From Paris with love

Business monthly (Egypt) - - INSIDE - BY ED­MUND BOWER

In the 1957 mu­si­cal “Silk Stock­ings,” a hu­mor­less com­mu­nist Rus­sian op­er­a­tive is sent to Paris to re­trieve four of her Soviet com­pa­tri­ots who’ve been se­duced by the city’s plea­sures. But she, too, ends up get­ting dis­tracted and falls in love with an Amer­i­can movie pro­ducer, played by Fred As­taire, who wins the heart of the for­merly cold-hearted Com­mu­nist agent by singing to her on a bal­cony over­look­ing the Arc de Tri­om­phe.

The City of Love is fa­mous the world over for its cob­ble­stone streets, smoky cafés and pokey book shops; its world class art and food. In Ja­pan, the French capital is so fetishized that psy­chi­a­trists have iden­ti­fied a Paris syn­drome—Pari shoko­guna—the dis­ap­point­ment veer­ing on de­pres­sion ex­pe­ri­enced by some Ja­panese tourists when the real Paris fails to live up to their ro­man­ti­cized ex­pec­ta­tions. The Ja­panese em­bassy in France ac­tu­ally runs a 24-hour helpline of­fer­ing coun­sel­ing to their coun­try­men suf­fer­ing from this con­di­tion.

Still, Tokyo re­mains a ma­jor source of vis­i­tors to the French capital, one of the most vis­ited ci­ties in the world, even af­ter last year’s ter­ror­ist at­tacks badly dented tourism. What bet­ter oc­ca­sion to visit the ro­mance capital of the world than Feb.14, when the city rolls out the red car­pet for cou­ples from all over the world with a menagerie of per­for­mances, ex­hi­bi­tions and culi­nary de­lights. Some years, lucky Valen­tine’s Day vis­i­tors get to see Paris at its most beau­ti­ful— veiled with a blan­ket of snow. Be­tween them, Air France and Egyp­tAir of­fer daily di­rect flights be­tween Cairo and Paris Charles de Gaulle. For as lit­tle as LE 5,000 roundtrip, pas­sen­gers can make the fourand-a-half-hour cross­ing on a new Air France Boe­ing 787 Dream­liner.

First-time vis­i­tors on a Valen­tine’s Day Paris mini-break may have to pri­or­i­tize. See­ing all the city’s ma­jor sites alone could take weeks, never mind the cru­cial al­lot­ment for things like strolling hand-in-hand along The Seine and steal­ing a kiss from your sweet­heart in the shadow of Notre Dame. The his­toric Lou­vre on the Right Bank, the world’s largest mu­seum, housed in a 12th-cen­tury fortress, opens at 9 a.m. ev­ery day ex­cept Tues­day. Bud­get at least a few hours to ex­plore the mu­seum’s eight sec­tions and see iconic works like the Venus de Milo and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Tick­ets are €15.

If you don’t like crowds, Paris has about 130 other mu­se­ums to choose from. Non art lovers might head for Le Grand Musée du Par­fum, newly opened in a 19th-cen­tury man­sion (73 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré), the world’s first ded­i­cated per­fume mu­seum. Guests pay­ing the €14.50 ad­mis­sions price can smell their way through an in­ter­ac­tive tour on the his­tory and

sci­ence of fra­grance, from Kyphi, a com­pound used by an­cient Egyp­tians to in­voke the gods, to the less pleas­ant smells of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion.

For a change of pace, get lost in the ro­man­tic Mont­martre dis­trict, the fa­mous stomp­ing grounds of many fa­mous 20th-cen­tury writ­ers and artists—Vin­cent Van Gogh, Pablo Pi­casso and Sal­vador Dali all spent time here. Like Green­wich Vil­lage in New York and Soho in Lon­don, con­tem­po­rary Mont­martre is now mostly pop­u­lated by tourist traps sell­ing key­chains and over­priced crepes and bo-bo (so-called bour­geois bo­hemi­ans) sip­ping café au lait and push­ing €1,000 strollers. It’s still worth it to climb your way to the top of the epony­mous hill at the cen­ter of the neigh­bor­hood, be­cause you’ll even­tu­ally reach the Sacré-Coeur Basil­ica, the turn-of-the-cen­tury land­mark Catholic church. Open 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. ev­ery day, it’s free and of­fers im­pres­sive views.

An­other must for cou­ples is a trip up the Eif­fel Tower, the ar­chi­tec­tural won­der that is the most vis­ited paid tourist at­trac­tion in the world. Orig­i­nally built as a tem­po­rary en­trance to the 1889 World’s Fair, the tower was nearly torn down in 1909 af­ter many Parisians com­plained that it was an eye­sore. It sur­vived, and at 324 me­ters, it’s France’s tallest struc­ture. The ob­ser­va­tion decks boast panoramic views of the City of Light from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.—adults pay €17.00. For those look­ing for a spe­cial way to sa­vor the view, there is also the op­tion of din­ner. Miche­lin-starred Le Jules Verne, ac­ces­si­ble by pri­vate lift, of­fers a spe­cial Valen­tine’s Day prix fixe menu at €390 per per­son—or €560 with wine pair­ing—fea­tur­ing such dishes as duck foie

gras and black truf­fle mac­a­roni gratin. This be­ing Paris, there’s more than one way to see the city over a plate of food. Din­ner cruises on the Seine of­fer din­ers a re­lax­ing tour of the sights on the banks, from the Statue of Lib­erty replica to the west to the Ile de la Cité in the east. Bateaux Parisiens (Port de la Bour­don­nais) is a two-hour river tour that em­barks from the Eif­fel Tower at 8:30 p.m. The Valen­tine’s Day menu is a six-course feast, in­clud­ing cheese, cham­pagne and a se­lec­tion of wines, all for €150 to €215 per per­son, de­pend­ing on where you sit.

Paris of­fers plenty of gas­tro­nom­i­cal op­tions for more eco­nomic-minded hol­i­day­mak­ers, too. Those look­ing for the tra­di­tional French bistro ex­pe­ri­ence might con­sider A la Biche au Bois (45 Av­enue Le­dru Rollin) a stone’s throw from Gare de Lyon, the city’s turn-of-the20th-cen­tury train sta­tion. It’s one of a dwin­dling num­ber of neigh­bor­hood

eater­ies that still serve clas­sics like coq

au vin and ouefs durs may­on­naise at less than €30 per per­son for a four-course meal. Open for lunch and din­ner, reser­va­tions are a must.

There’s a sim­i­lar range of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions, but for a blowout week­end, there are few ho­tels that ri­val Le Bris­tol (112 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré), a short walk from the Elysée Palace. A fa­vorite of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, this is a tra­di­tional five-star ho­tel: The doors open with ac­tual keys and the decor is pas­tel flo­rals and Re­gency fur­ni­ture. Double rooms start at €850 a night. Le Bris­tol’s three-Miche­lin star restau­rant, Epi­cure, has sev­eral times been named the world’s best ho­tel restau­rant.

The Saint James Paris ( 43 Av­enue Bugeaud), is less cen­tral, but more than com­pen­sates by of­fer­ing a coun­try­side château ex­pe­ri­ence in the up­mar­ket 16th ar­rondisse­ment. In con­trast to its Sec­ond Repub­lic-era neo­clas­si­cal fa­cade is the ho­tel’s al­most-manic in­te­rior de­sign, which fea­tures ze­bra heads on the walls and a large black-and-white striped im­pe­rial stair­case. Dou­bles start at €350 a night, and the caviar starter at the restau­rant will set you back a mere €65.

An even cheaper op­tion that still makes for a spe­cial week­end is Hô­tel At­mo­sphères (31 Rue des Écoles), where dou­bles start at €150. Just a 10-minute walk from the river, Notre Dame cathe­dral and the Pan­théon, the ho­tel is per­fect for sight­seers. Demon­strat­ing that Paris has some­thing for ev­ery­one, At­mo­sphères is all about moder­nity, with 56 uniquely dec­o­rated rooms with themes like By Night, in stark red and black, and Mac­aron, which is pink and fluffy like a French cookie.

Wher­ever you plan to stay, get in the mood for your French get­away— whether it’s this year or in a decade— with a movie marathon of some of Hol­ly­wood’s many cel­e­bra­tions of The City of Love, from “Ev­ery­one Says I Love You” to “Last Tango in Paris.” As Fred As­taire sings to Cyd Charisse in “Silk Stock­ings”: “Paris loves lovers.”

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