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Liv­ing it up in the French cap­i­tal

I’ m ex­cited about a week­end away, so nat­u­rally I’m run­ning late mak­ing a mad dash through Lon­don’s St Pan­cras sta­tion to catch an early Eu­rostar train.

The first alarm bells that we are in for a queerer than usual trip to Paris ring as we spot more than the nor­mal scattering of gays in the line wait­ing to pass through se­cu­rity. It’s safe to say that if we were fly­ing, the plane would leave with­out me and I’d be at the cus­tomer ser­vice desk of [ insert bud­get air­line here] do­ing my best to get on to the next flight in six hours’ time.

There’s none of that fuss here as the ben­e­fits of trav­el­ling busi­ness class by train of­fer a wel­come re­lief. We skip past the queue and, with a whole 10 min­utes to spare be­fore our de­par­ture time, slip into the lounge to grab a crois­sant ( we’re France bound, af­ter all) and a glass of bub­bles to wash it down.

Just 2 ½ hours later we ar­rive in the heart of the French cap­i­tal.

Laters Lon­don and bon­jour Paris!

It’s Pride week­end and the buzz in the city is just be­gin­ning to build. We make our way to the Lou­vre in the

1st ar­rondisse­ment — one of the 20 dis­tricts the city is di­vided into. With the pa­rade still a few hours away,

Mon­sieur Joan­nou is ready to tear off his shirt and join the Parisian gays danc­ing the night away in what is de­scribed as the most ro­man­tic city on the planet… quelle hor­reur!

my trav­el­ling com­pan­ion Sean and I wan­der through the mu­seum’s parks, cross the Seine at Pont des Arts and walk around the is­land that’s home to the world- fa­mous cathe­dral, Notre Dame. It’s the per­fect day to soak up the sun­shine and let the city’s or­nate sky­line em­brace us.

It’s the charm of Paris that you can work your way along the Seine and see many of the cap­i­tal’s most fa­mous mon­u­ments. Ideal for a week­end away when one’s pri­or­i­ties are fo­cused else­where, but you still want to dip your toe into be­ing a typ­i­cal tourist.

Af­ter our stroll, we head back to Place de la République to catch the end of the Pride pa­rade. It’s also where the main stage is lo­cated, fea­tur­ing a mix of ral­ly­ing po­lit­i­cal speeches, PAs and drag shows.

It’s all in French ( ob­vi­ously) so we don’t feel too guilty spend­ing our time smil­ing at the cute boys and work­ing our way through the beers. We avert our gaze from the cuties and are full of glee when the crowd starts singing along to Queen, be­fore the evening draws to an almighty close when a DJ takes to the stage and re­leases an hour of rous­ing techno that has the en­tire square jump­ing.

If you’re not one for the pol­i­tics or drag queens at Pride ( in French or in English), at least be sure to catch the clos­ing hour here — the energy is pal­pa­ble.

We nip back to Ho­tel Mareuil, which al­though tech­ni­cally in the 11th ar­rondisse­ment ac­tu­ally borders the 3rd ar­rondisse­ment, and is just a minute’s stroll from République.

It’s close enough to al­low us to pop back for toi­let breaks or to top up the tequila bot­tle, yet far enough away to escape the fuss if you want a disco nap. It re­ally is the per­fect spot for our Paris Pride so­journ. A quick shower and we’re ready for Satur­day night.

The ho­tel is also per­fectly lo­cated at the north end of Le Marais ( in the 3rd and 4th ar­rondisse­ments). This area is a blend of cafés and bars, din­ing and street mar­kets, art and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions, and home to the city’s gay vil­lage. As if it wasn’t gay enough on a reg­u­lar week­end, to­day it’s alive and overfl owing with revellers from ev­ery shade un­der the rain­bow. The bars spill out into the streets and the queues for the toi­lets and shops snake out into the roads and around cor­ners.

We find a spot out­side Open Café at the in­ter­sec­tion of Rue des Ar­chives and Rue Sainte- Croix de la Bre­ton­nerie to peo­ple watch. Be­fore long, the sun be­gins to set, the night kicks in, we neck tequila af­ter tequila, and the crowd in the street gets lively.

Next door, Freedj is club­bier and edgier, while the go- go dancers around the cor­ner at Raidd Bar wash them­selves down in glass shower cu­bi­cles for thirsty pun­ters to gawp at. There’s a rather elab­o­rate cruise area in the base­ment that you can fi nd your­self un­wit­tingly wan­der­ing into af­ter tak­ing a wrong turn when head­ing for the uri­nals. ( Hon­estly, it was a mis­take).

Our tits- on- tour pa­rade con­tin­ues at LaserBowl at YoYo club, lo­cated at Palais de Tokyo, a con­tem­po­rary art mu­seum on the west side of the city that’s within walk­ing dis­tance of the Eif­fel Tower. Its in­dus­trial, con­crete look echoes the clubs of Ber­lin, while the main club room, in the base­ment, is the old art- deco cin­ema. Tonight, it’s packed to pop­ping with gays of all shapes and sizes, from tops- off , six­packed mus­cle queens to chic fashion boys via a few big­ger, beary types.

“Go- go boys wash them­selves down in glass shower cu­bi­cles”

As the party wraps and the sun has still to rise, we jump in a cab and head to Gibus Club, the notorious af­ter­hours spot, lo­cated back in the 3rd ar­rondisse­ment. From late Satur­day night to Sun­day morn­ing the rock venue be­comes a sea of top­less men. It’s hot, it’s sweaty, it’s he­do­nis­tic… it’s heaven. But af­ter a cou­ple hours it’s also a lit­tle bit too wild for us weary trav­ellers, so we head back to the ho­tel.

As if the god­dess couldn’t shine on us any more this week­end, google maps shows us that the Ho­tel Mareuil is less than a fi ve- minute walk. Ten min­utes af­ter bid­ding the boys of Gibus farewell we’re tucked up in bed, the cur­tains pulled tight and doz­ing off .

The next morn­ing we treat our hang­overs with plenty of coff ee, eggs and sausages at the ho­tel break­fast. We have a tour booked in with Pas­cal Fon­quernie, from paris­marais. com, a web­site that spe­cialises in all the hid­den gems of Paris’ most charm­ing district.

The web­site rep­re­sents 15 years of re­search by Pas­cal, and is the most com­plete guide to Le Marais ( also trans­lated into English, French, Rus­sian, Ger­man, Ital­ian and Span­ish, and soon Por­tuguese and Ja­panese).

The at­ten­tion to de­tail shows: Pas­cal del­uges us with info on ev­ery turn of a street cor­ner. Sen­si­tive to our frag­ile state, he asks what we’d most like to learn about the leg­endary district and prom­ises that we’ll have ice cream at the end of the tour if we’re good. Sean’s eyes light up.

As you’d imag­ine with one of Paris’s old­est and most revered dis­tricts, there’s his­tory in abun­dance. Our favourite anec­dote is the Bastille Day Fire­men Ball on 13 and 14 July, which sees the Sévi­gné fire sta­tion opened to the pub­lic with fire­men serv­ing cham­pagne and beer to revellers who swing by to gawp at the lads in their uni­form. With more than 15,000 vis­i­tors ev­ery year, it’s Paris’ big­gest open- air club event.

When Pas­cal in­forms us that ho­tel prices are most aff ord­able be­tween 15 July and 30 Au­gust dur­ing its low sea­son, we pen­cil in our next visit to The City of Lights.

We stop by trendy de­signer shops such as Le­claireur, a vi­sion­ary gallery that show­cases the finest and edgi­est items from the worlds of fashion, life­style and de­sign, as well as tra­di­tional leather man­u­fac­tur­ers.

He al­lows us to peek into a cou­ple of higher- end bou­tique ho­tels such as the quaint Ho­tel du Petit Moulin and Ho­tel Jobo. At Petit Moulin, de­signer Chris­tian Lacroix has ap­plied his skills to each bed­room — no two are alike. They may be a lux­ury but cer­tainly worth it for trav­ellers with greater dis­pos­able fi­nances look­ing to treat them­selves.

Fi­nally, we reach our des­ti­na­tion: Une Glace à Paris, on Rue Sainte- Croix de la Bre­ton­nerie, the ice cream stop. And it’s every­thing Pas­cal promised.

Sean and I sit back and rem­i­nisce on a whirl­wind of a week­end that’s per­haps over too soon, which seemed to squeeze every­thing into a tidy two nights and three days.

Is it too late to change our re­turn train?

Paris Pride is on Satur­day 29 June eu­rostar.comen. paris­ hotel­ paris­

“Fire­men serve cham­pagne to the revellers who

swing by”

FE­BRU­ARY 2019 SHORT HAUL: Edi­tor in chief Cliff Joan­nou with At­ti­tude’s Sean Linekerat Paris Pride

IN- SEINE: The Ponts des ArtsSTREET LIFE: The crowds spill out ofbars in Le MaraisA- LIGHT HERE: YoYo CLub at the Palais de TokyoROOMY: The Ho­tel Mareuil

TAKE A SEAT: Le Marais has a host of cafes and bars as well as be­ing home to the gay vil­lage

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