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It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Valentine’s Day is perhaps one of the most polarizing holidays in the calendar. One the one side you’ve got those who (quite rightly!) suggest that spontaneous acts of romance shouldn’t just be confined to just one day of the year, and on the other you’ve got those who happily confess that they enjoy having a special occasion to celebrate. Somewhere betwixt these two extremes, you’ve got the skeptical singletons who are neither hither nor thither when it comes to red roses, chocolates and heart shaped balloons- for them 14th February is just another day.

Although public displays of affection and sweeping romantic gestures may prove quite divisive, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s certainly an occasion which is difficult to escape- and if you’re in a relationship then it can be deceptively tricky to negotiate the cliched pitfalls of pressie buying. So, whether you’re one half of a couple seeking some fresh inspiration for what to do this year, or whether you’re determined to celebrate the holiday regardless, we here at Aesthetic HQ have come up with a list of alternative ideas of how to celebrate Valentine’s Day:

1) Go in search of Mr Darcy

2013 marks the 200th birthday of Pride and Prejudice, and there’s no denying that Jane Austen’s novel has had a lasting impact on literature and the notion of the romantic hero. So, whether you’re attached to your own Mr. Darcy or not, why not take a trip to the Jane Austen’s House Museum and celebrate the work of one of the world’s most beloved authors by seeing her home firsthand. The Hampshire house where she spent the last eight years of her life and where she did the majority of her writing is a must-visit for Austen aficionados and literature lovers alike.

Jane Austen’s House Museum, Hampshire, GU34 1SD

2) Blood, guts and gore at the Museum of London

If ymuseumoflondonou’re more interested in the inner workings of the heart, then a visit to the Museum of London’s latest exhibition is sure to set your pulse racing. Charting the evolution of medical surgery in Victorian London, Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men features an extensive array of artifacts excavated from a burial ground at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel in 2006. Featuring human and animal remains, anatomical models and a whole host of primary sources, the exhibition explores the work of a group of pioneering surgeons who came to prominence in this period, as well as the fabled bodysnatchers who supplied them. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted!

Museum of London, London, EC2Y 5HN For

3) Explore the magic of Kensington Palace

For truly romantic at heart, there are few places which compare with Kensington Palace. Re-opened last year after a multi-million pound redevelopment, each consecutive exhibition within the palace centres upon a series of royal residents, and traces the dynasties of some of the most powerful British monarchs ever to wear the crown. A particular highlight is the Victoria Revealed section; focusing on Queen Victoria’s life and her relationship with Prince Albert, this installation is constructed around Victoria’s own letters and diary accounts, offering an unparalleled insight into her childhood, reign and marriage. Before heading home, be sure to pop along to Queen Anne’s Orangery for a spot of afternoon tea.

Kensington Palace, London, W8 4PX

4) Say it with cake

hummingbirdOn the subject of cake, in our book nothing says ‘I love you’ like baking someone an edible gift. Whether it’s pretty patisserie, beautiful biscuits or a perfectly put together sponge, having a home-made token of affection is perhaps one of the nicest gestures ever. So, if you’re inspired to get creative in the kitchen then be sure pick up The Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home. Released on 14th February, it’s set to be just as popular as their previous titles, and promises 100 new recipes for ‘baking brilliance.’ Just remember to save us a slice!

The Hummingbird Bakery: Home Sweet Home by Tarek Malouf, RRP £20, Harper Collins

5) Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Tate Modern

If art is more your cup of tea,  then be sure to book in advance for the much-anticipated retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein’s work, opening at Tate Modern on 21st February. Bringing together over 100 of Lichtenstein’s most evocative paintings and offering an in depth look at his artistic processes, this exhibition is set to uncover the work of one of the 20th century’s most iconic artists, and in doing so shed new light on the Pop Art movement as a whole. One not to be missed!

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, Tate Modern, London, SE1 9TG

Sarah Farrell is a fashion and lifestyle blogger at My Sentimental Heart. A regular contributor to Aesthetic Magazine, Sarah’s main interests lie in baking and style. Sarah is also the Features Editor of Aesthetic Online. She Tweets @sarah_sentiment.

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