Monday 28 January 2019

10 tips for a great romance in Paris - Clémentine Beauvais

Cheating a bit today, but since my book In Paris with you, translated by Sam Taylor, is now out in the US with Wednesday Books, I thought I'd republish an article I wrote for a magazine at the time when the British version came out.

I know that at least ONE person got a great romantic Parisian weekend out of it. So there.

Warning: Might not be devoid of some sarcasm.


1. Don’t actually be a Parisienne

I was a Parisienne for 18 years and frankly, there was very little I found romantic when I lived there. Intense emotion occurred only when the bus stop was cleaned, or when my favourite kebab introduced a new sauce. However, now that I’ve been a Britannique for 12 years, going back to Paris fills me with joy and longing, and a dirty Abribus is lovely to behold.

2. Be in love amidst skulls

Not enough lovers visit the Catacombs, which is weird, because the perspective is appealing : kilometers of underground passages whose walls and ceilings are almost entirely made up of the skulls and bones of people who died of plague at some point. Go there hand in hand and meditate on love and death. It’s like drifting across a Dutch vanity painting, for hours.

3. Whatever you do, don’t lock your love to a bridge

There’s a special place in hell for the sad, absurd couples who do this. That place is dull, smells of cabbage, and the couples there are condemned for the rest of eternity to bicker about which way the toilet roll should hang. Love locks are ugly, what they symbolise is ugly, and they quite literally break centuries-old architecture. In lieu of that, here’s other things to tie to things if that’s your thing : your lover’s hands, to a bedpost.

4. Don’t go up the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is too high. It bulldozes the beautiful Parisian cityscape into a greenish-grey flatland. Instead, walk up the escargot-like chalky staircases of Notre-Dame, and kiss right next to the bells and the Gruffalesque gargoyles. Much more romantic, much better views.

5. A quirky story to tell your lover, walking down the Seine, when you’ve run out of things to say.

Because there’s nothing like a story of drowning to revive a waning conversation. In the 1880s, a woman was pulled out of the Seine’s murky waters, drowned, but extremely beautiful indeed, to the extent that she was exhibited publically for all to see. A death mask was made of her fine features, which many people then acquired to hang on their walls (normal). She became known as L’Inconnue de la Seine. Many years later, in the 1950s, her face was used to create the first CPR mannequin. So, if you’ve ever done a first aid course, chances are you applied your lips to a face very much like that of this mysterious fin de siècle French beauty.

6. Don’t give them your 06

« Hey mademoiselle, tu me files ton 06 ? » - hey miss, give me your 06 ! – is what some catcallers used to shout at you in a desperate attempt to win access to mobile phone numbers (which mostly start with 06 in France). Catcallers today might ask for your snapchat or instagram handle instead, but whatever they’re trying to do, they are the plague of Parisian streets and the antithesis of romance. Don’t give them your 06.

7. Find a late-night alcove in a hotel bar

For instance, the tiny, beautiful bar of the Hôtel des Beaux-Arts in the 6th arrondissement. There’s never anyone there, they serve good cocktails, it’s all plump cuhsions and velvety armchairs, and the plush alcoves are good at keeping secrets.

8. 8 books to read before you go to Paris

Or during, when you don’t feel like talking to your lover, like, 24/7, because we all need space from time to time, don’t we ? L’inconnue de la Seine, conveniently, is a prominent presence in one of the most splendid love stories in French literature, Louis Aragon’s Aurélien. You should also read my book, I think : In Paris with You, translated by Sam Taylor. Another six facets of Paris : Emile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise ; Colette’s Claudine in Paris ; Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins ; Tardi’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec ; Tiphaine Rivière’s Notes on a Thesis ; and Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex.

9. Find those nine things and kiss in front of them

A fun game to play if you’re both getting a bit bored of each other by now. One mural of Gainsbourg and Birkin. Two Statues of Liberty. Three Space Invaders. Two windmills. One statue of a rhinoceros.

10. Ten cheeses to fix a broken heart

In case the trip to Paris didn’t turn out as romantic as expected, and s/he finally ditched you in front of that rhinoceros (damn rhinoceros). A cœur de Neufchâtel seems appropriate to begin with. Then a lovely Saint-Nectaire, runny like your nose ; a mimolette vieille, as rusty and flaky as your self-confidence ; a crottin de Chavignol (crottin means little turd : like your ex), a tiny bouton de culotte (pants’ button) to remind yourself of that crottin’s underwear ; an époisses and a maroilles, because you don’t care about what your breath smells like anymore ; some fourme d’Ambert, black and blue and mouldy like your poor heart ; and a slice of Chaussée aux Moines, because a monk-like existence is what you’re likely to have now and forever.

And finally, a nice big chunk of gorgonzola dolce, to make you want to fly off to Italy : it’s much more romantic there.


Clémentine Beauvais is a writer and literary translator. Her YA novels in English are Piglettes (Pushkin, 2017) and In Paris with You (trans. Sam Taylor, Faber, 2018).


Susan Price said...

I doubt I shall ever go to Paris but still enjoyed this. And you can not only find l'inconnue on Google images, you can buy her on e-bay.

catdownunder said...

And learn at least enough French words to be polite? "Merci Clementine Beauvais"

Penny Dolan said...

Just the post for today's day-dreaming. Thank you!