TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

AMOUR IN PARIS

One night in Paris with my love. Just one, before he flew off to the other side of the world. I wouldn’t see him again for a month.

Where we’d spend our one night needed no discussion. Hotel Amour, that sexy designer nook in hip South Pigalle inspired by Japanese love hotels and filled with ridiculously good-looking BoBo’s (bourgeoise bohemians), was the obvious choice.

We jumped out of our taxi under the pink neon Amour (the French word for love) sign just as the sun was setting. We checked in, crammed our four suitcases into the one metre-square elevator and shuttled up to a rose-tinted corridor lined with erotic black and white photos on the third floor. Inside our small room – almost all bed – jazz played softly on the mid-century radio. Rain pattered down outside the floor-to-ceiling French windows, thrown open wide onto the verdant courtyard below. Murmurings and clinkings of a night just beginning drifted up towards us.

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Quickly, we dressed and headed down the spiral staircase to the buzzing ground floor brasserie for a glass of champagne. For some hand holding and spying on the beautiful people – this being the hotel du choix for the fashion crowd, and this being just a few days before fashion week.

But we couldn’t stay long; South Pigalle was calling. We spilled out onto the rain-glossed streets, letting the poetic city winds pull us past music shops, vintage boutiques, tiny theatres and nudey bars, reminders of the area’s past. We pulled into the Polynesian Tiki bar Dirty Dick (as the original name suggests, this was once one of those nudey bars) for a cocktail. Then it was a romantic candlelit dinner of steak tartare and organic Burgundian shiraz at Buvette, a hip little Franco-American gastrothèque that sits right at the top of my Parisian eat list. After a quick digestif at Glass (think broken mirrors, disco balls, zesty cocktails, craft beers and great music from the crew behind Candelaria) all that was left to do was head back to Amour, hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, and let the world’s most romantic city get the best of us.

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When I awoke in the morning, my love was gone. Well one of them, anyway. Paris was still there. I grabbed my umbrella and headed out to meet the grey morning.

By this time, fresh seafood was already being sold on the main street, rue des Martyrs, alongside fruit, flowers and all manner of deliciousness. I picked up a croissant and nibbled it as I walked the ten minutes up to Montmartre, weaving my way through the area’s vintage shops (I loved Le Chat et La Souris for their vintage records, and Marchand D’Habits on rue Houdon for its ramshackle collection of vintage clothing) right up to the top to Sacré-Coeur. My favourite spot from which to sit on the steps and look out over the tessellated rooves of the city, even more magical this morning as the rain sifted down and a romantic grey mist hovered over the city.

When the sifting turned to pouring I took refuge inside Sacré-Coeur. I was entranced by a statue of the Virgin Mary with dozens of red candles scattered at her feet, and the intricately mosaiced ceilings of this 1871 Roman-Catholic church.

By the time I walked back outside the rain had stopped. The sun was sweeping through the cafes of Montmartre and the local artists were back at work.

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The rest of the day was mine to keep. To wander across the ponts and the Tuileries Garden, to get lost on the Metro, to be stopped on almost every corner by beauty so heartbreaking my legs simply refused to keep moving. And then to wind up back at Amour for the best moules frites in town and an evening spent lazing about in the bath, windows open wide, listening to Serge Gainsbourg.

Because who says you can’t create Amour on your own?

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