Article by Frank Cierpial
For me, Halloween has always been a time for candy, creative costumes, and fun and why should Parisians sit that out? In school, I learned that Halloween is not really a thing in France, but based on what I saw over the past two days, it is. Yes, it’s true that the French like other Europeans generally celebrate the “Toussaint” as we call it in French, or “All Saints Day” in English, which is what Halloween derived from in America. But they do celebrate Halloween as well. My first stop on my Halloween journey was to the Conciergerie which is a prison and is part of the Palais de la Cité which I will be talking to you about in a minute. My last stop was my favorite destination in Paris for drinks and fun, the famous…Sly Bar. They had an awesome and unforgettable Halloween party that ended a night of fun, costumes, and all things spooky in Paris. Let’s dive in!
The very center of Paris is actually made up of islands and since Julius Cesar conquered the Gauls for the Roman Empire the Île de la Cite has always been a powerful and important spot in the city. Just on the banks of the seine you can always see the Palais de la Cite and the Conciergerie. Most people know the building, but have no idea what it is. I’m about to solve the mystery for you. The Palais de la Cite has been the home to kings since the first king of France Clovis. It has also been home to the first of the Capetiens Hugh Capet. For those of you who go weak in the knees for Gothic Architecture, this is the destination for you! The inside of the Conciergerie has the most beautiful ribbed vaulting I have ever seen in my Parisian life, it is breath taking.
Primarily during the Terror period which is the aftermath of the French Revolution, people were afraid of royalists who were interested in bringing the Monarchy back to France. Those who were suspected of trying to bring back the monarchy were held in this very prison. Marie Antionette and Maximilien Robespierre, two of the most famous characters in the French Revolution, were held there. You can actually see a reconstruction of Marie Antionette’s cell, (the actual one has escaped memory). The coolest part is that there are actually some of her objects in the cell like a carpet and a cup. You can also visit some of the other cells. They reconstructed the cells used for poor prisoners and others for wealthy prisoners and they look vastly different. Poor prisoners slept on straw and had nothing else in the cell. As for scientists, intellectuals and wealthier people, got a bed and place to do their work.
After you go through the cells on the top floor, you can go down the winding staircase into the “Chapelle des Girondins”. The Girondins were a political party in the French Revolution that were for the abolition of the Monarchy, but then fell on the wrong side of history and were eventually all executed. There is a lovely Gothic chapel named after them in the prison. Take your time walking through because there is a lot to see. For expats, if you are under 26 and are in school, you can get in for free. Ah…the perks of being a student in France.
Now, I am normally not a gift shop person, but as a French Revolution enthusiast, I had to take a look and I wanted to buy every book they had. Anything you want to know about the French Revolution can be found there including biographies on Marie Antionette and Robespierre. The Conciergerie is fun informative and one of the less talked about museums in France. If you are in Paris and looking to go a bit of off-the-beaten-path, skip over to the Conciergerie. You will not regret it. See if you can get a guided tour, because the tour guides have all the anecdotes you could hope to know when visiting such a place.
I ended the night the way I end most holidays here in France at Sly Bar. Sly is no longer the same bar that I wrote about a few years back. It’s bigger and better. They built a new club downstairs. Sly is known in Paris for their Halloween Parties and this year, they had an outrageous scary clown party. No candy though. But the French really believe that Halloween is for scaring people! Who’d have thought!?! (note the second degree sarcasm…) 😉 But back to Sly… All of the bartenders including Sylvain and Messias were dressed up as scary clowns in incredible makeup.
They decorated the bar in spider webs and things that will make your skin crawl and served up a selection of delicious drinks to sip with the delicious guys who work and go there. The bar is bigger and more entertaining and is now more equipped to meet the demand of a bigger crowd than four years earlier, it is one of the most frequented gay bars here in Paris. They still have the best and most affordable happy hour here in Paris. The bar is still on Rue des Lombards for any LGBT tourists looking for a night of friendly fun. The people who work there and go there are still the most welcoming people ever so it is a great place to go and make friends. If you are in Paris, I still recommend it.
It was a great Halloween here in Paris, and I would like to hear from you. Have you ever spent Halloween in Paris? If you have, tell us all about it in the comments below. What did you do? What did you see? If you haven’t spent Halloween in Paris “C’est pas grave” I’m sure your Halloweens are fun and full of sweets! I hope you all had a Happy Halloween, scary clown bises from the Prête-Moi Paris team here in Paris.