There are so many different ways to experience Paris.
If you’re a first time visitor, you’re going to be flat out — ticking off the major sights and experiences, climbing the iconic Eiffel Tower, marvelling at the gothic Notre Dame, and eating croissants and croque monsieur at every opportunity.
But, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a lot more to Paris than what you see on the postcards or in the romantic movies — great restaurants and bars, a cafe culture that makes you want to smoke cigarettes and write a book, a cracking night life, and extraordinary shopping. Plus, there’s little gems like the Rosa Bonheur bar in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, which every Sunday afternoon absolutely goes off — there’s no other way to describe it.
Spending a weekend in Paris is one of my favourite mini-breaks. When you live in London it’s surprisingly easy to do. The slick and efficient Eurostar takes you from the centre of London to the centre of Paris — equipped with a small overnight bag, you can jump on the train after work on a Friday and be in Paris in time for dinner.
There’s always things in Paris to see and explore, new exhibitions to discover, entire arrondissements that I’ve yet to experience. But I’m not a very good tourist.
My ideal way to spend a weekend in Paris is to rent a small apartment in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighbourhood and just hang out, pretending that I live there.
Saint-Germain-des-Pres is in the 6th arrondissement. This a residential area, but with a real sense of life and energy.
It’s just a couple of stops on the Metro from Gare du Nord — where you disembark the Eurostar — so you’re still in the heart of the old city. If you can’t find an apartment that suits you, there are plenty of hotels in the area — Hôtel Récamier is one of my favourites, they serve a complimentary afternoon tea which is very civilised.
There are some famous cafes in Saint-Germain-des-Pres — Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to hang out at Cafe de Flore or Les Deux Magots, and you can follow in their footsteps and giggle at the surly waiters.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is a short walk away — a great place to sit and relax or take a picnic, plus there’s lots of hire bike stands in the area so it’s easy to cycle around.
There are heaps of great, relaxed restaurants in the area. I love Le Comptoir –you sometimes have to queue at lunch, but it’s worth it. Simple food done brilliantly, how could go past the pâté du maison or the crème brûlée?
This is a neighbourhood where everyone always seems to be out, drinking coffee, catching up with friends. Some of the best people watching is the relaxed and friendly bars such as Au Pere Louis — a cool bar up near Jardin du Luxembourg, this place is particularly good late at night. Another favourite is La Palette on rue de Seine — the outside tables here are always busy, but it’s worth being persistent and waiting for a table. This is the kind of place where you can spend the afternoon just reading the paper and watching the world go by.
If only I could spend every weekend in Paris.
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Travel Tuesday: Faro and Algarve
In today’s Travel Tuesday destination guide, we take a look at Faro and Algarve in Portugal.
When to go
The Algarve is one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal. Very friendly but also very gay friendly. The best time to go there is between April and November when you can have really nice temperatures. This region is known for its Atlantic beaches and golf resorts. Discover fishing villages on low cliffs overlooking sandy coves, and the central coast between Lagos and Faro is lined with villas, hotels, bars and restaurants.
Faro and its surrounding area offers loads of possibilities to meet people. You have the choice of bars and dance clubs around Faro. After Lisbon and Porto, Faro is without a doubt the new gay destination to discover in Portugal.
- Zablucha, Cupido and Afrodite (sex shops)
- Prestige dance club
- Connection bar
- The loft gay bar
- Heaven club
If you enjoy being naked and enjoy an all-over tan, the following gay nudist beaches are the perfect places to also meet new friends and enjoy yourself!
Clothing-optional beaches around Faro:
- Praia Grande
- Praira do cavalota Preto
- Praia do Submarino
- Manta Rora
Unofficial nudist beaches:
- Praia Da Bordeira
- Praia do Beliche
- Praia Cabana Velhas
- Praia Das Furnas
- Praia Do Zavial
- Praia Dos Pinheiros and Meia Praia in Lagos
- Praia Do Trafal
- Praia Da Futeza
- Praia De Ancao reached by boat from Sitio da Fabrica in Vila Real de Santo
- Antonio just west from Monte Gordo
In terms of accommodation in Faro, I would strongly recommend the Pine Cliff Resort. I had the chance to stay there for a couple of days last year and I really enjoyed it. This amazing resort is very well situated in the Algarve. The resort is what I would call an affordable luxury resort. With your other half or a group of friends, the Pine Cliff offers standard rooms but also townhouses, standard villas, deluxe villas with private pool, suites and penthouses, and golf suites. Your private transfer and breakfast is included and you can also request a private cook. The resort also organises cooking classes. There’s also a private beach, and of course a swimming pool and spa. Experience the Pine Cliff you won’t regret it!
As an alternative, I would also suggest the Thermas Pride Guest House and Spa for men in Albufeira.
Traditional food in Algarve includes:
- Conquilhas a Algarvia (succulent clams fresh from the sea in a garlic sauce.
- Cataplana de Marisco (mixed sea food and vegetables)
- Petiscos de Taberna (Similar to Spanish tapas)
- Feijoada (bean stew with pork and beans)
- Dom Rodrigos (Tarts and pastries very popular in Potugal)
- Leitao (suckling pig smothered in herb and roasted)
- Caldo verde (succulent soup with potatoes, kale, bacon and sausages)
- Queijo (local cheese)
Don’t forget to try the Portuguese wine which is one of the best in the world!
Gay restaurants in Algarve:
- Aperitivo bar (Faro)
- Cocktail and wine bar Columbus (Faro)
What to do
- Bus tours
- Horse riding
- Kite Surf
- Yachts and private boats for parties
- Reef fishing
- Big game fishing
- 2-hour boat ride to see the coastline and caves
- Jeep safaris
- Theme parks
- Cooking classes
- Wine testing
- Yoga classes
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