Its that time of year again, your palms are sweaty and there's a distinct hint of terror in the air as you notice the date, yes Valentines Day is approaching. And with it, the usual drama of trying to find some ‘original’ and ‘romantic’ way to impress your other half. I have to admit to being the least spontaneous nor romantic person in Dublin and yet even i’ve tried all the old tactics in the past; dinner and movie, homemade favourite dinner and candlelit drinks, all-out-spare-no-expense gifts, even engraved jewellery, the list goes on. So what this year? I’ve had a brainwave, we’re going to London!
Forget Rome or Paris for romance, London has a bit of everything you need to make a great mini-break, from Michelin starred restaurants to fantastic sights, theatre, and much more. London is an oft overlooked romantic destination right on our doorstep and is full to the brim with the perfect ingredients for the most memorable Valentines Day you two love-birds will ever have. This year Valentines Day falls on a Sunday offering the chance to book the quintessential romantic weekend away in a city just an hours flight from Dublin. Ryanair are currently offering return flights for as little as €120 per person making it an affordable option to whisk your lover away at a moments notice.
A number of hotels and restaurants are offering fantastic deals this Valentines weekend, and the city if full of exciting one-off events that will make it a Valentines Day to remember so here’s the perfect itinerary for your romantic London weekend.
Start by picking a central hotel in the heart of London, so that you can make the most of all the weekend's events dotted about the city. I always stay at the Lancaster Hotel (www.lancasterlondon.com) right on the doorstep of Hyde Park and opt for a room with a view of the park to take in its astonishing scenery - there's no place else with a view like this one. This four star hotel is situated just a ten minute stroll from Oxford St and the London Underground station ‘Lancaster Gate’ is right outside the front door meaning you’re never far from anywhere here.
The Lancaster is also offering a special Valentines Weekend package, with complimentary Champagne on arrival to your room which will also have been specially decorated with rose petals for the occasion to set the mood alight. The hotel is also offering discounted rates if you want to upgrade to an Executive Club room on the eighteenth floor for the weekend - these offer the best view of the park and its surrounds, with prices starting at £199 per room. Plus they’re throwing in a late checkout for 2pm so you won’t have to rush off home.
The Lancaster also has a special Valentine's themed afternoon tea on offer for the weekend for £45 a head. Guests are greeted with Champagne on arrival, a hand-written menu and a again the prerequisite rose petals, plus a choice of the finest sweet treats and savoury bites. Plus all booking for this special Afternoon Tea will go into a draw for to win a bottle of Laurent- Perrier Rose Champagne with two official glass flutes valued at £99.95 so you could be bringing a little momento back from your trip.
I recommend after you’ve unpacked your bags and tucked into a little sip of your champagne, you take a stroll through the ‘Italian Gardens’ in Hyde Park just across the road from the Lancaster Hotel. This picturesque ornamental water garden was said to have been a gift from Prince Albert to his bride Queen Victoria. It also featured in the film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason as the scene involving Colin Firth and Hugh Grant having a game of fisticuffs in a fountain, just in case you’re not a history lover.
For the afternoon why not take in a London Tour, and for the weekend that's in it i suggest trying a Romantic Comedy Tour (www.britmovietours.com) which will take you through iconic locations featured in movies like Notting Hill, Love Actually and the aforementioned Bridget Jones Diary. These tours are led by film buffs who have lots of behind the scenes gossip to share with you. The bus offers lots of opportunities to visit London sites like Tower Bridge and St. Pauls Cathedral, plus they show clips of some of the films along the way. Taking just three hours, its a terrific way to see the city and get your bearings for the weekend at the same time.
If movies aren't your thing, then how about a Chocolate Tour of London? It sounds good to me! Chocolate Ecstasy Tours (www.chocolateecstasytours.com) are a chocoholics dream come true, and they say chocolate is an aphrodisiac so hopefully both parties will be happy by the end of it. The tours are run in small groups making the experience more intimate as you visit London's finest chocolatiers with special discounts offered and exclusive tastings (but of course) along the way. At just £40 per person it sounds like money well spent if you ask me.
Then after all that activity you’ll need to relax, so why not treat yourself and your better half to a treatment at Londons top destination spa ‘House of Elemis’ (www.elemis.com) located in Mayfair. They offer special private treatment rooms for couples in their Penthouse and a VIP spa concierge to cater to your every need whilst there. I guarantee you will feel like a million dollars afterwards.
Follow up your spa visit with a trip to the Athenaeum Hotel pop-up bar for a pre-dinner drink on their panoramic roof specially designed for Valentines Weekend. Loved up guests can enjoy a special themed menu of six Valentines cocktails with cute names ranging from ‘Love is in the Air’ to ‘Love Love me Do’. And just in case you’re planning to propose over the weekend keep this bar in mind, as they’re offering any guest who pops the question over Valentines weekend the chance to have a free Wedding night stay too (should your intended accept of course).
For dinner, i recommend taking in the views from the restaurant on the thirty-first floor of The Shard, London's most iconic building. Aqua Shard (www.aquashard.co.uk), is the ultimate in fine-dining and boasts a three-storey high atrium bar giving you an unrivalled view of the city below. The food is once again dedicated to local British dishes and sustainable produce but whilst you won’t be disappointed by the food its the view you will want to stay for. It is absolutely breathtaking.