its spiral staircase is just the thing for fairy tale romantics: Persian rugs, a bath suspended 12 metres above ground level, four-poster bed and a dramatic fireplace adorned with cherubs.
Barefoot on the Beach
In the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, near the small fishing village of Paternoster, lies The Beach Camp. Here you can get married in a bohemian ceremony on the beach, and afterwards enjoy a sumptuous seafood feast (think snoek braai and oysters).
World’s Smallest Wedding
Consider wedding in what’s claimed to be the world’s smallest (seats just 8) church atop Van Reenen’s Pass in the KZN Midlands. The smallest Roman Catholic Church in the world is also a National Monument. There is plenty romantic Midlands accommodation in this gorgeous area, and in winter, it’s been known to snow atop this slippery, misty pass. How romantic!
The Cow Shed, in Mpumalanga, is the perfect place for a small, stylish country wedding. Here, rustic ambience and upmarket chic meet to create something truly unique. The Old Barn can be transformed into the magical space of your choice. There's also a shed complete with a pair of resident barn owls where the bride and groom can have photographs taken, or out in the fields with the local herd of Nguni bulls for something completely different.
In the Forest
Lythwood Lodge is ideal for a weekend-away wedding. Nestled in the mystical mountains of the Natal Midlands this spectacular estate is surrounded by natural forest. If a small intimate wedding with picnic baskets is what you choose, or a large elegant banqueting do, this is the place to do it! www.lythwood.com