LE MARAIS, PARIS.

Gay Times Magazine - - THE LITTLE TRIP - Words Si­mon Gage & Stephen Un­win

Ev­ery­one’s so tired of Paris says ev­ery­one all the time (only much less now... but more of that later). Well, if you’re bored of Paris, why not go to Le Marais? Yes, it’s right in the mid­dle of Paris but it’s a place all its own. What could be hand­ier?

If your per­fect idea of Paris is per­fect lit­tle wind­ing cob­bled lanes with per­fect lit­tle 17th cen­tury build­ings lean­ing into each other and per­fect lit­tle bou­tiques sell­ing gor­geous things and em­a­nat­ing per­fect smells of things be­ing cooked in but­ter, of per­fect lit­tle cafes with ev­ery­one sit­ting out­side and lots of im­pos­si­bly sexy and well-dressed men, then it’s Le Marais you’ve been think­ing of.

It’s Le Marais of Marie An­toinette and pretty much ev­ery French celebrity since – and Le Marais of gays since time im­memo­rial. Well, it used to be a marsh (that’s what Marais means) and you know how gays al­ways get the bit no one wants. Un­til now, that is, when it’s the bit that ev­ery­one wants.

And it’s all per­fect. From the per­fect 17th cen­tury Place des Vos­ges with the more-than-per­fect Pav­il­lon de la Reine ho­tel, where you don’t only step off the street into a court­yard – yes, per­fect! – but back a few hun­dred years. Where, over break­fast, French peo­ple with money in navy pick at crois­sants and preppy Amer­i­cans plan trips to the d’Or­say as their girl­friends, straight out of Barnard, flick away flies with a New York Times. And where, over lunch at its just-opened Anne restau­rant, we have prob­a­bly the best ve­gan tast­ing menu in the whole of the 4th Ar­rondisse­ment, washed down by rosé the colour of Madonna’s skin.

Back to those diddy-per­fect streets that al­ter­nate be­tween REX, a hand­made gentle­man’s leather goods store (if you know what we mean) and Ho­tel du Pe­tit Moulin, pre­vi­ously Paris’s old­est bak­ery where Vic­tor ‘Les Mis’ Hugo used to pop in for a cheeky pain au choco­lat, now a glam­orous and beau­ti­fully cool and mad-as-a-box-of-hair ho­tel de­signed through­out by Chris­tian Lacroix – but still look­ing like an old bak­ery from the out­side, so you’ve got to know your boulan­geries.

They may have tried edg­ing the gays out of Le Marais with a strip of glam­orous bou­tiques for Fendi and Gucci and Gal­liano on the Rue des Ar­chives – like putting in glam­orous bou­tiques was ever a way of edg­ing gays out! – but bars like Cox, where Alexan­der McQueen used to booze away his Fri­day nights, to Open Café, just a few doors down are cling­ing on with no sign of loos­en­ing their grip. Ev­ery­one’s still go­ing to Raidd – which is good be­cause it’s cheeky and fun and peo­ple buy you drinks, which never used to hap­pen in Paris – and then on to Du­plex, which is good be­cause it’s even cheekier and even more fun.

From Ae­sop to Les Mots à la Bouche, the best all-gay, all-the-time book­shop in France that veers ef­fort­lessly from high-brow to hard core and from grungy lit­tle gay tat shops to Dip­tyque, to (of­fi­cially) France’s best bar (peo­ple who of­fi­cially drink for a liv­ing say so) Lit­tle Red Door – with its Franco-An­glo crew who ex­plain ex­quis­ite cock­tails in par­fait Anglais – to the ever-grow­ing glut of ve­gan gaffs (Hank on Rue des Ar­chives does plant-based burg­ers burst­ing with karma in a sexy, lo-fi set-up), ev­ery­thing you need is here.

It’s ba­si­cally a com­pact tri­an­gle of life, some­how the bižest 17th cen­tury dis­trict in the

world (ar­chi­tect Le Corbusier wanted to get rid of the whole thing and put up shiny clever mod­ern build­ings, which would have been in­ter­est­ing, but this is so much bet­ter). And that means it’s pretty. In a per­fectly French way.

And yes, you can get to the Lou­vre in around 15 min­utes (check out hot new restau­rant Loulou while you’re there: it’s smart!) and you can get to the Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou (with glam­orous restau­rant Ge­orges on the top) if you go the other way. But you don’t have to. You don’t even have to see that old Eif­fel Tower, not even from a dis­tance, if you don’t want to.

Sit­ting in Der­rière on Rue des Grav­il­liers, a restau­rant that’s all kinds of Shored­itch with its records and its ping-pong, we com­mented to our Frenchie Parisian friend that Paris doesn’t seem as dreary as it used to be. There’s more fun. More fun places. The lit­tle stretch where Der­rière finds it­self is prac­ti­cally all fun places! Is it “l’ef­fet Macron?” we ask, cause we did French at school. “Yes,” he said. “I sink it is.” (‘Cause you know how them French can’t pro­nounce ‘th’.) “And I sink I like it.”

eu­rostar.com • pav­il­lon-de-la-reine.com • hotelpetit­moulin­paris.com

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