One Daddy’s Perspective: It's Open Season for Bear and Daddy Hunting in Paris

August 25, 2010

OK, there I was recently, a gay man firmly in place in the Daddy camp, just a few months shy of 50, in gay Paree and looking for love in all the wrong places. Or, well, looking for love in the famed, romantic City of Lights. I am a bit of a Daddy-lite or Baby Daddy in appearance, but with the perspective of a mature man, I took the to the streets and bars of Paris to explore what’s going on these days for Daddies my age and for my Bear brethren.

Given the popular image of Paris as a center of art, fashion and culture, I thought it might be akin to West Hollywood or Chelsea: a youth-centric culture full of body-conscious men. Instead, I learned that gay life in Paris is one that very much embraces, if not celebrates, mature men, masculine male culture and Bears.

Through my recent experience I came away with the impression that the French are much less a youth-centric culture than Americans. I have always had the impression that in France women of all ages are adored and appreciated; this certainly includes mature women. The same appears true of men. I love the fact that in many of my visits to France I find that young men for, if they are attracted to whatever you are putting out there, are not necessarily worried about your age. A world of young French men find mature guys attractive. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that in French society mature French men are appreciated for their experience, their wisdom, and, well, sexual proclivities!

Let’s start by getting our bearings. Ahh, that’s funny, non? The city is organized by neighborhoods/administrative districts referred to as “arrondissements.” Twenty to be precise. I spent most of my time in the 4th, the area of town referred to as the “Marais” (or marsh), and the boyztown of Paris. The Marais is the heart of the 4th Arrondissement.

Bars/Nightlife

First thought, the key to not only a good time in Paris, but to saving a little money, is the old “Happy Hour”. All right, queens, don't roll your eyes. Happy Hours are alive and well and THE place to be most evenings in the Marais. But the hours are much different from ours; most start around 5-6, but go to 9, 10 and even 11.

Second, another suggestion up front: skip the cocktails in most French bars. IF you are a queen that likes to have a few vodkas, rum and cokes or martinis through the course of the night, consider learning to like beer, a lot. All the Daddy's in Paris do, so when in Rome! Kidding aside, cocktails are expensive and weak and generally made with very cheap liquor. Beer, on the other hand, is almost always the drink of choice as you will see. A “biere pression” is served in “demi” 25cl, around 8 ounces, or 50 cl glasses. During happy hours one often gets a pint for around 3.5-4.20€, but later on the price reaches 6 to 8€, and honey, even with the current exchange rate, most of these draft beers aren’t worth 10-12 bucks. And it may sound like heresy, but skip the wine as well. I tasted a friend’s glass last week in one of the busiest clubs, and, no joke, it was vinegar!

Tips on Bear and Daddy Hunting

Just as in any culture, the French have their codes of gay behavior. Remember the whole S&M scene of the 80’s and our youth? Wait, wait, sorry, for now I refer to the old “Stand & Model” phenomenon. We’ll get to the other later :) Well, in many situations the French love to wear the expression of indifference and or insouciance. You know the, “I am SOO not interested and not going to talk to you” look, pasted on their faces. I suppose American queens are guilty as well. But we Daddies and Bears have grown and moved beyond all those games, haven’t we? Well, in Paris fear not. They are interested. Though they pose hard-to-get; French men are easy! Also know that in most cases, French men will not approach (unless terribly turned on by your American accent, especially if you are trying to speak French). But if you are Bear or Daddy hunting in Paris, go on, approach them, they will reward you for it :-)

Before I go on to talk specifically about the bars, I think now I will set the stage and offer a few other helpful hints for enjoying all that Paris has to offer us Daddies and Bears alike. Feel free to skip if you like, the details and reviews about the bars visited recently follow.

  • One of the (many) great aspects of the French culture is that they are, umm, shall I say a bit less Puritanical about sex. SO, many/most bars have places for just that: darkrooms, playrooms, wandering subterranean areas should you choose or should this be to your interest. No judgments here either way! TIPS: So, Daddies/Bears/Ladies, as much as you may be tempted to wear your finest pumps out to the bars in order to channel Carrie Bradshaw in her Manolo Blahniks to attract the French men, forget it. The stairs to many of the play areas require some attention to your footing. And, if you are like me and wear glasses, in my case “progressive” ones (yes, ok they used to be called bi-focals) you will need all the attention you can give to your footing on the stairs and/or while “playing.”
  • If you don’t smoke, consider picking up the habit for your visit! Ok, joking, it was just meant tongue-in-ear to encourage you to learn or prepare yourself for just how sexy French guys are when they are smoking. Then, take a deep breath and tolerate this otherwise fading habit in the US culture, for it is ALIVE and well and deeply ingrained in France’s. The good news? They can’t smoke indoors anymore! So, no smoky bars and/or restaurants. Remember your mantra, “I am only here for xxx days/weeks, I don’t have to like smoking, but they do.” For dare I say that there is a 7 out of 10 chance that the guy(s) you meet and hook up with will be smokers. So, take a deep breath and...dive in.

Ok, some personal notes on the bars and my experiences in them. The standard-Bearers (ok thats another funny one, right?) for good times in the Marais:

(Café) Cox Bar - 17 Rue des Archives. On any given evening, and certainly without fail on Saturday and Sunday late afternoon into evening, this is the place. What’s hard not to like about it: small bar, big mugs of beer, sexy hot men and young guys, Bears and Daddies alike. Most of the cruising action is on the sidewalk, where guys are pressed up against each other for the luxury of grabbing a smoke. Take one look at the super sexy French men in that mosh pit: masculine guys, Daddies, Bears...it’s all drag, but then again what isn’t; your drag, my drag, etc. Squeeze in outside; inside is boring. Happy hours draw the crowds from 6-9 every day. Mugs of 16oz Pelforth or Kronenbourg beers (not particularly the greatest) are 3.90-4.20€. Here is a link to a cute little FB-video of theirs.

Bear’s Den - 6 Rue des Lombards - Ok, as if it’s not obvious by the name, this is the most Bear-friendly place quite near the Marais. It’s actually located a few streets away from the main part of boyztown in an area called Les Halles/Beaubourg, very close to the George Pompidou Museum of Modern Art. But only a matter of blocks from the Marais along a wonderful narrow, cobblestone pedestrian-only street. The next bar listed, Wolf is also in Les Halles very close by. Here again there is a little area out front that the Bears are happily squeezed into (yes, smoking). Inside, the bar is narrow and long, but not really that big, so it always feels crowded. Say hello or ask for Jean, one of the bartenders. I met him and found him to be one of the friendliest in the Marais. Turns out he lived in Bakersfield for a year!! Wonder what he was being punished for? At the end of the bar/room is a set of stairs and a sign that reads in French and English, "Den for bears only”! Check it out, it’s very cool as the stairs lead down to a centuries-old, arched, stone ceiling basement. Here there is another bar and a mezzanine that overlooks a little dance floor. There are also some dark rooms where guys were getting their Bear-on when things started to get frisky down there late one night that I was there. Happy hour is 5-10 everyday, and it is a great happy hour, possibly why they are so crowded most days, as basically its two for one. When ordering a beer, you are served a large beer for the price of a small one, i.e., 50cl beers for €3.9-€4.20. Another plus, they have good beers on tap: Grimbergen Blanche, Rouge, and Double as well as San Miguel and 1664. Other drinks, sodas, wine, hard alc and non alc are 2 for 1, and they will hand you a little chit/ticket good for your next drink.

Wolf Bar - 37 Rue des Lombards - A bar that is a natural habitat for Bears. Not far from the Bears Den, but this is the place to go later on in the night, after the nap following happy hour at the Bear’s Den or late on the week-ends. The place is fun, friendly with a little dance floor and a back room for “Hairy Men Only”. Happy hour from 5-9 pm is sweet, pints of Grolsch for 3.50€. Bear’s Den was much more lively, though, during the late afternoon and evenings when I was there recently. Wolf serves food during the day (11-4) and offers a “Wolf Meal” during the day for 10€; can’t comment as I was there at night.

Open Café - 17 Rue des Archives - This bar is just up the street from the Cox. It wraps around the corner with outdoor seating that is great in the afternoon or evening break from shopping, especially on Saturdays. It is a great place on that stretch of rue des Archives for Daddy watching. In the evenings on Saturday and Sunday it also has an overflow crowd that rivals that of the Cox Bar. The crowd is more of a trendy mix of younger guys, twinks, and sexy mature guys (just not as masculine in appearance or drag as the Cox Bar :). But, though it’s popular among this mix of guys, I just never caught the vibe to this bar, outside the experience of enjoying the place as a cafe. Maybe I’m not trendy enough! Happy hour is everyday from 6-10 pm; pints of Heineken draft for 3.70€, and of all things, Red Bull. At night after 10pm they offer a Champagne Happy Time. I was never daring enough to order the cheap “champagne” they were serving. A “coup” of Champagne is 5.90€ instead of 8.5€.

Raidd Bar - 23 Rue de Temple - For many guys in the Marais, this is THE bar. Crowded most nights; shirtless hunky bar-tenders, high level of energy, after 11pm entertaining “shower” shows with hot, hung guy in a plexiglass shower stall high above the floor. For me, it’s a bit of the stereotypical big WeHo or Chelsea bar experience like Mickeys or Splash; you may get the idea. A little time spent in these bars goes a long way for me! Anyway, loaded with guys across the board, twinks, hot Daddies and young guys hanging out smashed and pressed together in a hot steamy space on busy nights. Open from 5pm to 4am most nights and until 5 am on the weekends. Happy hour is from 5-9, but their draft beer for 4€( Heineken) happy hour continues until 11. Drink up early, because I found the regular priced beers/drinks to be expensive. There is a another bar and chill area, along with a smoking room downstairs. The chill area always struck me as the place for younger guys rolling on their E. Since there is not a dance floor per se, it’s off to...

The Cud - 12 Rue des Haudriettes/or Rue Michel Le Comte - On first impression early in the evening (midnight that is), I thought that I was in THE twink bar of the Marais, first and foremost the staff/bar-tenders are super twinky. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a twink that loves a Daddy, but I wasn’t sure I was in the mood this night. However, patience paid off. There is an upstairs bar/lounge area when you enter, but the fun and the dance floor are below. I arrived around midnight and the music playing was some of the best I heard in the Marias, but not very crowded. That all changed around 2:30-3:00am. This is THE place to go after the other bars close (yes, bars close in Paris! Many promptly at two am). By 3 the dance floor was packed and sweaty; full of guys all ages looking for something to do “after-hours”. Not really a Bear scene, but I found there to be a lot of cruisy guys hovering around this Daddy. No cover.

Le Tango, 11 Rue au Maire - (This street is a bit tricky to find as its more of an alley) Known as Tango or La Boîte à Frissons (translated to “the box chills”, a name for the accordion). I always seemed to have a good time when was in this club. A club in the truest sense, it really is one of Paris’ oldest dance halls. In its current state, it retains the look of a dance hall or road house in Des Moines circa 1952. But, it can be one of the funnest places to be on many Friday and Saturday nights. A spot to go and have a good time; partly trendy, partly cruisy, but mostly friendly and all about the energy on the dance floor. It’s a good time for everyone, Daddies, Bears, trendites.; a bit like a “La Cage au Folles “ of 2010. “La Bal Gay et Lesbien” on Saturday's and most often a drag show on Fridays.

So, on Friday and Saturday there is a specific “program” so-to-speak, to the evening. That is, around 1030 starts two hours of “couples” dances: Tango, Cha-Cha, Two-Step, Waltz, Polka, Rock n Roll, etc. At 12:30 regulars pour onto the dance floor to kick off the evening with a tradition of doing a line-dance called the “Madison”. Yes, you have read correctly; it’s all a bit surreal actually, but it works. Now that the floor is packed, the music morphs into dance music that keeps it filled til 5 am. Be prepared for a fair share of, umm, contemporary European dance music with some flash-backs thrown in. The crowd singing along at the top of their lungs to this annoying dance music is a sight the first time around; after that, nails on a chalkboard. Cover is 8€ and drinks standard for the Marais, but only bottled beer and weak, expensive cocktails.

Duplex - 25 rue Michel Le Comte - Here again, among its fans and followers, THE place to be, but let me qualify. It’s a small bar, and just a bar, no dance floor or play rooms, etc., except, that is, for the makeshift “smoking chamber” on a mezzanine overlooking the bar area. The place is full of mature guys and predominantly Daddy territory with a smattering of younger guys on any given night. But this place purportedly is the stomping ground for gay Paris artists, intellectuals, fashionistas etc, or their respective wannabees. Here again, always an interesting/good time. Patience with the pretentiousness on some nights will be rewarded with meeting hot, interesting guys. Happy hour - 8-10 pm, Pelforth (my least favorite of standard bar handles) is 2.7€ and 3.7€ for a demi and pint respectively. After that prices are 5€ and 6.5€ for the Pelforth.

Le Mic Man - 24 rue Geoffrey Langvin - Literally within the shadow of the Pompidou Museum. Now, it may have been that I just hit this bar at the wrong time on two visits, entirely possible, but rather hard for me to write anything to entice you to go. The crowd is mostly masculine/macho crowd, but for some reason the the place felt seedy and grungy, as did the crowd, just not in a good way. The bar is in the front as you walk in off the street, pleasant enough on a sunny afternoon. Downstairs is a video room and a dark play room; never really found anyone in the place worth following downstairs. There is too much fun to be had in the Marais to spend time anywhere that’s not “inspiring”! Happy hour is 7 to 9:30 and drinks are 30% off. While I was there, they were serving Corona all day long for 3.9€. But seeing that I don’t drink Corona when I'm in California, no sense drinking it in Paris!

(Happy by) Le Quetzal - 10 rue de la Verrerie - Much like le MicMan, never quite connected with the crowd here, I think that every city has one or two C-listers bars...oh, no, I didn’t just write that! Although it does have a busy happy hour, perhaps only because it is among the longest from 5-11, on beers and sodas.

Adventures Outside the “Traditional” Bar Experience.

As I mentioned, sex is readily available in Paris/The Marais. So, if you are looking to skip the formalities of socializing in a bar setting, here are a few ideas, i.e., sex-clubs, bath houses, etc. I know that it is easy to poo-poo the idea of going to one of these places. In the US they often have a dark vibe and a strong drug presence. I don’t find this to be necessarily the case in Europe. I think because culturally they are so less uptight about sex, it’s no surprise these places exist to go get it easily and to have fun. That said, never forget to apply all your proven personal safe health/sex practices!

Secteur X - 49 rue des Blancs Manteaux - New place on the scene, opened May of last year. As you will find, most of these places are behind intimidating entrances: locked doors that you must be buzzed in past. You enter into a small bar area, but the action is all downstairs. It’s a bit cramped down there, and I found myself thinking that it wasn’t working. It felt dirty, but not sexy, if that makes sense. Saturday afternoon is S&M themed (leather, latex, military, slave/master) from 3-8 pm. Sunday is the piss party from 3-8 pm. No entry fee and beers are around 6€.

Full Metal - 41 rue des Blancs Manteaux, across the street from Secteur X - This is slightly larger, been around longer. Also a little bar to hang out and scope the crowd. Then one can wander off to the many dark rooms, play areas, several equipped with slings, nets, and benches and cubicles. Serious crowd and loads of leather Daddies and Bears. This was often a little more crowded than Secteur X, especially week-ends.

Sun City - 62, Boulevard de Sébastopol – OK, by all accounts, this is THE bath house possibly for its sheer size and the fact that it attracts a full range of mature guys and young guys. Big jacuzzi and steam room, lots of hallways to wander and small private rooms to complete the mission. I find it comfortable for mature men because the place is often full of hot men of all ages. And for Bears they even have several theme nights. As one could guess, most nights it’s not busy until 11 or 12, and later on the weekends. Saturday and Sunday late afternoon/evening, 4 til 7 or8, it’s crowded with guys looking for a little something before the night begins.

The two theme nights make it fun and friendly for Bears:
Journee Bear 2nd Saturday of the month, from noon-7pm intended as a day for Bears and men seeking bears. Its popularity my be due to that it is sponsored in part by the Bear Pride Organisation.

Sexy Bear – Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. Asian music-themes. Massages offered (extra). Mint tea and lemondade offered free.

Hours noon to 6am. Fees are Mon-Thurs18€, Fri/Sat/Sun -19.5€ , under 26, 11€ and after 3am, 12€. Usually the entrance fee gets you a ticket for a free drink in the “cafe/bar” downstairs next to the pool.

Two other places that I did not make it to, but which have a good buzz:

Les Bains d’Odessa, 5 rue d’Odessa - This place advertises itself as a bathhouse for mature men and Bears.

QG Bar - It advertises itself “...as a place for Pigs, Urbans, Sneakers, Army, Skins”; you get the idea. My time in Paris was running short; so I did not have a chance to stop by, but you can check out their site, QG Bar.com . Free entrance, one drink min.

Adventures Outside the Bar Experience. and into the Cafés

As you may have guessed by the addresses, there’s a lot going on on rue des Archives. So, you don’t have to be in a bar to enjoy some Daddy watching and Bear hunting. There is a string of cafes along Archives but the following two are my favorites in the Marais to enjoy the above in a classic Paris cafe setting:

Le Marroniers - 18 rue des Archives - A quintessential Paris sidewalk cafe. On any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon (to late afternoon), this place is packed with sexy guys: mature men/Daddies, young guys. Trendy and a bit of THE place to be seen in the afternoon, but a great place to see. Food is decent, so if you’re hungry and want a little eye-candy, its hard to beat this place as a gay Paris cafe.

Le Carrefour - 8 rue des Archives - Outside of a bar setting, I found this place to be one of the best in the Marais to be sitting with the guys. Just down the street and on the corner (which I like a lot for the “perspective” it provides for catching the hotties promenading in the Marais), this place is equally as hot on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon to late afternoons to Marroniers. Less about the food, though, it is about grabbing an afternoon beer or espresso. The crowd is less trendy and as such, to me more masculine, and a fun mix of Daddies and Bears alike.

This Daddy will not hesitate about planning another vacation that either involves a stop in Paris for a few days or is based there for a week or two...or three or four! It’s super friendly environment and open season there for guys like you and me.

If you want, check out some of my favorite Paris restaurant recommendations on my blog. See the page for "Paris restaurants experienced".

Tags: Travel, Paris
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Comments

Hurray for freedom of expression in Europe for sure. Paris and Amsterdam are certainly open to a lot more variety of cultures than America is. America is the only country where audiences would even pay attention to advertising against gay union's. It's legal in a whole list of countries around the world that don't have the same puritanical issues as America. Someday America may actually be a free country. In the mean time we have to go to Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand in order to have a great vacation without hiding in the shadows as much.

A fine thought. Let's hope more of the country becomes like P-town, San Francisco, Rock River, Vt. -- where we can be ourselves in all our glory.

As a native Parisian who has been living in San Francisco since 1990 with only a few trips back, you helped me rediscover what the gay scene is about in the city of lights...Merci monsieur!

Bien sur, avec mon plaisir! It was fun doing my "research" :)

I spent a few visits in Paris in 2006 and found it very friendly for a Big Daddybear! As a big guy, navigating the catacombs of the BEAR DEN was daunting, and I didn't venture lower than the first lower level, even though it does extend deeper! I did have a surprising experience in another bar which I have chronicled HERE....
http://bearchub4u.com/stories/fantasy2.html
Ahhh... "Gay Paree"!!

Are you guys in North America just understanding, Europeans are more tolerant of Mature men and value their age and experience highly?? Your scene could learn a lot for them, it's less vanity orientated for starters.

There'a alot we can learn from the Europeans, still! You are right, less vanity-centric cultures for one!
I'm guessing that there is alot we can share as well these days I suppose :)
But on this front, it was refreshing to witness, and report, on the openness that exists in the scene in Paris. But, perhaps you can speak, I fear that it may not be like that out in "La France profonde". Just like in the US, life in big(ger) cities can be deceiving to the real puise and or beliefs of the rest of the country.

Your soooo right, Elderin!!!
As much as I love being an "American"! I have notice the great difference in my country's need for younger men!!!! I myself, have been attracted to mature men!!! even as a teenager!!! But not all Americans think or believe this way and it is sad!! After being an airline employee, I have notice the mind set of this country compaired to others across both ponds!!!
But don't get me wrong! if it was not set this way, I would not have had the kind of mature men I have had in my younger days!! You choose and pick your battles!! It is a "Ying & Yang"!!! Way of life!!!

In Paris you can grope a bear and not get the treatment that Mathew Shepherd did in the good-ole-boy territory of Wyoming USA. That is why many people are moving to other countries to get out of the United States but a couple of countries are closing their borders to more transient Americans to help preserve the local culture which is a good idea.

Great article! Paris never ceases to amaze with its variety and vibrancy. Thanks for the tour!

Very interesting for sure.

Very well done. How about similar articles on other overseas cities/areas? London, Athens, Rome???

Like the man said...Daddies of the world UNITE! And lets all go to Paris, District 4, BOYSTOWN!

The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues