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Paris... Oui!

by Bernardo van Eekhout in Travel and weekendtrips , 14 september 2011


The impressive metropolis Paris is a non-stop international tourist magnet and judging by the enormous amount of gay nightlife establishments it’s obvious Paris has outstripped Amsterdam as a Gay Capital. Bienvenu à Paris, with a flourishing gay scene for the lovers of “La vie en rose...”

Outdoor tables and Parisians are connected like Siamese twins and looking at the bustle, during the week as well as in the weekend, one wonders whether the crisis has hit here at all. When things get a little too busy some gay bars screen off their outside area with red ropes.


Often these places have extended happy hours that last for three to four hours. A marked difference from what’s custom in Amsterdam. Especially the old Jewish quarter Le Marais is buzzing with gays. Le Marais is the French equivalent of the Spanish Chueca and has most of the over 300 gay nightlife spots. This area on the “rive gauche” (left bank) of the river Seine is one of the most trendy of Paris. This is where their annual gay pride takes place (March des Fiertes LGBT) pulling over 500,000 people.


Be entertained by many drag queens proudly roaming the streets, or a spontaneous performance of a French gay choir. There are plenty of gay restaurants but these not necessarily offer better quality food than regular places. Although the ambiance is more familiar, too gay can be a bit suffocating. An obvious gay hotspot is café OPEN, with a mix of men in suits, bears, beefy muscles and trendy Parisians.

The recently added bars SPICE and RAIDD are the busiest at the moment. Understandable because the bar personnel walks around half naked and the go-go-boys dance to ear-busting music.

Aquatique

The athletic French gays attend training sessions of the Paris Aquatique swimming club, which was founded in 1990, the French equivalent of Gay Swim Amsterdam. Everyone over the age of eighteen can join the club, which is one of the largest gay swimming clubs of the world with over 250 active members. On top of swimming sessions in eight different pools in Paris, club Paris Aquatique also offers competition diving and synchronized swimming.

Since 1994 this club organizes its own “Trophée Paris Aquatique” competition, which also welcomes international competitors. By taking part in all sorts of national and international competitions these French swimmers want to contribute to the visibility and therefore emancipation of homosexuality. Other sports, like basketball, rugby or squash have their own event in Paris: “Le Tournoi International de Paris.”



For this event gay sportsmen and women flock to Paris from over twenty different countries to compete and by doing so promote tolerance towards homosexuality in the sports world and make a statement against discrimination. This is one of the largest gay sporting events in Europe. For more information check www.paris.tournament.org.

Le Culture

To escape the hustle and bustle of the city the Jardins des Tuileries are great. These gardens stretch from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde and belong to the former royal palace (Palais de Tuileries). There are seats everywhere that can be arranged around the many fountains just the way you want it, so you can get rid of the stress of the city. The monumental Grand Palais is close by. Built for the World Expo Fair of 1900, it is now used for exhibitions and shows of for example Chanel.


This fall there will be a big show in the Grand Palais of three world famous painters: Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse. In the center of Montmartre the masterly Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí has (as the only artist in France)
his own permanent exhibition: Espace Dalí.

Over 300 drawings, etches and sculptures paint an impression of the fantastic rich mind of Dalí. With the world famous red mouth sofa and the dripping watches. If you don’t want to do everything by foot, Paris has its great city bike system: Velib.


Although it still is very much a car dominated city, the municipality has created a lot of bicycle tracks recently and there are Velib parking stations in a lot of places, where you can rent a bike for very little money. It’s an ideal system to check out the city’s most beautiful spots per bike. As fashion city Paris was always Yves Saint Laurent’s hometown. His heritage is professionally protected and managed by his ex-partner Pierre Bergé (who’s also owner of the fabulous French gay magazine “Tetu”).

For this specific cause the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent was created, situated at the former haute couture workshop at the Avenue Marceau. It presents changing exhibitions devoted to the Maestro Y.S.L. in order to keep his spirit alive. The current show “La Révolution de la Mode,” with sixty pieces, doesn’t contain Y.S.L. best creations. Dommage!




Le Shopping

How to create a hype? Make customers wait in a very visible (and organized) queue on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées numéro 23 before you let them into an American clothing store. That’s how they make all passers by feel they just have to enter the new shop of Abercrombie & Fitch.


Their first shop in France opened its doors on the 19th of May. Right at the doorstep they show just how gay-minded the brand is by letting a topless guy welcome you and offer to be photographed with you. Inside the fresco-like drawings of half naked boys playing sports confirm the impression that Abercrombie & Fitch’ customers are mainly shopping crazed gays.

The shops look basically the same all over the world: dark spaces with carefully aimed spotlights on the clothing. The clothing is not very special at all.

All staff is clearly selected on the basis of their looks and they’re all dressed in the same uniform; they’re dancing enthusiastically to the pounding music in the shop. Because shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch should first and foremost be a fun experience. Every detail is carefully managed: so all clothes are sprayed with “Fierce” perfume and there are people constantly polishing the black floor and refolding all items carefully. No matter how immaculate the concept, the Parisian price tags are rather startling for a label known for its affordability in the States.

In October 2009 another foreign chain opened a 2150 square meter flagship store in Paris: UNIQLO. This is the second store of the Japanese H&M, specialized in casual wear. Just like H&M UNIQLO has contracted a celebrity designer to design their (very affordable) collection: Jil Sander has a contract with them until 2013. “It’s a very natural bond we have.

UNIQLO has the production and distribution capacity and a worldwide network of stores. I have my experience and my ethics,” says Jil Sander. My personal UNIQLO favorites were on the knitwear department with nice timeless sweaters and cardigans of great quality for that price, as well as the extended T-shirt department, where Mickey Mouse prints dominated the collection this season.





UNIQLO organizes the annual “UT Grand Prix” competition, in which the best prints from all over the world are selected and taken into production.

For the (gay) man who wants to buy all his cosmetics and clothing in one shop there’s BHV Homme, a mini department store of four floors. This fashion temple houses all the quality fashion labels of French and international designers. Every floor has its own theme, like sportswear, jeans, suits, etc.

The choice is excellent and a lot less hectic than the Printemps or Galeries Lafayette. Situated centrally in the heart of Le Marais it’s very convenient for gays wanting to spend their “pink euro” avec plaisir.




 







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