Show de Cologne - Page 2

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Hohenzollern Bridge
PARIS 2.0: Cologne's cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge  (Digital Visions)

Our weekend began on the Rhine's rive gauche, or linke ufer as they say here in Germany (I know it doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but bear with me). There are lots of upmarket places to stay in Cologne, but we'd opted for Das Kleine Stapelhauschen, billed in our guidebook as “a romantic hotel overlooking the river in the heart of the city's old town.” In didn't disappoint. The hotel's affable proprietor, who looked like Pinocchio's father, led us up to the top floor of the hotel. Our room came with a view (naturally) and boasted an enormous roll-top bath, a four-poster bed, and a lofty, timber-beamed ceiling. The floorboards creaked, the pipes gurgled, and the bed boinged. It was perfect.

We could've happily spent the rest of the weekend in that room, but the cobbled streets of Cologne's Altstadt beckoned. It's called the Altstadt, or Old Town, because it's really very old indeed. Our hotel, for instance, was celebrating its 257th birthday when Columbus first sailed the ocean blue. Right behind the hotel, towering overhead, were the great gothic turrets of St. Martin's Church, built in the 11th century. And to the west, barely a block away, were the foundations of the Praetorium, built by the Romans when Jesus was still the apple of Mary's eye.

Gazing up at the gabled roofs and timber-framed facades that line every lane and alleyway, it seemed hard to believe that 90 percent of the buildings in the Altstadt were destroyed by Allied bombs during World War II. After the war, everything was meticulously rebuilt with the help of archive photographs and original plans. The result is a maze of medieval streets that gives a whole new meaning to the term “labour of love.”

However, there's one thing in Cologne that is 100 percent genuine, so genuine in fact, that it's accredited by the German government, and that's the thermal spring water at Claudius Therme, a luxury spa within strolling distance of the city centre. Under the guise of a romantic riverside promenade (and safe in the knowledge that Emma's two favourite words in the English language are “luxury” and “spa”) I made my bid to become the best boyfriend in the world, ever.  

I was glad I did. Stepping into the spa was like walking into a Roman bathhouse. The only things missing were the togas. For the price of a bad haircut we spent four hours being soaked, steamed, and pampered. We bathed beneath waterfalls, wallowed in whirlpools, and sipped freshly made vitamin-cocktails. And, just when we thought things couldn't get any better, they did. As darkness fell, and with it the temperature outside, we made our way out to the terrace pool, and watched the sun set over the river as steam rose off the surface of the bath-warm water in swirling, ephemeral billows.

Sensing the best-boyfriend title was within reach, I pressed home my advantage. After a moonlit walk back through the park, I followed up with a four-course meal and some late-night jazz at the effortlessly elegant Brasserie Breugel. Inside it was dark enough to be discreet, but not so dark that Emma couldn't gaze adoringly into my eyes. The tables were candle-lit, the ambience was sultry, and the jazz was, well, jazzy. And best of all, there wasn't a surly French waiter in sight.

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Best Hotels in Cologne

$122
Average/night*
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#2
Novotel Koeln City
$100-$205
Average/night*
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#3
Barcelo Cologne City Center
$125
Average/night*
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#4
art'otel cologne, by park plaza

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