PARIS has all the passionate ingredients for a Valentine’s Day adventure, writes ROWENA CARR-ALLINSON
Although it may seem like a cliché to whisk a sweetheart away to Paris, not many of us would pass up the opportunity should it arise!
With a seductive backdrop of stunning architecture, even simple pleasures such as wandering around the Tuileries Gardens or drinking a glass of chilled rosé at a pavement café seems ultra romantic.
And then there are all those world-class museums (the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay and the Rodin Museum) as well as the classic must-see sights – the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame de Paris and the Champs Elysées – to be ticked off.
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If French fashions, stylish lounge bars and boutique boltholes are more your scene there’s plenty of that on tap to. And the best news is that it is only a short trip across the Channel by plane, train or boat to the world’s capital of romance.
What celebs might I see?
It’s not just us mere mortals who travel to Paris for romance – Rod Stewart proposed to Penny Lancaster at the Eiffel Tower, while Lily Allen honeymooned with Sam Cooper in Paris last year.
The newlyweds reportedly stayed at the Hotel Costes and were spotted dining at Chez Dumonet and Brasserie Lipp. Kate Hudson also dined at the brasserie recently with her parents. Recent films to be shot in the city include One Day, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Paris also has a starring role in Woody Allen’s latest film Midnight In Paris, starring Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard.
Where should I stay?
The new Shangri-La Hotel has an enviable address close to the city’s key sights and chic boutiques.
The one-time palace of Napoleon’s nephew Roland Bonaparte comes with fantastic views and stylish east-meets-west ambiance and décor (frescos, mosaic floors and aromatic flowers).
There are 81 rooms, many with a balcony or terrace, including OK!’s favourite, the duplex terrace suites – the perfect place to propose! Our highlight was breakfast on our terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
It’s no wonder lovebirds Amanda Seyfried and Ryan Phillippe holed up there. With French antique-style décor, all gilt edging and plush furnishings, the rooms are sumptuous, as are the marble bathrooms with their Bulgari potions.
The hotel also has a fabulous cosy dimly lit bar where you can try some wonderfully exotic cocktails.
If you’re after a more local experience, rent an apartment with HomeAway in Montmartre, within walking distance of the Clignancourt flea market.
Where can I shop?
Paris is a shopper's paradise, with Isabel Marant and Zadig & Voltaire currently the in-vogue French labels.
Geri Halliwell has just been to the city on a girlie break and was spotted browsing the boutiques of Octopussy, Emmy Franck and Michel Perry, while Black Eyed Peas star Fergie likes Rick Owens.
The lifestyle store Colette, on Rue St Honore, is another favourite with celebrities, as are the designer boutiques along Avenue Montaigne.
Here you’ll also find Bonpoint, the utterly chic kids clothing boutique, where everyone from Jessica Alba to Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie shop.
For lingerie, trust Christina Hendricks who stopped by Soleil Sucré By Elisa in Les Halles for her curves. More of a vintage person?
Blake Lively likes the shops, such as PrettyBox, along Rue de Saintonge in the lovely Le Marais district.
For more hip fashions, try the concept store Merci on the Left Bank, where Eva Mendes bumped into Marion Cotillard.
Where can I eat?
If you’re staying at the Shangri-La, don’t miss out on dinner in the beautiful La Bauhinia dining room.
The circular room sits under a giant glass dome with an oversized Murano chandelier.
We loved the Imperial Chinese-style wallpaper and the contemporary French cuisine.
OK! opted for the Iberian raw ham platter and the herby salmon, while the chocolate and raspberry tart was worth leaving room for! For a very Parisian setting, try Le Relais Plaza at the Hotel Plaza Athénée.
Oozing old-school glamour, the menu features traditional French dishes such as salmon and endives, rabbit roll porchetta and foie gras terrine.
The sweet trolley is to die for – especially the cheesecake in a cup.
Hipsters should make a beeline for Kong on the top of the Samaritaine building.
The one-time shopping emporium is home to a Starck-designed restaurant, with glass dome, cool décor and fab steak tartare.
It’s pricey but the views are unbeatable.
What can I do?
For cocktails try the new La Vue lounge bar at the Hotel Concorde La Fayette. Order a Left Bank or Parisienne cocktail, nibble sushi and listen to the ambient DJ tunes.
Fashionistas should head to the Decorative Arts Museum to see an exhibition devoted to Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs or admire Brigitte Bardot’s Christian Dior wedding dress, just one of the many costumes on display at the Musée Galliera.
Ryan Seacrest took in the Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais, Eva Mendes visited the Musée Rodin and Beyoncé saw the Andy Warhol exhibition at Le Grand Palais when visiting the city.
Once you’ve ticked off the city’s key sights, discover its hidden gems. Visit Rue Cler for the Sunday market or pop into St-Sulpice church, which should ring a bell with anyone who read The Da Vinci Code.
Fans of the film Amélie should take a walking tour of the cobbled streets of Montmartre – from the Café des Deux Moulins on rue Lepic to the Maison Collignon on rue des Trois Frères.
You’ll be in good company if you stroll around the Place Vendôme, lined with upscale jewellers, as both Kate Hudson and Matt Bellamy and Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher have been seen on this stunning square.
Adventurous types can head skywards on a hot air balloon ride at the Parc André Citroën or take a sunset cruise on a Bateaux Mouche riverboat like Brangelina did recently with their kids.
Or perhaps watching the legendary Crazy Horse dancing girls show is more your scene? It was for Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé when they were in town.
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How to get there?
The five-star Shangri-La Hotel Paris (www.shangri-la.com; 0800 028 3337) offers a one-night Romance In Paris package, including American breakfast and a VIP welcome with flowers, a bottle of champagne and chocolates, from £540 per room per night.
Offer is valid until December 21 2012 and is based on a double occupancy.
For those on a lesser budget, book a studio flat in Montmartre with HomeAway (www.HomeAway.co.uk/p402828) from £92 per night or a stylish top-floor studio (www.HomeAway.co.uk/p459451) with Eiffel Tower views from £50 per night off-peak.