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Tags: Luxe | Travel

Luxe Travel: Castles in Europe, Spanish Monastery Stays, Scottish Wizard School

By    |   Wednesday, 26 March 2008 07:07 AM EDT

Let’s be honest — the romantic in all of us yearns, deep down, for the enchantment of medieval times: knights and kings, gothic castles with turrets and towers, dragons to slay and princesses to save. Here’s a chance to follow your imagination back to the 12th century, where you can live the fairy tale without sacrificing your goose-down pillow, Jacuzzi bath, or room service.

Transylvania Calling

Built in 1212 by the Knights of the Teutonic Order, the world’s most famous castle (it’s commonly known as Dracula’s place) sits atop a 200-foot cliff overlooking the Romanian village of Bran. Now known as Bran Castle, it went on the block a year ago when it was returned to Dominic von Habsburg, an American heir to the royal family ousted during the communist regime.

The monstrous Romanian prince, Vlad the Impaler — Bram Stoker’s model for Count Dracula — was briefly imprisoned there in the 1400s. The government is hoping it will remain a museum, but if you’re the buyer (offered at $100 million, imagine the realtor’s commission) you can make the 57-room castle your home in two years, after its museum contract expires.

Bran Castle comes with seven acres of forest and three smaller buildings but you’ll have to negotiate for the rich collection of 14th to 19th century furnishings and objets d’art.

Oh, and plan to put another million or two into central air. More at www.brancastlemuseum.ro.

Fairy Tale Digs in Germany

Why take the kids to Disney when you can take them to the real Cinderella’s castle, “Mad Ludwig’s” 19th century Castle Neuschwanstein in the little Bavarian village of Kaltenberg? Or to Sleeping Beauty’s place — aka Dornroeschen Castle — in Sababurg?

Each summer, Dornroeschen Castle stages Sleeping Beauty and the Prince on its grounds. Many of Germany’s 100-plus castles and castle hotels house rare antiques and priceless art collections, and to experience sublime acoustics, do attend the annual September concert in Neuschwanstein Castle’s grand Sängersaal (Singer’s Hall).

The Gardens at Heidelberg Castle (now in partial ruins) once were considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. And the famous, 365-mile Castle Road alone has more than 70 castles. Summertime brings tourists and with them colorful medieval fairs, feasts and battles between evil “black knights” and worthy knights in castle towns throughout the region.

You’ll want to stay in a castle hotel, of course. A tower room at the Castle Hotel Auf Schoenburg in Oberwesel, with its towers and battlements overlooking the Rhine, is about $460 per night, including gourmet meals and room service.

Find lots more castles at www.culture-castles.com, and www.cometogermany.com.

Monastery Stays in Spain

Sleep in a 12th century monastery built by St. Dominic himself as you explore the culinary secrets of Spain’s High Rioja wine country.

Your host is Boundless Journeys, an operator of small, upscale group adventures around the world. Besides stays in the elegantly restored Hosteria del Monasterio de San Millan, you’ll sleep one night at the Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada, constructed by St. Dominic for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

You’ll sample some of the world’s finest wines, and feast with renowned Michelin-starred chef Francis Paniego of El Portal in Ezcaray. You’ll work off the rich cuisine with moderate inn-to-inn hikes through the villages and back roads of the wine region.

Your week-long journey begins and ends in Bilbao, Spain. Four dates from April to October, $3,695 per person. Learn more at www.boundlessjourneys.com.

Gothic Castle in Quebec

Technically it’s not a castle, but in your turret room overlooking the St. Lawrence River, you’ll believe in fairy tales.

Le Chateau Frontenac, an imposing, medieval-style stone fortress named for a French count, is the place to stay in the ancient walled city, and now’s the time to go as Old Quebec celebrates her 400th birthday.

Take a horse-drawn caleche. Soak in the ambiance of French bistros. Savor the steaming fragrance from pots of mussels steeped in garlic and wine with foie gras, followed by Quebec’s legendary maple-flavored creme glacee.

Your signature castle-style room with marble Jacuzzi bath, is around $900 night. See photos and details at www.fairmont.com.

Wizardry School in Scotland

Attention, grown-up Harry Potter wannabes: Scotland’s Ford’s Castle, built in 1338, is the “campus” of the brand new Harry Potter Witchcraft and Wizardry School.

Well, for one week only. But magic it will be as your small group roams the cavernous halls and take classes in subjects as varied as magical creatures, divination, herbology, history of witches, potions, and more.

Professional storytellers transport you to a magical place where hippogriffs and dragons rule, and where a poorly mixed potion may get you thrown in the dungeon.

Besides your castle accommodations and wizardly adventures, you get two Hogwarts-style banquets and a field trip to Alnwick Castle to view the movie location of Harry's first flying lesson.

The July 23-27 trip, organized by Beyond Boundaries Travel, costs $1,399 per person, excluding airfare. Add $200 if you want the flag tower room. Children are welcome, of course.

Go to www.beyondboundariestravel.com. and click on HP fan trips. There’s more enchanted travel offerings at www.hpfantrips.com.

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Let’s be honest — the romantic in all of us yearns, deep down, for the enchantment of medieval times: knights and kings, gothic castles with turrets and towers, dragons to slay and princesses to save. Here’s a chance to follow your imagination back to the 12th century,...
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 07:07 AM
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