It's Valentine's day at 20 The Barons and Cupid’s flight-path soars over London today. The great love god might be surprised to see some of the finest evening celebrations taking place in the city’s museums and galleries: a reminder of the cultural diversity on offer in our fine capital, even on a night more commonly associated with cheap chocolates and dinner for two.
Star-crossed Valentine's lovers may be spotted in the orbit of the Royal Observatory - What's On guide at Greenwich for a Valentine’s Evening With The Stars. They will be gazing not only into each other’s eyes but also at some heavenly bodies, through an 18-tonne, 28-inch Victorian refracting telescope, the largest in the UK, housed in the Onion Dome reminiscent of that temple to love the Taj Mahal. Couples can contemplate their place in time and space by sipping champagne on the prime meridian, Longitude 0º, with one lover in the eastern and one in the western hemisphere. Those who prefer more earthly pleasures are embarking upon an After Hours Valentine’s Night Safari at the Natural History Museum, South Kensington. There is a tour of the most attractive specimens for those of a romantic nature, while the less enamoured can opt to pastiche past lovers among the predators and poisonous plants. If you prefer to say it with flowers, a late night visit to the Sunflowers exhibition, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, presents a pair of the most poignant bouquets. In a small but perfectly formed display, Vincent Van Gogh’s 1888 Sunflowers enjoys a romantic reunion with a matching partner painted five months later, by which time poor Vincent was ‘sans ear’: a reminder, perhaps, of the fragile and transient nature of love. Romantics who prefer the art of love poetry will be lending an ear at Late Night Keats, Keats House, Hampstead Heath. Home of English Romantic John Keats from 1818 to 1820, just before his untimely death at 25, the house was the scene of his courting Fanny Brawne. New Romantics can indulge in risqué Regency games and, for those carrying a torch, a torchlit tour. Pop-up readings of Keats will channel such yearning lines as Ode To A Nightingale’s: “My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains / My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk.” Lovers of the pen with a more epistolary nature will find their heart’s content at Love in the Archives, The Queen’s House, Greenwich. Love letters written from the heart of the ocean, by Georgian sailors to their sweethearts back home, might inspire seas of sweet nothings, while thoughts of closer encounters might be stirred by a tour of the Queen’s Bedchamber. If music be the food of love, then those at City of Seduction, Museum of London, St Pauls, will play on. A dance psychologist will reveal the mating rituals of the dance-floor alongside Valentine’s muse and music from the Broken Hearts. The seductive arts are explored through life-drawing classes, erotic tiles and the make-up techniques of Georgian prostitutes, while those hoping for a ring on their finger could do worse than loudly admire the London’s Lost Jewels exhibit. If food, though, be the music of love, the British Library presents a Georgian banquet alongside their splendid Georgians Revealed exhibition. A historical feast is accompanied by musicians playing hard Baroque and the chance to dance quadrilles. Such diversity for such diverse lovers reveals London at her seductive best, and all just an Underground ride from 20TheBarons. No wonder we’re so in love with our city. Of course, guests at 20TheBarons might prefer to indulge in their home from home comforts, in which case they should just call and mention The Baron’s name to receive a complimentary bottle of champagne and enjoy it from the comfort of one of our beautiful and glamorous apartments. As Keats himself wrote: “O for a draught of vintage! that hath been / Cool’d a long age in the deep-delvéd earth.”