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Romancing Paris, The City of Light

Paris is one of the world’s most walkable cities, and strolling along its streets is one of life’s great pleasures—what the French call being a “flâneur”.  A small pocket-sized street directory will give you the freedom to explore, enjoy getting a little lost, but knowing you can find metro or a main street when you’re ready. 

 

When it's time for a little retail therapy, Paris offers a perfect opportunity to pick up some wonderful items for your new home that will evoke precious memories of the beginning of their lives together.  The main department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps on the Boulevard Haussmann on the Right Bank and Le Bon Marché on the Left Bank all have fabulous homewares—anything from cushions to table and bed linen that you won’t find anywhere else.  But one of the most amazing stores for anything to do with the home is BHV in the rue de Rivoli opposite the Hotel de Ville (the Paris Town Hall).  This department store is a treasure trove, selling anything from all the “blokey” hardware necessities in the basement, to crystal door knobs, designer bathrobes and gourmet cookware! 

A favourite store for soft furnishings is Madura.  With branches throughout the city (see www.madura.fr for locations) they’re a one-stop shop for gorgeous ready-made curtains, co-ordinating cushions, throws, lamps and other accessories, all in the latest trends and colours at incredibly reasonable prices.  It’s all too irresistible, but don’t be daunted by the prospect of weighty packages.  Head to the nearest post office and mail your goodies home in a post-pack. 

Decorator accessory shops abound in Paris.  One of our favourites is Interiors.  With four branches in Paris (www.interiors.fr), their style is a modern take on shabby chic French provincial – lots of must-haves at very reasonable prices. 

There are streets that abound in beautiful homewares and accessories, such as rue du Cherche Midi in St Germain des Pres on the Left Bank (our favourite is Lise Mandin Decors Interieurs at no. 71), while the rue de Seine, also in St Germain des Pres, is full of small individual art galleries selling everything from high-end original art works through to antique theatre posters and lithographs.  Just off rue de Seine, the rue Jacob is antiques heaven.

One of the best things to do is to spend a day at the famous flea market of Paris.  This is officially called the Saint-Ouen Marché aux Puces, but more generally known as Clignancourt, in the 18th arrondissement.  It operates Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 9.00am to 6.00pm. This enormous market has genuine antiques with lots of huge, museum-sized furniture, which sell at museum prices.  However, there are also more affordable pieces, called “brocante”, which covers items that are second-hand and not necessarily antique.  There are vendors selling books, posters, jewellery, old scientific instruments, silverware, antique linen, dolls, toys – if you collect it, someone there will be selling it!

Paris is famous for its outdoor produce markets.  There are a number throughout the city such as the Place Monge market in the Latin Quarter, the rue de Buci in St Germain des Pres or the rue Cler market not far from the Eiffel Tower.  A vacation rental apartment such as Le Gourmand du Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter (www.parisgourmandapartments.com), which is beautifully equipped with everything a keen gourmand needs, is the perfect way for you to take advantage of all the marvellous fresh produce, innumerable cheeses, patisseries, chocolatiers and countless gourmet food shops that abound across the city.

The Place de Vosges, in the Marais district is without doubt the most beautiful square in Paris.  It’s a favourite haunt for Parisians on Sunday afternoons to stroll around the arcaded square, meet friends for a lazy lunch, a leisurely afternoon tea or a glass of wine.  The whole area is full of small, individual boutiques and décor shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants.

Afterwards, you can head across to the Ile St Louis whose narrow main street is virtually pedestrianised on Sundays.  Even in winter, Parisians will queue for a takeaway ice cream at Bertillon, the city’s most famous ice cream maker.  Explore the little boutiques and gift shops and by the time you reach the end of the street, just as you reach one of the little bridges that connects the island to the Left Bank, look up at Notre Dame cathedral as the sun is setting on the ancient walls and you’ll see the stone gargoyles looking out over their city.  Linger a while, and when the sky is quite dark you will suddenly see a burst of lights as the Eiffel Tower puts on its nightly light show.  Does it get any more romantic than this?

Well yes, it can.  The Eiffel Tower has a wonderful restaurant, Le Jules Verne, run by the internationally renowned French chef, Alain Ducasse.  Bookings are essential and you can do that up to three months in advance via their website, www.lejulesverne-paris.com which is in English as well as French.  Lunch is great as you cannot only enjoy the spectacular view but play “spot the monument”, although dinner offers the fairytale twinkling lights and that magical glow.  Request a window table facing the direction of Notre Dame, and with the exquisite food and wines and first class service, you will have a honeymoon memory that will last forever.

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