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Start things off right at a luxe hotel like Le Bristol. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

How to Elope to Paris

Last month, after ten years of dating, my longtime beau, Andy, and I eloped. When we were figuring out our game plan, we thought it would be romantic to get married in the City of Light, but we discovered that if you want to get married in Paris as a foreigner, at least one of you has to live there for several weeks. So we decided to get hitched at City Hall in Manhattan and then escape to Paris for a getaway.

I’m not a huge fan of the concept of a honeymoon; there’s just so much pressure to make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Andy and I are lucky to have jobs that allow us to travel, but we were feeling over-scheduled and looking for a direct, easy flight. And what could be better than Paris in the fall?

Spending ten days in the Parisian capital breathed new life into both of us. I was syrupy and mushy, words that don’t normally apply to me.

I daresay it felt like a honeymoon.

Here are my tips for a no-pressure, all-passion trip to celebrate taking the next step with your significant other:

1. Start with a great hotel. I wanted to begin on a high note by spending our first two nights in a hotel that was romantic without being over the top or stiff. The Le Bristol fits this description to a key (it also provided the setting for one of my favorite movies, Midnight in Paris). This family-owned property, located off swanky rue Saint-Honoré on the Right Bank, is lovely in every way. The whoosh of the revolving door transports you to a realm of Old World elegance — heavy keys, beautiful china, fresh flowers, and kind people eager to indulge your every whim — yet the hotel has a modern edge with its buzzing but tucked-away bar, serene central garden, and impressive dining options. If you don’t end up staying at Le Bristol, stop by for their le pain perdu (French toast) one morning.

2. Then rent an apartment. We reluctantly left the dreamy world of Le Bristol and rented an apartment for that living-like-a-local feeling. With so many rental agencies to choose from, I took the recommendation of my aunt, who raved about Paris Perfect. She was right. Steps from the River Seine, our gorgeous flat opened up to the sights and sounds of the Left Bank. We were also just minutes from favorite cafes like Café de Flore and La Palette.

3. Leave the work to someone else sometimes. Many of our most memorable moments took place on the two tours we booked with Context Travel. Our guides were not only knowledgeable, they made us appreciate Paris even more, making the city — and its impressive, but overwhelming, history — come to life in an accessible, fun way. On the City Invented tour, we learned how Baron Haussmann tore down much of medieval Paris to build the grand boulevards we know today, and on the Louvre Crash Course tour, we saw the Gallery of Apollo and the “The Coronation of Napoleon” in a whole new light. It was a treat to relax and let someone else take the reins — and each three-hour tour left us wanting more.

4. Leave town for a day. Nothing says romantic getaway like seeing World War II sites, right? Well, we both had long wanted to see the D-Day beaches, but craved deep understanding of the history. We booked Context’s D-Day day trip, took the train, and met our phenomenal guide, Alexander Wilson, whose personal connection to the site of the Normandy invasion — his father had landed there on June 7, 1944 — enriched the day even more.

5. Be prepared to switch gears. In a city like Paris, Plan A can go awry quickly. I had envisioned shopping for lunch at one of the city’s fabulous street markets and lolling around in Luxembourg Gardens on Sunday morning, but we accidentally slept in, missed the markets, and, to make matters worse, the weather was dreary and humid — not exactly the best scenario for a picnic. Andy was doing his best to make me laugh, which only made me crankier. We decided to go to the Musee d’Orsay for the afternoon, where we wouldn’t have to really talk and could lose ourselves in the world of the Impressionists. Switching gears turned the day completely around, ending with a long walk to the Eiffel Tower and a perfect meal at Café de Flore.

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The Tuileries Garden became a public park after the French Revolution. (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

6. Let yourself eat cake — or baguettes and croissants. They do taste better in Paris, and you’ll see locals chowing down on both everywhere you go. Pick up a warm baguette from Maison la Kayser, a hunk of aged Comté at Laurent Dubois, and park yourselves on a bench in the Tuileries. These are the kinds of moments that can only happen in Paris.

Annie Fitzsimmons is National Geographic Travel’s Urban Insider. Follow her adventures on Intelligent Travel, on Twitter @anniefitz, and on Instagram @anniefitzsimmons.