Weekend what we're reading: Luxury kiss, luxury paradores, new and faster passport procedures

This weekend we look to Edinburgh for The Kiss and romantic hotels, Paradors in Spain are rated for luxury, and passport control becomes faster through help of the private sector.

Rodin for lovers
This year, love-struck couples are coming to the city of Edinburgh to see Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss, which is on loan from Tate Britain to the Scottish National Gallery from 2nd February 2013 to 2nd February 2014.
Auguste Rodin’s famous marble sculpture (completed in 1904), is one of three full-size versions he made, depicting the adulterous lovers Paolo Malatesta and sister-in-law Francesca da Rimini (characters in Dante’s The Divine Comedy) in the throes of their passion.
Here are five city center hotels with rooms to put you in the mood for love:

Tigerlily Boutique Hotel
Glamour, intimacy, and chic style are all on offer at the Tigerlily Boutique Hotel in George Street – one of the must-stay properties in Edinburgh.
No. 11 Brunswick Street
The elegant Georgian house converted into a contemporary boutique hotel has just ten rooms, with designer bathrooms.
Nira Caledonia
A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World consortium, the Nira Caledonia is housed in a period residence, just a short stroll from Princes Street.
The Witchery by The Castle
The Witchery by The Castle is probably one of the world’s most over-the-top romantic settings. Best known as an Edinburgh dining landmark, The Witchery also offers eight sumptuous, fantasy-inspiring suites.
For a special gastronomic treat, indulge in the Michelin-starred cuisine of Paul Kitching at 21212. The Grade I-listed four-storey Georgian townhouse on the Royal Terrace is home to both the super-stylish restaurant, and four guest rooms on the two upper floors.

The 5 most luxurious castle hotels (Paradores) in Spain
For years, one of the cornerstones of Spanish tourism has been the Parador system. The Spanish government spent millions restoring old castles, monasteries, convents and crumbling buildings to create wonderful hotels in evocative spaces. Newer hotels took advantage of spectacular views.
Here is a list of some of the most luxurious, but all are wonderful. Their luxury is not only in their amenities, but in their architecture and the altered state that guests experience while enjoying themselves in these wonderful buildings.

1. Parador de León, León – Hostal San Marcos
Let’s start from 5 stars. One of the most famous and most beautiful castle hotels of Spain is situated in the north of Spain, in the city of León, on the huge San Marcos square. In the XVI century this luxury hotel used to be a San Marcos Monastery and hospital.
2. Parador de Santiago de Compostela – Hostal Dos Reis Catolicos
The second 5-stars castle hotel is located in the centre of the north-western city. Being one of the most luxurious hotels, Parador de Santiago de Compostela is also one of the oldest hotels in the world. This world famous castle hotel is a combination of tradition and novelty.
3. Parador de Alarcón, Cuenca
The VII century Parador de Alarcón used to be an Arabian fortress and castle. However, the 4-stars hotel combines medieval style as well as modern. Its monumental style makes you feel inspired and safe.
4. Parador de Granada, Granada
One more luxury castle hotel in Spain, Parador de Granada, is located in Andalusia, in the southern Spanish city of Granada. Exotic gardens and flowers, ancient halls and fountains recall a conserved past where the Arabian merged with the Christian.
5. Parador de Oropesa, Toledo
Having been built in 986, Parador de Oropesa is situated on the hill of Toledo. Parador de Oropesa preserves many original architectural details of the castle combined with subtle contemporary features.

At O’Hare, high-tech kiosks help Americans zip through customs
The 21st Century is finally coming to the US Customs and Border Protection airport gateways. But, this modernization is not spearheaded by CBP, it is another example of the private sector taking what was once the exclusive province of the government and finding a way to improve it. As I understand it, the airports have to pay for the machines, not CBP.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection kiosks, which for now are available only to U.S. citizens, work like this: A passenger scans his or her U.S. passport at the kiosk, which takes a photo of the person and confirms biographical and travel information. The passenger completes the customs declaration by answering questions on the touch screen. After receiving a receipt, the traveler proceeds to a customs officer to complete re-entry into the U.S.

The 32 self-service kiosks at O’Hare, which debuted more than a month ago but were officially introduced Thursday, have helped speed the re-entry process for U.S. citizens and allow customs officers to focus exclusively on scrutinizing arriving passengers rather than wasting time with paperwork.

Average wait times for all O’Hare passengers during busy periods have fallen to 34 minutes from 50 minutes since the kiosks were installed at a cost of $2.2 million, paid for by the airlines, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Added content: This is not the same as Global Entry. Global Entry has all of your personal data loaded into the system and it is verified by using your passport and fingerprints after a background check.
This kiosk only allows the passenger to input information into the system rather than having the passport inspector scan it in from the hand-fill-out forms we normally have to complete when returning to the USA. Customs can handle about four to six times as many passengers with this system. There is no background check and no fingerprints are involved.
Two other newspaper articles about this development written back in May when the kiosks were first introduced in Vancouver, Canada. These machines will be introduced in Orlando next.