If so, you’d do well to consider whisking your loved one over the Channel to the Royal boroughs of Windsor and Eton for a romantic short break.
It may be a little-known fact, but the area has a direct link with St. Valentine’s Day. Back in 1389, Geoffrey Chaucer, medieval England’s most famous writer, was given the job of maintaining Windsor Castle and St. Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in Chaucer’s circle.
It was in the Middle Ages that the tradition of courtly love flourished and Chaucer´s Parliament of Fowls poem is one of the first references to the idea that St. Valentine’s Day was a special day for lovers.
Fast forward a few centuries and Windsor – where Chaucer, as Clerk of the King’s Works, was employed repairing the Castle’s St. George’s Chapel – still offers lots of ways of expressing love.
Arguably, the most romantic setting is nearby Roman ruins, featuring 2,000-year-old Corinthian pillars. Just the place to charm your very own god or goddess! For those thinking of popping the question a gentle sail along the River Thames, with beautiful views of Windsor Castle, is the perfect backdrop to get down on bended knew. Alternatively, what could be more romantic than surprising your future-intended with a horse-drawn carriage ride in Windsor Great Park, available throughout the year.
A great local base for a short break is The Christopher Hotel Bar and Grill, just across the river, which offers a spot of history of its own. Originally built in 1511 and rebuilt as a coaching inn in 1847 for the princely sum of €956, the headmaster of nearby Eton College had it closed down and moved due to the “improper reputation” it had acquired.
Its reputation now firmly restored, this stylish, 34-bedroom hotel (ranging from junior suites to deluxe singles) is surrounded by antique shops and art galleries. The bar and grill offer the chance to enjoy all day dining. This charming private hotel, a former magistrates court, is joined to Windsor by a pedestrian bridge and is the perfect venue for a spot of romantic carousing.
Yet more romance can be found just over the river at the Sir Christoper Wren Hotel, built by the great architect in 1676 (he also lived there with his family). Wren is one of England’s most distinguished architects, famous for designing St. Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor’s Guild Hall. Sir Christopher Wren has been a hotel since 1920.
Nowadays, it’s also rightly famous for fine cuisine served in a studding riverside setting, ideal for smooching your partner. Dishes are expertly prepared using a combination of fresh seasonal goods from local suppliers and carefully sourced ingredients from further afield. It makes for a great venue for Valentine’s Day or any time of year.
The world-renowned Windsor Castle is within easy walking distance for those traveling with kids, and the famous LEGOland is just a short drive away. In 2014, it will be opening an all new pirate adventure play area complete with a towering forgotten fortress and fearsome battle ships. Its hugely popular Pirate Falls log flume will host a brand new quest featuring more than 100 new pirate-themed LEGO models.
Windsor is easy to reach from Belgium and for those with a bit more time to spare, you should consider P&O Ferries, which has no less than 23 daily crossings on the Calais/Dover route, with prices for a daytrip starting from a mere €24 return (same calendar day). A long stay (over 5 days) costs from €39 each way while a short break is from €44 return. All prices are for one car and up to nine passengers.
Still unconvinced? If so, check out the stately home at nearby Cliveden. Its beautiful gardens include ‘The Fountain of Love’ at the end of the Grand Avenue. Enter the impressive recreation of a maze designed and built for Lord Astor, the former owner of Cliveden, in 1894. A word of warning: be careful not to lose your beloved before you have a chance to propose!