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DATING

Single in Paris? Here’s where to avoid over Valentine’s Day weekend

With romantic couples set to flood into Paris for Valentine's Day over the coming days, there are certain parts of the city that singles should avoid.

Single in Paris? Here's where to avoid over Valentine's Day weekend
There's likely to be a lot of this near the Eiffel Tower this weekend, don't say we didn't warn you. Photo: AFP

With the festival of lovers (or the festival of an obscure priest murdered during Roman times, depending on which way you look at it) falling on a Friday this year, the weekend is set to be couples central in Paris, the official city of love.

But what about if you're here as a single? Nothing to worry about, we've put together the survival guide for all the places to avoid to escape all that cloying romance and togetherness.

Avoid the heights

When people are feeling romantic they love nothing more than spending a little time sitting hand in hand stroking each other’s hair, while admiring a stunning view.

And Paris, with its combination of chimney-covered Haussmannian apartments and famous historical monuments, has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world.

But single folk should avoid all the high places, especially the Eiffel Tower. There might as well be a sign up that reads “Couples Only”. If you go to the top floor, the chances are high that you'll trip over some guy who's travelled from Beijing, Brighton or Berlin to get down on one knee atop the Iron Lady.

Other places to avoid include the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the top of Montparnasse Tower and the steps of the Sacré Coeur. One place you could safely head to is the top of Belleville Park. It’s pretty ugly up there, but the view is splendid and it might just be free of people smooching. Having said that, this is Paris – where people kiss on the Metro.

Avoid the bridges

The Pont des Arts, which is no longer covered in padlocks

Normally a city’s bridges would not necessarily represent the most romantic spots to declare your love for someone, but that’s not the case in Paris.

Some of the city’s bridges have become a magnet for lovers from all around the world, who come armed with a padlock to attach to the weary railings, before they throw the key into the Seine river below – even though it's strictly illegal.

Since they've been removed from the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l'Archevêché, this “metal graffiti” is turning up on the bridges over the Canal St Martin and it probably won’t be long before we see them attached to shopping trolleys at the Monoprix supermarkets.

So if you are single and don’t like padlocks don’t go anywhere near a bridge. 

Avoid the water

Single folk need to avoid the temptation to get on a cruise along the river Seine at all costs. The Bateaux Mouches often turn into love boats transporting the world’s most amorous couples up and down the river, while they feed champagne-soaked strawberries to each other.

If you really feel the need to get on a boat, then try the hop-on, hop-off Batobus. There’s no coupled seating and there’s only a vending machine that sells crisps and soft drinks.

Avoid the restaurants

If you are planning on treating yourself to a meal in Paris, it might be a good idea to stay in or go to burger chain Quick and get some toast.

The atmosphere in restaurants in Paris feels a bit like Valentine’s Day all year round, so imagine how uncomfortable and sickening they will feel for singles on February 14th, with the influx of couples from all over the world.

Unless you want to overhear proposal after proposal, or the incessant sound of lips meeting lips, then try to avoid some of the city’s more romantic neighbourhoods such as Saint-Germain des Prés in the sixth arrondissement, where you are very likely to be surrounded by couples having a candlelit dinner while being serenaded by a violinist.

And lastly… Avoid Montmartre

It’s arguably the most beautiful neighbourhood in Paris, which is why you should maybe think twice about going. With its cosy “village” atmosphere, and its beret-wearing painters, it will be overrun by couples looking for the heart of romantic Paris. For any singleton passing through the area, it could rapidly turn into a nightmare.

And if you end up next to the famous “Mur de je t’aime” (I love you wall) on Place des Abesses where couples gather to scrawl “I love You” on the wall and take “smoochies” (selfies with kissing involved), you better beware – it might just spark a panic attack at best and at worst a full-blown mid-life crisis.

The best tip to escape the lovebirds is probably to get as far away from Paris as you can. The slagheaps on the old coal fields of northern France are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remember, and can be reached on a day trip from Paris.

Or there's always Père Lachaise cemetery where you can cheer yourself up with the knowledge that we'll all be dead soon anyway.

by Priscillia Charles/Ben McPartland

HEALTH

IN PICTURES: 7 of the French government’s sexiest public health adverts

An advertising campaign aimed at convincing young people to get the Covid vaccine has attracted international attention, but it’s not the first time that French authorities have sexed up their public health messaging.

IN PICTURES: 7 of the French government's sexiest public health adverts
Image: AIDES.

It’s an international cliché that France is the land of l’amour – or at least the land of le sexe – and that reputation does seem to be justified, given how often French public health bodies have turned to sex in an attempt to get their message across.

From the suggestive to the downright scandalous, here are seven examples of health campaigns which relied on that oh so French fondness for romance.

Get vaccinated, get laid

The Covid campaign in question was created by regional health authorities in the southern Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur region.

The poster which has got people hot under the collar features two very attractive and very French-looking people kissing, seemingly in the back of a cab after a night on the town. “Yes, the vaccine can have desirable effects,” it says.

The campaign has proved so popular that it will soon be expanded.

Promoting road safety

Earlier this year, the French Road Safety Delegation released a video ahead of Valentine’s Day, which showed a couple sharing an intimate moment in the bedroom.

The full 30-second video featured the slogan, “Life is better than one last drink for the road”.

Another image of two people kissing, seemingly without clothes, included the line, “Life, love. On the road, don’t forget what truly matters.”

Fight against HIV/AIDS

While the link between road safety and sex isn’t immediately obvious, less surprising are the references to intimacy in the health ministry’s HIV awareness campaign from 2016.

Each of the different posters shows two men embracing. Straplines include, “With a lover, with a friend, with a stranger. Situations vary, and so do the protective measures.”

The posters shocked conservative sensibilities, and several right-wing mayors asked for them to be taken down in their towns. 

HIV awareness campaign

Just a few days after the controversy over the ministry’s posters ignited, the non-profit AIDES launched its own campaign, and it didn’t hold back.

The posters showed scuba instructors, piano teachers and parachutists, all of them naked alongside their students. The slogan: “People undergoing treatment for HIV have a lot of things to pass onto us. But the AIDS virus isn’t one.”

“Even if we’ve been spreading this information since 2008, we realise that a lot of people don’t know that antiviral treatments prevent spreading,” head of AIDES Aurélien Beaucamp told France Info.

“People are still afraid of those who are HIV-positive.” 

Government-mandated pornography

It’s common for sexualised advertising campaigns to be labelled pornographic by critics, but in 1998, the French government went a step further and created actual pornography.

READ ALSO Language of love – 15 of the best romantic French phrases

The health ministry commissioned TV station Canal Plus to create five short erotic films to encourage the use of condoms and prevent the spread of HIV. The campaign featured up-and-coming directors such as Cedric Klapisch and Gaspar Noé.

“The only possible way to look at, to get people to protect themselves, is to show, show everything, show simply and without creating an obsession of the sexual act and the act of wearing a condom,” Klapisch said, according to an Associated Press story published at the time. 

You didn’t really think we’d include images of this one, did you? (OK, here’s a link for those who are curious).

A controversial anti-smoking campaign

https://twitter.com/MarketainmentSE/status/212863393143586817

It’s time to forget what we said about romance, because there is nothing romantic about this 2010 campaign from the Droits des Non-Fumeurs (Non-smokers’ rights) association and the BDDP & Fils communications agency.

The campaign featured several images of young people with a cigarette in their mouths, looking up at an adult man who rested his hand on their heads. The cigarette appeared to be coming out of the man’s trousers.

The slogan said, “Smoking means being a slave to tobacco”. The association said the sexual imagery was meant to get the attention of young people who were desensitised to traditional anti-smoking messages, but the posters caused outrage, with members of the government publicly criticising the choice of imagery.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ love

On the other end of the spectrum is this very romantic video from the national health agency Santé Publique France. It was released on May 17th 2021, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and was part of a campaign against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. It is set to Jean-Claude Pascal’s Nous les amoureux

Showing a diverse range of couples kissing, holding hands, and healing each other’s wounds, the video ends on the word play: “In the face of intolerance, it’s up to us to make the difference.”

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