Paris: And It Sizzles - Page 2
Paris' newest and most talked about gay bar is Oh Fada! (35, Rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie. Tel: 4029-44 40.). Decorated in the azure, verdon, and bleu outremer colors of the south of France, Oh Fada! is the most popular bar in the Marias district and has often been referred to as a bar filled with dark haired French boys who appreciate humor and surprises. It's even said that the name Oh Fada! is probably a reference to Madonna's "Oh Father" song. Whatever the origins of the bar's name, on weekends the place hosts an interesting DJ mix of house, garage, and electro music. This popular attraction also features intimate conference and reception rooms for small get-togethers and private parties. There's even an underground dance floor which is used as a "warm up" area before revelers proceed to the main dance floor on the first level.
An ideal watering hole for those "stuck" in childhood is Zero de Conduite (14, rue Jacob. Tel: 4634-26.35). At Zero one can throw away all inhibitions and drink cocktails out of baby bottles and color in coloring books provided by the management. This is a new twist on kink if nothing else. The clientele is mixed (French metrosexual twentysomethings, their girlfriends, and young gay men), but one thing is certain: everybody sucking on those baby bottles and looking through the in-house cartoon books has a serious "thumb sucking" fixation. The décor is a mix of old fashioned Romper Room with a dash of Mister Rogers thrown in (think bowls of children's candy and lots of stuffed "cutesy" animal figures arranged around the bar).
For the thoroughly grown up, there's the cozy JM Bar (7, rue Chabanois.Tel: 4296-39 17). This quintessential neighborhood Marais bar lies in the heart of Paris' oldest gay district, the Sainte Anne quarter. The crowd here is mostly middle aged and very friendly. JM's romantic lighting blends well with the bar's high arched mirrors that give the place the look of an old Victorian church. The exterior of the bar is nothing much, but sometimes in simplicity there are multiple riches.
When it comes to dining, I suggest you head over to L'Astrance (4 Rue Beethoven. Tel: 4050-8440) for the kind of dinner you're likely to remember for a long time. This 26-seat boutique restaurant has earned two Michelin stars and the menu features delicacies such as cardamom yoghurt (served in a shot glass), carrot purée, roast endive, and an apple clafouti in mandarin foam. You might also want to try the house ravioli filled with slices of avocado and crabmeat, served with a side of salted almonds. If your taste doesn't run to the Italian, try the mussel salad with cumin, chervil, and carrots. For a nonalcoholic nightcap, how about a cup of oyster-based cappuccino? Remember to make your reservation weeks in advance, as L'Astrance, despite its relatively simple décor and mildly innovative cuisine, is Paris' hottest restaurant. A good 12-course meal with wine can cost you roughly 150 Euros, perfect for that good-bye toast to the City of Lights, or your first night introduction to the town.
If you're on a budget and love a good hamburger, don't leave Paris without heading over to Kofi Du Marais (54 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie. Tel: 4887-4871, open from 7 P.M. to 2 A.M. daily). Don't let this simple, unpretentious, and utilitarian looking café fool you. The food is delicious, from salads to fries and double burgers (called a "gros caliber"). Portions are anything but "chi chi" petite but more along the lines of a Colorado steakhouse, and a full meal with a drink can cost less than 20 Euros. Managers Christophe Fattori and Stephane Borclay have made friendliness a by-word in this popular café where people watching, most notably on the Kofi sidewalk terrace, is a popular sport.
Before visiting the most romantic city on earth, check out www.parismarais.com and www.parisgayvillage.com for up to date information regarding hotels, apartments, shopping guides, restaurants, cafés, and the best bars and clubs the city has to offer. The websites offer tips on every aspect of Parisian life, from local customs to helpful hints for HIV+ travelers. (France, unlike the United States, has no policy of banning HIV+ foreigners.)
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