Romance in the City
PUBLISHED: 14:28 27 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:58 20 February 2013
Whether February has you in romantic mood or not - you can't fail to fall in love with Exeter, writes Trudy Turrell. <br/><br/>Photos by Alexandra Richards
Whether February has you in romantic mood or not - you cant fail to fall in love with Exeter, writes Trudy Turrell.
Photos by Alexandra Richards
Ancient and Modern
From Roman times, when Isca Dumnoniorum was the most south westerly fortress in England, Exeter has always had a style all of its own. There is still a strong Roman presence here. Wander through Princesshays slick new shopping area, or relax in the citys Rougemont Gardens and you are almost sure to bump into Roman walls. Theres around a mile and a half of them left; added to over the centuries, but still giving the city a timeless quality. Rising up from the Cathedral Green, and surrounded by fabulous medieval and Georgian buildings, Exeter Cathedral is Queen of the city. Founded in 1050, the original Norman cathedral was commissioned by a nephew of William the Conqueror and its original massive stone towers still support the 15th century Gothic-style building. Beneath it lie the remains of the centre of the Roman city. Dont miss going inside to marvel at its lacelike fan vaulted roof, minstrels gallery and huge astronomical clock that tells not only the time but the phase of the moon.
Grasp the opportunity for a romantic stroll when the weather is clear along Exeters quayside. Situated away from the bustle of the town centre, the quay offers charming eateries such as The Waterfront, Mangos and Coffee Cellar, and great shopping opportunities within the quays old cellars. If you are looking for a bit more adventure, then Saddles and Paddles rent out bicycles, canoes and kayaks by the hour, to explore further down the canal or even down to the estuary.
The Bikeshed Theatres small and intimate underground theatre premieres some of the South Wests most innovative drama. Theres a separate caf and a cocktail bar open to 2am on Fridays and Saturdays which combine to make a memorable night out. From 8 25 February you can see the winning play of 2011s international playwriting competition Playing with snails.
Box office 01392 434 169 www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk
Feed Your Passion
The Royal Clarence Hotel is the place for a romantic treat after a winter stroll along Cathedral Green. Indulge yourselves with a high-end gastronomic experience courtesy of Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines, or relax in the sun outside and watch the world go by whilst enjoying a bite for the MC Caf Bar menu.
Further up the High Street, tucked away in a glorious sun spot on Castle Street, is Caffe Espresso. Embodying a more European philosophy, this is somewhere to savour your delicious coffee (and perhaps a naughty pastry too) while simply enjoying others company. Located opposite the registry office, it is a popular spot with recently wedded couples, to enhance the romantic atmosphere even further.
If, after exploring the city, your stomachs are rumbling for some hearty fare, then Exeters most discerning palates head to The Hourglass on Melbourne Street. Located close to the historic quayside, this quirky pub serves food of excellent quality and has an impressive wine list. (If you are fans of aperfectly cooked steak then this place is a must!) If you are not looking for a full meal, The Hourglass is a wonderful, intimate spot for a break from the cold, accompanied by one of their delicious snacks, such as mini doughnuts or homemade focaccia and dipping oils.
The Royal Clarence Hotel www.abodehotels.co.uk/exeter
Caffe Espresso 07980 601691
The Hourglass, 01392 258722
On a cold February night - or even a wet and windy afternoon, what could better cosying up at Exeter Picture House where the auditorium is not too big, there are plush sofa seats to snuggle into and a laid-back caf upstairs to linger over a latte and chat about the movie afterwards.
Find it at Bartholomew Street West.
See www.picturehouses.co.uk for up to date film listings.
A Labour of Love
Jewellery makes the perfect valentines gift, so a visit Erin Coxs Castle Street studio, where she makes her delicate jewellery is to be strongly recommended. It can be challenging work, explains Erin who often burn and cuts her hands in the making of her flowing organic forms. Taking precious metals to their molten state then cooling it into a design makes every piece individual. Exeter born Erin was drawn back to the city after graduating in jewellery and silversmithing in London then travelling and living many other places in between. This fabulous city is so friendly, she enthuses, I had to return home to live and work. www.erincox.co.uk
Say it with Flowers
A few steps from Princesshay and the High Street is another oasis, Rougemont Gardens. The gardens which were first created in the 18th century include a stretch of Roman wall and the bank and ditches of William the Conquerers castle. Plantings of spring flowers will certainly brighten a dull wintry day and may even inspire a visit to nearby florist, Jenniflower at 1a Central Station, Queen Street. Owner Jennifer Stones love of vintage gives her shop a magical feel; as flowers spill out of teacups, galvanised watering cans and flower-patterned jugs, and dressers are laden with rustic pots, French soaps and St Eval candles. Jennifers background includes fashion photography, styling and working with the design team at the Conran Shop. With an addiction to flowers she creates fabulous vintage and country garden inspired Valentines bouquets with a mixture of very English flowers such as astrantia, phlox, astilbe and roses. Roses are my favourite, but not just red; I use mauve, lilac, beige and white too, for a soft, romantic look. www.jenniflower.co.uk
I do Dresses
The House that Moved in West Street is a place to swoon over wedding gowns. Pirouette, the three-storied shop, is graced by fabulous dresses draped in lace or bejewelled with beads. These are beautiful dresses for a once in a lifetime occasion. The building is the oldest in Exeter and parts of it date back to the 14th century. When threatened by the construction of Exeters inner bypass in 1961, this special listed building was moved 70m uphill, to its current position. Strengthened with huge timbers attached to metal rails and slowly moved by hydraulic jacks, it cost 10,000 then for this unbelievable feat, achieved on 13th December, just over 50 years ago. www.pirouettethecollection.com