I was wondering how long it’d be before I cracked and did a Valentine’s Day related post. Thing is, I absolutely LOVE Valentine’s Day. I don’t love it because I have to buy crappy overpriced cards with cheap sentiment on them. I definitely don’t love it because restaurants are suddenly shoehorning in a ‘special’ Valentine’s Day menu, ‘at the great price of only £80 per person’. Seriously. I actually saw that advertised earlier in the week – at least have the good grace not to say ‘only £80’.
The more I am connected to hoi polloi and businesses on Twitter and Facebook, the more I understand about why people really despise Valentine’s Day. It becomes contrived, meaningless, and a shameless revenue driver. So, chaps, I totally understand. I see now why you think it’s an appalling bit of fakery and a nonsense.
Thing is, I still love it. I loved it when I was about 10, and I got up really early in the morning to cut out purple and red hearts from crepe paper to decorate the sitting room with, and presented my parents with French patisserie I’d purloined, and handmade Valentine’s cards. As I got older, I was lucky enough to have equally thoughtful boyfriends. My first proper boyfriend made me a whole scrapbook full of photos of us and things that had meant a lot to us, little drawings and ephemera from our time as a couple. Another year, I’d only been seeing one boyfriend for about a week or two, and he turned up at mine with a whole picnic he’d made, as well as presenting me with a packet of flower tea (he knew I loved the stuff), and a single lily. I in turn had baked some chocolate and strawberry cupcakes, then pulled out my champagne saucers (ooh err!) and we had a picnic on my bed.
Every boyfriend I’ve been with for Valentine’s Day has gone out of their way to make it special and unique, and much better than some overpriced meal in a crowded restaurant. This year, for the first time since I started dating, I’m going to be single on Valentine’s Day (unless something dramatic happens in the meantime!) And I refuse to conform to how I’m supposed to behave. I’m not going to sit at home on my own, eating ice cream and weeping. That isn’t my style. I still love the day, and instead I’m going to feel lucky that I’ve had so many lovely past experiences.
In the spirit of not handing over our hard-earned lucre to contrived experiences, I’ve decided to put together a list of my favourite date venues, in the hope that it might inspire you to be a little more creative, a little more relaxed, and to have a much better time. I’m allergic to cheap, vulgar sentiment, and these are my picks of where to go. They’re not all free, but they’re all ACE:
- Museums – absolutely perfect for any date, particularly the first date. The picnic chap from above took me to the Natural History museum on our first date, and I thought it was brilliant. Imaginative, intelligent, and also not putting too much pressure on anyone. There’s always something to talk about.
- Cellar Door, Zero Aldywch – if you’re after something a little naughtier, I can’t recommend this underground bar enough. It feels like Sally Bowles would go here with one of her endless suitors. Absolutely tiny, but with a comprehensive cocktail menu (all wonderfully named: ‘Starbucks Must Die’ or ‘Gingerbread Lady Boy’, anyone?) The staff all wear wings, you get popcorn brought to your table, and there’s often a cabaret act to entertain you as well.
- A comedy club – GREAT date venue. Just don’t sit too near the front. The last thing you want is for the comedian to sense you’re on a date, and start a dialogue with you. Likewise, choose the comedian carefully. If you think it might get racist, DON’T GO. Instead try somewhere like The Comedy Store, where you’ll get a few tried and tested performers for your money.
- Natural Trust properties – now, you do have to judge this on your boyfriend/girlfriend. I personally love a National Trust date. If you choose a big country house, you get to wander around pretending you own the place, and that all the visitors are actually your personal staff. It might not sound romantic on paper, but trust me on this one.
- Sketch – one of my absolutely favourite restaurants in the world. Ensconce yourself in The Parlour, order some unusual tea and a divine pastry, and allow the place to work its magic on you. It’s like a Lewis Carroll conception. All dark and sexy, entirely relaxing, and not remotely pretentious despite being spectacularly brilliant. A world away from a dinner for two at a chain restaurant.
- Country walk/walk in the park – I’ve sort of touched on this in my ‘National Trust’ point. I don’t think you can beat a good walking date. The perfect chance to talk, away from all the noise a clatter of a restaurant, and in this weather your cheeks go all nice and rosy. Saucy.
- And following on from that, a Winter picnic – just make sure you pack some hot chocolate in a flask. Do it on your bedroom floor if you can’t face going outside. Just use protection. And by that, I mean napkins. Obviously.
- Or if you want to stay cold, an ice cream parlour – there are heaps in London. Check out this list: http://www.timeout.com/london/feature/1329/best-ice-cream-in-london I particularly want to try out Chin Chin, which is liquid nitrogen ice cream! For real romance, get yourself there around midnight.
- Bowling – sometimes you need to be a little retrograde, and that’s a good thing. Don’t go to a crappy over-commercialised alley. Go to the All Star Lanes in Holborn.
- If all else fails, have an Anti-Valentine’s Day – do everything wrong. Even if you’re a couple. Buy a ready meal for one and eat it out of the packet. Don’t even bother with the plate. Drink cans of beer or bottles of cider – any wine or champagne is banned. Rent the most depressing films you could possibly watch: either some stark, foreign efforts (Lars Von Trier?) or bloodthirsty action movies. Don’t get dressed up. Present each other with Valentine’s cards that you’ve made by butchering ‘Pick Me Up’ or ‘Chat’ magazine. Relish in the misery, and have a good old laugh at the couples bankrupting themselves over the day.
The Parlour at Sketch
So there we have it! A pick of some potential date options. In fact, you could even do them on your own, or with friends. I’m still going to love the day, no matter what anyone says.
Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, and whoever you are with, I hope you have a great day. I don’t believe anyone should feel bad because they are single, but I equally believe no one should hate all couples, ever, for no good reason. Happy Valentine’s all!
*All images shamelessly plundered from Google Images*