Every time I have been to Moscow every day has been an adventure and every day I have fallen in love, either with a place or a person. It is decaying, it is passionate, it is ironic, it is constantly changing culturally but has these massive unchanging granite buildings. Every building tells a story. Even its ugliness is a kind of beauty because it makes people cultivate a world within. It's the crumbling backstreets that are most evocative. You feel yourself in the presence of Chekhov's grandchildren and Gogol's ghosts and Tchaikovsky's dreams and Eisenstein's politics; it's a heady mix. I find visual austerity frees the imagination. It is a city without pretence. It hasn't been cosmeticised. Its secrets are there to be plundered if you look. But the exciting atmosphere there was around the beginning of perestroika - the romance of political change - is being replaced by extreme disillusion.
AS Byatt, novelist
I am currently writing a kind of song of praise for London, a novel set in the 1960s in which a woman gives an extra-mural class on EM Foster and DH Lawrence and their fear of the machine age. My heroine is thinking what I always feel every time I get back to London from a foreign city: how exciting London is. Every time I go to New York I think it will be all right when I get back to London. A lot of my generation of men have had love affairs with New York; they felt it was exciting and romantic to get out of dull old England. London is infinitely more exciting and romantic: it's cleaner and brighter and greener and the lights are more subtle, so much more beautiful at night. I like its multifariousness. I've lived here since 1961 and I would find it very hard to live anywhere else, though other places have the romance of strangeness.
Wendy Cope, poet
I can't talk about the person who links me to Winchester but I really do love it. It's old and beautiful and much of it is unspoilt. Wherever you walk there is something nice to look at. I love going to evensong in the cathedral and walking in the water meadows. Keats spent some time in Winchester in 1890 and he used to walk in the water meadows. It is still very lovely. It has a magic - for me, something about the fact that the cathedral has been there for 900 years; it's peaceful. I feel drawn to the cathedral and I love walking in the cathedral close, though I haven't been a churchgoer or a believer for years.
Malcolm Bradbury, novelist
Romantic places were part of my more romantic days. I grew up in Nottingham, but of places I have a continuing commitment to as opposed to a memory from the past, Norwich would be the one.
I take great pleasure in taking the train back from London. After going through Essex commuterland the countryside suddenly starts to unroll and you realise you live in a place that is very hard to get to. It's out on its own. I travel a great deal, so I think it is odd that I have settled in so much here. I am attached to it, though I've never put it in a novel. It's the place I go to to write about somewhere else. Norwich is domestic and the rest of the world is foreign and exciting.
Marcelle D'Argy Smith, editor of
New York is immensely romantic. So many people have written about it. I feel like I'm treading some sort of well-worn path. I become enchanted there. When the sun shines in Columbus Avenue, the pavements actually sparkle. When the sun hits the skyscrapers you catch your breath. It's magic. When the trees are wound round with white lights before Christmas it is like fairyland.
I am more romantically attached to New York than to any other city I know, even though others, like Paris, are more beautifully put together.
I get terribly cheerful in NY and that's good for love. I have experienced insane highs of liking somebody there, though I may have felt more mysterious and sexual in Paris. If I died there I would be happy. I lived there for two years and it totally captured my heart. You can hear music all the time and drop into piano bars. There's no romance in London. But I am like the woman who had the wild affair and came back to her husband.
arbara Cartland, romantic novelist
My most romantic place is my home. If you're a woman and you've got a home and a husband and children and you haven't made it romantic you've failed as a woman. It is your job to make it somewhere precious and wonderful and full of love and romance. I've always had my home in London and in the country. Every home I've had has been very, very romantic because I have been happily in love.
Roy Ackerman, chef
Venice in winter is what I think of: it was my second visit and I went by boat from Greece to Venice. When I arrived it was about 1am and very misty. There was music playing as we went up the canal. It was the most magical trip, without doubt the most romantic experience of my life. You feel moved when you go into the incredible places of worship, filled with music; I find them totally romantic - the romance of something steeped in history, knowing that millions of people have trodden the same path. It makes you feel very mortal. I associate Venice with Mahler's Fifth Symphony, which is moody, and Mozart's Requiem, which is rich and sexy and so moving. Being moved is romantic in itself: it makes you love. Venice is decaying, dying. That makes it more romantic because it's much more precious.
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