Stephen Travels

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Palmse Manor, Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

Top 5 Gazebos

I have always found gazebos to be a welcome sight, and they’re usually easy to find, situated in open spaces to take advantage of pleasant views. They were first constructed in Egyptian gardens about 5,000 years ago, and their popularity spread around the world, from classical civilizations in China and Persia to modern Western cities. These freestanding roofed structures are often octagonal in shape and always have open sides. They can shelter you from rain and provide relief from sizzling summer sunshine. They can invite serenity when they’re placed in, say, a botanic garden or a quiet park, or they can be center stage for a lively celebration during big-city holiday celebrations or small-town fairs, when they can double as bandstands. These are my favorites.

#1 Bandstand (Halifax Public Gardens, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Bandstand, Halifax Public Gardens, Halifax, Nova ScotiaHalifax Public Gardens was established in 1867, and more than a century later, I was enjoying this 16-acre green space in the heart of Nova Scotia’s capital. I strolled around the Victorian gardens, admiring its statues, brilliant flowers, trees, friendly ducks and swans, an enormous goose, and a model of the Titanic anchored in Griffin’s Pond. I was utterly charmed by the gorgeous gazebo that stands right in the center of the gardens, next to a statue of the goddess Diana. Built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the ornate octagonal gazebo boasts some intricately carved wooden trim. A staircase leads up to the platform above handsome latticework, and the Canadian flag flies proudly from the little domed roof. It’s a lovely spot from which you can look out at the gardens and colorful flower beds, and if you’re here during the summer, you can enjoy some live music when it doubles as a bandstand for free public concerts.

#2 Music Pavilion (Bergen, Norway)

Music Pavilion, Bergen, NorwayI was recovering from celebrating Norway’s Constitution Day festivities (and marching in its parade through the heart of Bergen) the night before. On my way to the museums flanking the lake, I passed through the large city park Byparken, a rectangular green space created in 1865. Smack in the center stands the exotic gazebo called the Musikkpaviljongen, the Music Pavilion. Gifted to the city in 1888, the cast-iron Moorish gazebo features a fine lattice railing from which rise slender columns capped with lacey brackets. Eight antefixes circle around the roofline, and the verdigris green dome spots little dormer windows. Its setting is just as glorious as the gazebo itself, surrounded by rings of flowers and facing the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art, one of the most beautiful buildings in Bergen, a statue of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, and, across the street, past the open paved plaza, the fountain playfully spouting in the lake.

#3 Domain Bandstand (Auckland Domain, Auckland, New Zealand)

Domain Bandstand, Auckland Domain, Auckland, New ZealandI finished an outstanding breakfast at Alphabet Bistro (pancakes with sliced peaches, grilled bananas, raspberry coulis, maple syrup, and cream Chantilly) on my first morning in Auckland and decided it was time to enjoy the beautiful day with a long stroll through Auckland Domain, the oldest park in Auckland. This green expanse is the remnant of an ancient volcano and today is filled with fountains, ducks, trees, gardens, a pond (the city’s first water supply), a café, and a museum as well as terrific views of the Sky Tower. Established in the 1800s as a 200-acre public reserve, it has since expanded to 340 acres and has been used for everything from a testing ground for exotic fish and plant species to a campground for American troops during World War II. The vast Domain’s lovely Edwardian gazebo, the Domain Bandstand (aka “the Rotunda”), is a pale yellow octagonal structure, set off by brown wood columns and railings. Above the dentils at the top, the thatch-like roof is topped by an onion-shaped ball. The city received the gazebo in 1912, when a prominent Auckland biscuit manufacturer presented it as a gift.

#4 Marigot Market Gazebo (Marigot, St. Martin)

Marigot Market Gazebo, Marigot, St. MartinMy scenic drive from the Dutch to the French half of hilly and green St. Martin terminated at the Marigot Market. Overlooking Marigot Bay, the Caribbean’s largest open-air market teems with more than one hundred stalls and Creole huts. It’s a spectacularly colorful and lively market, where you can pick up anything from conch snails and river shrimp, to cassava and guavaberries, to nutmeg and cardamom, to sunglasses and t-shirts. At the center of all the action stands the wonderfully attractive gazebo in the middle of a shallow circular arena. I stepped down a half dozen stairs, cutting through the low, curved seating areas alternating with strips of grass. The historic and cheerful gazebo is painted a deep blue with white trim. The gingerbread details are lovely, as is the blue-tile roof. It’s the perfect place to score some shade and enjoy the warm curry chicken and cool rum cocktail with crushed orange peel that you just purchased.

#5 Main Plaza Bandstand (New Braunfels, Texas)

Main Plaza Bandstand, New Braunfels, TexasThe elliptical Main Plaza is located right in the center of New Braunfels, Texas, across the street from the eye-catching Comal County Courthouse. It’s a lovely little oasis amid the traffic that circles around it, complete with trees, statues, a fountain, and the terrific gazebo, the Main Plaza Bandstand. Since its construction in 1905, it has long played a central role in the city’s music and community events, receiving historic landmark status from the Texas Historical Commission in 2003. Its total construction cost? A shockingly paltry $560. The neoclassical structure originally served as a stage for summer evening concerts by the Waldschmidt Fire Department Band. Eight large wooden columns ring around the open-sided octagonal gazebo and support the domed metal rusty-red roof. In 1926, the entire gazebo was raised on a limestone base—so that a ladies restroom with windows could be constructed underneath it.

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