Romancing off the Beaten Path – in Paris
Of all the cities that have international reputations, Paris is probably one of the most renowned. Lauded for its cheese, wine, fashion, and romance, it’s very easy to plan a visit by contacting any number of companies who are just waiting to capitalise on the city’s popularity. This is particularly true where romance- especially honeymoons- is concerned. While many of these companies will take you to the city’s most celebrated landmarks and sweep you off your feet with classy dates, there’s something to be said for taking the time to design your own romantic trip to Paris. Here’s a list of date ideas to inspire your romantic creativity.
Push some boats around. In the Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6eme arrondissement, look for a small pond near the museum. There’s a vendor there who rents wooden boats with cloth sails, and an afternoon can easily be spent pushing your boat from one side of the pond to the other, racing your partner’s boat, or- if there’s a strong breeze- seeing how far your boat can go with no pushing at all. It’s a leisurely activity with no time requirement and, best of all, it’s in a garden that’s just made for strolling, reading, picnicking, or any number of other laid-back date activities. Best for: casual dates, first dates, and dates who are young at heart.
Take a ride high in the air. Near the Louvre, you can find La Fête Foraine du Jardin des Tuileries- a small, temporary summer carnival with fun rides and delicious foods. Entry is free, but rides cost a couple of Euros each. It’s worth the price, however; the Ferris wheel will give you a spectacular view of the surrounding city, especially of the stretch of the city between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, finish your time at the carnival by strolling down the Jardin des Tuileries from one famous landmark to the other. Best for: casual dates, adventurous dates, and dates who want to see the sights without the crowds.
Savour your dinner. On my first trip to Paris, I had dinner at a beautiful restaurant called La Gauloise. Located on Avenue la Motte Piquet, the restaurant features delicious food (of course), terrace seating in the summer, and hand-painted watercolour menus. Moreover, the waitstaff were so friendly that they gave me one of those menus to take with me as a souvenir. To this day, every time I look at it I can practically taste the amazing salmon I had for dinner. Best for: dinner dates, summer dates, and foodie dates.
Go wild for art. Paris hosts some incredible art museums, and one of the most famous- and surprisingly less crowded- is the Centre Pompidou, the city’s modern art museum. Not only does it have a regular flow of big-name modern art exhibitions, its permanent exhibits are also good for exploration or, if you’re less interested in modern art, a laugh or quizzical glance. For extra entertainment, take the escalator up the front of the building- for four stories! If modern art isn’t your thing at all, check out some of the city’s other (lesser-known) museums such as the Musée Marmottan, which houses an incredible Monet collection. Best for: artistic dates, dates with a sense of humour, and dates who took French in high school.
Chill on the beach. Paris Plages, the city’s summer beaches on the banks of the Seine, are often crowded in the hot summer sun. Nevertheless, it’s worth being able to say that you swam and tanned on the shores of one of Europe’s better-known rivers, especially since the Plages aren’t your typical year-round beach. Besides being entirely engineered — the beaches are created and removed with the start and close of summer — the Plages attract large numbers of ice cream vendors and now include spaces for sports (both aquatic and land-based), concerts, and swimming pools for those who don’t dare touch the river. How many people can say that they had a tai chi date on a beach in Paris? There are multiple segments of the Plages (hence the pluralisation), too, so if one is too crowded for your tastes, you can try your luck at another. Best for: summer dates, casual dates, aquatic dates, and dates you want to see in their swimsuits.
Have a stroll along the Seine. While this might tread dangerously close to cliché territory, the fact remains that the banks of the Seine boast some wonderful shops (including Shakespeare and Company!), cafes, and local artists in the city. Sometimes, the best and most romantic dates don’t involve doing anything other than strolling down the sidewalk, hand-in-hand perhaps, enjoying the atmosphere and each other’s company. Stop for a café or crème de menthe, look at the art for sale, and browse the bookstores. This is a great standby date that can happen in any season and is fun to do over and over again, particularly for those who focus their stroll between Quai de Conti and Quai Saint-Bernard. Best for: casual dates, conversational dates, and dates willing to tolerate a moderate cheese factor.
The best thing about these things, to me, is that they were inspired by a desire to find romance beyond the clichés. The second-best thing about them is that they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Spend a little time on sites like Le Best of Paris, which is dedicated to Anglophones living in the city, and look for the kinds of things that make you and your date salivate for more. You might not wind up in Sophia Coppola’s version of Paris, but you’ll have a much better time. Guaranteed.