Welcome to my blog; inspired by Hemmingway's A Moveable Feast, a desire to record the more succulent and misshapen nuggets of my Parisian adventure in nibble-size lobes for your light-entertainment and my anticipated future memory failure, and to get some things off my chest and onto yours.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Good Bars and Restaurants in Paris

This subject would be enough for a several blogs by themselves (and already is), but I thought I'd chip in my favourites, accuumulated over the months.  They're mostly around the 11th and 12th arrondissements, because they're close to where I live.  Expect to see this post expand as the months roll by.  Restaurants and bars are listed by arrondissement.


Le Marché des Enfants Rouge, 39 rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement
The oldest food market in Paris apparently, dating from 1615, although you can't really tell.  It's a dense, bustling open air market which feels indoors because of all the canopies jutting out of the various stalls.  As well as fruit, veg, flowers, oysters and wine (vin chaud available at a bargain €2 in winter), it houses vendors of a variety of foods: African, Tajines, Bento boxes, Italian, French and more.  Best on a warm day.

Domaine de Lintillac, 20 Rue Rousselet, 7th arrondissement
Traditional fare from Perigord (Foie Gras, Cassoulet, Confit de Canard...), Friendly, bilingual owner will talk you through the menu and recommend appropriate wines etc.  Warm and cosy atmosphere- individual toasters on each table for the bread on which you spread the foie gras.  Fantastic classical guitarist every Wednesday 8pm-10pm playing under the banner 'Romantisme Anglais'...!

Au Limonaire, 18 Cite Bergère, 9th arrondissementLive French Chanson (about three groups/artists per night) and good food.  It gets busy, so book ahead, and don't think you can leave after your meal- you can't move without disrupting the whole concert, for which the audience is respectfully silent.  Great French experience for no great cost.

Crêperie Bretonne Fleurie67 Rue Charonne, 11th arrondissement
Great crepes, great cider (in mugs), friendly service, good value, on a good street for bars afterwards.

Pause Café, 41 Rue Charonne, 11th arrondissement
Great for generously sized, delicious brunch (not cheap at around €16 though!)  Nice pastel 50s school furniture (probably never seen in a school), and an interesting chandelier.

Le Bistro du Peintre, 116 Avenue Ledru Rollin, 11th arrondissement
Lovely French food, friendly service, great Art Nouveau décor.  Several vegetarian options!

Au Metro, 8 Place Felix Éboué, 12th arrondissement
Traditional French food, in a warm red, French Brasserie, complete with charming little individually lit booths.

Sushi Kyoto, 7 Avenue Docteur Arnold Netter, 12th arrondissement
All you can eat Japanese food including sushi, maki, soups, edamame, kebabs (japanese style).  Who would've thought it would exist outside of a dream, All-you-can-eat (or more eloquently in French, Buffet Volonté) sushi etc.  €13 in the day or €18 in the evening, the challenge of eating up to 18 dishes with the risk of a €5 fine if you waste anything (I'm not sure how many grains of rice actually constitute waste here), makes for a fun evening in the 12th arrondissement.  For the open-minded a nutella and banana maki roll is available to round off your meal (and is delicious).  Elasticated waistbands recommended.

La Coloniale, 161 Rue de Picpus, 12th arrondissement
Eccentric looking but very tasty Cambodian food served by a woman who sings jazz songs to herself as she darts around.

L'Ourcine, 92 Rue Broca, 13th Arrondissement
Some of the best food I've had in Paris.  Absinthe available with water tap.  About 30 Euros a head but worth every cent.

Crêperie de Josselin, 67 Rue du Montparnasse, 14th arrondissement
Rustic yet huge creperie, bustling with French families and Breton memorabilia. Very tasty double crepes - one crepe on top, and one on the bottom with the filling in the middle, mmmmm.

Smoke, 29 Rue Delambre, 14th arrondissement
Cosy restaurant with good, genourous salad composées for €6.50-€9.50 at lunchtime, and some good fruit tarts for afters.  'Smoke' lager at €4.50.  Nice Jazz posters fill the walls..

More to come...



Le Bar'Bouille, 13 Rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement
Go for the great mural of brilliantly depicted international stereotypes in a bar, which spans two walls.  Then if the weather's good sit outside on the terrace especially around 5pm during film makers 'golden hour', when the sun starts to sink away, for a great  view of bustling area, before moving onto...

Le Barav, 6 Rue Charles Francois Dupuis, 3rd arrondissement
Fantastic bar and 'planche' restaurant (board of cheese, meats, essentially French tapas) in the heart of NOMA (slang for North Marais, brilliant).  Their unique draw is their cave of about 50 wines is on show and browsable.  You pay the price painted on the bottle plus 5 euros corkage and the bottle is yours.  If you don't finish it, they'll put the cork back in and you can take it home.  Nice decor and decent music at a non-intrusive volume!

Le Marché, 2 Place du Marché St Catherine, 4th arrondissement
It's a restaurant really, but I haven't tried the food, so I've put this in the bars section. I went with a friend for a tasty, reasonably priced carafe of rouge and sat in the nice warmed terrace looking over the square.

Le Petit Café, 6 Rue Descartes, 5th arrondissement
Nothing mindblowing, but a nice little bar and cosy terrace up a hill near the Pantheon on a nice little square. Good area for light bar-hopping.

Chez Georges, 11 Rue des Cannettes, 6th arrondissement
Rustic bar of old stone, covered in black and white photos of yesteryears popstars, and a favourite with the Art-college crowd.  The cosy cave downstairs also has a bar.  Upstairs you can get a 'grog' which involves hot whiskey and lemon and is great when you need warming up and want booze at the same time.  Last time I was there an old French man wearing a beret and drinking at the bar.  WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?


Au Petit Garage, Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th arrondissement
Fantastically shabby bar which looks a bit Eastern block, with it's dated higgledy-piggledy furniture. Great, (super-strength) Mojitos- €5 in Happy hour.  Decent music.

U.F.O. Bar, 49 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th arrondissement
50s UFO/ Science fiction decor.  Cheap wine!


Le Bellvilleoise, 21 Rue Boyer, 20th arrondissement
Big, fun venue with live music and balls of all kinds.  Nice plantlife in bar/restaurant with Mezzanine and stage.

Lou Pascalou, 14 Rue des Panoyaux, 20th arrondisement
Fun-size bar tucked into a sunny corner off the main Belleville boulevard, decent choice of inexpensive beers etc.  When we went it was rammed with people listening to a lively brass-based jazz troupe.  We sat outside and were able to listen while we wondered at the logistics of getting a sousaphone into a place that tiny.


Le Bastide, 18 Rue de Lappe, 11th arrondissement
With some of the most expensive, tackiest and also small and interesting bars around, Bastille is a must for anyone on a night out.  The Bastide and Bar Sans Nom (see below) are two of my favourites of the latter category on Rue du Lappe.  Le Bastide is run by a friendly, well-bearded gent with a record player and a good collection of tasteful vintage long-players which he keeps spinning between pumping reaonably priced pintes of pression.  Old band posters and school style coat pegs line the walls of this cosy bar.

Bar Sans Nom, 49 Rue de Lappe, 11th arrondissement
Dimly lit and cosy with sofas and strange paraphanalia dotted all around.  A nice quiet bar to get away from the hubbub of the Place de Bastille and talk without strain.  You will be given a menu the size of a table and kept topped up with free peanuts all night.

Bistro Les Sans Culottes, 27 Rue de Lappe, 11th arrondissement
Very French.

Le Lèche-Vin, 13 Rue Daval, 11th arrondissement 
Shock your feint-hearted friends in this little, reasonably priced gimmic bar in Bastille, with its huge collection of Jesus and Mary picures and memorabilia, contrasted with the hardcore pornography coating the walls of the toilets.

Café L'Industrie, 15, 16 and 17 Rue Saint Sabin, 11th arrondissement
Three venues with the same name in Bastille area.  Dim, warm and woody, with a good wine list by the glass, carafe and bottle, and now with Jazz Manouche every Tuesday in one of them, it's an essential visit if you're in the area.  All three are similar but differently sized, and are reserved variously for food, drinks and I can't tell what else.  They are sure to tell you with their welcome where is best suited to your needs.

More to come...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Jazz Manouche- Gypsies still have a home in Paris

Amongst the disparate cluster of past times which have occupied my time since moving to Paris 14 months ago, including Marionettes, Old photograph collecting, Short-Story writing, Flea Market perusal, Drawing, and of course Bloggetry, is the listening to, playing of (in the broadest sense of the word) and going to gigs of Jazz Manouche.

Known in the English-speaking world as Gypsy Jazz, this is the Manouche Gypsies' take on Jazz, as instigated and brought to wider attention by Django Reinhardt.  I will not speak much further on it's history and style as that is covered along with every other subject known to human kind, here and numerous other places.

With its marginal status in the public eye (or ear) and its existence as a form dominated by one deceased exponent, it often makes me think of Bob Marley and his connection to Reggae.  It is certainly not a dead form, one can hear it in bars, on stereos and the radio, and at many dedicated festivals around the world (particularly this year in the case of Jazz Manouche, 2010 being the centenary of Django's birth), but as a musical style outside of the mainstream, rather than evolving into something else, it took a diversion into a cul-de-sac where it has since lived happily ever after, with only a periodically re-tarmacced drive to reinvigorate it.

Gypsy Jazz is so deeply entrenched in Django's design that it is indelibly his.  Having started lessons in the style with the French Manouchist Romain Vuillemin, I can confirm that the chord shapes used by the pompistes (those who 'pump' the chords, accompanying the soloist) use chord figurations unique to Gypsy Jazz which primarily utilise the fretting hand thumb, first, second and third finger, and only very rarely the forth, which on Django's hand was crippled in the caravan fire of 1928.

It would be fair to say that Django did not do much pomping, and even neglected playing the full melody of a tune, prefering to hint at it in a solo, or he'd just leave it to Stephane Grapelli.  But his soloing, and as a result, the solos of any Manouche player ever since, have been directly influenced by this injury.  In figures which are dominated by pairs- diminished seventh arpeggios, major and minor arpeggios incorporating the semi-tone  leading notes to arpeggio notes, and chromatic runs with one finger- the figurations all sound unique to Gypsy Jazz.  They enable a player to sound authentic, but crucially they originate from the fact that Django played best with his index and middle finger on his left hand, because his third and forth were badly injured in the fire.

In the necessary adherence to and mastery of a specific stylistic rhetoric of techniques, Gypsy Jazz bears much in common with Baroque-period 'Classical'* music.  The ornamentation given to melodies through mordents, trills, turns and other embellishments in accepted performance practice of Baroque music ties these two unlikely bedfellows together accurately.  In both, it is important to play in the 'correct' manner of the period and style.

Having enjoyed the lively good-time atmosphere of Gypsy Jazz for several years, it took seeing Noe Reinhardt, the grandson of Django's cousin by mistake (naïvely assuming he'd be playing in the style of his grandad's cousin) in a Paris Jazz club to realise I was situated in the the best place in the world to experience Gypsy Jazz.

Though born in a caravan in Belgium, Django spent most of his life in the nothern suburbs of Paris playing with his 'Quintette du Hot Club de France', which took shape in 1934 with violinist Stephane Grapelli in the bars of Saint Ouen and Pigalle.  Since then many great players have thrived here and continue to perform in this classic good-time style, making this fine city THE best place on Earth to regularly experience at first hand, some of the best musicians of the genre, in various clubs and bars throughout the city.

As a result of this, I formed in September 2010, The Paris Gypsy Jazz/ Jazz Manouche Gig-Going Troupe (or T.P.G.J./J.M.G.G.T. for short.)  We are a group of people living in Paris who meet up about once every three weeks to listen to a concert and its proceding 'boeuf' (a term for 'group improvisation' which I deemed absurd for its irrelevance before considering the English equivalent 'Jam'), open to anyone who can play in the style to join in.  Some come for the music, some for the opportunity to meet people they otherwise would never have met.  I have met through it a Russian scientist who researches the heart in the biggest hospital in France, and who has recently written a book on cholestrol, and a French woman who sells exclusively Chinese art from a Gallery in Saint Germain des Pres.  

If you are in Paris, check out our forthcoming meetups here: T.P.G.J./J.M.G.G.T. and we'll take it from there.

Whether you come with us or not, I would like to supply this list, compiled as the greatest lists are, from other lists (and my own experience), of the current best places to see and hear Jazz Manouche in Paris, the best city in the world to hear it.

I shall update the list with comment as and when I go to each place.  Venues are listed by day of the week, starting as all weeks do, not on Sundays, but on Monday, the first day of the actual, real week as any normal human would have it.

Le Piano Vache Bar- 8 Rue Laplace, 5ème (Metro Maubert Mutualité) Mondays
Grubby cavernous old hole in the Latin Quarter, where Rudolph Raffalli plays with pompiste and bassist every Monday night.  Old rock and film posters (and a big'un of Django) are layered on every surface in this grungy den of two rooms, one with stage, and one much smaller and brighter reserved for talking.  Tunes include the inescapable 'Minor Swing', French Chanson arrangements and many other recognisable hits from the pop world, 'swingified'.  Perhaps not quite jaw-dropping enough to be listening astutely to every last note and near-note, but the shhh-ing barman will cheerily and without irony tell the whole audience in French and in English to, "shut the fuck up", if and when -it is a bar, afterall- anyone talks over his man.

Le Styx- 126 Rue Oberkampf, 11ème (Metro Ménilmontant) Mondays
A cosy restaurant bar in the French style, where you can't sit down, even with a group of people if you are just drinking, in case someone wants to come in and eat.  It is otherwise a great venue for the Manouche, with a good view for everyone of the small stage for two, and a changing roster of Manouchistes.

La Taverne de Cluny- 51 Rue de la Harpe, 5ème (Metro Cluny La Sorbonne) Mondays and Thursdays      Website

Attracts some of the best players around, but stage in an odd place meaning your view of the stage a little awkward.  The barstaff can be patronising to the regular foreign clientele, insisting on speaking English when your French is better than their English, and drinks not cheap, but focus on the music and you'll be glad you went.

Le Café St. Jean- 23 Rue des Abbesses, 18ème (Metro Abbesses) Mondays
Nice warm, red classic brasserie feel to the venue in a nice spot by the Abbesses metro stop.  Stage in a slightly awkward place for viewing, unless you get there early, but a trio of two guitarists and violinist, entertain with solid old-timey Manouche.

(La Chope du Château Rouge- 40 Rue Clignancourt, 18eme (Metro Château Rouge) Tuesdays)
Busy, lively bar, with unamplified Manouche headed by guitarist Samy Daussat with changing guests.
I leave this venue listed as you may see it mentioned elsewhere, but as of April 2011 it no longer hosts the gypsy jazz.  An inside man tells me this was due to the owner's insistance on leaving the football on the TV in the background and asking that the musicians play unamplified, meaning that they were barely heard by anyone...

La Locandiera- 145 Rue Oberkampf, 11ème (Metro Ménilmontant) Tuesdays
Nice, warm restauranty vibe.  Large jam with young players.  Standard very good.  Conservatoire types, sometimes featuring English-born violinist Daniel John Martin, who hosts a night at Aux Petits Jouers (see below), who may bring his dog.  Collection basket for musicians.

L'Est Parisien- 156 Rue Faubourg St. Martin, 10ème (Metro Gare de L'Est) Wednesdays
I never got chance to visit this place, but though it hosts other music including jazz, as of May 2011 it no longer hosts gypsy jazz.  I leave this venue listed as you may see it mentioned elsewhere.

Aux Petits Joueurs- 59 Rue de la Mouzaïa, 19ème (Metro Pré St. Gervais) Wednesdays

Violinist Daniel John Martin and illustrious guest performers, who have included Angelo Debarre and the magnificent Adrien Moignard.

La Timbale- 2 Rue Versigny, 18ème (Metro Simplon) Thursdays

Bouquet du Nord- 85 Rue de Mauberge, 10ème (Metro Gare du Nord) Fridays
Over the road from where Stephan Grapelli used to live, right by Gare du Nord.  Regular old timers- decent standard.

(L'Anvers du decor- 32 bis Rue d'Orsel, 18ème (Metro Anvers) Sundays)
I'm leaving this listed as you may see it on many other never-updated manouche listings, but as of 2010 it no longer hosts jazz Manouche!

La Chope des Puces- 122 Rue des Rosiers, St. Ouen (Metro Porte de Clignancourt) Weekends
Where Django used to play, run by Mondine and Ninine Garcia, a father and son duo of gypsy jazzers, dad with shiny electric jazz guitar, slicked back hair and shades, son kept on a short leash as pompiste, with others joining from time to time.

A fairly standard bar at the front where the players played on the Sunday I went, (with a guitar stuck to the beer taps) but out the back a big hall 'Espace Django Reinhardt' is an amazing restaurant/museum with Manouche gypsy and jazz based treasures, including Django's brother's guitar (the instrument museum at Cite de la musique have Django's) and a fairground fortune-telling machine.  Music 3-6pm Saturdays and Sundays.

Atelier Charonne- 21 Rue Charonne, 11ème (Metro Ledru Rollin) Everyday (nearly)
Very modern (slightly tacky) venue with expensive drinks to supplement the free entry and lack of collection basket for musicians.  Great players from time to time, always worth checking their website (see above).

* Those familiar with 'Classical' music may share my frustration with its accepted nomenclature.  Baroque being as much a style as Classical, modern parlance has lumped all western historic styles under the same ineffective banner 'Classical music' whether or not it originated before or after the Classical period (approximately 1750-1820).