Monthly Archives: November 2011

My Gay Paris: World Aids Day in Paris

As you probably know, December 1st is World Aids Day, and the event will be marked here in Paris as well as around the world.

As in previous years, city authorities in Paris will be lighting up the Hôtel de Ville, the seat of local government, with bright red light on the evening of Thursday December 1st. There’ll also be a huge, ten-metre high red Aids ribbon hanging outside all weekend to remind visitors of the ocassion.

Right in the centre of town, and just a few minutes’ walk from the Marais gay village, we don’t think there’s a better spot for the city to demonstrate its commitment to the cause. Although Paris held official events to mark World Aids Day before the election of its first openly gay mayor, they have had special significance since Bertrand Delanoë took over back in 2001.

If I were HIV+ …

French rugbyplayers ask: ‘would be in the first fifteen if we were HIV+?’

Right at the heart of the Marais itself, an exhibition called ‘If I was HIV+, …’ has photos of people from all walks of live, inviting visitors to ask how their reactions might change if they knew the person in the picture was HIV-positive.

As well as demonstrating solidarity with those suffering from HIV and Aids and those who are care for them, prevention is another important message. Local bar owners can sign up to receive free World Aids Day-branded condoms to gave out to their patrons. Posters around the city also remind you to be careful, including this witty reminder about how important it is to get tested.The two boys, Jean and Rémi, are shown from behind and the caption reads: “Jean is HIV-positive, but Rémi doesn’t know. Neither, in fact, does Jean.”

Finally, World Aids Day also has a political dimension, which is particularly keenly felt in France this year with a presidential election coming up in the spring of 2012. It’s a great opportunity for gay rights groups to make our voices heard by all of the candidates!

My Gay Paris: Christmas is Coming in Paris

It might seem like it’s still a long way off, but here in Paris, preparations are well underway for Christmas. Lights have sprung up in the main shopping streets, and all the gay bars in our neighbourhood, the Marais, have begun hanging up the decorations.

If you’re coming to Paris in the run-up to Christmas, then we hope that you think about staying in one our gay-friendly furnished apartments. But much more importantly, though, we hope you take some time to make the most of some of the best shopping in the world to pick up some excellent presents to take your loved-ones back home!

Food

We’ve already talked about some of the exceptional food you can try in Paris here on the blog, whether it’s sweet treats like macarons from Ladurée or delicious hot chocolate from Café Angelina. Food halls, delis and even ordinary supermarkets are beginning to stock up with Christmas favourites from all over France, including foie gras, with local consumers showing none of the squeamishness other countries have about force-feeding geese to produce the fatty liver pâté. Bakers and pâtissiers, meanwhile, are hard at work producing the bûche de Noël, the traditional Christmas yule log.

Many of these treats, and more, are available at the annual Christmas Market, which is already open on the Champs-Élysées.

Fashion

Two weeks ago we recommended shopping on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, but if your budget doesn’t quite stretch, then you could try one of our favourite online sites, studiohomme.com (with a showroom at 62, rue Réaumur), which specialises in designer menswear from big French names like Kitsuné as well as up-and-coming creators.

Design

Paris might be well-known for the old masters lining the walls of its fabulous galleries, but if you’re interested in slightly more modern art and design, then you’re spoilt for choice. Our favourite is the Atarzart Design Bookstore (83, quai Valmy), with a range of books on photography, architecture and more. It also enjoys a great canal-side location, perfect for a stroll.

Museums

One of the best places to pick up unusual gifts is at a museum shop, and two of Paris’ newest cultural institutions have stores that go far beyond the usual souvenir poster. La Gaîtié Lyrique (3 bir, rue Papin ), a former theatre which has been transformed into a museum of digital culture, carries a range of gadgets, gizmos and hard to find video games for the geek in your life. French charity Emmaüs recycles unwanted clothes and furniture, selling them on to raise money in charity shops around the city. Their new location at Le Centquatre (104, rue d’Aubervilliers), though, only sees the best pieces, with real bargains to be add on exclusive designer items. It’s well worth a visit and unlike any charity store you’ve ever seen!

My Gay Paris: Sex in the City, a useful exhibition

You thought you knew everything about safe sex? The exhibition ‘Sex and the city‘ is there to prove the contrary. In a big space at Bastille near Paris, the exhibition is organized by the non-profit organization Solidarité Sida. It is the same exhibition that was at the Festival Solidays which takes place every year and which is a huge event.

The idea of the exhibition is to inform people about safe sex, but in a gentle atmosphere, without being too cold or too serious. Even if you think you know a lot about this subject, you will learn even more, not only about AIDS, but also about other sexually transmissible diseases. The exhibition has different spaces, each dedicated to a specific topic. You will learn about gay sex, but also about straight sex if you feel like it. One of the rooms is about sex toys, both for males and females.

At the end of the exhibition, volunteers and doctors will be there to answer the questions you might have left. They are obviously trained to be open and not to judge you. There is a section about porn. In another area, you will be able to practice the use of a condom on replicas. Other good news, the exhibition is free of charge.
It is right on Place de la Bastille, just near the center of gay Paris. It will be there until december the 4th. On wenesdays, saturdays and sundays, it is possible to visit the exhbition from 1pm to 8pm, and on thursdays and firdays, from 3pm to 8pm. The entrance of exhibition is reserved to people older than 16yo. Paris is one of the cities the most touched by AIDS, so stay safe in any circumstance!

My Gay Paris: Christmas lights are all around the city of lights

Right now, you can see a slight change in the streets of the city of lights. Obviously, as Christmas gets closer, shops begin to change. But in Paris, whole areas are getting ready for this celebration with something very special: the Christmas lights.
The most well-known place to see Christmas lights in Paris are the Champs-Elysées. This year, after the success of the ‘snowfall’ lights, they will be ‘tree rings’, positioned in the 200 trees of the most famous Paris avenue. More than a hundred mirrors will help those lights creating a unique show. Audrey Tautou, the actress of Amélie, was chosen this year to inaugurate the Champs-Elysées Christmas lights.


Nearby, on avenue Montaigne, light balls will be up in the trees with branches of mistletoe. And as the tradition says, in France and in northern Europe, you are supposed to kiss the person you love under the mistletoe. That could be an occasion to kiss a random person in the street if you click… or to kiss your lover.
A bit further, in the posh area around Place Vendôme (Rue de la Paix, Rue Saint-Honoré), the Christmas lights will have the shape of snowfalls, as if it was raining stars. This part of Paris is full of shops with designer clothes and well-known fashion brands.

In the same area, there is the Forum des Halles, one of Paris biggest malls, which is located above the metro and train station of Châtelet-Les Halles, the busiest underground station in the world. The Forum des Halles might not be as sexy as the Champs-Elysées or Place Vendôme, but if you have to take the metro at Châtelet, which you will certainely have to do, you can take a stroll in the mall to see the Christmas lights there. The Forum des Halles is currently being rebuilt, which is one of the most important architectural and urban change of the French capital. The new Forum des Halles will be ready by 2014.

This year, the Forum des Halles chose to have digital Christmas lights, which are designed by the contemporary artist Miguel Chevalier. Digital snowflakes will be swirling all around the mall. This is a very modern interpretation of this tradition which could be worth seeing. The Forum des Halles is very close to the Centre Pompidou and the Marais, that is it say, very close to gay Paris.

Many other parts of Paris will have their own Christmas lights, such as the Grands Boulevards area, with the big shops of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, and the area of Bercy with the lights of Bercy Village, which will also be digital, as the ones of the Forum des Halles.

So basically, the intersting thing about Christmas lights is that they need to be in line with what people expect of them, the tradition, and also that they have to change every year and to be modern. It’s an interesting mix which is worth a visit to the French capital!

My Gay Paris: French rugby players calendar “Dieux du Stade”

A calendar has got to be one of the least original Christmas gifts ever. It’s a perfect stocking filler if you’re stuck for inspiration, and comes at the right time of year of course. But now that everybody has a smartphone, who really uses a wall calendar anyway? It’s certainly been a long time since we last used an old-fashioned calendar with charming watercolours or cute kittens as a serious way to plan our time …

The Gods

But one French calendar is a little different. We might not use it to record our dentist’s appointments and mother-in-law’s birthday, but we certainly like looking at the pictures! We’re talking about the world-famous Dieux du Stade calendar that featuring some of gay Paris’ favourite rugby players—naked!

Back in 2001, the management of French rugby club Stade Français. decided to ask their members to pose naked for a charity calendar, nicknamed ‘Dieux du Stade’, the ‘Gods of the Stadium’. Not only was it a runaway success with French housewives, raking in millions for charity, it also gained the boys a brand-new gay fanbase.

Month after month, the new fans enjoyed tasteful black-and-white photos of them posing oiled up and relaxing in the changing rooms or fresh out of the shower. The photos were a mix of group shots and close-ups on individual stars.

Sport, Art or Porn?

Given the amount of toned flesh on display, the players shouldn’t have beena too surprised at their new-found popularity amongst gay men. Some of the photos are deliberately sexual in nature, and many go far beyond traditional, artistic naked portraits to produce full-on explicit—almost pornographic—photos. Cultural critic Mark Simpson even invented a new term, ‘sporno’, to describe this new mix of ‘sports’ and ‘pornography’, and has identified it as a new trend in advertising.

Since then, the calendar has become an annual institution, with a new photographer taking charge every year. Not be outdone, the French national team also got involved, publishing a whole book of naked photos in 2004.

The 2012 edition is out now!