Let Paris surprise you for an exciting Valentine’s Day – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
As Valentine’s Day is on a Sunday this year why not spend a romantic weekend in Paris? If weather forecasts are to be trusted it should be a clear and sunny weekend and there will be plenty to do for lovers. Whether you feel romantic, eccentric, curious, greedy or even sporty Valentine’s Day is an endless inspiration to many Parisians waiting to entertain you.
Impress your loved one with fun ways to see Paris
To begin with, you can book a tour aboard one of the iconic convertible Citroen 2CV. All year long “4 Roues sous un Parapluie” (4 Wheels under an Umbrella) take tourists on guided tours through Paris. But on Valentine’s Day they organize special ones: a courteous, elegant and English-speaking driver will pick you up at your hotel or at your apartment, waiting for you with red roses. For an hour and a half, drinking Champagne, you will go from the Opera to the Place Vendome, from the Louvre to Notre Dame Cathedral, from the Champs Elysées to the Eiffel Tower… And before taking you back to your door the driver will give you a copy of the book “Où s’embrasser à Paris” (Where to go to kiss in Paris) to stay in a romantic mood.
When booking on www.4-roues-sous-1-parapluie.com you can even choose the colour of the 2CV you’ll be in! (the website is both in French and in English). (90 Euros for two).
For a more sportive Sunday join the “Love Run in Paris”. It’s a 8 km long race in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’ most westerly wood. The meeting point is at the Pavillon Dauphine in the 16th district where all the participants will warm up with a coach and will be given a goodies bag. Then all the couples will be attached by the wrist and leave for a crazy race broken by tests going funnier and funnier! After finishing the race the best couples will get prizes and it will be time to party: a huge salted and sweet buffet, music and a live DJ will add to the ambience.
You can register at www.love-run.com (60 Euros for two)
For a quieter yet sexier afternoon go to the “Musée de l’Erotisme”. Located in the heart of Pigalle the ‘hot’ Parisian district, this Erotic Museum is dedicated to the art of love in all of its forms, through historical periods and civilizations, from Antiquity to modern art.
Musée de l’Erotisme, 72 Bd de Clichy, 18th district. www.musee-erotisme.com
For an unforgettable kiss and a great selfie to capture the scene, you’d better choose the right spot away from the usual Eiffel Tower or the Obelisk on the “Place de la Concorde”. Have you ever heard of the “Ile aux Cygnes”, the Swans Island, right in the middle of Paris? Little known by tourists as well as by Parisians, this island can be reached from the Grenelle Bridge or from the Bir Hakeim Bridge. There, a 12.5 yards high copy of the Statue of Liberty looks into the distance, due west to New York. What a spot!
There are also secret places in Parisians parks, such as the Medicis’ Fountain in the Luxembourg Park or high up on the kiosk in the Butte Chaumont Park.
One of the bridges spanning over the Saint Martin Canal have already been chosen by several film makers for romantic love scenes. Even if the trees don’t have leaves in the wintertime the canal is still a great place as well as the lower bank of the River Seine at the “Quai de la Tournelle”, with the cathedral and the Ile Saint Louis providing a perfect background. Finally you can also go to a small remote square in the 18th district, the ‘Jehan Rictus” square where a big work of art by Frederique Baron and Claire Kito was recently erected. It’s a big wall where the 3 words “I love you” are written in every possible known language. A new Parisian must.
Feeling hungry? Where to go for a sweet bite:
Parisian confectioners and pastry chefs are more than ever inspired by Valentine’s Day this year. Discover the new Christophe Michalak’s shop close to the City Hall to taste his Valentine’s cake “Mon Koeur”a crispy chocolate cake covered with a coconut mousse and a strong dark chocolate cream (Christophe Michalak, 16 rue de la Verrerie, 4th district).
Yannick Lefort one of the very best macaroon maker in France, opened a shop last year in the heart of the Quartier Latin. The whole shop is dedicated to macaroons and macaroons only, made with selected fruits, chocolate, coffee, flowers, teas, spices, vegetable, nuts or alcohols mixed in surprising and innovative creations. An undisputable success due to an unstoppable imagination and hard work! His last creations for Valentine’s Day are big macaroons cut in the shape of hearts. The Strawberry Heart is made of an almond macaroon filled with a vanilla cream and a strawberry fondant. The Passion Heart is a delicious mix of passion fruits and of a red poppy petal liqueur, wrapped in a soft pink icing. They are true gustative experiences. Macarons Gourmands, 62 rue de Seine in the 6th district.
Michel Cluizel is one of the few gold standards in the world of chocolate. Unlike most confectioners he doesn’t buy chocolate from big chocolate makers, but makes his own creations from selected cocoa beans. Unique tastes, precious aromas are what you’ll get in his shop. This year for Valentine’s Day he created a heart shaped cake mixing two different chocolates toped with a padlock symbolizing all the lovers in Paris who fastened padlocks on the “Pont des Arts” (which is sadly strictly forbidden today!). (Michel Cluizel, 201 rue Saint Honoré, 1st district, www.cluizel.com).
Sébastien Gaudard has created no less than 3 new cakes that you will be able to eat in his tearoom: the Montmorency Heart made with almonds, sherries and pistachio, the Napolitain Heart made with a vanilla meringue and a chocolate mousse and the Mont Blanc Heart made with a vanilla meringue toped with a chestnut cream and Chantilly. You can have a cake for two for 18,90 Euros or a cake and a Roederer bottle of Champagne for 42 Euros. Every Sunday they also serve a wonderful brunch. ( Sébastien Gaudard Tea room: 1 rue des Pyramides 1st district, www.sebastiengaudard.com)
For 20 years Eric Kayser is making one of the best bread in Paris. He also makes wonderful cakes such as his creation for Valentine’s Day called “Passionément Gianduja”, Passionately Gianduja. A cake for two made with the famous Italian Gianduja paste made with roasted hazelnuts and with a ginger cream. (Maison Kayser, 8 and 14 rue Monge, 5th district, www.maison-kayser.com).
Pascal Caffet was awarded best pastry chef of the world and “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (Best Craftsman of France) a very sought-after prize in France. His 2016 Valentine’s cake is made with a chocolate biscuit covered with a dark chocolate mousse and a vanilla “crème brulée” and a coulis of red berries. (Pascal Caffet, 13 rue Dubau, 16th district, www.pascal-caffet.com
All these cakes are exclusively made for Valentine’s Day and you will be able to taste them only for a few days.
Where to go for a vey special evening
What about a candlelight dinner cruising on the Seine? Aboard the “Capitaine Fracasse” Martial Enguerhard who also was awarded Meilleur Ouvrier de France has concocted a very special menu that you will enjoy while admiring the beautiful riverbanks lined with some of the most beautiful Parisian monuments illuminated by the powerful spotlights of the boat. After dinner a jazz band will entertain the dancers late into the night. This menu is available on February the 13th and 14th for 99 Euros per person. (more information at www.lecapitainefracasse.com).
Aboard the Yacht Hotel de Paris you can not only have a candlelit dinner with live music and a 2-hour cruise on the Seine but you can also spend the night in one of the elegant cabin and have a late breakfast on board. It unfortunately is quite costly (298 Euros per person) but what night! For more information: www.le-vip-paris.com
For another unusual dinner you can book at the Paris Aquarium that will be exceptionally open late at night for a special Valentine’s dinner. Your visit will begin with a private guided tour of the 48 basins including the largest basin in France and its 25 sharks as well as the new jellyfish basin, while having a glass of Champagne. Then you will have diner at the Aquarium’s restaurant, Le Balcon, overlooking a 8 meters high basin where rays, groupers and thousands of other fishes quietly swim. Booking can only be done on the website: www.cineaqua.com
If you like watching scary movies you will love going to ‘Le Manoir de Paris”. In this 3 floor heritage-listed house 30 actors bring back to life horrific true stories creating the very first “haunted show” in Paris. On February the 14th from 6 till 10 pm they invite you to the ‘Dark Valentine Night”. This show is kept secret so that the visitors will be taken by surprise. Get ready for gooseflesh, screams in the dark and cold sweat! Booking at www.lemanoirdeparis.com
Valentine’s Day in Paris? The answer is clearly “yes”, imagination is in control and there will be something for everyone.
Text © Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Photos © Frederic de Poligny