Gay Paree

Saturday marked Paris’ Gay Pride, an event the entire city was proud of. All morning, wherever I walked I would be reminded, “Don’t forget, it is ze pride fest-ee-vahl later!”  “You must go to ze pride!”  “You know where is ze Pride today?” For breakfast/brunch/morning dessert, we stumbled into an adorable patisserie, Sadaharu AOKI,  where we enjoyed sugary custard-filled macarons and sesame rolls that were actually worth their outrageously high prices. The mix of Asian flavors and French pastry techniques was unique, every bite being more flavorful than the last (think Magnolia banana pudding on crack, shared with the Spice Girls, and you may be able to imagine how delicious this was)

But of course, there is only so much time to savor pastries when a Parade is consuming the winding streets of Paris.

If you have any type of seeing or hearing capabilities, you cannot miss Ze Pride in Paris.

The parade (more on this later, it was not quite what an American expects a parade to be) began at 2:00pm at the Montparnasse Metro stop, right by my school, and continues over the river and down into Bastille where it concludes in a major party.

Perhaps I should mention now that there are no gay people in Paris.  Gay Paree has not lived up to its name.  Yes, there are a spattering of queer clubs in les Marais, but I almost never see gay couples or recognizably gay people on the street.  A day in New York City without seeing a gay person on the street is practically unheard of! Either my Parisian gaydar is failing, or all the gays of Paris hide below the streets until they emerge in glitter and rainbows for Ze Pride.

French Pride brings out any and all people willing to witness and make a spectacle.  Bodysuits, face paint, glitter, and colorful wigs are frequently spotted on the streets near the parade.  Men selling large balloons and boas and beers push carts through the streets and blow whistles. You cannot hear yourself think, you cannot see anything but rainbows, everyone is celebrating.

True to European fashion, the parade did not start on time.  There’s actually no reason to ever arrive to a parade on time, but I think all the hype on the streets convinced us that we didn’t want to miss a minute of Pride.  No police blockades kept viewers off the streets and someone in a STAFF shirt helped us open our bottle of wine.  Pure chaos had consumed Paris.

The Parade was more of a rave/dance party/reason to day drink than what one may imagine as a parade. The floats were few and far between, mostly because masses of screaming and dancing people followed behind each one. I ran into a friend from New York at the parade who explained to me that this is the point, you’re supposed to follow the float of your choice and continue on down to Bastille where the festivities are even larger.  This struck me as extremely Parisian:  why watch a parade when you can be in the parade?  As I’ve said, it’s all about seeing and being seen here.

Exhausted and semi-dehydrated, I was fine being the voyeur, absorbing the absolute madness of teenagers dancing on top of bus stops and old men making out with each other in the middle of traffic.

Ready to call it a day, I grabbed some groceries from Picard, the supermarket which sells exclusively frozen foods (think frozen sushi, tiramisu, rhubarb pieces, etc), and settled into bed, where I napped and eventually began writing.

Life in Paris is unpredictable, and what better day to have an unpredictable evening than Ze Pride?

Tempted by the thought of a second pasta dinner and perhaps more wine, I met friends in Les Marais.  After a delicious dinner of linguine, and a dessert sampler, we headed out into the streets, which were literally overflowing with people celebrating Pride.  The crowd was huge, even by New York standards!  Everyone was thrilled and drinking and kissing and hugging and dancing, as if the 3rd Arrondissement had turned into a magical amusement park for the night, anyone who stepped inside had no choice but to celebrate whatever he or she was proud of. Perhaps Paree is a little gay after all...