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Tom Teamlaverne Tom Teamlaverne | 08:41 UK time, Thursday, 27 January 2011




Valentines... it's always hard to know what to do and everything always gets booked up way in advance; usually by the time you've read about something good it's already sold out. So, this year I thought I'd give you my tips a few weeks in advance so you actually have time to book stuff. Cunning, eh? Here goes...




Who needs the Eiffel Tower when we've got one right here in Blackpool. What could be more romantic than wandering up the tower ("518 ft of fun for all the family") and looking out over the 'Las Vegas of the North' on a cold winter's day.


Blackpool is cool again. What was considered naff for a while is now retro... So, grab yourself a couple of cones at Notarianni's - the best ice cream in the UK if you believe the locals - ride on the Ferris Wheel, mess about on the arcades and rides on the piers and win a cuddly toy for your loved one...


Whilst there you should definitely check out the Winter Gardens Ballroom where they are having a Valentines Tea Dance - it's like stepping back in time. There's a stunning interior and an original Wurlitzer organ. Dance with the oldies during the day and in the evening on 12th and 13th, there's a Northern Soul All-Nighter - where you can dance till 6am if you want and tap into a sub-culture that's Blackpool through and through...


If you fancy the old school dance hall experience but live down South, you could check out the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley in South London, who have a Rock n Roll night on Feb 12th. Like Blackpool it's a fantastic retro slice of how things used to be...


Back in Blackpool though, on Tues 15th, the day after Valentines, go hunting for bargains together at the Retrospective Indie Retro and Vintage Market - vintage fashions, indie designers and retro collectable stuff - maybe the place to buy that antique engagement ring?


An Italian Job


You're still in time to get cheap flights with Easyjet and Ryanair to lots of romantic cities, including two with a lot of smooch potential, Rome and Venice.


I'd be hard pushed to think of a city I like more than Rome and though Italy isn't famous for its indie side, you can still find some nice indie clubs and bars to go with all the romantic and historic sights Rome offers.


One of the best nights is Fish and Chips (the indie music is as English as the name) in the cave-like AKAB club in an area called Testaccio. Supermarket is another night worth checking out.


For some truly great pizza - nothing fancy, cheap and cheerful but really really tasty try Da Francesco in the Centro Storico.


Other places to check out - Bibli, a cafe in a bookshop and Salotto 42 run by a Swedish model and apparently one of the Top 50 bars in the world.


Or how about Venice, a city of less indie but more canals and that chase sequence in the Bond film, Casino Royale. Venice in the winter can be very romantic - there are less crowds and it has a certain moody beauty. For some great images of Venice in winter time, watch the 1970s Nicholas Roeg fillm Don't Look Now, starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.


Or you could delay a few weeks and go there for the Venice Carnival which runs from Feb 26th to March 8th - that's where everyone gets into masks and costumes, which are just ever so slightly scary.


Locanda Orseolo looks like a great place to stay, rooms from 130 Euros. Once you've done your romantic thang, should you be interested in exploring the Italian indie scene more, here's a blog about some Italian indie bands.


If you can't afford a gondola in Venice, here's a budget alternative... how about going for a punt in Cambridge? Scudamores, a company that runs chauffeured punts along the river are offering a 30 minute trip along the college backs with blankets, two hot water bottles and a complimentary red rose. Yes, it's a little cheesy but if your loved one gets off on pretending to be in Merchant Ivory films it could be worth a (excuse me)... punt.


Stay in a cool caravan


How about some cool camping? Check out the Vintage Vacations website. They're based on the Isle of Wight and have a range of other types of accommodation all with a cool vintage feel. They've got airstream trailers that unfortunately aren't available till March but you could stay in a 1960s tin Baptist church that's been done out with all mod cons. I've just got back from the Isle of Wight. Very pretty and quite deserted at the moment so good for finding romantic spots to be alone.


Or how about a gypsy caravan - Blackberry Wood in Sussex have one, as well as a retro 1960s caravan. They're both currently free on Valentine's Day night. They even have a big red double decker bus that 2 couples could share if that tickles your fancy...


Go and See a Romantic Movie


You can snuggle up with your loved one and a romantic film at various cinemas around the UK. Here's a few of the best independent cinema offerings:


The Prince Charles Cinema, undoubtedly London's cheapest cinema, is showing a double bill of Labyrinth and The Princess Bride - not the most obvious of Valentines films perhaps...


The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, Britain's oldest working cinema, a lovely arthouse treat, is showing a slightly more predictable choice, Breakfast at Tiffanys.


Glasgow Film Theatre are also showing Breakfast at Tiffany's and Casablanca in the evening and during the day they are showing a Music Video Showcase, screening some of the best animated music videos from the last 12 months, including tracks by Grizzly Bear, Gorillaz, Massive Attack and Fleet Foxes.


Edinburgh Film House have Beautiful Thing, Jonathan Harvey's gay coming of age drama.


Fact, in Liverpool, have a John Cusack double bill - Say Anything and High Fidelity, so you get young and old Cusack there.


The Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, one of my favourite independent cinemas is holding a public vote to find the North East's Favourite Romantic Film, and the winner will be played on Mon 14th.


If you can't get a ticket, you could always pop down the road and see British Sea Power at Newcastle's Tyne Theatre.


And for a completely different viewing experience, how about a Victorian style Erotic Magic Lantern show courtesy of The Last Tuesday Society. I've talked about these guys before - they organise all sorts of fin de siècle style decadence and dandyism out of an old curiosity shop in Hackney. This features a show of antique French erotic slides accompanied by a talk by Professor Mervyn Heard. Saucy yet clever...


And finally... Night at the Museum


The Natural History Museum in London are doing night safaris on Valentines Day. You'll be lead around the Museum by an expert on a themed trail. There are two different themes - 'pleasure' or 'pain' - your feelings on Valentines determine which one you take.



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