“Yes, the encounter of lips is the most perfect, the most divine sensation that can be afforded to human beings, the ultimate and furthest limit of happiness…” Guy de Maupassant, Stories and Novella, “The Kiss,” 1882
“Paris in the springtime—“ there is a reason Maurice Chevalier begins with that season–not fall, winter, nor summer.
But it’s not summer, it’s spring–the season when it sizzles. Paris blooms early with tulips, later with Iris, soon to welcome roses. Paris is the perfect walking city and spring is the season to promenade. With a decent pair of sneakers (“trainers” if you are on the continent) you can walk from Champ de Mars (Eiffel Tower) to Gare du Nord and spend eight hours as if it were no time at all. Left Bank or Right, North or South. The choice is yours.
By the fountain of Place Vendome, a teenage boy gazes into the eyes of his young girlfriend, lying on the grass, schoolbooks remain unopened as she looks up into his face and a sly smile appears. Their faces move closer with gentleness and humor in their eyes. Closer, their lips join for a moment’s touch. Her hand moves behind his head to pull him even closer and their embrace explodes in intensity. DNA is singing to accompany the birds on the wing. The young suitors disappear from the public sun into a private space the entire their own as the world around vanishes and all that remains is embrace. Ahhhh — All the world must love Paris, and aspire to be young lovers within its fold.
From the terrace at Sacre Coeur as tourists behold the late sunset, a woman turns and would rather view her lover than the mansard roofs and turrets of the city below. Her hands circle the waist of her partner and the panorama of Paris disappears as eyes close.
The dollar may be weak and the Euro strong or vice versa, but there are things to save for and life to savor. Get a window seat on the Bateaux Parisien as it takes you for a boat tour. The sky darkens and the lights sing the drama and joy of the Paris evening. Pont Neuf, the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay…all are awash in color and movement as you dine and drink, accompanied by well-timed chanteuse songs made to swell your heart as it drains your wallet. The bill of 133 Euros ($170) seems almost reasonable when you add the delightful small, elegant, memorable dishes accompanied by abundant wine and desserts.
If you are a fan of the best seller The Da Vinci Code, visit St. Sulpice and check out the brass line, one of the important architectural elements in the book?If you want to theme your tour around a page-turner, be cautious around the Ritz Hotel. The security guards are distinctly inhospitable if you don’t have a thousand dollar bill in your pocket for even the most modest room. Try and take a picture from the public plaza across the way and you will find your viewfinder filled with a distinctly unfriendly face. Thankfully, this is not the normal demeanor of most other French people these days.
In spite of political differences between the US and French governments, there is a diplomatic willingness among the French people to engage in discussing current affairs with visitors. Politically, the times seem as charged as the air. Iraq—“oui or non?” European Union? Sarcosy or Obama? Keep walking; keep talking to people. It springtime, Parisians are friendly and reasonable to engage over a cup of espresso.
Head North toward Boulevard Poissoinere and drop in on the Rex, a classic deco theater that hosts the latest Star Wars. Two thousand seats and a screen to host a forty-foot Darth Vader made of light, breathing heavily in French.
Or treat yourself to the indoor Auburge de Nicolas Flamel (Rue Montmorency). The chef here was lured from a two star Michelin restaurant. When I lamented that I don’t have the capacity to eat a classic French meal in earnest, he simply suggested, “Just order a dish or two.” Such simple logic. Hard to keep that philosophy in mind as dessert of chocolate garnished with gold leaf is offered. Leadeth me not into temptation. But, by remaining devoted to walking across the city, the calories seem at least a necessity—sort of…or at least justifiable—sort of…..
Keep walking, linger in the market at Saint Quentin (no relation to the California penal institution). Sample the cheeses, view the rabbits (dressed in the butcher stall), smell the cut flowers as you walk through to Boulevard Magenta.
Then head for Gare du Nord.The visit to one of the classic rail station of Europe, expansive in its steel and glass, is not simply for the pleasure of visiting the architecture. It is also the terminal of Eurostar, the luxury train that offers Chunnel passage from Paris to Waterloo Station in London.
At Gare du Nord I wait for the arrival of my wife.It is springtime in Paris. I may be on assignment, working, photographing and writing but…..it is springtime and Gare du Nord has just been rated by this one author as the best place to kiss in Paris!
If you go….
Hotel Villa Beaumarchais
5, rue des Arquebusier, 3rd
9, rue Sainte-Beuve, Paris, 6th
L’Auberge Nicolas Flamel
51, rue de Montmorency, 3rd
tel: 01 42 71 77 78
Le Petite Bofinger
8 rue de la Bastille
01 42 72 87 82
across the street from the more formal Bofinger
Port de la Bourdonnais, Paris 7th
M°: Bir Hakeim