48 Perfectly Romantic Hours in Paris
Leave it to the City of Light to deliver a dreamlike romantic getaway in two days flat.
Thirty minutes after I stepped off the RER train from Charles De Gaulle Airport, much cheaper than a taxi (about $11), we were seated at an outdoor table, a French feast before us—baguettes, fromage, vin rouge, jambon beurre—with people-watching at the Luxembourg Gardens across the street as our live-streaming entertainment. Nothing expensive, but everything we wanted from Paris.
Walk. The best thing in Paris is free.
Clouds are never fluffier and sunbeams never more rapturous than when seen from a bridge over the Seine. After our café outing, we walked hand-in-hand along the river, stopping to wind through the charmingly haphazard bookshelves at Shakespeare and Company and take a selfie on the Pont de L’Archevêché bridge. I insisted on a photo instead of clamping a love lock to the railing, even though I could tell Neil wanted a padlock of our own. We wandered to the Île St.-Louis for a salted caramel ice cream cone at Berthillon, doled out by an impossibly chipper blond woman to each person in line.
Walkability is Paris’s great gift to visitors. Ambling when the city is quiet is so rich that tossing a coin into the
Fontaine Saint-Michel becomes a toll you’re glad to pay: a token for looking up to find the soaring architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral in your sight line, or the simple pleasure of making a mile and a half trek along the Seine, with a brief detour to gaze at bronze Étienne Martin sculptures at the Tuileries, capped off with a long kiss under the filigreed edges of the Eiffel Tower.
By the time I joined him, Neil had already acquainted himself with the local grocery stores, purchasing brie and Bordeaux from the St. Germain covered food market (4-6 rue Lobineau, 33/1-48-85-93-30) and cocoa-dusted truffles from Patrick Roger to surprise me. On Day 2, we packed an inexpensive bottle of red wine, brie, a baguette, a ham sandwich, a slice of duck pâté en croûte, a chocolate croissant, and Badoit sparkling water into a paper shopping bag and toted it to the Jardin du Luxembourg for a picnic. The manicured hedges, incongruous palm trees, and massive fountains were more bustling than peaceful on this summer Saturday, but we swooped in and found a concrete bench, where we spread out our bounty and took in the scene—children pointing at miniature sailboats, teenagers on dates holding hands, an orchestra under a pavilion playing a free concert for everyone within earshot. Total price for the full picnic: less than $35.
Plan one splurge.
Everyone has a financial weakness in Paris: expensive shows, fine dining, beauty products, pricey shoes… My advice: Budget for one big-ticket purchase and enjoy it. Mine was a classic canvas tote bag from Parisian fashion designer Vanessa Bruno’s airy, modern Rue Saint-Sulpice clothing boutique, a sartorial utopia bathed in white, where genial saleswomen assist guests in beautiful French and broken English (totes from about $93).
On our last day in Paris, after we’d returned from the Eiffel Tower with a sliver of time to spare before our eight-hour flight, Neil and I made a beeline for Le Rostand for one last glass of red wine. We savored it slowly at a table next to an elderly Parisian couple eating bright-pink sorbet, and we wished we didn’t have to go. There is
still so much left in Paris we want to share with each other.
But I would do a weekend trip again in a heartbeat. Or, should I say, un battement de coeur.
Yes, You CAN Take a Weekend Trip to Paris
Flights to look for: My ticket on France’s XL Airways cost less than half the price of a last-minute ticket on Air France. XL, which flies out of Miami, San Francisco, L.A., and New York City, currently offers round-trip tickets to Paris from about $706. Beverage service in the cheap seats is limited, legroom is tight, and the weird guy sitting next to me was blasting Van Halen’s “Jump” through his tinny headphones, but you’ll get to Paris, and with a hot meal to boot. Another discount option: Icelandic airline WOW has round-trip flights to Paris out of Boston and D.C. from about $384.
Hotels to try: If you decide against an apartment rental—more popular in Paris than ever before—send an email to the Hotel Du Lys, a 17th-century mansion between the Latin Quarter and St. Germain, to nab unadvertised rooms from about $116 per night, breakfast included. On the Right Bank, Hotel 29 Lepic’s stellar location, near Sacré-Coeur basilica and Moulin Rouge in Montmartre, is tough to beat for the price (from about $70 per night).
Markets for stocking your picnic: Creatively flavored macarons such as “lemon and olive oil” from Pierre Hermé’s shops are garnering serious buzz (seven for about $20). Patisserie/boulangerie Gérard Mulot’s pastries and petits fours taste as good as they look; be polite and use French phrases when paying—the young women behind the busy counter appreciate it (baguettes from about $1.25). Le Marché Couvert Saint-Germain (translation: “St. Germain covered food market”), in the 6th arrondissement, kept us in wine and cheese, and hawks everything from fruit to flowers to freshly sliced noir de bigorre ham (4-6 rue Lobineau, 33/1-48-85-93-30). Pro picnic tip: Don’t forget a corkscrew.