Paris, the City of Love

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Paris, the City of Love
Blame it on the water, the dramatic sunsets, the intoxicating food, or the sparkling champagne. Regardless of the reasons, Paris has drawn lovers to its banks since the legendary Héloïse and Abelard in the 12th century.
By Sylvia Sabes, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Knud Nielsen/age fotostock
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    Where to Sneak a Kiss in Paris
    Lovers strolling hand-in-hand is a common sight on the boulevards of Paris. Oscar Wilde fans can no longer kiss his grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery, but it is still a romantic place to kiss your date. The Je t’aime wall at Abbesses has emboldened more than one to get down on bended knee. Catching the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower—shining every hour on the hour—from the Pont Alexandre III has encouraged just as many to reply with a “Yes!” If you're lucky enough to get a cabin to yourself, the Ferris wheel in the Tuileries Gardens provides the perfect, private place to kiss with all of Paris at your feet.
    Photo by Knud Nielsen/age fotostock
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    Parisian Picnics
    Picnicking is so beloved by Parisians that once a year they throw a Dîner en Blanc, a formal picnic where guests wear white and bring out their china to dine by the hundreds at landmarks like the Carousel du Louvre or Place de la Concorde. For your picnic, there is nowhere more romantic than the western tip of the Île de la Cité, as the sun sets behind the bridges with the Seine below, or at the foot of the Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars, or on a Marin d’Eau Douce boat at La Villette. Local market streets like rue Lourmel near the Eiffel Tower sell everything for a gourmet picnic: chilled champagne, artisanal cheeses, ripe produce, rotisserie meat, bread, and pastries. ParisPicnic.com will even meet you with a ready-to-eat treat.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Romantic Escapes
    There are dozens of romantic adventures near the City of Love. A visit to Versailles, followed by lunch at the covered market and a stroll in the posh gardens, sets the mood with rich history and lavish architecture. For simpler tastes, it is an easy and picturesque bike ride from the Vernon train station to Giverny, where Monet painted his water lilies and cultivated a garden in the Impressionist palette. Considered the 21st arrondissement, Deauville is a quaint Normand town with timber-frame homes and a star-studded boardwalk that runs along a wide beach. Across a bridge, in Trouville, tables line the fish market, setting the scene for a memorable meal of the day’s catch and a crisp glass of wine to celebrate the moment.
    Photo by Werner Otto/age fotostock
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    Tête à Tête Dining
    Parisians are hopeless romantics, quick to show their affection. As early as the 1780s, guests were enjoying the plush, private rooms and fine cuisine at the restaurant Lapérouse. Alléno Paris is a romantic Michelin three-star restaurant, nestled in the discreet gardens of the Champs-Élysées where diners are served heavenly meals by candlelight. Intimate dining rooms in a private mansion adorned with 18th century art seduce patrons at 1728. Le Café de l’Homme is a chic table for a kiss with a view of the Eiffel Tower. An evening at Le Chalet des Îles is an affordable option that includes a magical boat ride to an island in the Bois de Boulogne. On a warm summer’s night, dinner can be ordered from the terrace, the stars shining above.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    The French Art of Strolling
    The Tuileries Gardens were open to the public in 1667, giving birth to the art of flâner, the ambling version of sitting at a café for hours on end. After the Revolution, the narrow streets of the capital were razed and wide boulevards were built so that rebels couldn’t barricade and Parisians could stroll, encouraging healthy walks and local gossip. The Grands Boulevards are not the only place for a leisurely walk, as exploring the city’s large parks provides an intimate peek into French life. The rive gauche Berges de Seine, opened in 2012, have given locals a taste for the bucolic, while the nostalgic Canal Saint-Martin is perhaps the liveliest place for a stroll today.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Cozy Cocktail Clubs
    For centuries, a celebratory drink in Paris has meant champagne. Fortunately, there are now some great bars for cocktails, too. For hotel bars, visit the plush, cozy hangouts at L’Hotel and the St. James, or the trendy bars of Mama Shelter, Terrass Hotel, and the Hotel Monceau.The Experimental Cocktail Club of Beef Club Ballroom introduced Paris to cocktail culture. The movement was quickly joined by Andy Wahloo, Tiger, and L’Entrée des Artistes. Rooftops are the newest thing, with Le Perchoir and Wanderlust in the lead. The Rosebud and Cloiserie des Lilas are historic venues offering a vintage time-machine vibe, while La Vue, Quarante Trois, L’Oiseau Blanc, and The Raphael Terrace add a stunning view of Paris to their high-end mixes.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    Picture-Perfect Paris
    Robert Doisneau photographed a couple kissing at the Hôtel de Ville in the 50s and started a fad that is still popular today. Technology has evolved, allowing couples to stroll the city taking photos of themselves everywhere from Trocadéro to the Pont des Arts, or wherever the Eiffel Tower pops into view. On the Champ de Mars there are all kinds of games to play with the perspective of the iconic symbol of France; at the Louvre, visitors spend hours trying to catch the perfect angle of themselves pinching the glass pyramids between their fingers. For a perfect snapshot, Pictours Paris will follow couples on their journeys to the most romantic corners of the city, immortalizing each romantic moment along the way.
    Photo by Christian Goupi/age fotostock
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    A Little Luxury: Shopping in Paris
    Paris is an undeniably extravagant city and one of its greatest accomplishments is ensuring a little bit of luxury for everyone. Sample the decadent macarons from the gorgeous Ladurée tea room, or order a flute of champagne at Café de Flore and watch the fashion world swagger by. Stepping into the original Chanel boutique and leaving with a camellia-clad bag can make some weak in the knees. Designer boutiques on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré may even welcome visitors with a petit coup of bubbly, enticing them to try on silk dresses, satin shoes, and leather handbags. Gab & Jo is the city's first made-in-France store, full of très Parisian memories to take home, and Parfum sur Mesure blends haute couture fragrances.
    Photo by Sylvia Sabes
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    The City of Lights by Night
    Paris lives up to her reputation, staying just as romantic by night as she is by day. The best way to take in the city sights after sunset is from the top of a Seine riverboat or in the back of a chauffeur-driven Citroën, the artistically lit monuments passing before you as you indulge in a glass of champagne. After the ride, Le Bataclan and La Cigale are historic concert venues staging contemporary live music from across the globe. L’Alimentation Générale and Le Batofar are smaller clubs with an intimate atmosphere. For upscale clubbing, Le Baron and Le MadaM attract the jet-setting crowd, while Club Silencio, designed by David Lynch, and Le Montana are the hottest addresses.
    Photo by Tara Donne
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    A Nostalgic Trip Through Music
    The French are faithful lovers of Edith Piaf’s voice, filling concert halls for tributes to le Piaf—the Sparrow—and chansons françaises evenings at Le Vieux Belleville, where dancing is heartily encouraged. The small cabaret at the historic Le Lapin Agile in Montmartre pleases crowds just as it once seduced Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Every weekend, Chez Louisette in Saint-Ouen is an experience in time travel as accordionists beguile reserved, refined Parisians into singing the songs their grandmothers adore. Club Rayé plays a jazz brunch on Sunday as Rive Gauche musicians gather in front of the Saint-Médard church near the Mouffetard market to provide song books for sing-alongs and serenade dancing couples.
    Photo by Mike Kemp/age fotostock