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Romantic vistas

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For vistas that are truly romantic this Valentine's Day, you can hardly do better than to travel to an exotic foreign locale. Here are a few of the most interesting and intriguing. They are sure to make your loved one's heart melt.

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One of the most romantic of the world's cities is Florence, Italy. Within its old historic core along the banks of the Arno River, in the heart of Italy's Tuscany region, Florence has been dubbed one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Known as 'the Athens of the Middle Ages', the city was the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been a thriving center of banking, art and commerce for virtually millennia. It's sun-baked stone streets open upon vistas of Medieval castles, open-air markets, inviting plazas and stunning architectural landmarks. Among these are the famous Duomo, the Pitti Palace, the Uffizi gallery, and the renowned Ponte Vecchio shopping bridge. A romantic vista of the city can be enjoyed from the Michelangelo Plaza south of the Arno.

The fourth-largest city in Austria, Salzburg is known for the baroque architecture of its oldest central district. A scenic Alpine backdrop frames this charming city, heavily populated by students of its three universities.

As the largest city in the southern German district of Bavaria, Munich is a center of commerce, finance and publishing, and ranks perennially high in livability ratings. It is also a highly entrepreneurial and innovative city. Soaring above the central city plaza of the Marienplatz is the town hall's Rathouse Glockenspiel, which entertains tourists and locals alike as it chimes the noon hour.

Be one of the 6 million people who annually visit Munich's Oktoberfest, a 16-day celebration of the good life (and beer, of course). In addition to amusement rides, games and sideshows, one can sample the many beers represented, while dining on a wide array of local food specialties.

The Piazza San Marco (or St. Mark's Square) in Venice, Italy is one of the world's most striking and romantic public spaces. To sit cafe-side, sipping a cappuccino, under the late-morning sun, among Venetians and pigeons and tourists is sublime.

The Chinese revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen was first president and founding father of China (1912-1925). Situated in Guangzhou, capital of the Guangdong province, and north-northwest of Hong Kong, is the site of a Sun Yat-sen Museum dedicated to his memory and life. This structure captures the polychromed pagoda character of early Chinese architecture.

Situated in north-central Switzerland within view of the Swiss Alps, Lucerne sits on Lake Lucerne, at a nexus of transportation, telecommunications and government. The city boasts a vibrant historic core, much of which is of finely preserved baroque styling.

Kowloon occupies a substantial mainland peninsula just across Hong Kong harbor from that teeming island city. Be sure to seek out the Jade Market in Kowloon, where hundreds of vendors display not only a vast array of semi-precious jade objects, but also gold, jewelry, artwork, fabric and leather goods.

Other exotic and romantic vistas one might enjoy:

• Strolling past the uplit evening spectacle of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in central Paris, on your way to a visit to the Louvre

• Treading softly upon the leaf-and-needle litter of shadowed timber through the mists of Muir Woods just north of San Francisco and Sausalito

• Dining al fresco, overlooking the gondolas gliding past along the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy

• Being pedaled through the narrow and winding lanes of old Macau, China under the glitter of early evening activity by a local pedicab operator

• Watching the white cliffs of Dover, England emerge from the mist-draped waters of the English Channel aboard a ferry from Calais

• Having one's picture taken with a large native iguana before dining on local fare at a Puerto Vallarta restaurant

• Crowding alongside revelers from around the hemisphere to watch the hours-long parade of raucous dancers and musicians of Nassau's annual Junkanoo parade



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