Written by Paula Jones Last updated: June 6, 2006
Paris, c’est la ville de l’amour!
Paris can lay fair claim to being the most romantic place on earth, and continues to get voted the most romantic city in Europe by Valentine couples.
A glance at the city’s folklore soon explains the attraction. The setting for Victor Hugo’s tragic love story, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the final resting‐place of doomed lovers Abelard and Eloise, Paris is steeped in passion and poetry, from the bloodthirsty revolutions of centuries past to the bohemian glamour of 1920s Montparnasse and 1950s St Germain.
If it’s aphrodisiacs and rich, sensuous cooking you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. Start with a glass of champagne at the Hotel Costes, one of the hippest hotels in the world with its opulent lobby and cosy, curtained‐off enclaves where you can whisper sweet nothings. Looking for oysters? Why not head for La Coupole with its huge fruits de mer counter and intimate booths. Go to Les Deux Magots for a croissant and coffee and you might find yourself sitting in Simone de Beauvoir or Jean‐Paul Sartre’s seat (though the privilege doesn’t come cheap!). And for the most sumptuous belle epoque interior in town don’t miss Le Train Bleu restaurant, right above the entrance to the Gare de Lyon. Nip in for a drink and you’ll feel like you’re on a film‐set…
Paris offers plenty of opportunities for popping the question, but when Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes, he probably picked the ultimate venue ‐‐ atop the Eiffel Tower, preferably looking out over the city lights by night. The tower is open until 11pm every night.
Where to start? For a jaunty spin round the sites ‐‐ in the company of the timelessly watchable Gene Kelly ‐‐ treat yourself to a night in with An American in Paris. Jean‐Jacques Beineix’s stylish thriller Diva exposes a quirky side of the city (and contains one of the most thrilling motorbike chases on celluloid). And Jack Lemmon’s comic masterpiece Irma La Douce, set in 1950s Les Halles is a masterpiece.
For books ‐‐ Victor Hugo might be a tad weighty, but Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame are seminal works nevertheless. Patrick Suskind’s marvellously warped and unputdownable Perfume comes heavily scented with malevolent intrigue. George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer are two classic portraits of the bleak bohemian existence of the starving artist in this most written‐about of cities.
Bon anniversaire de mariage = Happy anniversary
Je t’aime = I love you
Felicitations! = Congratulations!
Veux tu m’épouser? = Will you marry me?
How about an underground itinerary? Les Catacombes, a collection of tight, skeleton‐strewn tunnels accessed just south of the river at Denfert‐Rocherau, make for good, dark fun. Then there’s the Paris Sewers ‐‐ a suitably disgusting subterranean network that reflects the layout of the city streets, not to mention the spooky Notre Dame Crypt.
For a good boozy night out, head for the huge concentration of happening bars around the Bastille area ‐‐ start at Rue Lappe or Rue de Charonne, and don’t worry about where you end up.
Just outside town, there’s more party fun to be had at Euro‐Disney. High‐speed thrill rides include Space Mountain, Mission 2 and Big Thunder Mountain ‐‐where you’ll shake, rattle and roll on a runaway mine train.