Move over Paris! Small town aims to be France’s new City of Love

The small northern town of Lens wants the French capital to stop having a monopoly on romance.

Move over Paris! Small town aims to be France's new City of Love
Photo: leniners/Flickr

Lens, a town in the far north of France with a population of roughly 31,000, is fighting for its right to also be known as a “Ville de l’Amour”. 

Authorities in this town in the Pas-de-Calais department plan to launch a tech and love-themed treasure hunt that will draw in tourists with a craving for romantic stories.

As part of an exhibition titled “Love” at Len’s very own Louvre museum (which generally borrows collections from its big brother in Paris), the town’s tourism office will launch a geocaching love trail based on the exact information sent in by couples who found love in the town’s cafés and streets.

Lens. Photo: Guillaume Baviere/Flickr

For those who haven’t heard of geocaching before, it’s an outdoor recreational activity in which players use a GPS receiver or their mobiles to seek out “geocaches” on a map using clues.

“We all agreed that this love-themed geocaching campaign would be a fun and moving way for visitors to get to discover Lens,” Florence Houvenaghel, of Lens’s tourism office, told French daily Le Parisien.

“We’ve already collected stories of first kisses exchanged at the Bollaert stadium for example, but these stories can also be located in places that are now missing, such as cafes or dance halls, or even mining pits!

“But we’re also looking for entries for say parks where couples had their wedding photos taken.

“We’ve had a flurry of stories being sent in, from people of all ages.”

Lovebirds who fell for each other in Lens and or the 36 community-strong district it forms part of (Lens-Liévin) have until September 16th to submit their stories of enamourment to [email protected]

The geocaching love trail will begin on September 28th and run as an ongoing campaign until, perhaps, the love for it runs out.

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Expat group hopes to ‘change dating’ in France

Disillusioned by modern dating games, a group of single expat women in Paris have started a new support group to change the rules of modern courtship and put the fun back into dating.

Expat group hopes to 'change dating' in France
Are you single? Time to throw out the rule book, according to the founder of a dating meet-up group. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

For a collective of lady expats, modern life has sucked the fun out of dating.

They've had enough of rigid rules that govern everything from the length of a first phone call with Mr. Maybe Right to how long to wait around for him and are seeking to help others create a new model in Paris.

“The main thing, as far as I’m concerned, is to take the shame out of being single. There seems to be a sense that there’s something wrong with being single or that you are behind in some way,” founder and American expat Johanna Steinhaus, 33, told The Local. “This is a very dangerous mindset to have when you’re trying to meet someone.”

The group she subsequently founded is called: ‘Who says there’s anything wrong with being single (maybe I want to change)’. Its chief aim, she says, is to provide practical guidance to single people by encouraging them to change their approach towards dating.

The group plans to meet at least once a month at a central location in Paris where they will discuss ways to improve self-confidence and show members how to make the dating process more fun.

One of the chief problems as she sees it are the petty rules that characterize the modern approach to dating, perpetuated by bestsellers such as Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider’s ‘The Rules – Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right’.

“One rule that seems to be very widespread is that if a man doesn’t call you within three days of meeting you, then he’s not interested and you should ignore him. Another is that your first phone call should not be longer than ten minutes,” she says.

But the idea of religiously following these type of rules, she adds, is very much an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon – and simply ridiculous to the French.

“Once, after an English class, I showed some of my students The Rules. Both the male and female students were astounded that this book even existed.”

When it comes to meeting someone, too many women are happy to meet and chat with people on the internet, but seldom take it further because most men fail to measure up to an impossible checklist.

“We need to stop seeing people through so many lenses. Instead, we should just show up and meet the person, find out who he really is and forget about having a list of characteristics that we seek in men.”

Of course, there is the added obstacle for expats of being outsiders in a large city.

“In big cities, people tend to be more closed-off and defensive, and less likely to smile at strangers. Often, for expats, it’s difficult to enter circles of local people,” she acknowledges.

No one knows this better than Steinhaus herself. When she moved to Paris almost six years ago to work as an English teaching assistant, she didn’t know a soul and had a limited knowledge of the language. But she soon found ways of meeting people.

On one occasion, she was asked out by a ticket collector on a train, after pretending she couldn’t speak any French at all in order to avoid a fine for an unstamped ticket.

“I am sure similar scenarios happen in the US, but they weren't happening to me in the US,” she says.

When French people and expats start dating, she said, the cultural differences can be exciting and help to fuel a relationship.

“Initially, the accents, cultural differences, quirks, and differing habits can fuel a relationship.

“The mystery and the exoticism can be intoxicating and really fun. However, as time goes on, those same quirks and differences can become tiresome, and both sides can begin to lose interest.”

Having said that, however, she feels expats should be open to dating any nationality.

To find out more about the group go to the group’s website or meet-up group here.