Elegant Wedding: Ah, Paris!
Spend your first married days in the City of Light
Lovers love Paris. From Abélard and Heloïse to Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron (An American in Paris), couples come here to stroll its cobblestone streets, dine in its grand restaurants and revel in its romantic culture. It’s a wonderful place to begin your new life together.
LOVERS LOVE PARIS. FROM ABÉLARD AND HELOÏSE TO GENE KELLY AND LESLIE CARON (An American in Paris), couples come here to stroll its cobblestone streets, dine in its grand restaurants and revel in its romantic culture. It’s a wonderful place to begin your new life together.
Everyone knows the tourist highlights — the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the cathedral of Notre-Dame. But if you’d like to add an extra dash of romance to your honeymoon, here are a few insider tips.
STAYING IN ONE OF PARIS’S GRAND HOTELS IS A PRICEY PROPOSITION, not to mention an overwhelming one, what with all those crystal goblets and gilded antiques. It’s more fun to soak up the swanky ambiance in small doses.
Splash out on a two-Michelin-stars meal at Restaurant le Meurice at Le Meurice, a luxury hotel in the heart of Paris. With its swagged curtains, marble fireplace and cherub-
festooned ceiling, it’s the sort of place where two movie stars would have a secret tête-à-tête. The wine list is more of a book, really, and an army of waiters in black suits hovers in anticipation of fulfilling your every dining wish, with executive chef Yannick Alléno working his magic on every dish. Dress nicely, bring a big appetite and plan on napping afterward. Reserve at least a day or two in advance for lunch (2-3 weeks in advance for dinner, especially for a Thursday or Friday night).
After your meal, take a short cab ride to another glittery Dorchester Group property, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée. Famous on this side of the Atlantic as the setting for the finale of Sex and the City, the hotel is the ideal spot for a ruinously expensive nightcap. Drift up to the sandblasted glass bar and order a Rouge Plaza: champagne laced with geranium syrup — a treat nearly impossible to get outside of Paris.
IF YOU WANT TO BREAK THE BUDGET IN 21ST-CENTURY
STYLE, head to the archly named Murano Urban Resort, a boutique hotel in the trendy Marais district. Hallways are purposely dim, and guests open their doors by inserting their digits into fingerprint scanners. Rooms have flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi and almost infinitely adjustable mood lighting. Downstairs, the bar purveys more than 100 brands of vodka. The whole place has the air of a James Bond bachelor pad jointly designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and George Lucas. It’s great fun.
If you’d rather curl up in more homey surroundings, rent an apartment for a week or two from companies like Parisbestlodge.com. One cozy spot to settle down like a true Parisian: Apartment La Coupole, a small fourth-floor studio apartment in the Montparnasse district. With its wooden beams, casement windows and hardwood floors, it’s like an upscale artist’s garret. It has a well-equipped kitchen, and everything you two could possibly need to make a meal is at your doorstep: a bakery, a tiny supermarket and a wine shop. If you’d rather go out for dinner than eat in, here’s a bit of a literary trivia to chew on with your garlic bread: The Italian restaurant next door was once the Dingo Bar, where Hemingway first met F. Scott Fitzgerald.
FROM A TABLE AT JUST ABOUT ANY SIDEWALK CAFÉ, you can enjoy the best free entertainment in Paris: watching the elegant locals go about their business. You really will see people cycling the streets carrying baguettes. You’ll probably also spot elderly ladies walking impossibly tiny dogs, and sleek young mothers walking with impossibly stylish children. Try La Rotonde — a cafe whose food isn’t bad despite the fact that the place is famous (yes, another Hemingway haunt).
Parisians often spend (at least) a full hour eating lunch; it’s a wonderful way to recharge after a morning of sightseeing or shopping. The small, romantic and busy corner cafes on every street — the kind with a chalkboard out front and rows of tiny tables inside — usually offer a good daily special — the plat du jour — that comes with salad, bread and often dessert. It’s expected you’ll drink wine at lunch. Order une demi-bouteille de rouge to get a half-carafe of red wine to share.
Even fast food in Paris can be lovely. In Les Jardins des Tuileries, the elegant park next to the Louvre, you can usually find kiosks selling warm, chocolate-filled crepes or ice cream — the perfect afternoon snack.
Once dusk falls, get a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses and head to the Eiffel Tower. Don’t join the hordes lining up for the elevator, though. Instead, keep walking toward the river Seine and find a bench overlooking the river (it’s generally safe here in the early evening, but use good sense — pick a well-lit spot with people strolling nearby). Once you’re settled, uncork the wine, toast yourselves and wait for the pièce de résistance: the nightly illumination of the tower.
PARIS IS HOME TO SOME OF THE WORLD’S BEST MUSEUMS. The only drawback is that many of them are huge. When you find yourself longing for something a bit more intimate than the sprawling galleries of the Louvre, go to the Musée National du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages). Its collection of medieval artifacts is lovely — don’t miss the jewel tones of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries — and its location inside a 1st-
century Roman bath and a medieval abbey is spectacular. There’s even a courtyard garden with a fountain.
To get inspired to write a love letter or two, visit the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, which displays handwritten letters dating back to the 9th century. Celebrities from French royalty to Dwight D. Eisenhower are represented here. The signs are in French, but many of the letters are in English.
Big-name sites like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre-Dame all offer a bird’s-eye view of Paris, but for something a little different, try the view from the Tour Montparnasse, the tallest building in France (and somewhat of a national embarrassment — the building is, shall we say, not jolie). Admire Paris from the 56th-floor observation deck or the rooftop terrace where you can see 25 miles on a clear day. And, as the Parisian joke goes, the best thing about the view is that you can’t see the Tour Montparnasse.
Don’t wear yourself out on daytime sightseeing. Save a little energy for a visit to Le Baiser Salé, a jazz club whose name has a variety of salacious translations (the most printable of which is The Salty Kiss). At the height of the Jazz Age, Paris was as vital a stop as Chicago or New Orleans for the world’s top jazz artists, and the city has maintained a fervent love for the music ever since. Le Baiser Salé hosts jazz acts of all sorts, from Europe and around the world. Get a drink, slide behind a tiny table and groove.
When it’s time to call it a night, hail a cab for the trip home. Snuggle up against your spouse in the back seat, but don’t drift off to sleep — keep looking out the window. Late at night, the city’s floodlit monuments stand out like beacons against the velvet darkness, spilling reflected illumination onto quiet squares and shuttered shops. If you’re lucky, the moon will be casting a long beam across the Seine. All of Paris will seem like a stage set, glowing in the dimness just before the curtain rises on a particularly witty play.
They don’t call it the City of Light for nothing.