A Few Places of Romance in Paris
By Phil Chavanne
Published 04/16/2007 | Travel
In Woody Allen's judgement, "As long as you haven't been kissed during any of those rainy Parisian afternoons, you haven't been kissed at all." A long-time dweller of the French capital, I'd have a hard time not to agree with the most Parisian New Yorker. Paris is a place as perfect as they come to live a glorious romance, rekindle your marriage, or meet your lifetime someone. The question is: where do you start?
Finding your cafe terrace
I will start with an obvious spot: the sidewalk cafe terrace. There are thousands of such in Paris, and lovebirds are a common sight there. The cafe terrace is an enjoyable spot in more than one way. First, they offer a nice resting spot. Second, they make an ideal observatory. The streets become an aquarium, passer-bys are the fish, and you two become the observers. Third, sit down at a terrace where other couples are smooching, and you are part of a community setting a good example to the rest of the world. For all we need is love!
But where to turn to? Which cafe to choose? The choice is entirely yours, but I will dare a few recommendations. A favorite spot of mine is located in one of the wings of the Louvre museum. 'Les Chevaux de Marly' (Horses in Marly) has I.M. Pei's Pyramid on its left, and is built inside the wing which borders Rivoli Street (if you look towards Place de la Concorde, this is the right wing of the museum). The place offers a selection of snacks, and a nice warm chocolate. Its terrace is relatively protected from the wind and rain, which makes it a good spot in wintertime.
Now if you are a die-hard fan of the Latin Quarter, and the St Germain des Pres area, you will certainly want to sit at the terrace of 'Les Deux Magots' (A Pair of Old Bachelors). French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and his wife, writer Simone de Beauvoir, used to hole up there in the 50s. Rather large and well protected by a long awning, the terrace is a great spot to observe the foot traffic moving along the busy Boulevard St Germain. The atmosphere inside the cafe has kept some of its mid-20th century flavor. A tad on the expensive side, but history and a great view have a price, haven't they?
In my list of fave areas, Place de la Contrescarpe ranks high. It is located in the 5th district, atop the quaint Rue Mouffetard. There are a couple of sidewalk terraces to sit at there, and the view is great. I would also recommend Place des Abbesses, on the Montmartre Hill. Though the local cafe terraces are usually packed, I just dig the place for its early-fall, after-school feel. Lastly, I would not miss the cafe 'Flore en L'Isle' which sits at the end of the Pont St Louis (St Louis Bridge), at the western tip of the Saint Louis Island. They serve Berthillon ice creams and sorbets, and the view is great.
Cool streets to roam
The best way to visit Paris is on foot and subway. Don't take cabs, traffic is awful. Use the subway to move from one spot to a distant other. Otherwise, just walk. And while walking, never forget to raise your eyes. Interesting details will pop at you which are rarely noticed by those who only look at eye level.
For romancing the love of your life, certain places have these very special qualities which will set them apart in your memories of togetherness. I will tell you about three for now, and there will be more to come.
Atop my list, 'Place Furstemberg'. From the plaza of the St Germain Church, walk toward the Seine and Rue Bonaparte. Turn right into Rue de l'Abbaye. Follow the street to the first short alley on your left. Turn and you end up on 'Place Furstemberg'. French painter Eugene Delacroix had his studio there, and this makes an interesting spot to visit during daytime. But 'Place Furstemberg' takes a whole other atmosphere at night. It is quiet, isolated, and sort of private. The nearby abbey lends it a historical feel. Sitting under the trees, the wooden benches welcome eternal lovers.
The Montmartre Hill has a flavor of its own. This is a spot you can spend days discovering. Montmartre used to be a small village outside Paris walls, and was only integrated to Paris at the turn of the 19th century. Thanks to its dwellers and their sense of beauty and dignity, Montmartre has managed for a large part to keep its 'olden days' atmosphere. The personality of the hill expresses itself fully at night. Street lamps lend its streets a surreal feel, most notably at mid-hill level. Take one of the steep flights of stairs, and you are sent back in time. 'Montmartre Nightly' should be part of your memory lane.
As a final destination for this short trip, let me take you to the park located at the tip of 'Ile de la Cite'. This is the largest of the two islands, and the small park named 'Square du Vert Galant' takes its name from King Henri the 4th, a womanizer in his own right ('Galant' alludes to his reputation as a smooth talker, and 'Vert' means the guy was 'always ready to fire'). Walk to the 'Pont Neuf' bridge, go down the flight of stairs opening behind Henri's statue, and you will wind up on the wharf. There, lined with century-old trees, the park offers a magnificent view of the river Seine and the Louvre Museum. I recommend discovering the spot together during daytime. It is also the port of call of a boat tour operator. Seize this opportunity to boat upstream and downstream. Don't forget to bring an extra sweater, the temperature at water level is chillier.
More recommendations for romance?
I love a good romance, and I would love to contribute to yours in my own way. So I'll write more about these special Parisian spots in further installments to this series. Meanwhile, you will find more resources on the website Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News (see 'About the Author' section in this page). Till then, I wish your couple to grow even stronger.
About the Author:
Phil Chavanne lived in Paris for 30 years and wants travelers to benefit from his knowledge of the city. Find his writings in the free tourism guide, Paris-Eiffel-Tower-News
. Discover the not-so-well-known Parisian spots and have the best time in Paris.