Daily Escape

La Sagrada Familia

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La Sagrada Familia

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s favorite son, Antonio Gaudí, never finished his reverent masterpiece, the Sagrada Familía, but that only seems to add to its allure; two million-plus visitors meander through its mystical spaces and climb its twisting staircases every year. Like a drip castle rising up from the middle of Barcelona, the church is Gaudí’s wild interpretation of Gothic architecture, one that is rich with allegory: its ornate façade is covered in sculptures of biblical scenes and dove-filled trees, while the 12 looming bell towers represent the apostles. If the building itself doesn’t blow your mind, consider the timeline of its construction; Gaudí began work on it in 1883, and they hope to wrap it up by 2026--the centenary of Gaudi’s death.


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Monte Carlo Harbor
Monte Carlo Harbor

Monte Carlo Harbor

Check out these magnificent yachts docked in Monte Carlo Harbor, the rich-and-famous playground that served as a location for the James Bond movie GoldenEye. Take in the impressive sights of rococo buildings and mountains on the Bateau Bus (water taxi) or hop aboard a yacht cruise. 960 1280

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Oceanographic Museum

Oceanographic Museum

Rising from the cliff-side rocks, the Oceanographic Museum is home to a treasure trove of sea life: seahorses, sharks, cuttlefish, sea cucumbers and more. The building itself is a monumental work of art: It took 11 years to build, using 100,000 tons of stone from southeastern France. The museum marked its 100th anniversary in 2010. 960 1280

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Prince’s Palace of Monaco

Prince’s Palace of Monaco

Take a tour of the Prince’s Palace. For the past 700 years, these stately grounds have been home to the Grimaldi dynasty -- most notably, the late Prince Rainier III and the glamorous movie star-turned-princess, Grace Kelly. The palace’s state rooms are open to the public during the summer. 960 1280

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Hotel de Paris

Hotel de Paris

Relax in the heart of Monaco at the Hotel de Paris. This luxury resort hotel opened in 1863; today it’s regularly listed on the annual Conde Nast Traveler Gold List. Strike gold with exceptional dining (3 restaurant choices, showcasing Mediterranean gourmet dishes), along with airy, spacious rooms like this. 960 1280

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Opera de Monte Carlo

Opera de Monte Carlo

Take in a performance at the Opera de Monte Carlo. The opera house opened in 1879, commissioned by the Grimaldi family to showcase Monte Carlo as more than a Riviera playground. Today the opera house presents classical musical performances, ballet and philharmonic acts -- all from the small-yet-luxurious comfort of this 524-seat auditorium. 960 1280

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Round the clock, these officers stand guard outside of the Prince’s Palace of Monaco. See the stately Changing of the Guard each day at 11:55 a.m. The guards themselves are composed of an infantry division with 119 officers and sentry. Their motto: “Honor, loyalty, devotion.” 960 1280

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Larvotto Beach

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Le Metropole Shopping Center

You can’t leave Monaco without doing some shopping, so head to the Metropole! This shopping gallery spans 3 floors, with 80 boutiques (and names like Kenzo and Swarovski) that define exclusive. Lest all this proves too pricey for your credit card, there’s always plenty of window-shopping to enjoy, accompanied by glittering period chandeliers. 960 1280

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Alleged burial site of Vlad the Impaler
Snagov Monastery

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On a tiny islet, surrounded by a lake, stands Snagov Monastery. Vlad enthusiasts have been claiming since the 19th century that Vlad himself is buried inside this monastery, more than 300 miles from Bucharest. While there’s no definitive proof of it, it sure makes for an intriguing story. 960 1280

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Inside this 19th-century house in Bucharest, visitors encounter a Dracula-inspired restaurant with some, um, newfangled twists. Dine on menu options like “Count Dracula’s Beefsteak” and the “Van Helsing Plate,” in honor of Dracula’s biggest enemy. But beware -- someone might sneak up on you, and take a bite out of your tasty neck! 960 1280

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Brasov, Home to Dracula’s Castle

Brasov, Home to Dracula’s Castle

The medieval fortress, about 100 miles from Bucharest, was invaded by Vlad back in the day. Perched atop a 200-foot-tall rock, overlooking the village of Bran, Bran Castle yields panoramic views of the village below. 960 1280

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Poenari Fortress

Poenari Fortress

This weathered, cliff-side castle was Vlad’s main fortress. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries in south-central Romania by the rulers of Wallachia (a principality in what is now Romania), the castle was later abandoned and fell into ruin, until Vlad stepped in and oversaw its repairs. 960 1280

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Chindia Tower in Targoviste

This military tower, in the Romanian city of Targoviste, was built by Vlad in the 15th century. Construction began during Vlad’s second reign (his first reign had been interrupted by a political coup and subsequent exile). Vlad came back strong with Chindia Tower, which stands at more than 88 feet. 960 1280

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Vlad's Old Princely Court

Vlad's Old Princely Court

This place of residence, located in Bucharest’s historic center, was built during the rule of Vlad III. But don’t let its regal arches and (1 remaining) Corinthian column fool you; the princely court was also likely a house of horrors. Local lore has it that Vlad kept his political enemies in dungeons beneath the court’s grounds. 960 1280

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Sibiu, Where the Impaling Began

Sibiu, Where the Impaling Began

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Vlad's Birthplace, Sighisoara

See where Vlad III was born. In the winter of 1431, the future Prince of Wallachia was born in the present-day city of Sighisoara -- this yellow building is his supposed birthplace. Vlad’s father was Vlad II Dracul, who went on to become the voivode (warlord) of the area. No one really knows who Vlad III’s mother was; some speculate it was a princess from Moldavia, but Vlad’s father had several mistresses. 960 1280

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Borgo Pass

Borgo Pass

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Hotel Coroana de Aur

Hotel Coroana de Aur

Once you’ve checked out the Borgo Pass, settle down for the night at Hotel Coroana de Aur. The property comprises 109 rooms and 4 suites, with air-conditioning, mini-bars and free Wi-Fi among the amenities, making for a clean, streamlined environment to kick back and read up on Vlad and Dracula’s bloody exploits. 960 1280

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