WHY WE LOVE IT
- The magical setting for Amélie is still the most romantic on the planet.
- A vin chaud (in fall/winter) or a coupe of champagne (in spring/summer) at a zinc.
- Indulging in the classics: Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Sacré Cœur, La Coupole?
- Exploring the edgy, ethnic and novel: Oberkampf, Ménilmontant, Belleville and Canal St.-Martin.
- Pinch-me-am-I-really-seeing-this art at the Louvre, d’Orsay, Pompidou Center and other museums.
- It’s style central, from the classic couture houses and insouciant street fashion to the impeccable shop-window displays.
- La cuisine, bien sûr—with retro-bistro and ethnic-cuisine booms in full swing.
- French kissing in the Tuileries gardens, tombstone-spotting at Père-Lachaise, holding hands on a Bâteau-Mouche at sunset.
WHEN TO GO
Fair weather and fewer crowds make April, May, June, September and October the best months for travel. (If you’re planning a fall trip, when lots of conferences and trade shows hit town, book well in advance.) Considering July or August? Think again. That’s when many Parisians take their own vacances, shuttering some restaurants and small shops and leaving the city to the tourists.
WHAT TO PACK
You’ll need an electrical converter and plug adapters for American appliances (don’t forget adapters for phone plugs and a telephone adapter for laptops); pain relievers and other key over-the-counter medicine (they’re much pricier in France); comfortable shoes (you’ll be doing a lot of walking, sometimes on unforgiving cobblestones); and rain gear (it can turn cool and rainy almost any time of the year).
WHAT TO BUY
Fashion, of course, including fab faux jewelry; jams, mustards, pâtés and other easy-to-pack edibles; sexy, lacy lingerie that brings the honeymoon home; anything kitchen-related, from ceramic gratin dishes and marrow spoons to jacquard tea towels and madeleine molds; scents for the two of you, whether royal re-editions from the venerable Guerlain or Caron, unisex products from Iunx or bespoke fragrances from Cartier or Parfums de Nicolaï; prints from the Bouquinistes, the used-book sellers whose green wooden boxes line the Seine’s Left Bank, or from the Louvre’s Chalcographie boutique, which sells engravings made from the museum’s collection of antique original copper plates.
It’s a tough job, but one of you has to do it: live in France for at least 40 days before the wedding. The civil ceremony must take place where you reside, and although requirements can vary from place to place, most municipalities demand the following: Aside from your passport or French resident permit, you must submit a birth certificate; proof of domicile in France; an affidavit of law certifying that you are free to marry; another affidavit from the American consulate called an attestation de celibate stating that you aren’t already married; a divorce decree or death certificate (for widows and widowers); and a certificate of health. Once you’ve gone through this process, the town or city hall posts banns (announcement of intent to marry), which must be published no less than 10 days before the ceremony. You must also arrange to have a French civil authority, such as the mayor or a city councilman, perform the ceremony. Whew.