Subscriber OnlyAbroad

Check out Raidd’s go-go boys, I said when five Irish women asked about Paris on Valentine’s Day

The dancers soap up hourly in the gay bar’s transparent shower cabin. But the city also has lots of more traditional things to do

February 14th has never been a big day in Paris, perhaps because the city already provides a perpetual backdrop for lovers, but over the past decade St Valentine has worked his way into many a Parisian’s heart. So this year my French husband and I decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style.

Our celebrations started early, on Saturday, with a retro ball at La Coupole, the Roaring Twenties art-deco brasserie. The theme of the event, organised by Mélina Sadi, aka the Bâronne de Paname, was the old Orient-Express route between London and Cairo. It featured tuxedoed dandies, starlets in ball gowns, Orient Express “waiters” in vintage jackets with gleaming epaulettes, the artistically tattooed, and knights of Arabia.

When the bâronne took a break, we chatted on the restaurant’s terrace. She said that she feels “‘le bal’ is definitely back!” – and like Willie Daly, the Lisdoonvarna matchmaker, she’s convinced love can easily ignite when eyes meet across a sizzling dance floor. Jelly Germain, a dancer, singer and choreographer who used to perform in Riverdance, battling Michael Flatley on stage in Dublin, also joined us for a chat. He’s a fixture of Parisian nightlife.

Tickets for the ball at La Coupole, and for the evening of scintillating elegance, cost only €20. If you desire an injection of Parisian exoticism outside of St Valentine’s Day, keep an eye on the bâronne’s Facebook page.


On Sunday we visited the Museum of Romantic Life, between Montmartre and Pigalle, which focuses on authors such as the French novelist George Sand, one of the most successful writers of the romantic period. Born Armandine Dupin, in 1804, she was also famous for her love letters.

After visiting the museum, we had tea and mouthwatering pastries at the Rose Bakery housed in the museum’s garden.

Last year we treated ourselves to dinner at Lapérouse. The restaurant is in an 18th-century town house on Quai des Grands Augustins, near St Michel. The suave maître d’hôtel escorted us up a winding staircase to La Belle Otero, a private salon overlooking the Seine. We were seated at a round table set for two. A strangely scratched ornate mirror, on which courtesans verified the authenticity of lovers’ freshly offered diamonds, hung in a red-velvet love seat.

Apparently, Sand and Victor Hugo ate in the same restaurant; the salon we’d booked was a favourite of Carolina Otero, a singer and belle-epoque courtesan. The maitre d’hotel explained that, abandoned at 12, she lived on her charms and wit. She became a diva in the United States before arriving in Paris to star at the Folies Bérgere.

Emily Cooper, better known as Emily in Paris, has also dined at Lapérouse. The Netflix show is frequently bashed by Parisians and by American expats who are so sophisticated and toned down they’d make Coco Chanel look bling-bling. Like “La Belle Otero” and myself, however, those Emily-allergic Americans will always be foreigners on Paris’s cobblestone pavements.

As we couldn’t afford to get too merry in Lapérouse, we continued to the Pub Saint Germain, which was Paris’s first Anglo-Saxon bar when it originally opened, on the left bank, in 1968. Valentine’s evening was in full swing when we arrived, with lovers flirting across rose-strewn brasserie tables. Our ears were drawn to a group of five boisterous Irish women. Of course we got chatting. They asked where they should go afterwards. I suggested the gay Le Raidd bar, in the Marais, where, on the hour, gorgeous go-go boys soap up in a transparent shower cabin.

Early next morning, as I took off my make-up, a text pinged in from one of them: “Thanks for the suggestion!”

I hummed Prince’s Girls & Boys while considering that romantic Paris is a poignant backdrop in a metropolis where her soul mate, erotic Paris, is ever in the foreground.

Patricia Killeen is from Phibsborough in Dublin. She left Ireland in 1992 to travel the world. She now lives in Saint Ouen, on the outskirts of Paris. She hosts Turning Points for World Radio Paris

If you live overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email with a little information about you and what you do