Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Perfect Day in Paris - great food, great architecture, great jazz

Someone asked me last night what would be the perfect day in Paris. impossible question, there are so many perfect days in Paris--whether you're walking around with a dime in your pocket or you have a platinum American Express card. (As a musician I admit that I fall somewhere in the lower end of that range.) My nights out normally involve live music so I thought I'd try and take the challenge and put together what I think is an amazing day and evening out in the city.

So, the perfect day: well, for a start, it's Sunday: because that's the greatest day in Paris--people hit the streets at 2pm after a lazy morning in bed and the cafes are packed all afternoon with calm, happy and good-looking (or at least very relaxed) Parisians. And on this lazy Sunday we have to start at Bastille because we need to get a couple of things accomplished. First there's a coffee at the Cafe Industrie to get us going. We can sit among the palms and the paintings of Africa and Indochina (with some extremely politically incorrect images of dusky bathing beauties among them) and people-watch through the windows. Then, fired up by the caffeine we'll gather our strength and go down to the Bastille Market to buy the fixings for a picnic later in the day.

Bastille Market is one of the best of the innumerable daily markets around the city. It takes place over the covered canal that comes down into the Seine from the North of the city. There's almost always a Dixieland band playing or a jazz trio busking with some Django-inspired gypsy jazz. Perhaps we could pick up some wine from an independent vineyard, maybe a roast chicken, some bread and tomatoes and for dessert: an apricot tart. With that stored in our backpacks we could head up the canal and begin to prowl our way through the afternoon.

Now we could head for the centre of the city, join the tourists and perhaps get a bit footsore from walking up the Eiffel Tower, but if I'm the guide, we'll take an alternative angle and head up to the multicultural district of Belleville. After wandering through the artist studios that fill up every nook and corner of the neighbourhood we'd share the food and the bottle of wine in the sun sitting in the pretty modern park that tumbles down the hill into the winding streets of Paris's Chinatown. We'd be surrounded by like-minded people and families with kids running through the fountains of the stream that runs through the middle of the garden. And at the square at the top with the incredible view over the city we might find another jazz band, or even a string quartet.

Then, when the sun got a bit too much, in the late afternoon, and when we need a pick-me-up, I'd head downhill and downtown for the Marais, the old Jewish district. It's filled with narrow shady streets and there are cafes with terrasses on every corner. As we head through the trendy Oberkampf strip we might find Sunday afternoon concert at the Cithea. They have a pretty eclectic programming that includes everything from House Music to traditional Jazz. We have a while to make up our minds about the evening: music and events and clubs don't normally get started till late and continue on until the wee hours, so there's no hurry. In fact, even after years in this city I still automatically arrive 'on time' for events and realize that I'm going to have to kill a couple of hours waiting for everyone else in Paris to get there. So, I'll head for my favourite corner in the city and my favourite terrace at the corner of Impasse du Tresor and Vieille du Temple and we can chat away the hours till the early evening. And now we have to make a choice! Do we catch an early set at the 7 lezards cafe, which is only a stones throw away...or do we grab a table on the terrace of Les Philosophes Cafe and spend a few more hours over a meal and another bottle of wine, before catching one of the late sets in the bars nearby... hmmmm. That's a tough one. I think we'd have to send a scout round the corner to find out what's playing and give us the thumbs up or down before we can make that choice. So... let's say that tonight the early show doesn't tempt us enough to spend the first part of the evening in a jazz cellar bar then we'll take over a table on the corner and slowly make our way through the three or four courses that we need after our stressful day. I'd definitely finish with a tiny glass of Vieille Prune alcohol...which sort of tastes like an orchard exploding on the back of your tongue (and is supposed to aid digestion: but I don't know anyone who actually drinks it for that reason).

Finally I'd head off for the jazz strip on rue des des Lombards. In a three-block space you've got four classic jazz clubs: Duc Des Lombards, the Sunset, the Sunside and La Baiser Sale. All of them are going to have a late night show starting between 9 and 10pm, we know we can catch something contemporary, something traditional, a launch of a new CD, perhaps a jam of local and visiting musicians or a vocalist trying out a set of standards. Personally I head first for the Duc des Lombards: mostly because I like the ambiance in the tiny little club...classy & quirky at the same time with fine musicians.

And as a final perk for a perfect Sunday: when we head out of the club at 1am and find that the Metro has ground to a halt, we'll have no problem either grabbing a taxi home or walking back to our place through the calm streets unfazed by the madness of the Saturday night crowds...

there it is: if anyone feels like inviting me along then let me know here...

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