Editor’s note — This is a new column. The Blade editors welcome Bill Malcolm to the fold.
Winter is the perfect time to visit Paris. The crowds are gone. The weather is not as cold as many U.S. cities. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in museums, it doesn’t matter anyway. Plus, Paris has a great gay scene and a gayborhood — The Marais.
I snagged a great low fare on Delta Airlines. The service was exceptional and everything was free. Free hot dinner and breakfast, free headsets, free blankets and pillows, free eyeshades and more.
Once in Paris, hop on the commuter rail to town, the RER-B then take the Metro to get to your hotel from the Gare du Nord Station.
Where to stay
I stayed at The Moxy, a new Marriott brand geared for millennials. The rate was very reasonable (it varied by day with one day at just 93 Euros or around $110). It’s located near the Marais in the Bastille District and near no less than three Metro stations. You can walk to many of the major attractions or hop on the subway. Two nearby stores (Franprix) have everything you need including salad bars, hot sandwiches and great selections of wine.
The bars are mostly in the Marias. Bears will of course like the Bears’ Den. The Open Café serves food and is a lot of fun. Sly Bar has a great happy hour and karaoke on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Raidd bar has a shower show. You can dance the night away at Le Depot.
What to do
The first day I walked around the historic Marais District. Like many gayborhoods, it has been gentrified and is now full of high-end stores as well.
The second day visit the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, walk along the Seine River and explore the shops of the Champs-Elysees. Then visit the new Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at The Louvre.
The third day explore the Natural History Museums, the zoo (Le Zoo du Jardin des Plantes), the Indoor Tropical Gardens, the Botanical Gardens, then walk back to the hotel. There’s also a farmer’s market on Sundays in the Bastille District where you can find local delicacies including pig’s feet, French cheeses, Paella and every kind of pastry and bread you could want.
I liked the new Liberation Museum (Musee de la Liberation de Paris) which chronicles the German occupation of France.
Day four go to visit Montmartre and the Sacred Heart Cathedral. Great views of Paris. Be sure and visit the Montmartre Museum as well and the associated Renoir Gardens.
Where to eat
Grab coffee at Alma Coffee. Don’t ask for milk or cream in your coffee. The French don’t use it and don’t drink (although they eat a lot of cheese).
Ma Bourgogne has great steak and fries (in the Morais).
- Your ATM card works at French banks and they don’t charge a withdrawal fee.
- Many of the museums are free the first Sunday of the month in the winter.
- Paris is seven hours ahead of Chicago so the jet lag is a hassle. Try to check into your hotel early but wait until 3 to take a nap. On the way home, stay up late at home to re-adjust.
- The Euro is worth slightly more than the U.S. dollar.
- Tips are included at restaurants.
- Buy a 10 ticket pack of Metro tickets and save.
- Turn off your phone and put it in Airplane mode. Shut off all data for all your apps too. Otherwise you will face roaming charges from French carriers which can be quite high. Most places have free internet so you can stay connected that way.
- Most locals speak some English but if you can, try to start the conversation in French.
For more information and travel ideas
Paris has a number of LGBTQ publications all of which have city gay guides. Qweek has a lot of ideas especially for nightlife (Qweek.fr) along with maps of the neighborhoods. Strobo Magazine has a great map of the nightlife (strobomag.com). Tribu is another great publication also with a map.
Parisinfo.com has travel tips as well and you can visit them at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in the Marias.
You can’t beat a winter visit to gay Paree.
Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only syndicated LGBTQ value travel columnist. He resides in Indianapolis and his column is or has been run by LGBTQ publications in Indianapolis, Chicago, Tampa-Orlando, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Detroit, Washington, Raleigh, Charlotte and Palm Springs and also found on the IGLTA travel blog. He received no compensation of any kind from any of the places visited (nor airlines nor hotels). His opinions are his own.