Cultural stereotypes are one of the most persistent facts of life. No matter where you’ve been, and no matter how true or untrue they may be, the beliefs that Italy has the best pizza, Switzerland the best chocolate, Japan the best sushi, and America the best burgers will continue to follow you wherever you are and niggle at your brain. Well, today I’m here to tell you that one stereotype is true: France has the best honeymoons.
After a spectacular wedding in our home state of New Hampshire, my- gasp!- husband and I opted to do something a little unusual for our honeymoon. Instead of our usual “grab our bags and figure it out when we get there” style, we decided it was high time that we indulged in some of the more luxurious aspects of Europe…specifically, France. “We live right across the border,” we said. “We can just take the train,” we said. “Besides,” we added for emphasis as we purchased our tickets, “we only get to honeymoon once!”
And with that attitude, we were off! We took the high-speed train, called the ICE in Germany and the TGV in France, from Frankfurt-am-Main airport to la Gare du Nord in Paris. Upon arrival in our hotel room on the Champs-Élysées, we found two bottles of champagne, two champagne flutes, and a tray of chocolate-and-coconut-dipped strawberries waiting on the bed, fluffy robes in the closet, and a 24-hour room service menu waiting for us. After a long day of flying and train-riding- during which we were delayed by a bomb threat- the overwhelming luxury of our hotel was the perfect choice. We wasted no time in ordering a sumptuous meal, drawing a bubble bath, and popping the first cork (no, that’s not a metaphor!).
While we only opted to spend a little time in Paris, we made the most of its honeymoon options. The Eiffel Tower has a restaurant that serves gourmet four-course meals with wine and champagne, and if you time it just right- around 9 PM in the middle of August- you and your dinner date are clinking glasses as the sun is setting. There are also many tour companies that cater to the honeymoon-tourist crowd, and for a price it’s possible to get tickets to events and venues that ordinarily sell out too quickly. For us, this meant that our Eiffel Tower dinner was followed by a late-night show at the infamous Moulin Rouge. Don’t let its reputation fool you, however! While the shows at the Moulin Rouge would be considered racy in the States, they are unremarkable- the major draw is the venue’s name.
The remainder of our week was spent in Reims, which is a short train ride away from Paris out of Gare de l’Est. Reims is famous for two things. The first is that it is the heart of the Champagne region, so each year it hosts wine tasters, tourists, and prospective buyers, all coming for the bubbly white wine. The second is that it houses the enormous Gothic cathedral in which the kings and queens of France were coroneted, and as both Nick and I had studied the cathedral in our high school French classes, it was a must-see.
There are fewer hotel options in Reims than in Paris, for a variety of reasons, but we picked a place that was within a few blocks of a great pedestrian mall with shops, gourmet restaurants, and, of course, the aforementioned cathedral. Through a company called Grape Escapes, we booked a private tour of some of the champagne houses in the area- complete with tastings, of course- and a driver to take us there. As an afterthought, we chose to visit the spa across the street and bought 75-minute hot stone massages for ourselves. After all, it was our honeymoon! More on the champagne tasting to follow, when I have the time and space to describe it.
In the end, when we took our train back to Kaiserslautern, we agreed that the whole trip had been the perfect choice: France really does know how to do honeymoons. Of course, this is dependent on what the honeymooners in question can afford, and a cost-heavy trip like this one was- for us- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The price tag was entirely worthwhile, however. Paris and Reims exceeded all of our expectations in the honeymoon department, and I’m sure even travelers seeking a luxurious week off will find the same.