Hello – Emily here!
Whether single or in a relationship, I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. My favorite color is pink, it reminds me my birthday is around the corner and if nothing else, chocolates and champagne will soon be on sale. I was single on Valentine’s Day every year until I turned 29, however I never felt alone and I never failed to celebrate in my own small way, usually with pink champagne and heart-shaped Neufchatel cheese.
The first year I was in a relationship on February 14th, instead of a romantic dinner-a-deux I decided to spread the love and organized (and cooked) a pop-up dinner for 47 guests. It was a huge success, measured by the flurry of new relationships which started that night, in a utilitarian warehouse in East London. My boyfriend on the other hand was no help, though; he got drunk and threw little potatoes at the guests as they left.
My husband and I met on a dating app, where we were both looking for love, while I was living in London and he was living in Paris. We chatted for months before he came to meet me for the first time, and it was a coup de foudre (love at first sight). Within 3 months of our first meeting I had moved to the City of Love and we began planning our future together. 5 years and 3 children later I still remember fondly the first night I spent in Paris (photo from that night above). He took me to Monsieur Bleu, an incredible restaurant down by the Seine, underneath the iconic Palais de Tokyo. We had champagne, the Eiffel Tower lit up, and I ordered a shrimp salad that was impossible to eat gracefully, so ate as much as quickly I could, while he was in the bathroom…and politely pushed the leaves around for the rest of the appetizer course.
I have learned not to expect over-the-top displays of emotion from him, but rather to notice the many small ways he expresses his love every day. When I started writing this article I asked him for some romantic suggestions. “Um… go to the Eiffel Tower?” he replied, looking scared. I think he’s out of ideas, having used up all his good ones over the last five years as he has slowly shared with me some of the most romantic parts of the city.
We visited the Musee Rodin in late Spring, when the rose bushes are at their finest. With the Eiffel Tower in the background it is the perfect way to spend a warm afternoon. Passing by the iconic sculpture The Kiss, we meandered through the 3 hectares (approximately 7 acres) of sculpture gardens before taking the obligatory ‘thinking’ photo underneath The Thinker.
We sat quietly in Sainte-Chapelle, taking in the beauty of the magnificent stained glass windows at dusk while enjoying one of their classical music concerts. This is top of my list to do again once “things go back to normal.”
Shortly after our wedding we visited Versailles and while the palace is remarkable, my outstanding memory of the day was renting a little rowboat on the Grand Canal and paddling around for an hour, enjoying the laughter and light conversation drifting across from other matelots (sailors). A romantic cliché if ever there was one…and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
(photo by Kelechi Anna Photography)
Something else I never thought I would recommend, but after doing it myself I now rave about, is hiring a photographer to capture some special moments while you are in Paris. I anticipated feeling terribly embarrassed but each time I was quickly at ease and the photos we have (we have done this twice now, after the birth of our two youngest children) are treasured. There are many photographers to choose from and most offer a quick one-hour session. Janelle, Gabi and Krystal all come highly recommended. We worked with Kelechi who was amazing (and took the photograph above) but she has since moved to Iceland!
Food is my love language. I have never completed a meal without already knowing what or where I am going to eat next so I couldn’t write about romance in Paris without mentioning L’Arpege, where my husband proposed. The service was impeccable, the food was extraordinary and chef Alain Passard was charm personified. I wouldn’t say the décor is particularly romantic, but for me it shimmers with the promise of love. I should mention that the prices are apparently staggering – although I wouldn’t know for sure as usually only the guest who booked the table (in this case my husband) gets a menu with prices. I do have the receipt tucked away somewhere but I have never been game enough to look at it. One day I will find it again and frame it.
For a restaurant with the most romantic setting in the world look no further than Jules Verne. This Michelin starred restaurant can be found on the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. A truly elevated (sorry) experience that you can reflect back on for a lifetime. If you would prefer to gaze at the Eiffel Tower while dining, rather than sitting in it, the terrace at restaurant Girafe, tucked behind the Cité de l’Architecture, has possibly the best view in all of Paris. I’m sure they’ve lost count of the number of marriage proposals that have happened there.
Other romantic and wonderful restaurants that all hold a special place in my heart include (but are not limited to!) Verjus, Frenchie Wine Bar, Bistrot Paul Bert, Ellsworth, La Buvette, La Cuisine de Phillipe, Alcazar, La Crèmerie, L’Ami Jean and Allard. Each with their own charm (and price bracket), they represent a mix of the very best that Paris has to offer and I hope you have the chance to visit them all.
But the most wonderfully romantic Parisian experience is not in a restaurant at all. Strolling along the Seine in warm weather, picnic basket in hand, is one of the finest pleasures in the world. There is nothing better than knowing that you have a bottle of cool crisp rosé, a simple jambon beurre baguette and perhaps some fresh cheese or a tangy raspberry tart to enjoy as soon as you find the perfect spot. That spot is Square du Vert-Galant, on the western end of Île de la Cité. Sitting there under the weeping willows, legs dangling above the sparkling water is something you will remember forever. When a swan glides by it is almost too much beauty to take in.
Although my husband rolled his eyes when I strung up our Valentines decorations on the weekend, I did happen to catch him adjusting them when he thought I wasn’t looking. This year we will be staying home and to get everyone (mostly him) in the spirit of love, I’ve ordered pajamas for the whole family. The kid’s ones are from Petit Bateau but these look cute too.
We’ll start the day with some Rouge in Love tea from Mariage Freres, a red rooibos gently scented with rose petals and vanilla, alongside fluffy ricotta pancakes and Bonne Maman raspberry jam. I will visit the local market on Saturday and buy salty, truffled brie, scallops fresh in their shell, shiny red radishes, thick steaks marbled with fat and whatever other fresh fruit and vegetables that take my fancy to create a special dinner, and a bunch of bright pink tulips to decorate the table.
To mark 5 years living together I bought and framed an adorable Babar print from the bouquinistes down by the river Seine for my husband and I’m planning an adults only weekend in the Champagne region in the (distant?) future. We need things to look forward to and imagining strolling among the vineyards, holding hands, will easily keep me chugging along through the next few grey months at home. He will give me the best gift of all, a few hours of extra sleep while he wrangles les enfants (the children) on Sunday morning.
If you are looking for a last-minute gift, for a loved one or yourself, I have put together some suggestions below. Or if you want to give your loved one a really special treat this year, I hear Ladurée is for sale.
Diptyque have released a limited edition of their iconic rose candle. Is there anything more romantic than a cozy home smelling like a thousand roses? If you can’t come to Saint Germain, bring Saint Germain to you.
For heart shaped food, look no further than the Valentine’s cheese platter from fromages.com. A selection of cow and goats’ cheese (shaped like love hearts of course), with a sweet treat of chic fruit pastilles for dessert, this platter seems like the perfect choice for a quiet night in with a celebratory bottle of champagne.
Speaking of champagne, K&L Wines have 164 champagne options, as well as copies of Drinking French. If you are based in Paris, Benoit at L’Extra Brut in the 9th arrondissement comes highly recommended for his selection of champagnes from smaller producers. And what better to drink it out of than some vintage glassware from Madame de la Maison.
Chef Nicolas Cloiseau at La Maison du Chocolate has drawn inspiration from Paris, “the city of love and light” for his Valentine’s Day collection. In his Paris Blue Hour Heart Bouchée he unveils four recipes bursting with the emotions of love.
I have this adorable print from Riley Sheehey hanging in our apartment and it brings me such joy. On the theme of love you can’t go past these swans sipping champagne, or if you just want to be left alone this year, how about please leave by 9? She also has a collaboration with Hibiscus Linens, should you wish to show your love by stitch.
(photo by Molly Wilkinson)
La Cuisine de Paris, Molly Wilkinson, and Cook’n with Class all offer a selection of French online cooking classes which would be the perfect Valentine’s Day activity or gift. Learning a new skill with a sweet reward afterwards? What’s not to love.
Can’t make a class? Red velvet NYC can ship pre-measured gourmet baking kits, including orange blossom madeleines. Already have everything you need? Then try David’s madeleine recipe. We made it last weekend and it was a hit.
Maison Flaneur are selling these iconic wine glasses from Hotel Amour and I have already decided I will be gifting these to all the couples I know who get engaged in future.
I think it might be illegal to write an article about romance with a French twist without mentioning Le Creuset. Their selection of heart shape cookware, including the love heart ramekins, is on every Valentine’s Day gift list for a reason.
For something that will last a lifetime, Flore, of Maison Flore, sources local refined vintage monogrammed sheets, linen, laces and collars and reworks them with new embroidery and high quality fabrics into new garments. Inspired by her grandmother’s work, they are 100% made in France and Flore herself sews every item for you in her workshop-boutique in the Marais area of Paris.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope that there will be love in your life on Valentine’s Day and every other day. I would love to hear your most romantic Paris stories in the comments below or on my Instagram page.