Every love story is unique. And for every love story, there is an equally distinctive way of declaring one’s affection for their amour, whether in the small, everyday touches or grand over-the-top, diamond-encrusted gestures. There is no wrong answer here. However, we at Crystal are famously in favor of the grand. We love over-the-top, and we relish the extra special. Which is where we focus today, as we anticipate the romance of Valentine’s Day.
There are few gestures so grand as the establishment of a global landmark in the name of love and devotion. Throughout the world, history holds countless stories of palaces, statues and other monuments erected in tribute to the objects of the affections of powerful and important people. Several of these have withstood centuries, still standing today as subtle – or not so much – symbols of everlasting love. These love stories went far beyond chocolates and flowers, some into tragedy, others into enduring romance that world travelers still marvel at today.
Grab your sweetheart, review this list, and plan your next romantic adventure.
The Taj Mahal
The fact that this magnificent monument stands in the heart of India is no accident; and the fact that it is built over a grave does not detract in the slightest from its heart-wrenching story. The heart is where the inception of the Taj Mahal originated the 17th century, when Shah Jahan lost his beloved favorite wife, Mumtaz, to complications during the birth of their 14th child. So distraught from heartbreak was the shah that he vowed to Mumtaz on her deathbed that he would 1) build an everlasting mausoleum over her grave to ensure her eternal peace, and 2) that he would never marry again.
The Taj Mahal was completed in 22 years with the labor of 22,000 workers and an eternity’s worth of love to spur on the monumental project. To guarantee that no other living artwork surrounding the Taj Mahal would ever outshine his love’s final resting place, he asked the building’s designers to pledge never to create any other works in their lifetimes. The Taj Mahal today remains one of the world’s most visited symbols of love.
See it at sunrise and sunset, as the light changes and creates an evolving atmosphere of romance. Crystal AirCruises’ “Around the World: Iconic Sites” and “Holidays Around the World” journeys take you to Jaipur, from whence you’ll venture to Agra and the Taj Mahal for an extraordinary discovery of history, culture, and of course, love.
The Petit Trianon, Versailles
The nobility of 17th century France knew how to make a statement. The Palace of Versailles leaves no ambiguity about its residents’ standing, and indeed, Louis XIV was not known for his subtlety. Amidst the expansive grandeur of the palace grounds is the Petit Trianon, built by Louis XV in 1762 for his long-time mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Contrary to its name, there is nothing petit about this junior château, whose construction is representative of the Rococo and Neoclassical styles of the time.
Like many love stories of history, this one has a sad twist, as Madame de Pompadour died before the completions of the Petit Trianon. However, with no shortage of objets d’amour, Louis XV gifted the structure to her successor, Madame du Barry. Once Louis XVI ascended the throne, the opulent residence and its surrounding park was given to his equally extravagant young wife, Marie Antoinette.
Today, you can follow the footsteps of the legendary French monarchy when you visit Versailles and its grounds during Crystal AirCruises’ “Peninsula Grand Inaugural” journey, as you enjoy VIP access and special events.
Larnach Castle & Gardens
New Zealand’s only castle boasts the kind of romantic, tragic and scandalous history characteristic of most great love stories. Built by merchant baron and politician William Larnach in 1871 for his beloved first wife, Eliza, the castle boasts 43 rooms and a ballroom (which was added on later for his daughter, Katie’s, 21st birthday). Its perch on the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin is ideal for sweeping romantic views enjoyed with your loved one, which is no doubt what Larnach envisioned when he chose the spot.
After losing Eliza at age 38, then his daughter, Katie, in her early 20’s, the castle is said to have only brought Larnach pain. That ended with this suicide in 1898, and the castle today is said to be haunted with an “unhappy presence.” This was certainly not helped by the decades of conflict over the castle’s ownership that followed Larnach’s death, but is easy to forget when you step out onto the grounds and take in the views of the Pacific.
Discover New Zealand’s wonders – including Dunedin – aboard Crystal Symphony’s “New Zealand Explorer” voyage.
If you’ve left the task of the perfect Valentine’s gift to the eleventh hour, we suggest any one of these grand gestures. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with the gift of a luxury global adventure with your favorite travel companion.
Featured image: © Vitalyedush | Dreamstime.com – VERSAILLES, FRANCE – JULY 02, 2016 : Petit Trianon-beautiful Gar Photo