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Paris is the perfect place to be gay. Nearly 400 gay or gay friendly venues dot this exciting and creative European capital, where fashion shines, food is fabulous and cultural institutions are king — is this gay heaven?

In Le Marais (the swamp), situated in Paris' 3rd and 4th arrondissements, is the center of the gay oasis. Here, the usual entertaining distractions abound: sex shops, gay bars, hotels and restaurants, even cruisey cafes where, in the afternoon, you can walk in for a coffee and leave with a date. In Les Halles or Montorguiel, Paris’ gay neighborhoods from the 70s and 80s, the marks of free love and rainbow insignia still flicker bright. The bars and restaurants here are fun and sexy, and just steps away from Le Marais.

Art, fashion and food are the fulcrums of high living and leisure in Paris. Begin at the Musee National d'Art Moderne in the Pompidue Center to view the leading collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe. Then step back across the Seine to the Louvre, a more classic and humbling collection of nearly 35,000 objects from the 6th millennium BC to the 19th century AD. Of course there are countless more monuments and museums to see, but perhaps give your thoughtful brain a break for more rote activities, like shopping and stuffing your face.

Lined with bookstores, clothing shops, theaters, restaurants and cafes, the rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie in Le Marais is a good place to begin. For a more iconic experience, stroll along the ubiquitous Avenue des Champs-Elysees, where everything is overpriced but lovely against a backdrop of perfectly trimmed tress and the Arc de Triomphe. In the evening there is dancing all night long at the Banana Cafe, and wanton encounters to be had at the Euro Men's Club and Sauna. In June, Paris Gay Pride brings everyone out in the streets, and November sees the cinemas packed for the Paris Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Though the French may be said to be many things — fickle, peevish, snobby and so on — in Paris, these popular stereotypes turn to dust. There's just not enough time to think about them; too much to see, eat, and just too many dashing Frenchmen with Charlotte Rampling eyes to have in a lifetime. Sounds like nirvana to us.

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