Monday, 27 February 2012

A 2012 ‘I Will’ Action List:

Attractions & distractions for a happy, healthy and productive 2012 

We’re only a month or so into the New Year but if you’re already struggling with a rather miserable list of ‘I will not’ type resolutions then help is at hand. The lovely ladies at ‘This is Your Kingdom’ have put together a marvellous compendium of favourite ‘sober’ things to see and do in London; the perfect distraction from sworn abstinence and all the inspiration you need to ‘eat, drink, walk, think, potter, ponder, snuggle, shop and sleep’ your way to a happy, healthy and productive year ahead!

Make & Create: A fun, relaxing and productive way to spend a Saturday afternoon with friends. Best of all, you come away with something truly bespoke and personal to you, much better than a hangover we thinks.
From constructing wigwams in East Sheen to dressmaking in Clapham, shoe crafting in Hackney and bunting making in Balham there are plenty of fantastic independent craft venues across the capital at which to get those creative juices flowing.

Potter & Ponder: London is full of lovely, little high streets lined with unique independent shops. How about cupcakes and collectables in Crystal Palace, brunching and browsing in Muswell Hill, grocery shopping at the Royal Hill lovelies in Greenwich or unearthing trinkets on Northcote Road in Clapham? Dip into a new part of the city and do your bit to support independents and the passionate, creative locals who run them.

Explore & Discover: The city is dotted with gorgeous green spaces, beautiful buildings and hidden secrets and the best way to get out and discover these is on foot or (our preference) by bicycle! Find pelicans in St James’ Park and discover secret snack spots in Chelsea. Feel the wind in your hair as you cross Walthamstow Marshes and marvel at the views from the lawn at Kenwood House in Hampstead.
Snuggle & Sleep: Cosy nights at home in front of the fire are the best way to get through the winter months but it’s important to get out once in a while so snuggle up at this cosy cinema in Shoreditch instead, take in a play at this small stage with big performances in Notting Hill or catch the Sunday film night at this eclectic café in Waterloo.

Indulge & Enjoy: We’re all for partaking in some serious scoffing to counter-balance the lack of boozing and London has a whole host of fabulous foodie destinations not to be missed. Take vintage tea in Hammersmith, find fine fayre on Maltby Street, seek out the yummiest coffee in Chelsea and master the sweet things in life at this unique cookery school in Queens Park.

Weekending Away: One of the best things about the city is that it’s ever so easy to escape for a weekend away. Take the train to Brockenhurst in Hampshire for gastro dining and luxury rooms at The Pig, tootle off to Cambridge (bicycle in tow) for city living mixed with gorgeous countryside or take a trip to the great British sea-side for fish and chips and market mooching.

Embrace Rurban Living: You may be in one of the world’s largest cities, but London has plenty of ways to forget where you are tucked up its sleeve. Take a trip to one of the many ‘city farms’ in Hackney, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Vauxhall or explore the many waterways, open spaces and growing gardens on offer to each of us across the capital.

Try a New Hobby: From open air swimming, to outdoor trapeze or Bolshoi ballet for beginners, there are plenty of weird and wonderful ways to challenge your mind and body across the capital. We thoroughly embrace the ‘try everything once’ mentality, though usually reward ourselves afterwards with a nice piece of Victoria sponge.

Get a Caffeine High: Substitute alcohol with caffeine and spend afternoons cosied up in coffee shops catching up with friends. If like us you are a bit of a coffee snob (just the right strength, not too hot, milky or frothy) have a peek at these TiYK recommended spots in Hampstead, Hackney, Hither Green, Brixton, Deptford, Hammersmith and Battersea.

And after you've said "I will" to all of the above...? Catch your breath! 

Monday, 13 February 2012

Love it or hate it?

Yes, like it or not, Valentine's Day has swung round again and whist of course we at The Great Date Guide look forward to Feb 14th with much glee, we want a definitive answer from you all…

Do you love it or do you hate it?!

Does it provide a healthy reminder to spoil your loved one, or does it purely serve to make those single amongst us feel rubbish? Does it provide the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a Great Date Guide classic, or does the idea of being surrounded by slushy couples in a restaurant fill you with horror?

Well, whichever camp you're in, we say if you can't beat them, join them. Even if you're a thoroughbred 'anti-Valentine', surely an excuse to treat yourselves is no bad thing?

So, if you've left it to the last minute, check out our Valentines round up for some inspiration, or perhaps our guide to some fabulous last minute date ideas - you never know, you might even enjoy yourselves?!

(PS - if you need some emergency red roses like the ones above, click on this link and enter promotion code TGDGLOVE12 to get 10% off your order!)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Ditch the Fancy Dinner...

Miss Mary has asked her friends at TasterLab to give her their suggestions for a fun and frugal alternative to the typical Valentine's dinner... Take a look at what they have to say!
The idea of Valentine’s Day immediately conjures up images of candles, white tablecloths and a dozen red roses... Something about all of the hearts and red and pink stuff feels a little, well, clichéd and maybe just a bit boring, right? It’s doubtful that years later you’ll turn and look lovingly into your man/woman’s eyes and say, “Darling, remember that tender moment we shared over a plate of meatballs on Valentine’s Day?”  
While this ubiquitous Valentine’s celebration is the old standby and usually goes over pretty well - why not make this year an occasion you’ll never forget?
One sure fire way to make certain the time you spend with your significant other will be remembered forever is to try something new together - you know, mix it up a little. This is what TasterLab is all about - encouraging Londoners to get out there and do something different. 
Clearly attending a cocktail making class and whipping up some delicious creations together is a lot more memorable (unless you enjoy the cocktails a little too much!) than just being served a bottle of wine in a stuffy restaurant. 
Beyond the hilarity that could ensue from trying something together for the first time, it doesn’t get more exciting or thoughtful than surprising your partner with something completely unexpected like a romantic evening of tango or a private cooking class for two. 
So in honour of discovering something new and perhaps something new about each other in the process, below are some of TasterLab’s best experiential tasters to share with your other half in celebration of the most romantic day of the year.
And for those of you without a specific Valentine in mind this year, we also have arranged a special TasterLab event at Open Kitchen where you’ll get to wine, dine and learn a few things about cooking up an amazing meal all in a room with 19 other lovely singles (10 guys and 10 girls). And just maybe you’ll meet someone to share one of these amazing experiences with next year? Click here for more info.

Don’t just eat a meal - learn how to create it and all the techniques involved so you can do Valentine’s dinner as many times as you like. Two experienced Italian chefs will come to your own kitchen and show you all the tricks to making a delicious meal - a starter of Vegetable Crème with Scallops, homemade Taglioteli with seafood Al cartoccio and a dessert of spicy mousse of black chocolate. A bottle of white wine is included. 
Tango is absolutely the most sensual and passionate of all the dance styles. While it might sound a little intimidating - this group beginner’s class means you won’t be the only couple stumbling around. And even if you discover that you aren’t the next world champion ballroom dance couple, it is really nice to have a laugh together, right? Plus, the classes take place in two excellent venues - one of which, the Union Tavern, doubles as a gastropub stocked with more than 80 wines. So if it takes three to tango (you, your partner and a glass of wine), the option definitely exists.
Why go out and spend a bunch of money on drinks when you can spend just a little and learn how to turn your own home into a lovely drink destination? Celebrate Valentine’s a day early (classes are on Mondays) with a cocktail making class with your significant other. One of London’s leading mixologists, Dan Thomson, will lead you and the rest of the group in learning everything you need to know to create everything from the classics to a delicious original creation of your own. 
Rather than the ubiquitous Valentine’s Day gifts of flowers or perfume, give your partner the gift of an adventurous experience with you on the Thames. Active 360 has put together a lovely couples’ package of a two hour paddleboarding lesson followed by a romantic meal for two at one of several delicious restaurants including traditional British, French and Italian options. This couples’ class can be redeemed any time before the 31st of October so feel free to wait until the weather is a little more favorable for outdoor activities. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Great Date Guide & Lovestruck

We're soooo excited about this one! 

The idea is this: Dating should be fun, interesting and exciting and quite frankly in London, it should be spectacular! Now you regular GDG followers will of course know all of this already, but how to spread the word to London's dating population? How to persuade the masses to ditch their boring dinner for two and use this glorious city for all it's worth?! 

Well, we think we've found the answer. We've teamed up with the fabulous Lovestruck, London's leading online dating service, and are going to be offering their members a monthly GDG date suggestion. What's more, each month we will be giving away said date to a lucky 'Lovestrucker' (or several) for free! Isn't that just amazing?!

This month's suggestion and prize is the truly original and inspirational Romantic London tour by smallcarBIGCITY. It's hard to describe just how cool this date really is, but if you can imagine smoothing your way around London's most romantic spots with Barry White in the background (no, not literally), champagne and chocolates, perhaps you'll get the idea at least. 

So if you're single, you love London and you like getting something for nothing, sign up to Lovestruck today - for free of course - and this fabulous date could be yours!