While most students were moving back to Cambridge the weekend before term, I was squeezing in a last minute romantic break to Paris with my boyfriend. Thanks to my French father, this much written, painted and loved capital has featured in many of my diaries, but never before been enjoyed for what the French do best: l’amour. Here I share what we got up to as inspiration for any Francophile lovers out there. Paris, je t’aime.
A scenic amble south of Gare du Nord, I wouldn’t recommend this iconic Cathedral for a serene sight-seeing spot (the throngs of tourists crush any magic out of it), but wander around the back to the gardens overlooking la Seine, and be serenaded by the hosts of sparrows dotting the trees.
Pont des Arcs
Walk along the crowds of book vendors and artists clinging to the riverside walls and take in the view of Île de la Cité on this bridge gilded with lovers’ chains and mementoes. A perfect photo opportunity. Please refrain from padlocking the bridge – jilted lovers have been known to unceremoniously return with bolt-cutters.
Jardin des Tuileries
These public gardens are large enough to smooch/cheeky pinch, without coming across too PDA. Pull up a chair by one of the feature fountains; snuggle up against the winter gusts and watch locals toy around with mini yachts.
A must for lovers. The uppermost platform is rarely open, so the next highest level 2 is more than manageable by the stairs. Perfect to achieve that attractive flushed look. Head up at dusk to profit from the lights adorning the lacework of the tower and to gaze across the City. Afterwards, stop at a brasserie in the nearby 7th arondissement for a carafe of wine and the special du jour.
Musee d’Orsay/ Musee Rodin
Paul Cézanne is one of my other loves, and the d’Orsay’s free entry is the best no-investment afternoon you could possibly spend. Less touristy than le Louvre, d’Orsay’s café is well worth pausing at for a crepe; the lighting is an artwork in itself. An alternative is the small but exclusive Musee Rodin, dedicated to his sketches and sculptures. January light is perfect for showcasing the bronze statues flooding inside, or for winding past the glorious ‘Kiss’. Steal one for yourself.
Take the much-underrated tube to Pigalle, from where you can enjoy an all-important spot of X-rated shopping, with some great Parisian lingerie boutiques further up the hill towards the Sacré Cœur Basilica crowning the area. Time your visit during Mass, for a breath-taking experience of song, incense and ceremony. Crown this off with a probably poorly wrought but souvenir worthy charcoal portrait drawing of you both from the artists’ square.
La Petite Ceinture
An abandoned railway track circling the old city walls, this is the top choice for painters, photographers or rebels alike. There’s nothing quite so romantic as clambering up a lamppost in a pencil skirt to tumble onto the wonderfully other-worldly train line, seemingly dislocated from the normally omnipresent clatter of boulangeries, mopeds and music.