The Joy of Paris

What is it about Paris? As Cole Porter’s famous song “I Love Paris” sums up, whenever you visit this magical city, you’ll be seduced. One of the most richly atmospheric cities in the world, as soon as you set foot in one of its boulevards you’ll want to return.

Paris is renowned as the capital of love – the Eiffel Tower being one of the most popular places in the world to pop the big question (admittedly it’s beaten by Disneyland Paris, but there’s no accounting for taste).

 

Apart from the skyline being dominated by one of the most iconic structures in the world, a skyline that is rigorously controlled by the authorities to prevent it being destroyed by eyesores, there are several other reason why Paris is just so damn sexy.

The first thing that strikes the first time visitor is the sheer beauty of the city – it’s a constant visual feast. The central arrondissements are very impressive, with their grand boulevards perfect for hanging out in cafes and people watching, laid out by Haussmann in his 19th century redesign of the city. The parts of the city he left untouched, such as the Marais and Montmartre, retain their vintage cobblestoned charm.

 

The Marais was traditionally the city’s Jewish Quarter – today it’s totally Bohemian, and centre of the city’s gay scene. The Marais pretty much begins behind the Pompidou Centre, one of the most impressive modernist buildings and art collections in Paris – or anywhere in the world.

Montmartre offers a true taste of the old Paris, this is where artists like Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec lived and worked – indeed the Moulin Rouge, where the can can was born, is still here to this day. You can also visit the Bateau Lavoir, which was an artistic centre where Picasso and all the modernists hung out and feel like a Bohemian, another aspect of Paris that makes it made for lovers. Montmartre even boasts a museum dedicated to love, La Musee de la Vie Romantique, and one devoted to…well, the title gives it away, La Musee de l’Erotisme.

 

La vie Boheme was characterised by living for the moment, living on your wits and for your passion, and some of this freedom can still be found in Paris today. If the West of the city is luxurious and high class – which some find aphrodisiac in themselves – the heart of the city’s Bohemianism these days has moved east, to the Bastille area, a vibrant conclave of young artists, musicians, late night bars and intimate clubs.

The old student area, the Left Bank, retains its esoteric charms, with an entrancing mix of cafes to people watch in – and the Parisians are stylish. There’s something about the way they can throw a scarf over an old jumper – a certain je ne sais quoi – that’s a turn on because it’s so effortless, like they just don’t care.

 

What the French do care passionately about is food, gastronomy being taken very seriously here, occupying a space somewhere between a religion and an artform. Whatever your budget, where ever you are in the city, you can share a meal at a neighbourhood bistro or an upscale gourmet restaurant. Food, especially in France, is the way to a (wo)man’s heart.

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