Paris may be among the most visited, most talked about, most adored cities in Europe — and you might find some representation of the Eiffel Tower in most of your friends’ homes — but a weekend jaunt to the French capital is one cliché you don’t want to avoid. From food to fashion to flourishes on every surface, the Parisian flair for elegance and culture overwhelms at every turn—it’s a city that understands that god is in the details.
Whether you’re looking for an intense museum experience from the likes of The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, a few days of gastronomic gluttony, a new wardrobe from the Champs Élysées, a raucous night in Montmartre, a relaxing afternoon in the Jardin des Tuileries, or all of the above, Paris is surprisingly easy to navigate, either by foot or on its famed art nouveau metro. Of course, above ground you’ll stumble upon many more of the photogenic features of the city—she simply doesn’t have a bad angle—so stay on the surface as often as you can handle!
My host in Paris was Nicolò Conti, 29, who moved to the city after visiting for vacation and never left. Here, he points out a few places to visit in Le Marais, home of the gayborhood, and offers advice on how to warm up the infamously cold Parisian personalities you’re likely to encounter.
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Paris?
Nicolò Conti: Five years. I came here in 2010 because I was tired of Italy. I stayed one year for holiday, and then started a masters degree in political communication. Then I worked for the presidential election here...
How long have you been out?
To the public, when I was 17 years old in Sicily. I didn’t have a boyfriend yet, but one year later I got one in Rome and moved there for a year to be with him, and then I came back to Sicily to start university and came out to my family when I was 19. It’s not that I ever hid it or lied about anything, but I just told them explicitly when I was 19. My mother asked me, so it came up!
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city? It’s really easy. I’ve never had any problems in work or my private life. I’m not sure if it’s as easy in the rest of France, but Paris, like all the big cities, doesn’t have a problem. There’s a large gay community here, and the straight population supports gay rights, too.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?
Go to a concert in Saint-Eustache. It’s a wonderful, historical church in Le Marais where people are really open and they’re really engaged in supporting the AIDS community. And a lot of important French historical figures are buried there. And go to the north of the city to Le Canal St. Martin for dinner. You can socialize with strangers there—they’re mostly young and drunk—and it’s very nice.
Your favorite restaurant in Paris?
L`Epouvantail. It’s good, it’s cheap, and the owners are a really nice older, gay couple. It’s typical French food in a casual atmosphere. The owners are always there and they’re really funny and kind—they make the atmosphere. You go there for them, but you eat really well while you’re there.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?
Parisian people really are a bit unkind—it’s not a myth. They can be disagreeable and aggressive, especially with tourists. You’ll be treated better if you try to speak a little French first. It’s appreciated.