Paris - Couples spontaneously kiss at the Metro stop. Cuddle in a smoke-filled café as if the place had no heating system. Gaze into each other's eyes with the piercing intensity of hypnosis in progress. Paris is truly addicted to love. But it's pretty fond of sex, too.
It's late morning, and having successfully navigated to the Blanche Metro station on the Boulevard de Clichy in the city's northern 18th arrondissement, I'm on my way to the Musée de l'Erotisme (Museum of Erotic Art).
The Boulevard de Clichy is home to the infamous Moulin Rouge, and other lesser-known palaces of exotic dance share this strip with the historic grand dame. Many even have barkers out front to invite passersby in for a memorable visit. You've got to admire their persistence.
"Monsieur?" a gravelly-sounding woman's voice beckons to me.
I say nothing as I walk in the direction of the Musée, not wanting to waste Barb Barker's time. Or mine, for that matter. Again with the "Monsieur?," this time accompanied by a tap on my shoulder.
I turn and am immediately pitched on all the benefits (and ladies) awaiting me inside the venue in front of which we stand. I politely decline the invitation by sharing with her the fact that I'm gay.
"No problem," she offers. "We have lesbians inside for you."
Moments later, I arrive at the Musée de l'Erotisme, pay my 8 euros and quickly review a brochure that promises seven floors of "erotic art in all its forms, throughout time and different world cultures."
I'm eager to discover what's on the other side of the turnstile, where, the pamphlet assures me, a permanent collection of more than 2,000 items awaits. Wouldn't it be cool if the rods of the turnstile you press against to enter the exhibition were phallic in shape, I find myself thinking. Clearly, I'm ready for my tour.
It's a fascinating multicultural and historical sex lesson. Glass display cases containing erotic treasures and representations of practices from past centuries educate and impress with exquisitely detailed craftsmanship: female Tibetan and Aztec fertility idols; a Bali adultery sculpture of a man with a broken nose and a limp phallus that reaches the ground in defeated betrayal; a deep red statue from Nepal, its colour an expression of the essence of femininity; a Thai prayer tree of fertility worship, each of its nine twisting branches in the shape of a cock; Chinese snuff bottles decorated with sexual imagery.
A framed series of sensual Kama Sutra illustrations hangs on one wall, while one of the few examples of gay male activity on hand - showing two Indian men engaging in anal sex - tells its story in the form of delicately painted panels.
Often the art is amusing. The 5-inch protruding heel of a Japanese wooden sandal has been carved in the shape of an erect penis, and a wooden Thai betel nutcracker has been made in the shape of a naked woman, her legs long and strong enough to crack the largest of nuts between them with little effort.
Speaking of which, the male version of an Indonesian water pot has testicles hanging beneath its spout. A Japanese proverb, "In the heart of the thicket, desire always finds room for the tree of life" is the inspiration for a wooden sculpture of a woman straddling the shaft of a penis twice her size with the enthusiasm of a seasoned rodeo performer on an untamable stallion. A sculpted snake charmer attempts to work his magic on a large limp dick as it rests between two crutches.
An entire floor of the museum offers a history of Paris courtesans and brothels in photos, humorous magazine illustrations of the day and an assortment of other storytelling documents.
And then there are the controversial and scandalous pieces, the most notable of which is a selection of 12 silent French single-reel porn films, mostly from the 1920s, entitled Polissons & Galipettes (but also known as The Good Old Naughty Days). Originally intended for brothel waiting room viewing, some of the images are pretty straightforward - fondling, sucking, fucking - while some are unexpectedly shocking.
One involves two nuns, their student the well-endowed gardener and a coaxed-into-cunnilingus canine. Equally memorable is the animated battle between two cocks for the pleasure of some ass-plowing - ass as in donkey.
It's mid-afternoon when I return to the sun-kissed sidewalk outside the museum and arrange by phone to meet up with my partner on the other side of town. I'm looking forward to some kissing, cuddling and hand-holding with him.
Sex may have to wait until tomorrow, though. I've already had enough for one day.