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Proposal trip (!!!)

I’m surprising my girlfriend with a trip to Paris (and a marriage proposal) in two weeks.

Will be arriving early Saturday morning and staying until Tuesday afternoon. We’re mid-20’s, pretty much broke (but I’ve been saving!), and this is going to be more of a “romantic” trip (in the loose, free-spirited sense) than a luxury trip. We’re staying at a "budget" but charming hotel in the 12th (Hotel de la Porte Doree). We’re not foodies per se but we know enough to recognize quality ingredients and thoughtful preparation, and we both love the experience of enjoying a throughtfully-done meal for a few hours. We’re looking for casual, comfortable but good-quality dining, at up to ~E50-60/person (including wine) a night. Lunches, lets say ~E15-25/person. We simply cannot afford Cinq, Taillevent, etc. Since we’re only in town a few days, we’ll stick with traditional French – provincial is fine. She does not eat red meat.

I plan on proposing in Jardin du Luxembourg under a tree on Saturday afternoon. I’d love to get a picnic lunch for this purpose. Any preferred Saturday markets between the 12th and 5th/6th? I see Maubert is open Saturdays. Thoughts?

I plan to dine near the Eiffel Tower that night, just to give her the stereotypical fairy tale experience (she's never been to Paris). I have a Zagats from 09 which recommended Bon Accueil; it has a totally magical location but seems it has gone downhill since their old chef left. I’d love Coccettes, but the stools just don’t seem fitting for a day of this magnitude. Any comfortable but charming places you could recommend in the 7th in that price range? My brother recommended La Fontaine de Mars.

Sunday, I plan on doing some touristy stuff – Notre Dame, St. Chapelle and probably Orsay for a bit. Any recommended bistros around the Louvre, Orsay for lunch?

At night, I’d love to sit on the steps of Sacre Coeur with a bottle of champagne and overlook the city for a while. Afterwards, we could grab a late dinner in Montemarte or even down in the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th. Any preferences? Obviously, I’d love to get in some place like Frenchie (if its even open Sundays) but its just not going to happen. I had thought about L’Ardoise in the 1st, but again, based on an old Zagats. I’ve also considered Au Vieux Comptoir.

Monday, we’d do a quick jaunt to the Arc / down Champs-Elysses in the morning (pop into Laduree) and then run through Pompidou after lunch. I have had a lot of trouble finding a good spot in the 11th that’s open for Monday dinner; currently leaning toward Chez Paul.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. What a great trip! I'm that it will be fantastic.

    For the picnic, I am not familiar with Saturday markets in the area, but a place to procure a lovely picnic is the Grand Epicerie at the Bon Marche Department store. Everything you would need is there.

    As for restaurants near the Eiffel Tower, I've been to Bon Accueil and really liked it, but it was two years ago. I've also been to Chez l'Ami Jean, which is in the area, and love the place. It's not as quiet as Bon Accueil, but the food is really good.

    In advance, congratulations, and best wishes to your fiancee.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ParisKat

      Thanks.

      I've got a reservation in at Bon Accueil.

      My concern with CAJ is the informality and loudness of it all. Obviously, the proposal will be happening earlier in the day, but the environment seems a bit un-romantic for the "celebration" dinner after the proposal.

      That said, I'm only judging this based on reviews online. If you feel differently, please let me know.

      Thanks so much!

      1. re: PTAIP2011

        The atmosphere of CAJ is very celebratory. Certainly not quiet.

    2. Congrats I'm sure you will have a great trip.

      I just ate at Cocottes and that is definitely NOT the atmosphere that you want to top off a day of romance and the food was mediocre.

      I thought La Fontaine de Mars looked charming but didn't eat the food there so I can't tell you about that part but it was really atmospheric outside. Bon Accueil was on a nice street (again didn't eat there but walked by to check it out. Both had outdoor seating which if it is a nice night would be a must in my opinion.

      Romantic tip: there is a very quiet bench you can sit on to watch the tower sparkle over the roof tops at night away from the crowds. It is on the avenue de la Bourdonnais btw Rue St. Domnique and Rue de Monttessuy -- you can see the sparkling tower away from the remainder of "bus load" tourists as it turns to dusk. I just did it and it was incredibly relaxing and romantic. I like that view of the tower much better than standing right underneath it, which you can walk and do for a minute or two but the bench is better.

      2 Replies
      1. re: gowest

        Watching the tower: besides on Ave. de la Bourdonnais; stroll across the Seine and sit on the steps of Palais de Chaillot, equally magical.

        1. re: PBSF

          Thanks guys. I've seen the tower from the Palais, but not from Bourdonnais. If we stick with Bon Accueil that seems pretty close by.

      2. Your hotel is just a couple of blocks from Vandermeersch bakery which is famous for its kugelhofp, a light and only slightly sweet breakfast or tea cake baked in a fluted mold. You could pick up a small on and take it to a cafe for breakfast. (In theory, you can bring your own bread product to a cafe or coffee bar as long as they don't sell the same product.) Note: they make these only on weekends, so Sunday morning is your time-frame.
        Vandermmersch = 278 Avenue Daumesnil

        I love L'Ami Jean but am not sure it's the place for a romantic dinner. Very tight quarters, as in with your neighbor and not your date, and very loud.

        La Table d'Eugene is on the flats north of Montmartre. You can take the munchkin Montmartre bus from Pigalle metro stop. It winds up and over and all around the narrow streets of Montmartre. You could get off at Sacre Coeur, have your champagne, get back on a bus (in the same north direction) and get off at Jules Joffren. From there, Eugene is a short 2 or 3 block walk. You can take the metro back south at Jules Joffren. Note: Eugene is closed Sunday and Monday, so Saturday is your window.
        Table d'Eugene = 18 rue Eugene Sue 01.42.55.61.64

        Gowest's super tip of the viewing bench, note that the twinkle show takes place on the hour and lasts for 10 minutes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mangeur

          Thanks. I'm glad someone knows of something around the hotel in the 12th. My choices in my price range were a soulless moden box in Monteparnasse or something a bit more charming necessitating some extra time on the Metro. I opted for the latter. We'll likely be spending most of our day out on foot, but I love the idea of her waking up in the morning and feeling like "ahhh this is Paris" more than "ahhh this is the Motel 6 in Cleveland." To me, that is worth the extra 10 min on the Metro each way.

          I'm a sweet fiend so we'll definitely be visting Vandermeersch. Thanks for the tip!

        2. Congratulations, hope everything go your way.

          For a jardin de Luxembourg picnic. Pierre Oteiza (18 Boulevard Saint Michel) has excellent Basque cold cuts and other goodies. -- However I find the jardin des Plantes more romantic than the Luxembourg.
          Search on this board under Paris and market. You'll get a list of markets and their opening days and hours.

          Chez Paul in the Bastille is a nice bistro. But again don't propose there unless both of you are willing to shout.

          Sunday. Don't eat dumb at Orsay. You are right next to the Seine. Picnic by the Seine or on Pont des Arts.

          Dining near the Eiffel Tower. My fave for food would of course be Chez l'Ami Jean. Romantic? It's the kind of resto where the diners in the next door shout back to you: "SHE SAID YES SHE WOULD MARRY YOU !!!" But it is indeed a bustling controlled chaos kind of place that I love and would miss if I were not living in Paris (and do miss regularly even as I live in Paris). I would still recommend it for the food and the fun atmosphere, but don't propose there unless you are ready to shout and she is ready to shout back.
          La Fontaine de Mars is much more comfortable. Food is good but nothing like Chez l'Ami Jean.

          Montmartre on the Sacré Coeur side is very riffraffy and not romantic. Yuck.
          I would save my bottle of bubblies to drink in the allée des Brouillards (goods pot to propose. See google images). In fact that whole section west of the Sacré Coeur is much more Montmartrois charming (west of rue Chappe, north of rue d'orsel rue Houdon, east of rue Constance, south of rue Caulaincourt).
          Nice bistros near there, mid-range: Pétrelle, Pantruche, bistro Lorette. (But the first two are in better locations.)

          L'Ardoise is ok, sans plus. Near l'Ardoise is l'Absinthe, on a very chic and charming square. Used to be one of my fave bistros. Then the reviews went thumb-down. Recently thumbs seem to be turning up again though. Romantic? Yes.

          And see
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701138

          5 Replies
          1. re: Parigi

            Parigi, Is L'Ardoise the bistro on r. du Mont Thabor? what charming square?

            1. re: PBSF

              Omg, in my muddled old mind, I meant L'Ardoise and L'Absinthe. Thanx for correcting me early. I will correct my post right now.

            2. re: Parigi

              Thanks.

              Right now dinner on Saturday is between Bon Accueil, Fontaine, and possibly Florimond.

              We could possibly do CAJ on Sunday if open. I was sorta thinking we'd tough out Comptoir de la Relais for the Sunday no-reservation meal, but I'll look into Petrelle and Pantruche as other options. I think I'm going to pass on l'Ardoise -- the more I think of it, the less excited I am about it.

              Luxembourg is my choice for sentimental reasons -- I had one of the best days of my life there a few years ago and have sorta idealized it as the proposal place. I know there are likely more romantic places in Paris but they'd be places I don't know or haven't been to. The sentiment is important I suppose.

              We both like a little riffraff, but I think we'll spend some time on the allee des Brouillards as well. I have never been and it looks spectacular. Thanks for the tip!

              1. re: Parigi

                Monday dinner in the Marais is between:

                Chez Paul

                A La Biche au Bois

                Anyone have a preference? Would it be impossible to get a reservation at this point at either?

                Also, please keep in mind that this will be a few days after the proposal, and after an afternoon of Pompidou / random wandering through the Marais. So, need not be the most romantic place.

                1. re: PTAIP2011

                  Unless you have a strong need for ALBAB, l find the food there very very heavy. Le Quincy is about 2 blocks away, a very old style bistro with great food, and a great owner who really makes your time with him a party.

              2. As other posters have dealt with the restaurants well, l will mention a few lovely gardens that l use to read and would like to propose there myself. Both are reached off the Pont Neuf. One is sort of the prow of the Cite ship, small on the Eiffel tower side of the bridge. Small, intimate with water on both sides.Across the street is the Place Dauphine, odd as it is grassless, but beautiful as peaceful, and kept perfectly.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Thanks!

                  I've been to both places, and both are tempting. As I said above, I'm a little stuck on Luxembourg, but man the point of Ile de Cite would be perfect. Maybe I can re-consider, although it would be a major change of plans at this point. We'll definitely need a photo or two there.

                  Is the padlock thing still going? Is it cheesy? I like the idea of doing it, honestly, but don't know if its still allowed or if its just consider a tacky tourist sentiment. Probably on Pont des Arts.

                  1. re: PTAIP2011

                    "Is the padlock thing still going? Is it cheesy?"
                    Yes ! No !
                    It is very romantic. Must do. If pont des Arts is too crowded (one of these days the bridge is going to be covered, covered with padlocks), go to the quieter and no less romantic Pont de l'Archevêché in the shadow of the Notre Dame de Paris. Hey you can have a romantic dinner at Le Réminet just on the other side of the river. Must reserve, or you just get to watch the other romantic couples eat.

                    Your jardin de Luxembourg story is very touching. Go for it.

                    And please report back. Give us all the details. I can't stand it when all the other proposers disappear after generating war&peace-length threads here.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Our son and d-i-l did the padlock thing in September. Cheesy? Who cares!

                      I love the Pont de l'Archevêché/Reminet combo. :)

                      1. re: mangeur

                        Perfect. I've booked us lunch at Reminet on Sunday afternoon (for now). I used the 40% deal with the thefork.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            I will, I assure you. I've read enough of these threads to know!

                            1. re: PTAIP2011

                              O dude, with Jardin de Luxembourg, the Archevêché bridge, Le Réminet, the padlock, cold cuts from Oteiza, I am saying yes to you ! dunno about her.

                      2. re: Parigi

                        Re your picnic in Luxembourg Garden.... charcuterie from Oteiza (Parigi mentioned up thread) and cheese from Dubois at Place Maubert. Get a baguette and a bottle of wine and you'll be all set. Wonderful. ;)

                        1. re: Parigi

                          OMG.....I have to tell my padlock story! We both loved the Pont des Arts (it was our most local bridge to cross from left to right) and decided on our last night that we would crack the champagne (bought in Champagne of course!) and attach the padlock. Had some difficulty finding a shop to purchase said padlock, finally found a dodgy shop somewhere in the 15th I think, and purchased the 3E padlock, v excited. So we found a spot, as the sun was going down,cracked the champagne, settled back, had a kiss, got out the padlock (already written on), I turned to key to open it and - THE WHOLE TOP OF THE STUPID THING FLEW OFF and went straight - and I mean straight like an arrow -through the slats and into the river!

                          Oh how we laughed until we cried....and then laughed again....and drank some more....and kissed some more....and decided that it was just not meant to be but we had a memory that would absolutely last forever!

                          This was our honeymoon for a very joyous second marriage.....

                          PS I also think it would be a great proposal spot, at sunset with champagne - just make sure to get a non dodgy padlock!

                          1. re: PixieM

                            Hilarious story.
                            My only hesitation about it as a proposal spot is the fear of a beautiful expensive ring falling through the wooden slats of the bridge. Gulp.