“Whom can I run to? What have you done to my heart?” the woman drinking wine in a café plaintively asks of Paris, France in the standard April in Paris. She’s never been in love, but longs to be, having fallen under the spell of the city’s charm. Whether gloriously played by the Count Basie Orchestra or lushly sung by Sarah Vaughan, this song is an anthem for springtime in Paris, and a recurring, even insistent, invitation, especially if you listen to jazz radio, to visit this romantic European city.
If you’re a jazz fan, this tune may come to you, unbidden, each year when the calendar turns to April, haunting you as if seeking resolution. If you haven’t heard it, listen to the version provided below, and you’re sure to start dreaming about visiting the City of Light – and romance. Inspired by this song and in honor of the joy of springtime in Paris, we put together a bouquet of images, if you will, that illuminates some of the ways that Paris mixes memory and desire in this season. Here then, catch…
Romantic Outdoor Statues Abound
If all it took was a few of Paris’ chestnut blossoms and holiday tables to kindle the heart of the woman of April in Paris, just imagine how you’ll swoon when you’re before this statue. With winter over, the wraps that protect Paris’ outdoor marble statues are removed; the snow and ice that cloak its bronzes melt away. And suddenly, Paris’ nude and amorous statues cavort once more among those of heroic warriors and solemn saints while gargoyles leer on high. Nymphs, cherubs, gods and goddesses, even a mysterious maiden or two, disport themselves in some form of undress in parks, or languor gracefully in the late afternoon shadows of newly leafed linden trees.
Charming place: Visit the Jardin du Carrousel in the afternoon, after taking in the Louvre, to view the 20 female bronze statues created by the French sculptor Aristide Maillol. They stand unabashedly nude, half hidden among yew hedges shaped into a fan, and cast dramatic, elongated shadows on a manicured lawn. Overtly sensual, smooth and voluptuous, they’re an indulgence in this stately area of central Paris.
From this garden, you can walk to the Jardin des Tuileries, which also has many statues, most notably Le Baiser. Visiting the gardens is free.
Couples Lip Lock in Parks, on Ponts, on the Pave
It’s no surprise, Paris being Paris, that one of the most famous, most beloved photos to come out of this city in the last century is Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville) taken in 1950 by the renowned photographer Robert Doisneau. In it, a young couple kisses lissomely in the middle of a sidewalk in spring, oblivious to the bustling city. The message is that in Paris romance triumphs over all else. And Paris is such a beautiful city with so many opportunities for romance that impulsive embraces are irresistible.
Charming place: Visit Pont Alexandre III at l’heure bleu, and let your love take flight along with the cherubs, nymphs and the golden-winged horses of this Beaux-Arts style bridge across the Seine.
Oops, almost forgot to mention those little cafes that stay open late just for romance…
Romantic Picnics Pop Up All Over
When it comes to picnicking in Paris, you can have a moveable feast, to borrow a phrase from Hemingway. Whether you’re on the left or the right bank, there are just so many wonderful places in this city to spread a checkered blanket, to open a robust picnic basket, and to let your love bloom.
Charming place: Visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, a park that is at once a part of Paris and all of Paris in spring, to echo Foucault. Go with a baguette under one arm, your babe under the other, and a picnic basket filled with all manner of Parisian delicacies like some duck confit, a white bean salad, wild mushroom pâté, charcuterie, and a little cheese, a little crème brûlée too – don’t forget wine – and whatever you do, don’t forget cornichons! Settle into a leafy nook in this quiet park, which is perfect for romance and contemplation, and Picnic! Picnic! Picnic!
And if, at day’s reluctant end, you leave completely satiated with that same baguette under one arm, your sweetie under the other, and an uneaten basket of goodies in hand (nary a cornichon nibbled), you’ll have had a wonderful picnic, Parisian style!
Romantic Rainy Days Are Always in the Forecast
When you visit Paris in spring, you wish for good weather, which should always include a dash of rain. Spring rain in Paris is driving, mesmerizing, and bright with the sound of cymbals like a Max Roach drum solo. It’s a romantic rain that echoes all the beating hearts of the city, and seems to go on forever, suggesting the possibility of endless love.
Charming place: Visit a small café on a backstreet up in Montmartre on a day that promises rain. Any nice one will do. Sit at a tiny table under an umbrella with your babe, share a bottle of good wine, and just wait for the raindrops to beat down on the quiet, ancient cobblestones. They’ll come, and it’ll be beautiful day. (Or go pull up a bench in a park!)
Spiral Staircases Lead to Parisian Pleasures
We enjoy how the dramatic spiral staircase of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile also leads, by turns, to the memory of a tiny snail moving mysteriously, even furtively, in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.
It’s a cemetery where some of France’s most famous artists and writers, including Jean-Paul Sartre, eminently rest among literally tons of funerary art like Constantin Brancusi’s Le Baiser (The Kiss). (It should be evident at this point that no matter where you go in Paris, there’ll be a little kissin’ goin’ on.)
This snail is quietly searching, no doubt, for a poet, or the ghost of one like Baudelaire, who also rests here, to versify how its love darts are more powerful than Cupid’s arrows. (Or else, it seals the lips of their tombs for all time if unable to get a rhyme!) It’s a tiny snail that ultimately leads to a big appetite for…
The Eiffel Tower Trellises Spring’s Blossoms Heavenward
The Eiffel tower charms us every time with its spring blossoms and the way that life blooms all around it.
Traffic Lights Say ‘Brake for Romance’
Whimsically, some traffic lights in Paris flash a red heart that tells motorists to “Stop in the name of love.” And Parisians happily obey their hearts. Incidentally, if this light never had a change of heart, Paris motorists would hold their embraces indefinitely, engines running, resulting in a traffic tie up that coils like…well… a snail shell from central Paris all the way to the Peripherique – reminding us, of course, of a delicious escargot dinner, a graveside snail, and a spiral set of stairs that always leads to Parisian pleasures held most dear.
Sing it Sarah
By the way, if you haven’t heard Sarah Vaughan, the Divine One, sing April in Paris, check out this version. She was a singer who could make the world right with a song.
Au Revoir Paris, Jusqu’à Notre Retour
To be sure, Paris is a cosmopolitan city where you can get the latest and the greatest, but it’s the simple charms – chestnuts in blossom, holiday tables, romantic picnics – however cliched they may be, that tug at our hearts, that always seem to lure us back. Paris is a city that you fall in love with on the very first day of your visit. That you hate to leave at the end of our trip. And that you long to return to for the rest of your life.
Where will you be going for your fling with spring? (Or need we ask?) Let us know in the comments below.
[Feature Photo: A Woman Captivated by Paris in Spring. / Photo by kimdochac via Flickr. Creative Commons License 2.0 ]
[Source: The article April in Paris, by Vernon Duke in Musicology for Everyone was used for background on this song.] [widget id=”text-25″ container_id=”ttdWidget” container_class=”grayTheme”]