LOVE IS IN THE AIR

To cel­e­brate St Valentine’s Day, So­phie Gard­ner-roberts re­veals the most romantic places in France – start­ing in Paris, of course – and the se­crets of l’amour French style

France - - Contents -

Cel­e­brate St Valentine’s Day with our guide to the French art of ro­mance.

PARIS

One of the many names given to Paris is the ‘City of Love’ and for good rea­son. With so many iconic sights, quiet squares, pretty river­banks and the twin­kling lights of the city at night, it is im­pos­si­ble not to feel your heart race when strolling around the cen­tre of the French cap­i­tal, but some places have that lit­tle ex­tra je ne sais quoi that has in­spired lovers for years.

MUR DES JE T’AIME, MONT­MARTRE, 18TH AR­RONDISSE­MENT

A favourite picture spot for tourists and en­am­oured cou­ples in par­tic­u­lar, the Mur des je t’aime (I love you: the wall) in Mont­martre is an art­work cre­ated by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito. Lo­cated in a small gar­den in Square Je­han Ric­tus, Place des Abbesses, the wall, which mea­sures 10 me­tres by 4 me­tres, is a sight to be­hold. It’s hard not to feel moved by more than 300 dec­la­ra­tions of love writ­ten in 250 lan­guages and even harder to re­sist the temp­ta­tion to snap the per­fect romantic selfie (lesje­taime.com). Af­ter your visit, head round the cor­ner to Per­si­fleur in Rue Darantin, a cool and in­ti­mate bar serv­ing un­usual cock­tails (per­si­fleur.fr).

MUSÉE DE LA VIE ROMANTIQUE, 9TH

Lo­cated in the artis­tic district known as ‘La Nou­velle Athènes’, this mu­seum is

– housed in the for­mer res­i­dence of the 19th-cen­tury, Dutch-born por­trait artist Ary Sch­ef­fer, who re­ceived many writ­ers, painters and mu­si­cians in­clud­ing Delacroix, Rossini, Ge­orge Sand, Chopin and Charles Dick­ens. The home and stu­dios have re­tained their orig­i­nal charm and of­fer an in­sight into the work of Sch­ef­fer and his con­tem­po­raries in the Romantic move­ment. The mu­seum also has a fine col­lec­tion of me­men­tos con­nected with Ge­orge Sand. Pro­long the feel­ing that you have stepped back in time with a cof­fee and a pas­try in the flow­ered gar­den (vie-romantique.paris.fr).

QUAIS DE SEINE AND CANAL SAINT-MARTIN

Any pic­turesque river­side set­ting is enough to trig­ger the Romantic poet or Im­pres­sion­ist painter in us as we walk be­side our loved one, and the banks hug­ging the River Seine in Paris are no ex­cep­tion. One of the nicest walks is from the tip of Île Saint-louis to the

Pont des Arts. Here you are in the heart of the cap­i­tal’s his­tor­i­cal district, pass­ing land­marks in­clud­ing the Cathé­drale Notre-dame, as well as typ­i­cal Parisian sights such as the stands of book­sell­ers known as bouquin­istes. An­other pop­u­lar water­side des­ti­na­tion is the peace­ful Canal Saint-martin in north-eastern Paris, with its arched metal bridges and tree-lined quay­sides; the per­fect spot for an evening pic­nic while lis­ten­ing to the buskers.

JARDIN DES TUI­LERIES, 1ST

Stretch­ing over 23 hectares from the Musée du Lou­vre to Place de la Con­corde, the Jardin des Tui­leries is a fine ex­am­ple of for­mal à la française gar­dens, where flâneurs let their mind wan­der as they stroll along the hedge-lined paths or sit back on the metal chairs around the foun­tains. Cre­ated by Catherine de Médi­cis in the 1560s, these royal gar­dens were the first to be open to the pub­lic, in the 17th cen­tury, and re­tain some of their orig­i­nal grandeur. Al­though the gar­den at­tracts a lot of visi­tors, its size makes it rel­a­tively easy to find an isolated bench un­der the trees or to lie on the lawns and re­lax in the sun­shine.

LE MARAIS, 3RD AND 4TH

Sand­wiched be­tween Saint-paul and République on the Right Bank, the Marais is full of old, crooked streets buzzing with art gal­leries, mu­se­ums, vin­tage bou­tiques, hip fash­ion de­sign­ers, and trendy bars and restau­rants. Be­cause of its aris­to­cratic past, the Marais is home to jaw-drop­ping architecture, in­clud­ing some of the cap­i­tal’s most beau­ti­ful hô­tels par­ti­c­uliers. The district is pop­u­lar with the LGBT com­mu­nity, who have helped to turn it into one of the cap­i­tal’s most vi­brant, in­clu­sive and cre­ative ar­eas. Make sure you stop for a cof­fee in the arched gal­leries sur­round­ing the cap­i­tal’s most beau­ti­ful square, Place des Vos­ges.

LEFT: Quai de la Tour­nelle and the Cathé­drale Notre-dame in Paris; ABOVE: The Mur des je t’aime in Mont­martre; BE­LOW LEFT: The Musée de la Vie Romantique in Mont­martre

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