Paris with panache

Ah, the City of Light — the City of Love.

Being in Paris is a sensational way to create romance.  I’ve discovered some hidden gems to help you enhance your time there and make your trip the most “ooh la la” ever. Remember: Hold hands throughout your journey and steal a kiss whenever you can, especially when you’re enjoying a café au lait, exploring the Eiffel Tower or shopping for that special souvenir.

Let’s start with your hotel. I’ve discovered three luxury hotels, courtesy of the Baverez family. If you’re seeking unparalleled pampering and accommodations in fantastic Paris locations, select from the Raphael, the Regina and the Majestic. These three properties exude nothing but elegance and with a team of expert concierges who are members of the prestigious Les Clefs D’Or (Gold Key Association), you are assured of first-class service no matter your request. 

The jewel in the Baverez crown is the Hotel Regina, ideally situated in the heart of Paris on the Rue Rivoli across from the Musée du Louvre, and within a short distance from the Paris Opera and the Grands Magasins (Galeries Lafayette and Printemps). 

Filled with charm, the Regina offers the human touch that corporate-run hotels lack, says General Manager Valentino Piazzi.

Our suite, 301, featured gorgeous surroundings, including a little something all lovers will appreciate — an alcove for the king-sized bed with high-thread-count sheets, surrounded by blackout drapes, which create the impression of being in your own little Parisian world.  

SENSE’S SENSIBILITY

Love to shop? So does Elaine Sense, an American married to a Frenchman, who has been living in Paris for more than 20 years. Coordinating customized and “insider” shopping trips for her American friends has been a passion with her, and Sense now offers travelers full ($900) and half-day ($500) tours of her favorite stores, cafes, tea salons, ice cream shops and more through her business, Elaine’s Paris.

Sense and I made our way to the Palais-Royal, where designer shops abound and you can find exquisite merchandise that is oh-so-French and unlike anything you’ll find anywhere else. Our first stop was Gabrielle Geppert, a shop offering the ultimate in secondhand luxury designer merchandise. 

Over at Secrets d’intérieurs, you’ll discover antique perfumes that you’ll never find anywhere else in the world. “We inventory only 25 bottles per month,” explained Laurent, the proprietor and, indeed, he had just a few bottles left. The boutique, for example, features a wood-and-vetiver fragrance that was made for George Sand (the paramour of pianist Frederic Chopin), along with others made in the 17th century for the ill-fated Queen Margot, who loved much but not always too well.  

At Serge Lutens, ready yourself for another rich venture into the world of scent. Lutens, the former artistic director of Shiseido, created the first woody perfume for women featuring cedar — and after that he never stopped. Today his shop offers more than 70 fragrances and also a new makeup line. The lipsticks are refillable with #7 hailed as the perfect red.

My favorite fragrance is the Rahat Loukoum, inspired by the delightful sugar-jelly candies found in Turkey. This delicious scent features almond, cherry, honey, vanilla and Turkish roses, with hints of marzipan.

PARIS ON A PASS

When you’re in Paris, the trick is for you and your beloved to experience as much as you can — in the shortest time. The Paris Pass solves that problem. We chose the two-day pass that offers 48 hours of unlimited metro use, access to the hop-on, hop-off bus, free entry to most museums and, in some cases, upgraded quick entry into museums and attractions. The Paris Pass was well worth it, especially when you consider that we visited not only the usual suspects but also the Musée Gourmand du Chocolat. 

BON APPÉTIT WITH BONAPPETOUR 

While it’s always fantastic to have a romantic dinner for two, you should consider the extraordinary experience of dining with some local Parisians and indulging in a decadent home-cooked dinner. BonAppetour has locations around the world, and we thrilled to our dinner in the Paris suburbs with our hosts Catherine and Olivier. Catherine gives French cooking lessons, so we knew we were in for a treat and her husband, Olivier, turned us on to what he said was Paris’ best restaurant, Le Bistrot Constant. (We took his advice and indeed it was magnificent. What a great tip for foodies.) Catherine hosted us in her family’s dining room, where our meal started with shrimp in a bird’s nest of puff pastry. Next came a delicious salad of grilled pumpkin, grapes, kale and red cabbage, infused with a nut oil. Our entrée was baked cod with a confit of tomatoes and grilled eggplant, all complemented with fine wines. For dessert, Catherine made a delicious rustic chocolate tart and sent us home with made-from-scratch chocolate meringues. BonAppetour is a delightful dining experience that every food-lover should indulge in.

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