When you visit Paris, you want the whole package: delicious French food, complex French wine, and delicate French pastries, all to be enjoyed with in a perfectly romantic setting...at a price that inflicts minimal pain to the wallet. Unfortunately, dinner out (especially with the above elements) in Paris often comes at an inflated price tag. But now that summer has come, I’ll let you in on my warm-weather secret for inexpensive romantic dining with the best seat in the house - a jazzed-up picnic along the water.
The plan is pretty genius. It involves a self-service picnic with very little effort involved, while including a few key items that add class to the simplest of spreads. Think of it as the little black dress of picnics if you will.
This chic picnic is the evolution of three years of picnic experience in Paris. The first year was about getting the essentials down. Summer #2 added some flourishes to the basic food spread. Year three brought about the finishing touches to an alfresco dinner for two. The secret ingredients? Real wine glasses and tea light candles. (And as a surprise twist, these elements were not my idea, but were incorporated at my hubby’s request. “Wine tastes better in a real glass,” he says. I have to hand it to him - he’s right.)
Here’s the recipe to create your own romantic picnic in Paris.
- Pack the essentials: You’ll want a blanket to sit on (not strictly necessary, but a nice touch). You will require cups of some sort - to achieve the full effect, carefully pack some real wine glasses. Throw a few candles in to up your picnic game. Grab a corkscrew and a lighter...or be truly French, and ask fellow picnickers for a “tire-bouchon” and a “feu” once you settle into your spot.
- Select your bottle of wine. You can go to a supermarket or to a wine cave for the purchase. Summer begs for rosé, so remember to buy it ahead and refrigerate, or purchase it at a shop that has some chilled wine at the ready.
- Decide on the location.
- I’ve mentioned my favorite spot a few times as the section of Île Saint-Louis that faces the back of the Notre Dame Cathedral. It offers a beautiful vantage point for watching the sunset and all the boats that pass by on the Seine. Added bonus is that it often provides a free soundtrack to set the mood - I’ve listened to guitars, trumpets, and even a three-piece jazz trio jamming away in the evening hours.
- Alternatively, the Canal St. Martin makes for a lively summer hangout. You’ll feel like you're part of the neighborhood crowd spilling out of their apartments into the shared outdoor dining room. Île Saint-Louis is more romantic in my opinion, whereas Canal St. Martin has a young, edgy vibe.
- Depending on the location you choose, the next step is to procure dinner.
- Île Saint-Louis: Stop over at La Cerise sur la Pizza for delicious individual pies to-go (pictured here). It’s fresh and only a 10 minute walk away from the island. Pink Flamingo and Grazie (both a little further north in the Marais) also make great pizza, but the restaurant-to-picnic walk is closer to 20 minutes time.
- Canal St. Martin: My to-go place near the southern part of Canal St. Martin is a Korean BBQ place called Jules et Shim, which makes dinner packages all ready to eat along the canal. Or just across the water is another Pink Flamingo location if you’re in the mood for pizza. During the summer months you can order pizza, get a pink balloon, and sit along the canal as you await your delivery!
- Set up and enjoy a leisurely picnic dinner with the perfect Parisian view! You’re doing it right if it’s light out when you start and dark when you leave.
Pictured above: Dinner for two, complete real wine glasses, candles, and pizza from La Cerise sur la Pizza.
While our picnic didn't end with a sweet finish, one of course could opt to complete the meal with a fancy pastry or two from a pâtisserie of choice. The options are endless!
Do you have any elements you add to a picnic for a fancy feel?