Some weeks back, a friend asked where he and his partner should stay in Paris. I have known him for years and still this question was a tough one. He is one of those people who does not hide behind politeness. If I recommend something that he does not like, he tells me so the next time I see him. Which is as it should be, of course. The deeper issue is that I did not want to steer him wrong. First time to Paris, an entire week in the city, with a boyfriend who is a serious, artsy photographer – tricky stuff here.
I told him my newest favorite place on the left bank, they checked it out on the Net, liked the photos and booked their stay.
Yesterday I ran into him for the first time since his return.
Well?? Did you like it? What was the worst part of the trip? (the hope here is that he wont say straight off – the hotel.)
The worst was the food. Not breakfast, but the real meals. Too many snails and guts and stomach parts on your plate. Once we found the ethnic eateries, we were fine.
And the best?
Of course, everywhere, the desserts were fantastic. And the wine! Every glass we had was way better than what we have here. Oh and I loved the hot chocolate in the morning – poured melted in your cup with a steaming pitcher of milk… incredible.
So did you like the city?
Yes, of course. ..don’t know why people complain about the French. Everyone was fine. Busy, hurried, in the way people are in big cities, but just fine. You know, we really liked some of the touristy stuff. It was thrilling to be standing underneath the Eiffel Tower. We did the boat thing, we went to Notre Dame, the Arc and I thought the (newly reopened!) Orangerie was magnificent. Not as good as MoMA in New York, but still incredible…
(ah, my Paris. I love this town. God, I love this town! Why am I not there?)
And how is it for a gay couple? Did you feel you could be publicly affectionate?
Yes, though often times we were not. It’s very much as the mood strikes. In Paris, like in big cities here, the gay scene is pretty sedate. You know, we’re in the decade where gay men are trying very much to blend into the straight world and straight guys are doing the metrosexual thing.
So did you do the gay bar scene?
We checked out a number of places. Weird, they’re playing the same gay music there that we have here. You want to ask – why are you doing this? But we did go to a concert and it was fun – people dance more there than they do over here.
It’s a long flight back, isn’t it?
What was worse was the customs inspection in Detroit. I got flagged. Don’t know why. They examined every piece of underwear, accused me of buying it there and not admitting to it, asked me three times why I had two medicines… on and on. It was so strange, I felt I had to go along and not challenge them, but they got hostile and in the end, left my suitcase unzipped, so that when I picked it up, everything spilled. I wanted to retrieve a shoe and a hat that went under the counter and they said no, absolutely not. So I came back with one shoe.
I read that these hostile encounters with our immigration and customs people at the border are one reason why so many foreigners will not travel here.
Definitely the low point of our return.
So… the hotel in Paris?
Good rooms! We liked it.
A sigh of relief.