March 24, 2009

Love on Location

Budapest to Vienna

In Richard Linklater's 1995 talk-fest Before Sunrise, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train from Budapest to Vienna and embark on a daylong love affair. They squeeze a lot of romance into just a few hours, and you can too.

The most romantic train ride between the two cities is aboard the Orient Express; unfortunately it doesn't allow much stop-over time in Vienna (where Jesse and Celine spent an alluring day) before continuing on to Paris. But there are several other trains that make the same three-and-a half-hour trip, and they're all romantic. The gentle rocking of the car, the landscape speeding by — it's hard to resist.

Once you're in Vienna, stroll over the Zollamtssteg bridge and through Franziskanerplatz, one of the most beautiful squares in the city, and wind up in the tiny Friedhof der Namenlosen ("Cemetery of the Nameless"), just like they did in the movie. The great part about your journey is that it doesn't have to end by morning — you can sleep (or, something) the day away in a sexy circular bed overlooking the Danube at the Arcotel Kaiserwasser.

Arcotel Kaiserwasser: Wagramer Strasse 8;+43-(0)1-224-24-0

Gruissan-Plage and Paris

Betty Blue opens in the small fishing town of Gruissan-Plage in the south of France, where the lonely Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) spends his days painting bungalows — until the ravishing and wildly unpredictable Betty (Béatrice Dalle) arrives and turns his world upside down.

You can get to Gruissan-Plage, about an hour from Perpignan and not far from the Spanish border, by flying into the Montpellier airport. Rent a room or a private bungalow a stone's throw from the beach and play out one of the hottest sex scenes captured on film. The next morning, go look at the pink flamingos that populate the salt-water lakes in the area.

When you're done frolicking in the sun, rent a (yellow, if you want to reenact the movie literally) car and hightail it to Paris. There, check into what the Times of London has declared "one of the world's sexiest hotel rooms" at the Murano Urban Resort. No, Zorg and Betty couldn't afford it, but believe me, you want your journey to end differently than theirs did anyway.

Murano Urban Resort: 13 Boulevard du Temple; +33-(0)1-42-71-20-00


"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," Bogie's Rick lamented in Casablanca, arguably the most romantic movie ever made. Unfortunately, the modern-day Moroccan city of Casablanca is littered with high-rises, hookers, and hardly anyplace that Rick could've set up shop.

Maryam Montague, an American writer and style maven who moved to Morocco seven years ago with her family, recommends basing your visit in Fez or Marrakech instead, which "still have much of the Casablanca flavor. Walking through the medina, you feel like you've stepped back in time. Men and women in long hooded robes, souk sellers hawking their wares, and the smells of cumin, saffron and thyme wafting about — it's magic!"

To up the romance quotient even higher, Montague recommends visiting Chefchaouen, a small town tucked away in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. "The entire town is painted in trance-inducing shades of lavender and pale blue," she says. "We love to explore the labyrinth-like streets hand-in-hand and then idle the afternoon away in the city square, sharing pots of hot mint tea. The light is dreamy."

If you start your journey in Marrakech, you can stay at the luxurious Riad Farnatchi hotel, or shack up with the Montague family at their recently opened boutique hotel, Peacock Pavillions. When you head up to Chefchaouen, you'll find a raft of pensions and small hotels, each more charming than the next.

Riad Farnatchi: Derb el Farnatchi, Rue Souk el Fassis, Qua'at Ben Ahid, Marrakech Medina; +212-(0)24-38-49-10 or +212-(0)24-38-49-12
Peacock Pavillions: Kilometer 13, Route de Ourzazate, Marrakech;; no phone

Montmartre, Paris

Let's face it, Paris is the most romantic city on the Earth and Amelie is possibly the most charming movie ever committed to film, so planning a weekend around the two is a guaranteed lovefest.

Cafe des deux Moulins in the Montmartre section of Paris, where Amélie was a waitress, is an essential destination. Stop in and sip a glass of Côtes du Rhône paired with some pigs' brains or calves livers — or, maybe just the wine. Since the movie's success, Montmartre has become wildly popular with Amélie fetishists, and walking around here, it's easy to see why. Enchanting old architecture, cozy "zinc cafes" filled with locals, and pleasantly wending alleyways abound. On one corner you might see a windmill you recognize from a Renoir painting, on another, statues of obscure saints. Whatever your religious persuasion, be sure not to miss the astonishingly beautiful Sacre-Coeur Basilica.

Before you head back to your sumptuous room at the Hotel Particulier Montmartre, make a field trip to the Chantal Thomass boutique for some exquisite lingerie. Then pop over to the world-famous fashionista headquarters, Colette, for a "sex candle" to help set the mood.

Café des deux Moulins: 15 Rue Lepic, 18e; +33-(0)1-42-54-90-50
Sacré-Coeur Basilica: Place du Parvis-du-Sacré-Coeur, 18e; +33-(0)1-53-41-89-00
Hôtel Particulier Montmartre: 23 Avenue Junot, 18e; +33-(0)1-53-41-81-40
Chantal Thomass: 211 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1e; +33-(0)1-53-70-27-27
Colette: 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1e; +33-(0)1-55-35-33-90

Call me cheesy but I've done the Amelie one and I want to follow the rest!

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2 comments: said...

what a seriously sweet post. sigh.

AJ said...

Ah. You're as cheesy as me :P