Samedi - Paris Pride - If your only gay pride experience has been in the United States, you haven't really experienced gay pride. I've been to several pride events in the US and I finally stopped going because I became disenchanted with all the commercialism connected with them. Everyone was simply out to get as much money from you as they could. Insurance companies, security companies, real estate companies, banks. They were all represented and all of them were there just for the money. Also, adding to my disenchantment, was the fact that most of the participants were not truly representative of the gay community.
Today, we went to the Paris Gay Pride event. It was so refreshingly different. Not one vendor selling anything but pride objects (flags, dolls, balloons) or food. Thousands of people, mostly young, turned out to enjoy the spectacle. The crowd was estimated at between 400,000 and 700,000. At least fifty precent of them were straight. And when was the last time you saw the openly gay mayor of a world class city attend the pride events?
We got there around 15h30 after walking for miles because bus service was discontinued because of the parade route from Place Denfert-Rochereau to Place de la Bastille. Even so, when we arrived there, the place was jammed with people and music was blasting throughout the Place. We heard it for about four blocks before we got to it. They had set up a giant stage with all the DJ paraphernalia, including the ever-present flashing lights. The parade had started at 14h00 and since they were walking all the way across the city, I assumed they wouldn't get to Place de la Bastille until about 16h00. I was wrong. The first float didn't show up until almost 17h00.
While we were waiting for the parade, we walked to the edge of the Place which overlooks the Bastille métro station and the Port de l’Arsenal, where a lot of lucky barge owners get to moor their barges for the summer in the middle of Paris. As you can well imagine, competition for the relatively few moorings is quite spirited.
We didn't get to really "see" much of the parade because the closest we could get to the street was about ten bodies back. We could see most of the "floats" though, because they were mostly large tractor-trailers and high enough above the crowd for a decent view.
While we were watching the parade, I saw two guys, one of whom looked very much like a guy I have seen in the bars in Fort Lauderdale. I got brave and went up and asked if they were from there. One guy (the one I think I recognized) said nothing and the other guy said he lives in Paris. He did recommend a gay restaurant named Aux Trois Petits Cochons (The Three Little Pigs). We'll check it out one of these days.
We watched until there were no more floats coming down the street and started wandering around a bit. I was somewhat tired and Robb suggested we try to go to a café. I laughed at the idea because with all these people in this place, there was no way we were going to find a table at any of the cafés. Well, don't ask me how, but we walked to the closest café and there waiting, as though someone had known we were coming, was one table with two chairs. You've never seen two guys move so fast. Comfortably seated on the café terrasse, we ordered deux bières and sat back to enjoy the multi-faceted crowd parading before us.
Among the people we saw were a group of guys wearing kilts, except one guy didn't have a regular "skirt", he had a mini-skirt. I kept waiting to see if it was true that they wear nothing under their skirts, but he never did bend far enough to give me a glance. There was a group of about six drag queens, who were kind of sad, because most of them were way beyond the age when they would have looked lady-like. Now they just looked like tired, badly-dressed old men pretending to be women. There was a small group of three or four leather guys, one of whom was wearing something like you might see in one of the old Roman gladiator films. A lot of girls were after them to have pictures taken with them, and I must say, they were very accomodating.
That was the prevailing attitude of the day, I think. There was a lot of drinking, of course, but I didn't see anyone who could have been called drunk. Everyone just seemed very laid-back and okay with whatever went on around them.
Of course, there were a lot of gay flags of various sizes. Some were carried aloft while others were worn like superhero capes.
The last of the parade didn't show up until after 20h00. After we had thought it was over, they just sort of kept straggling into the Place. When the last of them did arrive, Robb and I gave up our table and mingled with the crowd. Somehow, over a throng of people, I saw a guy selling small gay flags and we each purchased one. Then we wandered around just watching people and enjoying the really loud music. When we had been sitting at the café terrasse, it was sometimes so loud, it actually rattled the windows of the café. There were people dancing almost everywhere you looked; in the street, on top of taxi stands, on top of bus stop stands and on the steps of the Opéra Bastille.
After I had taken most of my pictures, I remembered that my Canon A530 is supposed to be able to take videos, so I had a look to see if I could figure out how to do that. There is a movie camera like symbol and I guessed that was the thing to use, so I moved it to the on position and pushed the start button. I couldn't tell if it was doing anything or not, but when I got home and downloaded the pictures, sure enough one of them turned out to be a short video. Now that I know how to do that, look for more. I still don't know how long they can be, but I'll experiment wih it till I find out.
Here is a video of the local news coverage. All my pictures can be seen at Flickr under Paris Pride.
The festivities were announced as "over" around 21h00 and we started the long hike back to the apartment. We walked all the way to Place Léon Blum, where we stopped at Le Rey for dinner. While we were there, a goup of about seven or eight Japanese people came in. They ordered and after a tiny taste, got up and left. Just across from us were two British guys and a girl, who were still there when we left.
Plus à venir, mes amis.