romance in paris... off the beaten path

It’s no secret that this city attracts romance seekers from around the globe. I just got back from three days in the “City of Lights” and I have some suggestions for some not-so-typical romantic experience and unique hotel finds in the French capital.

Everyone always says that the best way to explore Paris is by foot, but I beg to differ. I say- explore the Capital of Romance by water. Start off by grabbing your sweetheart and hopping aboard a River Limousine. These Venetian style boats were designed in Venice and specifically made for the Seine. For a totally unique experience, watch the sunrise over this magical city from your private boat while sipping champagne and snuggling with your sweetheart.

Paris is known for its many bridges, but my favorite spot for a scenic smooch is Pont de la Tournelle. Not only will you have a stunning view of Notre Dame and the sultry setting of the Seine, but there's also hardly ever any traffic on the bridge.

Another very romantic (and unknown) experience is a visit to the "I Love You" Wall in Jehan Rictus Gardens just behind Place de Abssesses. The wall was created by artists Frederic Baron and displays over 300 messages of love in over 250 languages. How romantic is that?

They say that they quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach- so why not put this theory to the test? Take a private cooking class together! There's a great company called Paris Chef that will customize your culinary experience. You can accompany the chef to the local market and hand pick the freshest ingredients. A fun way to experience this is by renting an apartment in Paris and have the chef come to you. Enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner at home with your own private chef!

And last, but certainly not least on my list is my pick for most romantic place to stay. Situated on the corner of Avenue George V and the legendary Champs Élysées the Hotel Fouquet's Barriere has a long history dating back to the early 1900s. Francois Andre and Lucien Barrier launched the concept of resort hotels while sitting on the terrace of Fouquet’s (a restaurant at the time). Together they dreamt up the idea of one day opening a hotel in the glitzy city. Unfortunately both passed away before making this a reality. Upon Lucien's death, his daughter Diane, took over the empire and vowed to follow through with her father's dream. In 1998 she purchased Fouquet's with the idea of expanding it into a hotel. In a cruel twist of fate, Diane was injured in a terrible plane crash which left her paralyzed and sadly, she died two years later. Her husband, Dominique vowed to continue his beloved wife's project and Hotel Fouquet's Barriere opened its doors in 2006.

Today, the boutique property continues the ongoing legendary tradition and provides the quintessential romantic experience. Their "Fly me to Deauville" package takes romance to another level as couples are whisked away from the hustle and bustle of Champs Élysées by private helicopter. A quick 45- minute ride from Paris is the quaint beach town of Deauville. The package includes overnight accommodations at the hotel, round trip helicopter transportation to Deauville and a luxury picnic on the beach once they get there.

Make sure to get in touch with us if you would like additional information on any of the above experiences or if you'd like Runaway Bride to help you book your own uniquely romantic trip to Paris!

a royal affair...

Ever since Kate Middleton married her Prince last year, couples everywhere have fantasized about having their own Royal Wedding. And while getting married in West Minster Abbey isn’t a very realistic option, getting married in a castle is a very viable one!

I recently had the privilege of visiting Highclere Castle just outside of London. Set in the gorgeous English countryside, this victorian castle has been home to the Carnarvon family since the early 1600’s. In fact, the Earl and Countess still live here and I had the great honor of sitting down for tea with Lady Carnarvon during my visit.

To visit Highclere is to step back in time.... which makes sense why the popular series Downton Abbey is filmed on location there. It was fascinating to hear Lady Carnarvon talk about how she, her husband, their four sons and three dogs call this 300 room castle home. Yes, it takes a small army (a staff of 100 ) to keep everything running, there are no showers in any of the 80 bathrooms and no TV, but somehow- this family gets on just fine.

As I sat in the drawing room, sipping my tea- I took in my surroundings. Ornately decorated with antiques and glorious oil paintings, the room also had quite a cozy feel to it. A mixture of old and new- the room was filled with photographs- old black & white pictures of the royal family mixed in with colorful snapshots of the Carnarvon’s today. 

The castle has become a wildly popular place to visit due to the popularity of the fictional, UK drama- “Downton Abbey”- set in the Edwardian period and depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V. 

The castle is open for tours, but is also available to rent out for weddings.

There are multiple options within the castle and it’s surrounding grounds to accommodate weddings from 10 to 400 people. They’ve done everything from a proper English Garden wedding for 300 people under a marquis in the garden to a more intimate affair in the library. And while there are no overnight accommodations for guests in the castle itself, there are multiple hotels just down the road.

So for all those ladies out there who want to have a real Cinderella experience on their Wedding Day- Runaway Bride can help you make this happen at Highclere Castle or any of the other beautiful castles throughout Europe!

2012... a symbolic year in the maya calendar

It has been said that once the dust of Mexico touches your soul, you will never be the same. This couldn’t be more true - especially in 2012. This is a very symbolic year in the Maya calendar, a year of renewals and new beginnings. To honor this historic event, couples seeking a truly spiritual experience should tie the knot amid this enchanting culture in some of Mexico’s most sacred places. It goes without saying that the scenery and locales will leave you mesmerized, but there is something to be said about saying “I do” in the shade of ancient Maya ruins or being married by a Shaman in a traditional Maya wedding ceremony.

Here are some tips for couples looking to add an exotic twist to their ceremony:

Traditional Maya Ceremony

To the Maya, a wedding ceremony is a rite of passage, a ritual of purification, connecting a couple’s spirituality with the natural world around them. The couple is surrounded by family and friends who form a circle of energy around them. Candlelight and the smoke of sacred copal incense, create a magical and mysterious atmosphere. Calling upon the four elements as witnesses, the Shaman calls forth: water, air, earth and fire. Ancestral instruments accompanied by traditional chants, replicate the sounds of the ocean, wind, birds and trees. A colored cloth placed on the couple unites them, symbolizing the start of their new life together.

Love Among the Ruins

Combining tradition, mystery and tranquility, the seaside Maya city of Tulum is a quiet place where the warm white sands and Caribbean breeze, lull you into a state of serenity. Here, the sacred ruins can be the backdrop on your special day or you can exchange vows at nearby mystical cenotes (underground sinkholes). The impressive temples of Cobá offer another magical setting for your not-so-traditional nuptials. Tulum is the only known archaeological site located by the sea and it is easily accessible from the popular Riviera Maya “corridor.” Boutique hotels, rustic beachfront cabanas and private rentals provide a great alternative for those seeking a more low key experience.

A Colonial Affair

Beautifully restored 18th century haciendas are the settings for weddings in Merida, located about three hours west of Cancun’s Riviera Maya. Home to some of the world’s most ancient archaeological sites such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, the Maya culture is very much alive in this corner of the Yucatan peninsula. This romantic, colonial city offers a fresh alternative to popular beach destinations, promising unique hideaways and world class accommodations. Couples can exchange their vows in elegant cathedrals or in quaint colonial chapels, followed by outdoor receptions set in lush garden settings and haciendas, evoking the grace and elegance of “old” Mexico.

Traditional Maya Healing Rituals

The practice of healing through pre-Hispanic indigenous rituals is still very much a part of the Maya culture today. These ceremonies have tremendous spiritual and healing power. Laying the groundwork for mind and spirit to become one, many couples incorporate these traditions into their experience. Through the years, Maya have employed different practices for healing - massage being one of them. Natural therapeutic clay is applied to couples during the popular Maya Clay massage, while ancient ritual chants ask the gods to give the newlyweds a long life of happiness. A Temazcal - indigenous sweat lodge - is another unforgettable group experience. The native people of Mexico have been practicing this purifying steam bath ritual for hundreds of years. Based on traditional healing methods that incorporate the properties of fire and water to purify mind, body and soul, this has been a popular treatment with honeymooners and couples the night before their wedding ceremony. 

This intruiging culture is begging to be explored....