Gay Travel to PARIS France
A gay tourist in Paris
Last time I checked, Paris is the most visited city by tourists every year in the world. I cannot tell you a lot of new things about the romance of the river, the imperial buildings, the ancient streets, the traditional monuments, the countless museums or the vibe that has inspired artists for centuries. What I can tell you is how a gay tourist can make the most out of it. Of course any tourist with a little self respect must visit the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Opera, Champs Élysées, the Seine and the Arc of Triumph (which might take at least two very organized and tiring days). And there will always be plenty of other things to do: Le Sacré-Cœur, L’Orangerie, Le Musee d’Orsay, walking tours, bus tours, night tours and Versailles (which is a bit away from the city, so don’t forget to check times and dates in advance, and block almost a whole day). Let’s start with some basics:
First of all, I beg you: regarding food, stay away from all international fast food chains (you may also apply this at home). This is one of the most exquisite cuisines in the world, with centuries of tradition. I’m not saying that you should invest thousands of euros every night in an extravagant confit du canard and pâté with champagne. I’m just suggesting to stay away from McDo and Starbucks (which are always packed with tourists anyway). A street crepe or a quick visit to one of the thousands of patisseries in Paris can fill you with delicious, cheap and local food. If you visit a café, make sure to sit outside if the weather is nice, and facing the street (some waiters even ask you not to move the chairs). Order “un café”, and enjoy the espresso just like locals do.
NEVER call your waiter with “garçon”, it’s rude and they hate it.
Regarding French wine, there are as well thousands of liquor stores in which you can get a nice bottle at any price range imaginable. Finally, you may constantly notice that Parisians carry with them little mint colored carton bags, which belong to the famous macaron house of Ladurée. You do not want to miss getting a mixed box, so, I STRONGLY recommend to get a reservation at the Champs Élysées store (in order to avoid waiting for hours), or visit any other store in the city.
As for Parisians, I believe you might get a very nice surprise.
Locals have a global fame of being rude and arrogant (especially with tourists), but the times I’ve beet to Paris I’ve only encountered nice, or at least polite people. Never have I been insulted or discriminated. Even when locals see me struggling with a primitive French, they switch to English if they can in order to help tourists in need. Let them kiss you twice when they meet you in order to avoid awkward situations (they’ll know when it’s appropriate). And, obviously, Parisians are a great mix of European, Middle Eastern and African races, which has resulted in very attractive mix for every taste. So, now you have every reason to talk to someone at a bar.
Le Marais, the gay district,
has offered us everything par excellence since the 80s. This historic and trendy (even aristocratic) district is the place to be if you want to feel among our people. It’s central enough to get there comfortably, but far enough from the chaos of the main attractions. Between the third and the fourth districts, you can get there with the yellow, brown or pink line. As one of one of the gay capitals of the continent, it is commercial, leisurely and edgy. It is allegedly the only official gay neighborhood in France, so, it has obviously attracted gay people from the whole country as permanent residents. If you’re hungry, Le Gai Moulin is a cozy and unpretentious restaurant, and Legay Choc is a delicious and kinky patisserie. For a good night sleep (yeah right…), the boutique hotel Caron de Beaumarchais is a beautiful 18th century mansion that will make you feel like Marie Antoinette. And for serious partying, Raidd, Velvet and Le Dépôt (one of the largest cruising bar in Europe) are guaranteed fun, and maybe even a few phone numbers.
Let us finish with a guilty pleasure: fashion. Needless to say this is one of the major fashion capitals in the world, so you may want to be careful not to commit a crime. If you go during winter, try to wear the most elegant and simple black coat you can get. Walking down Les Champs is like a glamorous runway of dark shadows. Since fashion changes, I enjoy going a bit neutral and stylish (casual chic, not haute couture). Trench coats, blazers and long scarves are nice and safe options. Pay attention to the trends on the streets and the subway. Study the looks you like, see if they are common, and then try to imitate it or, even better, go shopping for that look. Unless you are a world famous hip-hop star, don’t do tacky clichés by wrapping yourself in Chanel or Vuitton (locals enjoy the later in particular), especially if it’s fake. And for parfums and colognes, avoid the top 10 sellers or the iconic ones like Chanel No. 5 or Abercrombie if you don’t want to smell like half the city (or the world). Try to identify the smells you already like (musk, wood, oils, flowers and fruits), or certain perfumes for that matter, in order to get something different and authentic, and get help from a shop assistant (that’s what they’re for). At Galleries Lafayette or Bon Marché you’ll be able to find the scent of your dreams.
A few last minute advices for the City of Lights: you might want to get the Paris Pass (parispass.com) in order to save money and spare lines, as well as a travel card for the metro if you are staying for a few days. If you are interested on a performance at the Moulin Rouge or the Opera, book in advance. And please do not bring back any Eiffel Tower keychains for your family and friends, I have at least four, none of which I bought. Bring back cheese, wine, macarons, Maxim’s chocolates or nice designer accessories.