Could it be we're falling in love?

Love blooms in the unlikeliest places - as demonstrated by the three winners of our competition asking you to write about your favourite romantic spot. Below right, some famous names choose their most romantic cities
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The Independent Culture
Gliding high in a gondola

Forget the Ponte Vecchio and the Golden Gate ... Newport's Transporter Bridge, hanging delicately over the muddy river Usk, is the most romantic confection of engineering ever conceived.

This slightly batty method of getting people and cars from one bank to the other consisted of two towers connected by a gantry. Suspended far below was the tiny platform. The gates clanged, the bell rang and up in his loft with its conical roof, the driver set the gondola (as it is properly called) in motion, to glide slowly to the other side. Lovers hugged on the wooden benches or sheltered from the wind under the fretwork-edged roof. People threw crusts to wheeling seagulls, children had free entertainment - travel from the west bank and arrive at a park on the east bank.

A hybrid between a ship, a railway station and a funfair ride, the Transporter boasted a bizarre mixture of decorative styles, a bit of brass, some delicately pierced woodwork and fancy iron railings. I would sit on it like Queen Christina, staring intensely over the wooden rail and waiting for the full-back from the High School B team, whom I fancied hotly, to mat-erialise beside me and declare his long hidden passion. It didn't happen, he was somewhere else.

You were allowed to walk over, but only after careful scrutiny by the gateman, instant psychoanalysis in case of suicidal tendencies. On the day we finished school, three of us walked up hundreds of steel steps, over the huge horizontal gantry, clinging to each other for dear life when the trolley from which the gondola hung, rattled past us.

We threw our hated school hats off the top, small navy UFOs floating down to the Bristol Channel. It was a place for the grand gesture - it was a grand gesture in itself, a bit of municipal madness in a gritty old docks town.

Finally, the Transporter got old and sick and eventually stopped operating, to the outrage of loyal fans. After doing nothing for a few years it's being restored, ready for a new generation of romantics who don't really want to get there in a hurry.

Mary Cousins


The most statuesque beauty

She sits astride her bronze horse, watching the people of Coventry pass. Behind her a new shopping mall, with its automatic doors, glass elevator and large electronic clowns to attract the children, blows out hot air to keep her warm.

In front of her, the old precinct, sadly grey and tired-looking now, buzzes with shoppers too busy to notice and appreciate her glory.

Above her head is a strange new canopy, held up by huge metal poles. What would she make of this city now?

Somewhere around 1040, the beautiful Godiva, wife of Leofric Lord of Coventry, begged her husband to reduce the people's taxes. Legend has it that Leofric said that he would if she rode through the streets naked. In her desperation to help, she did just that. The taxes were reduced and Coventry flourished. Only one man, a peeping Tom, could not resist looking at her, and was struck blind by her beauty.

If Godiva could turn her head left, she could watch her clock. On the hour, as the chimes start, two gates open and out of one comes a white horse, with Godiva on its back. As they ride around the balcony, through the second gate, Tom appears above to get his peep.

I once ran through town with a man I had just met, to show him the clock as it chimed. As we turned to see Godiva, I told him her story; I needed to know if he would appreciate her.

That was four years ago, and we always visit her when we are in town. I like to think that in her own way, she still looks after the people of Coventry.

The noise of the traffic does not reach her. Tennyson's words engraved on her plinth add to her grace. She is both magnificent and serene, simply the most romantic sight in Coventry.

Josie Scott


Love couldn't wait for a No 11

Birmingham has no reputation for romance. The fact that it has more miles of canal than Venice, more trees than almost any other European city and the largest urban heron population in Britain, rather than convincing people of Birmingham's ability to arouse the emotions, usually convince them that Brummies are compulsive liars.

But it doesn't matter. My heartstrings were not tugged on a narrow boat, near a lake or under a tree. I fell in love at a bus stop on the Warwick Road in Acocks Green (an aptly named place for an inexperienced young man to feel the first stirrings of love).

I have heard that love is blind; it has been said that love is deaf too. Falling in love at the side of the Warwick Road in the rush hour suggests that love has no sense of smell either.

Nobody tells you where to fall in love. You can travel to Italy to propose but the falling can happen anywhere. For me it happened in semi-detached suburbia beside the A41. The backdrop was not the raging water of Niagara but the roaring traffic to Solihull. It was a couple more years before Jasper Carrott made it famous.

Strangely, the bus stop in question indicated that buses stopped "To city, here by request." The number 11 doesn't go to the city. Or come out of it. It is the outer circle.

Steve, my neighbour and friend for many years, once decided to follow a bus on his bike, just for something to do. Four hours later the proverb "He who follows number 11 bus often ends up in Selly Oak bus garage" was born.

Next to that bus stop, with its misleading direction board, 10 years at least before the council deemed it worthy of a shelter, in the autumn of 1973, my girlfriend and I plucked up the courage to admit to each other that we were in love.

We were teenagers and nobody expected the relationship to last. Twenty- one years on, after several bottles of wine and a lot of prompting, we might just admit that it is still our special place.

Steve Tilley

Leamington Spa