Paris for Romantics – How to Love Autrement

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If rose petals and 7 course dinners aren’t your idea of Paris romance, there are plenty of alternatives. So many, in fact, that I’m devoting 2 blog posts to the subject.

My first post about celebrating love autrement leads you to new corners of Paris by walking in the footsteps of 3 famous French couples.

Abélard and Héloïse. Perhaps the city’s oldest love story is the tale of Peter Abélard, a celebrated 12th century theologian and teacher, and Héloïse d’Argenteuil, his gifted, and much younger, student. The Catholic church, a secret wedding,  a horrible act of vengeance, years of separation, and love that survived despite of it all are parts of their myth.

In their footsteps: Visit Cimétière Père Lachaise, where the couple is buried near the main entrance. (They were the cemetery’s first residents.) Wander along tiny Rue Chanoinesse, just north of Notre Dame, where they’re said to have met, studied, and became lovers.

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais. These two French artists were arguably the first modern gay couple. Marais, an actor, was the Surrealist director’s muse and lover in the 30s and 40s. Cocteau and Marais lived together openly under the Nazi occupation; post-war, they worked, traveled, and vacationed together like a married couple. They made remarkable films, including Beauty and the Beast (1946), Les Parents Terribles (1948), and Orpheus (1949).

In their footsteps: Montmartre was the couple’s stomping grounds. Cocteau helped develop Cinema Studio 28, on rue Tholozé, into an important center for independent and avant garde film. The theater is still a neighborhood gem, and contains eccentric lamps that Cocteau designed. Nearby, Marais, who worked as a sculptor later in life, created “Le Passe Muraille” (The Walker Through Walls), just off of Rue Norvins. The statue commemorates a French fictional character who could walk through walls (until his wife, learning he was cheating on her, arrested his power mid-stride.)

• Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. The 13-year affair between French singer, songwriter, and musician Serge Gainsbourg and British actress Jane Birkin was a grand, passionate amour. Their 1969 hit song, “Je T’Aime…Moi Non Plus,” an explicit duet written by Gainsbourg, was banned by the BBC and the Pope—assuring it would become one of the greatest love songs of all time.

In their footsteps: Make a pilgrimage to 5 bis rue de Verneuil, in the 7th. The couple moved into this small house in 1970, and lived here until the early 80s. Devotees have painted the front with colorful graffiti. Afterward, indulge your passion for music at L’International Records (12 rue Moret, 11th), an independent record store that offers a well curated selection of new and used vinyl and CDs.

Who is your favorite Paris couple?

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