Hearts From the Road

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Easter has its bunny, Santa Claus is Mr. Christmas, but today is all about hearts. And you’ll be hard-pressed to walk five steps without seeing one. The heart shape is recognized the world over as a symbol of romantic love and affection, and to celebrate the holiday, we’re continuing the Gallivance tradition of posting hearts we’ve discovered in our travels.

Last year our explorations took us to Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Canada, and the UK; and as we confirmed in the previous five years, it doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to see hearts all over the place.

This ceramic beauty is on the exterior of the Palacio de Velázquez in the heart of Madrid’s lovely and popular Retiro Park. The Palace is the only surviving building from the 1881 National Exhibition, and its impressive facade is a study in marvelous ceramic tiles.

Wrought iron hearts are common on buildings of all ages. The romantics out there might think its frequent use is symbolic of lasting love, or on the other hand, maybe it’s just an easy, attractive shape for craftsmen to pound out in the shop.

As we wandered around Toledo, it was hard to resist giving this whimsical door knocker a tap-tap try, but the small horns atop the grim face made us reconsider.

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish symbol that represents love, loyalty, and friendship. Historians disagree on its origins, but these bickering academics don’t seem to bother the shopkeepers in Galway who have adopted it as their own.

The town of Lewes, near Brighton on the UK’s south coast, doesn’t appear on many must-see lists. But it’s the quintessential English country village, and its high street is lined with shops, restaurants, pubs and a lovely historic church to complete the picture.

Corny Pun Alert! This Segovia grafitti won’t win any awards for quality, but at least the artist’s heart was in the right place.

This colorful carving is one of hundreds that line the walls and ceilings of the incredibly ornate Burgos Cathedral in Northern Spain. This cathedral was one of the stops for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The Sacred Heart symbolizes Christ’s divine love for humanity.

No trip to Belgium is complete without a stop in the Medieval, post-card city of Bruges. Even with the tourist hordes, its spectacular state of preservation makes it worth a visit.

Not all the buildings in Toledo are historic, and shop owners don’t mind mixing a bit of modern technology with an old concept to sell fashionable jeans.

Many of the hearts we see are obvious, but some are a bit more of a challenge:

Can you see the three hearts?

Our camera’s telephoto captured the pig, the water vase, and four hearts in this Segovia wind vane; none of which helped explain its mysterious message.

Gothic architects liked their hearts. Look closely, there’s a trio here.

Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
James & Terri


Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

54 thoughts

    1. Anita, you’re so right that love can be found all over. Yesterday we were in Chiapas, Mexico, and amazingly, we found a couple of cool hearts on the fabulous, 1500 year-old Mayan ruins at Palenque. Watch for those hearts in next year’s post. ~James

      1. Look forward to seeing those Mayan hearts, James. We were visiting Chichén Itzá last week and found a series of bas-reliefs of human hearts in the grasp of eagle’s talons. Not such a pretty sight, but interesting.

      2. Joe, since you were just in CI, I’ll give you a preview of the Palenque hearts. And you’ll appreciate that they were heart shapes rather than actual hearts, and they were the eyes of a skull. You know how the Maya were. And BTW, I’ve survived coups and hurricanes but last night was my first hotel evacuation for an earthquake. Even though the epicenter was 200 miles away, we felt a really good shake here in Puebla and we stood in the street with everyone else for an hour. ~ James

      3. The last six months have been a real roller coaster ride in southern Mexico. We are relieved that you are well, and hope that the local population is spared more loss this time.

  1. I really love how you captured all those hearts while traveling! It shows that love is in abundance, more so than what we might think. 🙂

    1. Thanks Bama. We had a conversation about the fact that the heart symbol seems to be something we mostly see in the West. Not sure this is totally true but it seems that way. ~James

    1. Marilyn, it is a fun challenge for us while we travel. It’s funny how our eyes have gotten dialed in for hearts and it’s amazing how often they turn up. BTW, we’ve been in the Yucatán and Chiapas touring Maya ruins and it’s been fabulous. ~ James

  2. I thought about this post last night, hoping you would again repeat your tradition of sharing hearts around the world. And what a collection this is! Thanks again for your heartfelt photos that made me look twice at several of them — don’t want to miss a heart, of course!

    1. Thanks Rusha. We continue to be surprised that we find enough hearts to carry on the tradition. As I said to someone else, we’re in the Yucatán touring the Maya ruins, getting a break from the cold, and working on next year’s hearts post. ~James

    1. Darlene, we were surprised and pleased with the variety this year. It’s gotten to be a fun challenge finding the tricky ones. I particularly liked the tile on the building in Madrid’s Retiro Park. ~James

  3. Happy Valentine’s Day! I enjoy these heart posts; such a fun topic and idea to look for when traveling. I’m glad you made it to Belgium (and Bruges) last year! OK, the photo with the three hearts… I do see them all, and there is a bonus one: the shadow of one of them. 🙂

      1. Liesbet, it’s always amazing to me how quickly evidence of rain disappears in the desert, but the few flowering plants will soon be bursting with blooms. Also, today was a big rain event for us as well. We’re visiting the Mayan ruins in Palenque, Mexico now and got pretty well soaked in a serious jungle downpour today. The upside was the swollen mountain stream and waterfalls were marvelous. ~ James

    1. And Happy Valentines Day to you as well Liesbet. We hadn’t been to Belgium in years and it was great to be back. Even with the crowds, Bruges is still as special as we remembered. We went to Antwerp for the first time and really enjoyed it. It’s not on a lot of travel lists and I’m not sure why. I love the feel of the place. ~ James

      1. Palenque is one of our favorite ruins in Mexico! Enjoy! And, hopefully you have a couple of days there and the sun peeks out tomorrow. The jungle sure is lush over there. And you are right, Antwerp has a lot going for it. The cathedral and the waterfront… The family on my father’s side all live around that city.

  4. Always love your heart filled Valentine’s post. Also apologies for not replying to your email. We arrived back from Asia and a few days later I left to spend the month with my Mom who had surgery. There have been some bumps in the road but hoping for discharge tomorrow. Very best wishes to you both.

    1. Sue, glad to hear that there’s a discharge soon. Don’t worry about the delay I understand. My brother just had a quad bypass surgery that had us all petrified. Luckily his recovery is going great. I hope your Asia trip went well. We’re in the Yucatán touring the Maya ruins and enjoying the heat. Take care and best of luck to your Mom. ~ James

      1. So sorry to hear about your brother but so glad to hear things are going well. Asia was a big adventure. No dengue fever but some nasty cellulitis from a cut on coral. Traveling isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Enjoy the warmth and exploration. -43C with the windchill here in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan the other morning. 🙂

      2. That made me laugh James. Definitely not on the postcards. I thought of you as I bathed in Deet for a month. No matter how much we travel I keep learning. Sometimes the lessons are a bit harder than others. Happy and safe trails you two!

  5. Ahhh Happy Heartsday to you both! You mentioned Bruges: hands down, best chocolate truffles I’ve ever tasted (or gorged on) – for V-day or any other day! Best of health to you and your families. Hasta la vista!

    1. Amit, lots of travelers complain that Bruges is too touristy and has lost its appeal but we still love it. There’s hardly a single street that isn’t interesting and there’s no better place to wander. Everyone should see it at some point. ~ James

    1. This photo was taken in Bilbao, and the bike program seems to be a hit. Last night we saw the bike station as we walked around the zocalo in Puebla, Mexico. I love to see city governments spend money on bike loaner programs. We need more of them in the States. ~ James

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