Monthly Archives: October 2011

My Gay Paris: Halloween in Paris? Why not…

Halloween in Paris? You might not think directly of Halloween when thinking about France. Indeed, Halloween was virtually absent of France until the late 1990’s, when it began to be introduced by some firms for their ad campaigns. In the beginning of the century, Halloween fever was all around France, and even though it has now stabilized to become somewhat normal, it is now part of the celebrations for young people who like to disguise them up and to eat candy. And since November 1st is a holiday (All Saints), it is frequent for young people to celebrate Halloween the night before, or at least, their own vision of Halloween. And apparently, Halloween has celtic roots, and so does France, so celebrating Halloween in France would only be a tribute to a very, very old tradition. Many clubs organize a special Halloween party.

Halloween in Paris could also be a good excuse to visit churches and cemeteries. We already talked about the Père-Lachaise , but there are other noteworthy cemeteries such as the cemetery of Montmartre, where Dalida, François Truffaut and… Cadinot are buried, or the cemetry of Montparnasse which you could go to after a visit to the Montparnasse brasseries. If you feel spiritual, visit the famous Sainte-Chapelle with its astounding stained glass windows, or the wonderful church Saint-Etienne du Mont, in the Quartier Latin, just right next to the Panthéon at the top of the Sainte-Geneviève Hill.

My Gay Paris: November in Paris, a good choice

November in Paris? This might sound like an ackward proposition. Yes, you may want to see the gay Paris in the spring or the summer. But what about escaping the tourists’ crowds and have Paris all for yourself? It is said that the weather of Paris in November is not great. But in fact, November in Paris might be sunny and not so cold. The light is beautiful as the sun disappears, at around 5 or 6 pm.

And accommodation is cheaper than in the midst of Chrismas holidays. It will be almost like Christmas: by November the 15th, the shops will already have everything ready for the customers to begin their Christmas shopping. So there will be a small Christmas feel, without the Christmas frenzy which you might fight difficult to endure. Christmas lights will be there. And even if it’s raining, if you’re the type that enjoys museums, art fairs, art galleries or revival theatres, then November could be a good choice. It might also be easier to have contact with locals if you feel like chatting. It would definetely be better than August when Paris’ population is mostly composed of fellow tourists. In November, everyone is right there, fully in motion, earning money to pay for Christmas gifts, and you could be part of this activity by bringing your foreign touch to the busy Parisians.

In Paris, november is also associated with photography. Why? Because it is the “Mois de la photo” (month of photography). This has an official photography fair, ‘Paris photo‘, which will be held at the magnificent Grand Palais for 3 days, from Nov. 10th to Nov. the 13th. Paris photo will host 117 galleries from 23 countries, presenting the best of old and contemporary photography. Africa is, this year, a special guest.

Did you know that Paris has more cinema screens than any other city in the world, including NYC and LA? Paris’ revival theatres are incredible if you like old movies. They are mostly located in Paris’ Quartier Latin, on the left bank (5th and 6th arrondissements). Just buy Pariscope on a Wenesday and you will have a whole week of movies standing before you. The Cinémathèque Française also has an incredible list of movies. They currently have a exhibition about the Fritz Lang film ‘Metropolis’. They have a programme of sci-fi movies featuring futuristic cities running to accompany that exhibition. The Cinémathèque Française is in the Bercy area (12th arrondissement) which can be easily reached with fast-speed automatic metro line 14, or outdoor line 6.

In November, you will also be able to experience the famous Paris cafés and brasseries to be part of the first Parisian hobby: people watching. And you will also have a chance to taste the wonderful French baguette, in its own environment.

So you’ve probably understood that November in Paris could be a good choice!

My Gay Paris: A Night At The Opera, Part 1 – Palais Garnier

It’s hardly surprising that a city whose residents are as crazy about culture as the Parisians boasts not one, but two, world-class opera houses. France’s national company, the Opéra National de Paris, divides its time between the sumptuous Opéra Garnier—first opened in 1875 on the orders of Napoleon III—and the sleek, modern chic of the Opéra Bastille—opened in 1989 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the French revolution.

This week, we’re going for a night at the opera in the sumptuous nineteenth-century interior of the Opéra Garnier in the chic 9th arrondissement, but we’ll be taking going for a night out at the Opéra Bastille some time soon too.

Thirteen Years in the Making

The Palais Garnier’s sumptuous design was chosen in 1862 after a competition—which drew over 150 entries—launched by Napoleon III. Outraged after an attempted assassination by Italian anarchists in 1861 at the original Paris Opera, the Emperor decided it was time to build an entirely new opera. The new building was to be in keeping with the other projects he had set under way, including a radical redesign of the Paris street plan orchestrated on his behalf by Baron Haussmann.

The winning design, finally complete in 1875, is incredibly opulent, and makes liberal use of expensive materials like gold and marble. Indeed, the whole project was bedevilled by money worries and Napoleon III didn’t even live to see it finished.

Much of the building is open to visitors, even without a ticket. You can wander up the grand staircase, one of the largest ever built at the time, which soon became the place to see and be seen in Paris. The auditorium itself—where almost two thousand spectators sit under a crystal chandelier weighing almost six tonnes—is as opulent as the other spaces and is upholstered with deep red velvet and plenty of gold. The stage, a remarkable technical achievement for the period, has room for up to 450 performers at once, with musicians below.

Nowadays, the Palais Garnier rarely holds opera performances, most of which have been transferred to the Opéra Bastille which has more advanced audio and lighting equipment. Instead, it focuses on ballet, presenting around a dozen pieces a year, with a mixture of classics and new work. Most are performed by the national company, but visits from other companies are also common.

If you’d just like to see the elegant interior and not attend a performance—and getting tickets can be very difficult if you don’t plan ahead—then there are guided tours every day.

WHAT: Palais Garnier Opéra Opera House
WHERE: place de l’Opéra, métro Opéra (lines 3, 7)
WHEN: open for visitors everyday; check for performance details

My Gay Paris: Eating and Drinking in Paris, Left Bank Cafés

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the classic left-bank brasseries that line the boulevard Montparnasse. Well, they’re not the only reason you should cross the river from the Marais next time you’re here to stay if you’re looking to experience some traditional Parisian café-culture.

Slightly further north is the decidedly chic Saint Germain des Prés neighbourhood. For years, it’s been the stomping ground of France’s intellectual élite and home to many of its most famous publishing houses. A number of the city’s leading universities are also nearby in the Latin
Quarter, so-named for the lingua franca amongst students centuries ago.  Nowadays, it’s also an upscale shopping district.

The area is still centred on the place Saint-Germain, which is in turn dominated by the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church. When the abbey was founded on farmland on what was then outside the city walls back in the ninth century, it gained the name ‘des Prés’, French for ‘in the fields’.

Les Deux Magots

Fast forward a few centuries and the area was at the heart of a bustling part of central Paris. In particular, two cafés shaped the lively intellectual scene that began in the 1930s and continued after the war. Artists and writers like Sartre, Hemingway and Picasso were all regulars on the sunny terrace at Les Deux Magots during this period. The café is still serving its trademark hot chocolates, as well as coffees, wine, lunch and dinner—and doing a roaring trade.

Café de Flore

Further east along boulevard Saint-Germain is the Café de Flore, which is most well-known as the home to writers and philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir during the 1940s and 1950s.

Both cafés are bastions of tradition, so you can expect to be served by waiters wearing black tie and crisp white aprons, and both offer plenty of opportunity for people-watching from the terrace. Devotees claim, however, that Les Deux Magots sneaks an edge on the Café de Flore in summer months because it catches the very first rays of sunlight in the morning.

WHAT: Café des Deux Magots and Café de Flore
WHERE: 6, place Saint-Germain-des-Prés and  172, boulevard Saint-German

My Gay Paris: Join the amazing Jerk Off festival!

For its forth year, Jerk Off brings to Paris its spirit of freedom and creativity. Jerk Off is not like any other festival: it intends to be the queerest festival of all. A week long of events will make you discover various artistic fields and interesting nightlife events. Jerk Off Festival is taking place from October the 19th until the October the 30th.

The goal of Jerk Off Festival is to show how diverse and creative the queer culture is. It’s about diversity, respect and tolerance. A lot of foreign artists will be able to present their work, and they come from all over the world, from Ivory Coast to Lebanon, from Morocco to the USA. It’s also a good occasion to meet people who claim to belong to Paris alternative scene, as opposed to mainstream and traditional gay culture which might appear too consumerist for some.

At the festival, you will be able to experience a small part of Berlin explosive nightlife with the Kamikaze Queens at the Klub, in partnership with the magazine Bend Over. The vanguard of Paris clubs, the Point Ephémère, will host the performances of the Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian. The Jerk Off party will take place at the Centre Barbara. There will be also films such as short films and documentaries shown at the Latina, a cinema located right in the Marais. Lastly, there will be also art exhibitions, with the exhibit CENSURES at the art gallery Emilie Bannwarth. The festival will end on sunday the 30th of October with an electro brunch, Küss Küss, at Le Bouche B. Again, the atmosphere will remind you of Berlin. Paris is often said to be a sleepy capital compared to the frenetic Berlin: Festival Jerk Off brings a little of Berlin to Paris to prove the contrary!
What is at stake is the freedom of artistic creation, which is about freedom of speech, right?

So if you like art, whatever art it may be, and if you like to party and meet creative people, Jerk Off Festival is where you want to end up, as it’s getting colder in Paris.
All the information you need is on their website