When I first decided I was going to ask my wife to marry me, the thought of where to do it hadn’t crossed my mind. I was too busy trying to drum up the cash to buy the ring, and hoping her father wouldn’t hit me when I asked him (which in hindsight is a pretty stupid idea. We get on well and he’s practically a hippie). But as it got closer to our anniversary (the date I had decided on – it seemed the right time), the more I started to think about where to do it, and how to do it right.
We’ve both had a thing about Paris since we first went there. Of course, we’re romantics and so the idea of wandering through the streets of Montmartre, buying bread and eating confit de canard is pretty much the best thing in the world for us. The only things getting in the way of that dream are pesky details like money and work and not being French.
I don’t know where the idea of proposing in Paris came from. I think she probably dropped hints a few times, so I knew that if I was to do it, this was somewhere it would go down well. But surely proposing in Paris in one of the all-time clichés to avoid if you’re still trying to be cool?
Well, of course it is. Everyone has probably sat through a film in which something romantic happens in Paris, waiting for some ninjas to turn up and justify paying to see all that slushiness; yet in spite of this, Paris is still a pretty amazing city, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The streets, the food, the skyline – you cannot fail to fall for it. So, with a city full of perfect places, where do you choose to pop the question?
I spent most of our fifth anniversary trying to work that one out, much to the consternation of my wife – I think she knew what I was up to, but couldn’t let on she knew. I kept her waiting all day, trying to think of the perfect setting. Plus, timing is important too. If you do it too early, you’ve then got the rest of the day. What if it rains or you break your leg? Plus, in my mind, proposing at the end of a really great day just seemed more special.
So after a day of wandering around, looking slightly concerned, evening came and I put my shabbily constructed master plan into operation. My first idea was a bar we like in Montmartre. La Mascotte is our favourite café on rue des Abbesses; a visit to Paris is never complete without coming here more times than is strictly necessary. This is very much a locals’ bar, it’s always lively and busy, though it’s never too bad that you can’t stand with a glass of wine at the bar. A glass of champagne costs about €7, which is well worth it for getting in the mood for this sort of thing.
Outside is a stall teeming with seafood, which you can eat in their always-popular restaurant. Inside, it is decorated in an Art Deco style, and is the epitome of a French café. Standing at the bar, with our glasses of champagne in our hands, shoulder to shoulder with the locals – normally this would be perfect. Even more so when the barman, having just shaken my hand, put down a plate of saucisson in front of us. Champagne and sausages, rivalling the wheel and the teasmade as man’s greatest inventions. So why didn’t I do it there? Well, it just didn’t feel right. It was just too busy to be really intimate. Also, as good as sausage is, it has yet to be voted the most romantic of the meats.
My second choice was Ladurée. If you have never tried one of their macaroons, you should probably consider getting on a train immediately. Melt in the mouth, brightly coloured and incredibly tasty, these are just the tip of a very big iceberg. I love their religieuses – like a little profiterole balanced on a big profiterole, but a whole lot more impressive than that sounds. They also do a justifiably famous and incredibly decadent hot chocolate, served in a silver jug; thick and rich and a dessert in itself. The original branch is situated on rue Royale, but the one we went to was on the Champs-Elysées. Both are beautifully decorated & elevate eating cake to an art form. Apparently they also do savoury food, if you like that sort of thing.
So why didn’t I do it there? Well, the Champs-Elysées branch, which stays open late, understandably gets very busy, so if you’re just after cake, don’t expect to get in until they’ve finished serving dinner. That was a pain, because we’d been there before and managed to sit in their bar and feast on pastries without shame. If anything would make the night perfect, what could be better than doing that? We were able to sit outside, but the thought of proposing on a street that busy didn’t really appeal. But most importantly, I had forgotten the golden rule – do it properly! This isn’t something you do everyday and you want it to be memorable. And that means making sure that you’re proposing somewhere your partner is happy with. If she’d feel shy if you did it in the middle of a crowd, then a busy bar or restaurant might not be the best place. Even if you think you’ve created a little bubble for the two of you, you both might feel a bit inhibited surrounded by lots of strangers. Although I wouldn’t admit it, I think I would have found saying the words harder had I been somewhere busy.
So, where is the best place in Paris to propose to a woman? Well, if you’re me, it’s the Pont Neuf. Completed in 1607, this is the oldest bridge in Paris, joining the right and left banks to the Île de la Cité. Less showy than Pont Alexandre III, the Pont Neuf is a series of arches, each with a semi circular bastion containing a stone seat. Perfect! At night, these present a beautiful view of the city and, for true romantics, the Eiffel Tower itself. Here I could forget all the people, the slight chill in the air and the fact that I had spent all night dragging her around Paris, and get down to the matter in hand, one which had been filling me with nerves all day. The Pont Neuf holds a very special place for me as it calmed me down and got me a wife. It has everything you could want – an amazing backdrop, and a bit of privacy for when you both get a bit tearful.
For an idea of where all these places are in the city, take a look at this map.