Needing some date-night inspiration? Don't want to spend much? No time to plan? Well I'm here to help. This little recap will show you how to have a special night with your special someone in Paris with absolutely no fore-thought or planning. And if you are closer to Pakenham than Paris right now? Allow me take you there, virtually speaking.
Our perfect date-night didn’t start out perfectly. We nearly chucked the whole night in before it started, as Chris was late home from work. Usually, he is a stickler for time (unlike his wife), but a few things ‘popped up’ and we were already cutting it fine. We had tickets to a comedy show called “How to become Parisian in 1 hour.” Being the purists we are, we know that becoming Parisian in an hour is a bit of a joke as there is a whole lot more involved, especially for us Australians. (We recommend at least one week of night classes at Alliance Française, a breakfast switch from Weet-Bix to croissants, riding bicycles without helmets, putting a fair bit more effort into your appearance et voila; Bob is no longer your uncle. His name is Baptiste.)
To explain, these tickets were free - Chris won a competition at work for being the least French person in the entire organisation (he still talks about ‘hard-ball-gets’ and Carlton's inspiring new coach at the water cooler and nobody has a clue what he’s on about). So anyway, free tickets! A forced date-night. Don’t you just hate when you have to go out on a school-night for some laughs while a babysitter puts your kids to bed and does a nice job of wiping the kitchen bench? Terrible.
So Chris was late and then…we couldn’t find the tickets. Whilst turning the household upside-down we realised that time for a meal before the show was running out. We decided to wing it, have a quick dinner near the venue and try our luck at the door without actual evidence of ever having tickets. So off we went, a brisk walk to the metro and our perfect date began.
The day’s heat had turned in our favour - imagine the heat of a high-steam iron coming down a few notches to a tropical warm waters type heat. Less searing and suffocating, more balmy and breathable. Ahh. We hopped onto the metro (momentarily back to the hot-steam iron setting) and travelled towards Bourse in the 2nd arrondissement, bordering on the 9th.
A French friend of mine works in this area (in film, so glam) and describes it as ‘old Paris.’ I should ask her, as a true Parisienne, how she sees ‘old Paris.’ For me it’s an exciting blend of glamour and grit, of refined fanfare and controlled chaos, of smartly-suited men with a handsome air of 'don't care' (think - semi-tucked shirt, week-old stubble and a ratty old briefcase), women 'just from the gallery' are wearing colourful kitten heels, pretty skirts, simple, purposeful confidence. Buildings have a preserved opulence and an attention to detail that is neither showy nor vulgar. All of this beauty, art and purpose is casually discussed over a large plate of pepper steak and a big easy glass of red - momentarily transporting these old Parisians to a breezier corner of the country (at least that's how I imagine Bordeaux to be - I've not been there yet) - with plenty of time to drink it of course. Lunch in Paris (even where ‘new’ has invaded the ‘old’) is a sacred affair and will never be rushed, scoffed or abbreviated. Eating and drinking hurriedly is ...pointless.
A few stops to go and we were in quick mode. We had 20 minutes to find dinner, eat it, hot-foot it to the theatre and convince the door-man that “We did have tickets I swear it on my husband’s Australian accent, can you let us in please!! We really could use a few tips on becoming Parisian….”
But something happened when we got off at Bourse. We found ourselves strolling not striding, gazing upwards not ahead, chatting vaguely, without haste. We walked towards the theatre keeping an eye out for a welcoming looking quick-eat. Unlikely!
We walked past a big red neon sign that piqued my interest. Something about it sounded familiar. I’d recently read about a famous old restaurant where you can experience the closest thing there is to French “fast food," and it was highly recommended by tourists and locals alike. A quick google check and - yes this was the place! There was a longish queue out the front and I hoped we'd get in quickly. We did. The waiters had a slick system and we were shown to our seats tout de suite where we were greeted with a smile and a menu.
The room is expansive; wide and high with lots of tables squished in close, a loud hum of about a hundred people chatting, waiters bow-tied and sweaty-lipped zipping around taking plates here, bills there. Glass ball chandeliers and wooden fans hang from the ceiling, dark wood detail and mirrored panels on the walls host a beautiful big Germont painting (donated by the man himself in 1929).
The menu was simple, our choices even more so (steak, house red). Chris wanted a starter of snails - knowing that an entree would definitely put us off our time target. The food was good not amazing, but frankly I would have been happy with a bowl of day-old bread the atmosphere was that good.
We were under the spell of ‘old Paris’.
Chris slurped his buttery snails and I looked at the time - 10 mins until showtime. Evidently, rushing was simply out of the question. We’ll see it another time. Maybe. From that moment we savoured this unexpected treat. It seemed that all the other patrons were doing the same. Re-filling their glasses with a swish of their caraffe, soaking their bread in peppery jus, talking intimately, animatedly, pretending to be taking supper in 1908. Okay maybe that part was just me.
"Bien sûr Monsieur"
Our (very reasonable) bill was tallied up on the butcher’s paper table-cloth with a theatrical flourish and more than a hint of nostalgia. These waiters don’t mind cliches, they seem proud to help keep ‘old Paris’ alive for everyone to enjoy.
We sauntered out onto the street. Let’s walk for a bit, towards the Seine, suggested Chris. So we did.
As luck would have it, our stroll was timed perfectly for the late evening sunset. We soaked it up, we felt peaceful, we were a bit pleased with ourselves, we ordered an Uber. And that my friends is how to do a perfect date-night in Paris. My tips? Go with the flow - prepare to dump poorly made plans - and allow your imagination to do the rest.
I've shared my tips now I want to know yours. What is your best date-night advice? Places to go, things to do, food to eat? I want to know all of your best date-night experiences (lover and bestie dates alike) in Paris, Pakenham or anywhere in between!
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