WHY GO NOW?
WHY GO NOW?
You'll always have Paris. For Valentine's Day, raise your heartbeat by heading for a city designed for lovers. On Friday the French capital will be heaving with couples celebrating the most romantic day of the year. Take this guide for more amour.
Snuggle up cosily in economy class. You can fly from airports all over the UK to Paris Charles de Gaulle; the widest range of services is on Air France (0845 0845 111, www.airfrance.com), which offers reasonable deals even for this weekend. Flying out on Friday morning, back on Sunday evening, the airline is quoting £87.80 from Heathrow and £159.80 from Edinburgh. The no-frills competition is from Stansted on Buzz (0870 240 7070, www.buzzaway. com), from Luton and Liverpool on easyJet (0870 600 0000, www.easyJet.com), from Prestwick on Ryanair (0871 246 0000, www.ryanair. com) and from Birmingham on MyTravelLite (08701 564 564, www.mytravellite.com) – though these latter two airlines serve Beauvais airport, an hour north of the city. The lowest return train fares on Eurostar (08705 186 186, www.eurostar.com) from London Waterloo and Ashford available for Friday out/Sunday back is £120. Or pay £240 for First Class, which on Friday entitles you to chocolate hearts and pink champagne.
Eurostar trains, and the RER rail link from Charles de Gaulle airport, arrive at Gare du Nord. This is not the loveliest part of Paris, and nor is it especially welcoming to tourists. The city's main tourist office is inconveniently located at 127 avenue des Champs-Elysées, (00 33 8 92 68 31 12; www.paris-touristoffice.com); so to make the most of your weekend, get set in advance with free maps and other information from the French Travel Centre, 178 Piccadilly, London W1J 9AL (09068 244 123, 60p per minute; www.franceguide.com).
Feeling flushed with love and cash? Check in to the Lancaster at 7 rue de Berri, just* *off the Champs-Elysées (00 33 1 40 76 40 76; www.hotel-lancaster.fr). This beautiful hotel boasts Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture, and a clientele that has included Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich and Gregory Peck (though not sharing the same room). Rooms will cost €410 (£271) on Friday and Saturday night. For lower prices and a more central location, aim for the Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais at 12 rue Vielle du Temple (00 33 1 42 72 34 12), with rooms at €90/£60 double. For a morsel of Marrakesh, choose the Villa Royale Montsouris.
Head for the Left Bank, and start your exploration with a kiss – no, The Kiss – at the Musée Auguste Rodin at 77 rue de Varenne (00 33 1 44 18 61 10, www.musee-rodin.fr, Métro: Varennes). The collection of sculpture opens daily except Monday, 9.30am-4.15pm, admission €5 (£3.30). The sculptures should put anyone in a romantic mood. But if cold bronze does not inflame passions, walk hand-in-hand 1km north-east to the Musée d'Orsay (00 33 1 40 49 48 14; www.musee-orsay.fr, Métro: Musée d'Orsay), a beautifully converted railway station on the banks of the Seine. The museum is closed on Mondays; on other days, it opens 10am-6pm (an hour earlier on Sundays, three hours later on Thursdays). Admission is €7 (£5); on the first Sunday of every month it is free.
Still no luck? Propose a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower (00 33 1 44 11 23 33, www.tour-eiffel.fr, Métro: Champ de Mars), erected to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution. Going all the way to the top costs €10.20 (£6.70). The lift is open 9.30am-11pm and the stairs 9.30am-6.30pm.
The refurbished Fauchon at 26 place de la Madeleine (00 33 1 47 42 60 11, www.fauchon.com, Métro: Madeleine) is the retailer for romance: stock up on Bollinger at €28.50 (£19), or a shocking pink tin containing chocolate hearts (€10/£6.60). For more substantial supplies, a good place to spend your euros is Galeries Lafayette on Boulevard Haussmann (00 33 1 42 82 36 40, www.galerieslafayette.com, Métro: Havre-Caumartin). On the first floor you will find a fancy supermarket, plus a formidable wine merchant. Then nip next door to Printemps, and head skywards to the beautiful rotunda, comprising 3,185 stained-glass windows. Beneath it is the Café Flo, ideal for post-retail therapy. It opens 9.30am-7pm daily except Sunday.
The only thing worse than being talked about is to miss breakfast at Oscar Wilde's favourite café, Les Deux Magots at 170 Boulevard Saint-Germain (00 33 1 45 48 55 25, Métro: St-Germain-des-Prés). Enjoy croissants, brioches and boiled eggs in the Art Deco interior or sit out on the terrace.
For lunch close to the Louvre and the rue de Rivoli, seek out brasserie-restaurant Café de l'Epoque at the rue du Bouloi end of the Galerie Vero-Dodat (00 33 1 42 33 40 70, Métro: Palais Royal). The waiters wear long, white aprons typical of turn-of-the-century Parisian brasseries. Dine on tasty salads, fresh fish and divine desserts. It opens 7am-midnight daily, but closes on Sunday evenings.
If you intend to pop any profound questions, your partner may get the hint if you whisk them off for afternoon tea at Mariage Frères. This Marais institution is a genteel tea-room on 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg (00 33 1 42 72 28 11, Métro: Hôtel de Ville); open 10.30am-6pm daily.
Book a table for the celebratory dinner at Chez Paul at 13 rue de Charonne (00 33 1 47 00 34 57, Métro: Bastille). This almost wilfully unassuming street-corner bistro is one of the most characterful and best-value restaurants in the capital.
INTO THE NIGHT
You can take you partner to an internet café with confidence that (s)he will deem you a person of taste rather than a hopeless nerd. The terminals at the Web Bar at 32 rue de Picardie (00 33 1 42 72 66 55, www.webbar.fr, Métro: Temple) are hidden away in the upper gallery. On the main floor you will be surrounded by chic staff, cool customers and hot jazz. To dance the night away, head for Le Wagg at 62 rue Mazarine in St-Germain (01 55 42 22 00, open Thursdays to Saturdays, 11.30pm to dawn). It was once the Whisky a Gogo, a haunt of Jim Morrison, and has been restored by Terence Conran, who owns the Alcazar restaurant above.
In 'The Independent' Christmas charity auction, Chris Grey made the highest bid to spend a day in Paris with Simon CalderReuse content