ROBERT ELIAS DEATON
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Or so wrote Ernest Hemingway. Then again, Papa Hemingway killed himself, proving, we suppose, that an occasional refresher visit to Paris is never out of place.
As with most things in life, the gays among us have a special gift for appreciating art, culture, rudeness, and depravation. And Paris has all four in abundance. Fortunately, the Parisians, in their love of all things flamboyant, have grouped the homosexual community mainly in an area known as Le Marais (”The Swamp”), in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.
The average vacationer in Paris will make the rounds of the standard top ten must-sees: Musée du Louvre (1st arrondissement– Porte des Lions, Galerie du Carrousel, or Pyramid entrances), the world-famous museum situated in a French palace housing the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo; Notre Dame Cathedral (Place du Parvis de Notre Dame, 4th arrondissement), the most architecturally stunning Gothic Cathedral in the world; Eiffel Tower (Champ de Mars in the 7th arrondissement [midwest Paris]), the iconic symbol of Paris for much of the world; Musée d’Orsay (1 Rue de la Legion d’Honneur, 7th arrondissement), a bright and airy gallery housing the largest collection of painting, sculpture, and decorative objects produced between 1848-1914; Sorbonne University which forms the historic soul of the Latin Quarter (Place du Sorbonne, 5th arrondissement), the center of scholarly pursuits in the city; the Arc de Triomphe which crowns the end of the Champs-Elysées (Place Charles de Gaulle, 8th arrondissement), the most famous shopping street in all of Paris; the Centre Georges Pompidou (Place Georges Pompidou, 4th arrondissement), a monstrous architectural anomaly that attracts street performers, art historians and students using its library; Montmartre (18th arrondissement), a neighborhood with its art-drenched history and charming, village-like streets located at the summit of Paris with its beautiful Sacre Coeur Basilica; the Père Lachaise (Rue de Repos, “Porte du Répos,” 20th arrondissement); according to an old lover of mine, it is the most hauntingly lovely cemetery in the world, where Chopin, Collette, Marcel Proust, and Jim Morrison are laid to rest; and a Boat Tour up the Seine (rhymes with “den”) River, the equivalent of taking a gondola in Venice, but on a larger scale.
There are two airports in Paris—Charles de Gaulle and Orly, with CDG the airport of choice since American Airlines and Air France fly non-stop from Miami. (Trivia point: In the current economic climate, there are no non-stop first class flights from either Miami or Fort Lauderdale.) All business-class airline, OpenSkies, flies from Newark into Orly, but is of little interest to those of us down here in the hurricane zone.
There are many reasonably-priced hotels (and many, many more unreasonably priced ones) in the city. But for high camp, there is nothing that outdoes the Hôtel du 7ème Art (20 Rue Saint Paul, 4th arrondissement). A twin-bedded room with private bath at the Hôtel du 7ème Art will set you back 75 euros per night. It’s in the center of Marias, it reeks with romance thanks to the posters from classic American throughout the place, and you’re guaranteed to hear a recording of Frank Sinatra singing “I Love Paris” at least ten times a day. “We’re with Frank on this one.”
Next week, we’ll cover the waterfront and the hottest clubs in town. Jusqu’alors.