Winter Valentines Staycation in London

Diary thoughts and reminiscing. Winter is the perfect season in London for romance.​

Sunday roasts and open-fire time capsule pubs; antique shops and fantastical walks by the Thames. Where better a stay on Valentines Weekend than London?​

Riches by the River

To slip into a day for appreciating love it wasn’t hard to do so in The Bingham Riverhouse in Richmond, not quite London… although I’m happy we chose here. I’m smiling thinking about it. The energy here was nurturing. On the outskirts but cosily close to the city, it was the perfect escape -  especially for winter. Sure, as I’ve touched on before, there was a bit of travel involved to central (roughly 30 minutes) but the trips were worth it.​

We were fascinated by this beautiful lands’ expressive roots with famous poets having lived and loved here. Former home to Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley; with one of our favourite mystical wordsmiths W.B Yeats having visited, we hoped to fall under the spell of its intrinsically sentimental spirit. ​

This oasis was a taste of the countryside with a sweetheart view of the Thames from a landscape for fairy tales. To treat ourselves, the river room was the perfect fit (I loved personally loved the copper bathtub!)​

We were spoiled with a great deal on Bhuti massages – we requested a couple one and they happily booked us in -  and the bottle of bubbly we arrived to!​

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Late afternoon at sunset, my boyfriend had booked us a special hour in a winter garden igloo for the perfect ambience around some light warming bites. The snow enhanced the cuddly mood; its presence was truly affectionate to winter in the British countryside.​

Reading corners with fireplaces, an outstanding restaurant on site serving the prettiest breakfasts and a tranquil refuge from all the partying we’re always drawn to, our lovers' getaway was kind to us. ​

Friday, we're in luck.

Beaming Valentine's breakfast.

Early rise for the sun’s grand appearance to brighten our breakfast at the Duck and Waffle – a place we booked (thankfully so as it can get really busy) for special seats to watch the sunrise and share our excitement for the weekend to come.

The sweet smell of the abundance of waffles was an aromatic highlight of this place. Mouth-watering food, the French Queen of hearts cocktails ‘Kir royales’ (champagne, of course) and plenty to awe at in front of outstanding views – we felt so fancy! I had two valentines, this place and my boyfriend – him second to the waffles, of course. ​

Strolling into stories on our London Bridge walk to settling down for a screening at the Rivoli Ballroom.

Are you even a couple in London without a carefree walk on London Bridge? We felt theatrical, theorising all the proclamations of love that took place on the ground we walked on – cinema is real life, okay?

It sure became that way with a visit to Rivoli Ballroom (the last standing 1950s ballroom in London), their exclusive Valentines pop up cinema for all the giddy children of love.

Although we’re film nerds who aren’t huge fans of romance films, we sure do love a classy ballroom vitalised by twinkling gold chandeliers and a glistening dome-shaped high ceiling to pretend to be super posh in; our Friday afternoon was spent daydreaming and living out a red rose tinted rom-com fantasy.  We really went all out. ​

Pure and humble hideaway Valentine's Day Dining

Friday evening. ​

We’re a well-balanced blend of two my boyfriend and I, as he is into more old-fashioned, historic and refined poetic works and attractions whereas I love the quirkier, eccentric, abstract and reimagined qualities of life through art and experiences. Where we meet gracefully in the middle is our deep appreciation for nature.

Eternal romantics, we wanted a fitting mix of our tastes into every place we visited for it to spark romantic moments of home away from home as we interacted. Our choices unconsciously always appeared to reflect that desire. Most prominently Maggie Jones’s in Kensington.

An unusual choice for a date, very quirky and more like your nana’s cottage; it made for heart-warming moments and laughter. On arrival, quintessentially with British poppies lacing its exterior. Walking in, rustic features with a wooden interior beam at you. Slow pouring drinks and classical music. Everything feels delicate.

Brown and earthy motifs really enhanced the log cabin feel of the space; a nice touch worth mentioning from a fellow herb lover were the hanging herbs from the ceiling – serene! Remnants of features in a poem about the old English countryside cascaded above us as we sipped on fine wine, there’s plenty to awe at.

With a hidden homely intimate feel, we felt at ease to share our rummage through memory lanes. Here is a place where you can feel more yourself, vulnerable with a partner, whether you’re on day one, day thirty-eight or rediscovering how crazy you still are for one another after 50 years together.

We couldn’t help but smile as we heard the rain outside, matched with candlelight – what could be a better setting for Valentine's day? We had warm and cosy food, delicious pudding – served in hand-painted crockery! – and tucked right into the wines list all night to celebrate the snug mood of a winter rainy escape.  ​

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A bar for a couple more – after drinks and dancing! ​

Fun trip to a 1930’s Cuban basement bar for some after-party beats! Burlock – a vintage hideaway, a warm-toned little world of Havana wanderlust and passion. Picture hip shimmying away to the flavours of live music, colourful rum, cheeky cocktails and smiling faces.

Full and happy, dancing the night away felt only right. ​

A supercharged kiss from the winter sun on a Saturday​.

Cheese tasting and wine.

Mittens on – yes, mittens – all for the winter sun on a romantic Saturday morning. It was going to be cheesy anyway, relax. We drank amazing coffee at ‘Coffee Geek and Friends’ before heading over to our midday cheese tasting and wine tour - sophistication on tap.

Green Park was stunning at this time of day. Two hours of walking around and chatting to some lovely people from around the world; couples AND mini-groups of friends who were spending valentines’ weekend in a sweet haze of platonic love for one another – Valentine's day isn’t reserved for the couples, you know?

Love was in the air because we were around cheese. Can you brie-lieve it? (no, I don’t mean leave, just the one I promise) Damn do we love cheese, can you tell? And puns admittedly so, we were ecstatic. Learning facts while on a humble quest for the best tasting miniatures we could find. Equipped with chewing gum in the bag for afterwards, we felt like pros.

A section we felt not quite as relaxed was the trivia, a romance special! - we got a biiit competitive, in the best way possible; we were laughing and teasing one another at how much we knew. Large glorious sizes of margarita pizza and glasses of white softened the blow when we lost.​

Banten and Breakthroughs - Camden Pub Crawl!

My boyfriend and I first met around people, in a social setting. Naturally, we were drawn to Camden. London may be seen as guarded when it comes to meeting new people, but its pubs and nightlife is its social saving grace.

We thought about beer tasting on the West End, but we’re in love with Camden - its bold markets, pop-up art exhibitions, laid back canal living and lively street food. After some vintage shopping for groovy clothes to wear in the crawl, we ate in the lovely ‘Lan Kwai Fong’ for beautiful East-Asian cuisine, a lively neon-cool atmosphere of punters singing karaoke and quick rounds of non-alcoholic beer pong to save ourselves from getting too drunk before the fun begins!​

From 8 pm we were treated to VIP entry to the coolest club nights – Blues KitchenCamden Assembly and KOKO! Never a dull moment with free shots and drink discounts (much needed in London) however, the company, unconventional personality of the locations and vibrancy of the crawl was unbeatable.

PS: for pubs off the beaten path and belting your heart out, try the Elephants Head! Indie rock and old school – we couldn’t stop singing!

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A soft spot in Camden we love: 

Camden Jazz Café. Here is the spot for all the jazz lovers out there! As suckers for the genre ourselves, you can bet that we’ve been here before and although we couldn’t fit it in this weekend, we reminisce fondly. It's a space not only for jazz, your favourite bands too. Here thrives a beautifully-innovative live music, experience with the chance to either immerse yourself in the action on the floor or dine while you listen!

A caring cup of green serene soup on a Sunday.

Holding hands on a healing walk through botanical wonders. 

The calmest Sunday morning possible was needed after the night before and Kew Gardens was the answer, ding ding ding... Sorry, the residue of all that pub quiz energy.

Lovers of greenery, our wild weekend was as bold as the blooms intertwining our path. Harmony.​

As you could probably tell by now, my boyfriend and I are such fans of poetry and art that this whimsical universe was heaven for us; a creative space to get lost in our imaginations.

Late night at Kew.

During the day, it's wonderful. But where Kew Gardens truly lights up is the night! What could be more romantic than the Kew Orchid display? My boyfriend surprised me. 11-minute drive from our hotel, on a Sunday night we returned for a bit more - after-hours in Costa Rica! Damn, we really travelled this weekend. Definitely not complaining! Cocktails, Costa Rican street food, cultural ethereal art instalments and dancing all in one! We may have stumbled a few times while practising some moves – I say we I mean I but shh – however, never really lost connection with this ode to the beauty of the natural world. In this place, you can’t really help but let your guard down in playfulness. ​

The subjects of a postcard
picture-perfect date on the Thames.
Afternoon Tea on the river.

Ever so closer to intimate London (any strokes of nature we could find), we were at ease with a Sunday roast on a canal. It was this peaceful notion or a picnic in St James Park. Seeing as the weather was slightly cooler than the day before, cupid’s magnetic air-guiding the positively unpredictable paths of Valentine’s weekend led us to commemorate the tradition of a classic British roast dinner on a Sunday --  a two-course lunch cruise it was. Tea connoisseurs, we played into the fanciest versions of ourselves with the gentle Afternoon Tea spread we were served, like excited little children at the adult’s table in grace. Requested ahead of time, we asked for vegetarian alternatives to the meaty options on the menu, they were happy to help us out and the food was sublime, not to mention the views. We took our sweet, sweet time absorbing the atmosphere, toasting to us and the optimistic and charming energy of London. ​

Creativity Soars in Southbank

Southbank has a tiny piece of my heart. I’ve always loved it. The pop-up bars, the art centre, and the happy go lucky green areas to sit as you watch street performers liven up a crowd. Fate rocked us with a benevolent stir of spontaneous occurrences that spiced up the frosty city. We felt the warmth of crowds interacting, all loved up in their own little ways or letting themselves be distracted for once, miraculously freed, even if only for a moment, from their tiresome everyday paths. In Southbank, it's perpetually new. Whether a festival is on at British Film Institute, or creatives stop by the skaters' rink for photography magic or exhilarating collaboration opportunities, you can’t get bored here.

We took plenty of pictures and shared lots of laughter, with thanks to comedy acts and literally dancing on the street (for a couple of minutes until we got slightly embarrassed, we did it though) we’ll return back for more. Here, your confidence will soar if you just let yourself go. You’ll find at the late of the day everyone else already has. ​

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Epilogue.

An evening reflection in the blink of an eye.

An end to the weekend that felt so fleeting, it was almost as if our happiest moments are within the realm of time as the wishes we blew onto candles. Moments are as transient as an exhale of gratitude. We spent the evening on The London Eye, gazing at a rose and tangerine dream Sunday sunset. At the risk of sounding trivial, our trip had come full circle, we were on top of the world. I note this with such sincerity as from the Eye, that’s only a fraction of what you’ll feel. The romantic energy in this space at such a height is unfathomable.​

Sunday late afternoon, you can watch the city slowly stretch its legs, unravel, as twinkling lights are a tender welcome to London’s sunset. Champagne and lots of conversation made for a memorable ride, however those quiet moments in a company where you’re not saying really anything but the presence is speaking for you, those moments are a’ plenty on the Eye. Time flew by here. You’re staring into the heart of London and here the city really opens up to you as mindsets bloom, echoing the sensational process of falling in love.