Original Options for Quirky London Lovers

Valentine Day is upon us again, with its abundance of commercial offers and overbooked restaurants. But for the romantic amongst you who’d rather avoid clichéd candlelight dinners and heart-shaped pink presents, Chic-Londres has asked Sam Hodges and Sophie Vickers, authors of the lovely and rather quirky London for Lovers Guide, to select some of their favourite spots. Perfect to get off the beaten track in London, and find romance in the most curious places…

For foodies: Lunch at Petersham Nurseries Set up by long term residents of Petersham House, Gael and Francesco Boglione, Petersham Nurseries is their very own little piece of Eden, with salvaged artworks, potted plants and beautiful kitchenalia from all over the world dotted amongst the herbaceous borders. Where else to eat food cooked by award-winning chefs overlooked by an Antony Gormley sculpture?  Richmond Park is a stones throw away to work off your lunch.www.petershamnurseries.com

For History buffs:  Dennis Severs House Dennis Severs, an American artist who moved in London in the 60s, was always eccentric: his first business venture consisted of running horse-drawn open carriage tours entitled “See Something Different Graciously” around Hyde Park. His 18th century candlelit house, which he described as a “time machine” recreating what life would have been like for a family of Huguenot silk weavers, is mindblowing, thanks to its attention to detail and emotional depth. www.dennissevershouse.co.uk

For nature lovers: Mudchute Farm Jumping on the DLR might not sound like the most romantic date, but the “premium” seats up front give you an awesome view from above.  Alight at Mudchute for its Park and Farm, which as Europe’s largest city farm, is London’s closest equivalent to a countryside frolic. Nearby pub The Gun does an excellent roast dinner, served with some fascinating smugglers’ tales.  www.mudchute.org

For gothic romantics: Highgate Cemetery There is something innately romantic about cemeteries. And Highgate Cemetery is arguably the best of the ‘Magnificent Seven’, dripping with ivy and shadowed by tall spindly trees throwing dappled light over its “residents”, including Alexander Crufts, who created the famous dog show (but preferred cats), Karl Marx, surrounded by fellow communists, and Elizabeth Siddal, the pre-Raphaelite muse, who Rossetti apparently dug up to retrieve the love poems he’d intertwined within her hair.  www.highgate-cemetery.org

For star gazers: Royal Observatory Greenwich A brisk climb from the Circus Gate to Greenwich Park to the top of Constitution Hill brings you both outstanding views of London and spectacular views of the wonders of the sky, in Christopher Wren’s Royal Observatory. You can also stand on either side of the Prime Meridian, Longtitude 0, at the same time, with one foot in the west and one foot in the east.  www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory

For Jurassic Park fans: Crystal Palace dinosaurs Strolling through Crystal Palace Gardens, it’s easy to imagine that Sam Neill might suddenly appear, as an extraordinary 19th century collection of “lifesize” monsters swim, stride and climb their way about the trees and ponds of the Lower Lake. Commissioned when the Palace itself was uprooted to Sydenham Hill, the reality is that they are anatomically way off track, but it doesn’t detract from their charm. www.gardenvisit.com/garden/crystal_palace_park


For more addresses, have a look at London for Lovers, published by Random House www.londonforlovers.net

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