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I fell in love, in a cemetery. A truly inspiring, romantic cemetery. Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Something so beautifully haunting, elegant, yet romantic about it, the cobbled streets, the dappled shade; last resting place of some of the most troubled, yet inspiring artists in my life.
And so fitting for the most Romantic city in the World. For me. It may sound like a cliché, after all Paris is known as the city of love, but who could not be beguiled and fall in love with her? Even on the coldest day in winter, her beauty will not fade.
Whenever I am there, and step out in the morning, there is that moment of pure joy. Light filters through onto the narrow streets and the walking begins. For there is only one way to see the real Paris, and that is to walk. No agenda, no set directions, but to meander and let her lead you along the river, the tragic Seine of tears and discarded wedding bands. Poetic. The bridge with locks of love, the unashamed passion of her people, it is palpable, but one must let the city lead you, unhurried, pausing for rich coffee and buttery croissants. Love does not diet.
Architecture is beautifully designed, rather than functional. Public parks and squares of symmetry, such as the Place des Vosges and the Luxembourg Gardens, bring heightened green in a sea of gravel, and benches – occupied by lovers who show no shame in their desire. The small cafés, bistro’s and chequered table cloths remind me of days when life, love and existentialism were the topics talked of, rather than fame and wealth. Is it that I always sense a veil of mystery in her, a sense of calm and passion that makes this such a romantic place?
To walk with a lover over the Alexander Bridge, at night, embellished with old fashioned lamps and gods of gold, looking up to the Eiffel Tower, is romantic. To huddle from the cold with hot soup and red wine in a cramped, candle lit bistro, is love. To walk, to walk and talk of dreams down the Champs-Élysées towards the Place de la Concorde, is love. To light candles for my family in the La Madeleine with the Angels overhead, is just so romantic.
Is it that when I am in Paris, I believe myself to be more desirable and loved? Am I having a romance with myself?
The love affair begins before Paris. Boarding the Eurostar at St. Pancras, alighting at the Gard du Nord seems the stuff of days gone by. There exists a sense of excitement, of intellectual and sexual awakening and when I meet Paris again, this city of love, of heightened emotional response and tingling possibility, it is for me, the place I call the most Romantic city in the World.
As John Baxter quotes in his book ‘ The Most Beautiful Walk in the World’: “C’est tellement simple, l’amour,” she says. It’s so simple, love. The perfume of Paris is intoxicating. And so romantic.