Tou­jours l’amour

Ju­dith Elen re­veals the per­fect out­ings for two in the city of ro­mance Paris has all the props. It just needs a cast of two for the lead­ing roles

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

OMANCE can blos­som in the desert, but to truly set the scene cer­tain props are in­dis­pens­able: soft light and drifts of per­fume, flow­ers, good food, mem­o­rable wine. Add a tran­quil river, cob­ble­stoned squares, evoca­tive streetscapes, mon­u­ments and set­tings wrapped in the elu­sive mem­o­ries of film, art and dreams, and you have Paris. The city has all the props. It just needs a cast of two for the lead­ing roles.

Drift through the shift­ing, dap­pled light be­neath the verdi­grised metal bridges along the Canal St-Martin in the north­east of the city. This is the canal sys­tem that runs through the 10th and 19th ar­rondisse­ments, built early in the 19th cen­tury to link two sec­tions of the Seine, by­pass­ing the river’s big west­ern loop. Late in the cen­tury, Napoleon III cov­ered the lower sec­tion near the city’s cen­tre, to throw a span­ner in the works of the volatile, re­bel­lious work­ers’ quar­ters in the east. Run­ning un­der­ground for more than 2km from Bastille, it emerges into the at­mo­spheric district of cob­ble­stoned quais and plane trees. Join a three-hour cruise, from the Seine near Musee d’Or­say, trav­el­ling via the tun­nel and pass­ing canal locks and Marcel Carne’s Ho­tel du Nord on the way, to Parc de la Vil­lette. www.pariscanal.com; www.canauxrama.com.

Cloak your­self in an in­stan­ta­neous veil of ro­mance aboard the Pull­man Ori­ent Ex­press. This leg­endary train, fit­ted out with all the sumptuous ex­cess of a fin-de-siecle brasserie, from the golden glow of shaded lights and pol­ished fit­tings to orig­i­nal Lalique glass, makes three-hour gourmet din­ner jour­neys from Paris, along the banks of the Seine and on to the out­skirts of Fon­tainebleau. Sink se­duc­tively into one of the train’s 1920s-dec­o­rated car­riages, then, beginning with cham­pagne and ac­cented by ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic, en­joy a lux­u­ri­ous Lenotre din­ner based on ’ 20s recipes and served on orig­i­nal china by staff in uni­forms de­signed to echo their vin­tage pre­de­ces­sors. With a red­car­pet wel­come on the plat­form in Paris at 6.35pm and a 10.45pm re­turn, din­ers glide through the early evening sun­set into the glit­ter­ing night. www.pull­manori­en­t­ex­press.com.

Earth­ier, but still deeply nos­tal­gic, is a driv­ing tour around the mon­u­ments and dis­tricts of Paris in the orig­i­nal work­ing­man’s car, a Citroen Deux Che­vaux Vapeur, more com­monly known as the 2CV. Hud­dle in the snug back­seat or pop your head through the open sun­roof of your (non-uni­formed) chauf­feur-driven vin­tage car and you’re in the frame to star in your own Jaques Tati black-and­white movie. (For­get his hec­tic, colour­ful Traf­fic , this is a step back in time. And, be­sides, you don’t have to drive.) Tours are avail­able by night or day and range from a 30-minute drive from Place de la Con­corde to the Jardin des Tui­leries along the Champs-El­y­sees (a 45-minute Pres­tige ver­sion in­cludes a bot­tle of wine), to a three-hour Se­cret Paris tour. From your pri­vate, snub-nosed char­iot, see the fa­mous sights or dis­cover in­ti­mate back­streets a tour bus would never ne­go­ti­ate. The web­site sums it up: four wheels un­der one um­brella. www.4roues-sous-1para­pluie.com.

Float above Fon­tainebleau, head in the clouds, ex­plor­ing the heights of love in a hot-air bal­loon. Set off from Paris’s Gare de Lyon for the 40-minute train trip to Fon­tainebleau, where France Mont­golfieres will col­lect you from the sta­tion, or the com­pany can ar­range a chauf­feured drive from Paris to the launch ground. Bal­loons take off morn­ings and evenings, as long as the weather is calm, seven days a week, April to Novem­ber, to drift over a re­gion that was the priv­i­leged play­ground of Paris: site of the mon­u­men­tal 12th­cen­tury chateau of Fon­tainebleau, home to me­dieval kings, re­nais­sance courts and the favoured re­treat of Napoleon who re­stored it af­ter the rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies stripped it bare. From the air, the or­nate pat­terns of for­mal gar­dens and or­na­men­tal lake emerge in their en­tirety. Pass over vil­lages, rivers and the fa­mous for­est of Fon­tainebleau. www.france­bal­loons.com.

Delve into the depths of love at Paris’s Musee de l’Ero­tisme, where the plea­sures of the flesh and its mys­tic edges are ex­plored through civil­i­sa­tions, cen­turies and eras. His­tory and hu­mour, satire and sen­su­al­ity, erotic rit­ual and cer­e­mony, ob­jects and sym­bols from pre­his­tory to the present should pro­vide some in­spi­ra­tion, at 72 boule­vard de Clichy in Mont­martre.

The more ethe­re­ally minded could stroll through the cor­ri­dors of love at the Musee de la Vie Ro­man­tique, where a linked set of 19th-cen­tury build­ings, home to artists, writ­ers, mu­si­cians and ac­tors of the Parisian Ro­man­tic move­ment, now house a mu­seum ded­i­cated to artis­tic and lit­er­ary Ro­man­ti­cism. Painter Ary Scheffer, friend and neigh­bour of nov­el­ist Ge­orge Sand (lover of the young Fred­eric Chopin), made his home a cen­tre for artists of the 1830s; the ded­i­ca­tion con­tin­ues and brings the pe­riod to life, Ho­tel Scheffer-Re­nan, 9th ar­rondisse­ment. There’s a se­duc­tive sa­lon de the in the gar­den. www.musee-ero­tisme.com; www.vie-ro­man­tique.paris.fr.

Pic­nic au plein-air in Paris’s most ro­man­tic park: Buttes-Chau­mont. Cre­ated by Baron Hauss­man at the in­sti­ga­tion of Napoleon III, this 19th-cen­tury ex­trav­a­ganza of con­trived wilder­ness is a glo­ri­ous de­par­ture from the con­trolled, straight lines of for­mal French gar­dens. The park’s 25ha of re­claimed land, east of Mont­martre in the 19th ar­rondisse­ment, are scat­tered with streams, wa­ter­falls, lakes, bridges and a rocky is­land in an abun­dant recre­ation of ‘‘ wild na- ture’’, with panoramic look­outs and 5km of path­ways. A Greco-Ro­man tem­ple perches atop a cliff 30m above the lake. Be­fore ven­tur­ing this far from the city cen­tre, visit Coues­non, a Nor­mandy fam­ily-run char­cu­terie, here since the 1950s, to choose from the home­made ter­rines and pates, foie gras en gelee, slices of suc­cu­lent Paris ham, Nor­mandy ap­ple tarts and cidre fer­miere, at 30 rue Dauphine in the 6th ar­rondisse­ment. Or stock up on farm cheeses and fresh fruit at the daily mar­ket at rue Mouf­fe­tard, near the Sor­bonne. www.paris.fr; Char­cu­terie phone +33 1 4354 3580.

Coues­non,

Se­duce the senses with a three-hour per­fume tour through Parisian per­fumeries, end­ing at the Cafe de Paris. The heady per­fumes of Paris’s fash­ion houses and lead­ing mak­ers evoke a world of in­dul­gence and plea­sure that is uniquely Parisian. Sylvie Dau­main of De­tour des sens guides vis­i­tors on a twohour walk­ing tour to clas­sic mak­ers such as Pa­tou and Caron, un­cov­er­ing in­sider in­for­ma­tion about some of the great houses, and also ex­plores more re­cent la­bels such as An­nick Goutal and Di­vine. Full-day trips in­clude lunch at restau­rant Api­cius.

Hav­ing aroused your senses, go straight to the top, at Guer­lain Spa and Bou­tique, where you and your part­ner in ro­mance can in­dulge each other in a gift spa or beauty treat­ment at this gilt­edged es­tab­lish­ment. Buy cus­tomised gift cer­tifi­cates on­line. http://en.paris­info.com; www.de­tour­dessens.com; www.guer­lainspa.com.

Blos­som­ing ro­mance has al­ways been nour­ished with arm­loads of flow­ers. Spend time strolling among the blooms of the mo­ment and the es­tab­lished ma­ture plants of a life­time in the av­enues of ven­dors at Paris’s old­est flower mar­ket, Marche aux fleurs, on place Louis Lepine and quaie de Corse, Ile de la Cite, since 1808. Choose your own arm­loads from the vast and colour­ful va­ri­ety on sale un­der the fil­i­greed metal pavil­ions. Open ev­ery day from 8am to 7.30pm. Paris’s other two large flower mar­kets are at Place de la Madeleine, in the 8th ar­rondisse­ment (Mon­day to Satur­day, 8am to 7.30pm) and Place des Ternes, in the 17th, open ev­ery day, 8am to 7.30pm. www.mairie4.paris.fr.

Ded­i­cate the en­tire day to ex­cess a deux. Start with a break­fast bas­ket of tiny pas­tries, with a dis­creet egg and fruit salad in the rich blue bro­cade­uphol­stered up­per din­ing room, Le Sa­lon Bleu, at Laduree’s St-Ger­main ad­dress, Laduree Bon­a­parte.

Lunch should be pro­tein-rich, per­haps caviar-laced co­quilles st-jac­ques or crab, at famed caviar house Pet­rossian’s Restau­rant Le 144, above the orig­i­nal, blue-painted cor­ner bou­tique in the 7th.

Din­ner de­pends on your mood. It might be pi­geon breast with truf­fles fol­lowed by dessert of al­mond paste and rose petals amid the chan­de­liers, mir­rors and fres­coes at ul­tra luxe Le Meurice. Or, for an evening of ro­man­tic nos­tal­gia, or­der a lob­ster salade and house spe­cial­ity chou­croute de la mer, be­neath the grand glass copola of the leatherban­quet­ted al­sa­ci­enne brasserie, Bofin­ger. Or you might be ready for a se­cluded tete a tete, savour­ing foie gras, cas­soulet and a bot­tle of bor­deaux among the rus­tic red-and-white checked table­cloths at the 100-year-old bistro, La Fon­taine de Mars, in the 7th. Bon ap­petit. www.laduree.fr; www.pet­rossian.fr; www.bofin­ger­paris.com; www.lemeurice.com; www.fon­tainedemars.com.

Sur­feited with cob­ble­stoned squares, gar­goyles and river views fol­low­ing an af­ter­noon strolling the by­ways of Ile de la Cite, re­tire to your ho­tel for a long night with a sup­ply of fan­tasy chocolate from ar­ti­sanal choco­latier Josephine Van­nier in the Marais. A lus­cious black Ma­sai mask and a chocolate cham­pagne bot­tle per­haps. Tuck one of Van­nier’s boxes un­der your arm for the long trip home, an evoca­tive car­net de voy­age or a deca­dent Klimt. But there’s just one last call, at the -10C, pure-ice Ice Kube bar, at the edge of Mont­martre, for a warm­ing vodka cock­tail. www.choco­lats-van­nier.com; www.kube­ho­tel.com.

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