At the end of this very real annus terribilis, I want to say a few words to you, our loyal readers and attendees. Above all, thanks! Thanks for keeping Oscar Wilde Tours alive by reading our blog, attending our Zoom tours, watching our YouTube videos, contributing to our fundraisers—in short, for being a fabulously loyal community. When the pandemic hit the US, in March, it seemed likely to kill the company completely. Who would have thought that 9 months later, as the pandemic continued to rage, we would be putting on our 28th Zoom tour, with audiences regularly over 100, and have gathered over 28,000 views for our videos? It’s been a hard year, but ours is a tiny, flourishing corner. And we have a lot more coming after the holidays! Want to find out more?
The founders of Père Lachaise started this off by moving some famous tombs to the new cemetery. You see one of them above. This is the tomb of the iconic romantic couple of the Middle Ages, the theologian Abélard and his abbess wife Héloïse. This idea worked out well. Père Lachaise is in fact a hugely popular tourist destination—the most visited cemetery in the world. And the attraction is its famous ‘residents’, including such luminaries as Chopin, Rossini, and Jim Morrison. LGBTQ celebrities are particularly prominent. Oscar Wilde’s tomb is the most visited in the cemetery, and other famous residents from Paris’s LGBTQ history include Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Colette.
Traveling to Europe this summer? Want to do something gay? Here is a suggestion. Along with going to a gay bar and chatting with the locals, how about looking up your destination’s gay history and trying to see some things connected to it? It might take some deep research, but you can find out not only about local gay politics now, but also things like Shakespeare’s sexuality or the world of fashionable lesbians in 19th century Paris—and make your trip that much more interesting. As a historian, I can tell you that it is a mistake to assume that history is straight; and as an *art* historian, I suggest you keep an eye on the art museums, where LGBTQ themes are often present!
In many of Europe’s major cities, there are monuments that have gay connections and also interesting places or artworks with gay connections that you might never see if you don’t look into their gay side. This is particularly true in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples and Athens—but there are interesting connections to gay history in many other places. Look into it! You never know what you will find.
Want to read more? See Professor Lear on the blog of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
Everybody knows that Paris is a fantastic city to visit, with fascinating historic neighborhoods, amazing museums, fabulous shopping, and of course spectacular food. But many people seem not to realize that Paris is also one of the greatest cities of gay history. But so it is: I think Paris has so many other great sides that people almost overlook this one. France was the first modern country to decriminalize homosexuality—in 1798, almost 2 centuries before the US. And from that time on, it was a relatively free city for gay life, and gay themes appeared more and more openly in French culture.
In the next week, Oscar Wilde Tours will announce its Europe season for 2017, with Gay London/Gay Paris (August 14-22), followed by our first gay history tour of Amsterdam (August 22-25), and then our new Gay Gods and Heroes package, consisting of two back to back tours of the gay history and art of the Classical world: Gay Greece, Homeland of Same-Sex Love (September 7-19) and Gay Italy, from Caesar to Michelangelo and Beyond (September 20-29). There will be lots to tell when we make the announcement, including for instance our first visit to Northern Greece, where we will explore the life of that ultimate gay hero, King Alexander the Great. But first I want to talk about what a great year it is for the Gay London/Gay Paris tour, because London is the gay history capital of 2017!
Last month I was in Paris to do some research for our gay history and art tour of London and Paris tour in this coming August, and wow did I hit gold. We had always planned on including a tour of the Louvre: several local guides offer a tour of the Louvre following the theme of male beauty through the collection, and we intended to have one of them do that for us.