Daytime Nightclubbing

photo: cafe le galopin

The Galopin is not on the 'with feeling' list but is
a goodtime café anyhow.

With the Feelgood List

Paris:- Wednesday, 26. January 2000:- There are a 1000 'in' cafés, bars and restaurants in Paris where it is possible to drink and eat 'with feeling,' as the local magazine 'Nova' - expert in these things - recently put it.

Eating 'with feeling' sounds attractive even if I don't know what it means. Lately I have been eating merely to feel good. For all I know, eating 'with feeling' takes a lot of time and may be so emotional, that it is distressing.

As the Internet's café and bar 'reporter' for Paris, I do not think I will ever get around to checking out all of these 1000 places.

Geographically, Paris is not big, but taking a good look at 1000 addresses seems to be at least a three-year job - or a one-year job with three 'test' meals a day. Who can eat this much? Who can handle all this 'with feeling?'

It would be playing catch-up anyway. By the time any list is established, 100 places have closed and 100 new places have opened - somewhere else. The other 900 joints are pretty stable, even if they become unfashionable.

As far as 'in' and 'out' go, with a 1000-name list, probably 700 of them are 'without feeling' as far asphoto: cafe l'imprevu you are concerned. On top of it, 950 of the places on the 'with feeling' list are not in any standard guides for food and drink.

Also not on the 'with feeling' list, but across the street from a place that is - but is closed.

In order not to be too much out-of-date, the 'standard' guides only include the 'top 300' places. More or less, there are about 200 of these 'standard' guides, half of them written by fly-in carpetbaggers with heavy-duty stomachs.

If not 'fly-in,' then a crew of local 'testers' is necessary. I figure this crew numbers 10, and they spoon-'test' all 300 standard places, for all of the 200-plus guides. The editors of each guide make each one slightly different.

Despite this great effort, the standard 300 'in' places are 'out' as far as the local 'with feeling' guide is concerned. This is called Professor Popkin's 'Feelgood Exclusion' law.

Everybody - Parisians and visitors - who has the standard guides, go to these 300 places, so they do pretty well all the time. The guides do well too, without having the nuisance of doing much new typesetting for each new edition.

This is a reason for not trying them out. There's a good chance these 'top 300' places will be full of people you already know. Back home, when you tell everybody about the great meal you had in this neat place in Paris, everybody else will say they had one there too.

There is a class of people in Paris who do not use any of these standard guides. They avoid the places listed in them because these 'top 300' try to conform to their guide descriptions, so that they can be full all the time. This conformity ensures commercial success, ensures 'no surprises' and this ensures boredom.

Boredom is detested by a certain class of people in Paris. Some might say that boredom is a sign of a short attention-span, but so what? With 700 other places to go to, why be stuck in a rut?

There are still about 400 quarters, or 'villages,' in Paris I haven't seenphoto: view of cafe le panier yet. More than trying out new 'in' cafés, bars and restaurants - 'trying' them consumes a lot of time and money - so I look for them in clusters, in areas new to me. In this way, I can suggest an area with several cafés or bistros in it, at the cost of only a few métro tickets.

From inside the 'out' Galopin, to the outside 'in' Le Panier.

With my 'cluster' concept, if you get poisoned in one of them, there is a non-poisonous place less than 50 metres away. Without actually 'testing' them myself, I leave a bit of risk for you - but this is supposed to be exciting - as well as providing more interesting conversational subjects if you survive the experience.

In general, Paris' 700 other places are not central, not grouped around the big museums or the grand avenues where you will find the standard '300' guide-book places.

A large number of the 'with feeling' joints are on the right bank, at the lower-rent eastern side of it. East of République, east of Bastille. This doesn't matter to me, because all corners in Paris are only one métro ticket away.

I don't have all of Paris' 350-odd métro stations memorized, so before I start out I look at my map - to chose between the simple but long way and the short but complicated, way-to-go.

Most métro station exits have a large-scale map showing local streets, so it is not necessary to bring a map. All the times I get lost, I forget I say this to myself. Today is no exception.

From the Belleville station I am supposed to walk up the Boulevard de la Villette and take a turn to the left. The first one I take is not the right one so I get back on the boulevard. I skip the second as being unlikely.

When I know I've walked too far, I turn left. This ends up with a huge walk around places I don't intend to be and the bonus is getting to walk back down the long Boulevard de la Villette to start at the beginning again.

On the second try I get in to the Rue de Sambre et Meuse - again - but this time I turn left instead of right and this puts me at the top of the Rue Sainte-Marthe, which is the one I'm looking for.

There is supposed to be a cluster of 'with feeling' cafés, bars, and restaurants in this street and its little square. I've never heard of it before, but it is so 'in' that this isn't surprising.

The Ville de Paris has beaten me to it and is sprucing it all up. New pavements, new cut-stonephoto: locksmith shop curbs and new street lighting; but none of it is finished yet. I'm not sure if this doesn't yank its 'in' quality.

This locksmith shop is the view from the cafés on the square Sainte-Marthe.

The first bit, after the closed café on the corner, looks like 19th century proletarian. It wasn't fancy then and it isn't fancy now. But if you like 'original,' here it is.

Twelve metres wide and 208 metres long, it was given the name Sainte-Marthe in 1877 after being called Sainte-Marie, when it was just a passage. Nobody important lived in the street, so it has no other history. 'Passage' in this area may mean the houses reached across the narrow street - but this is just a guess.

The little square is a surprise. It is tacked on to one side of the Rue Sainte-Marthe. It has two cafés right on it, and a place called Le Galopin overlooks it, on the other side of an alley called Rue du Chalet.

The square's trees are bare. In summer the two cafés will use it as a big terrace, and they will probably string some colored lights from the trees. The ensemble is cozy and compact, like a village 'place.'

As the Galopin is getting the sun, I go in it to get a café. It is after the lunchtime and a few people are sitting around soaking up dregs. One young lady is going to drill a hole in a pillar and another is making random stabs at washing glasses. The café has a good view of the square.

I'm told this café can't use the square as a terrace, because they would have to carry the orders across a street - the nearly non-existent alley between the Galopin and the square. Officially it is 12 metres wide, but it looks like six.

I stay in the café until my hands get warm. Then I go out and look the square over. Down Sainte-Marthe a road crew are hard-rolling sand for a new surface between two lines of new curb-stones. Away from the openness of the square it is dark and last century.

Some building-fronts are painted and in good shape and others are not. Probably because of the street work I do not see the first Brazilian place, but I do see La Rôtisserie. At the end I miss another Brazilian place, but see the Café de l'Europe, which does not resemble Brussels in any way.

Altogether, the 'cluster' includes eight 'with feeling' places; all either totally seedy or at the high-end, populo. It is the kind of street where you can have an evening out; dinner, drinks, music and possibly dancing - in French: 'nighclubbing' - all for 150 francs. If you have a tie, leave it behind.

Nearly opposite the extra-funky Café de l'Europe - listed as 'with feeling' - there is anotherphoto: rue staint marthe sleazy place called the 'Taxi' - not listed at all. It is a triangle café and some guys in it do not want me to take a photo through it.

A general view of the Rue Sainte-Marthe. The renovations should be complete by spring.

I go in to find out why not and one of them yells 'Maastricht' at me several times. I guess they are Rip Van Winkle types who have managed to skip five years of European news by sitting in the 'Taxi,' watching the nurses who use the busstop across the street.

I stay long enough for my hands to warm up again. To be friendly I get them to tell me how to short-cut through the Saint-Louis hospital, to get to the Saint-Martin canal.

It makes an interesting short-cut because its trees are bare and it is easier to get the idea of the buildings as a whole. It is also interesting because of the current strike of all hospital workers.

The canal on the other side looks great with the deep blue sky over it and with its hazy distances and leafless trees mirrored in the water. I have given up looking at cafés so I look it over until my hands get cold again and then trek up to the Gare de l'Est and catch the métro back to the left-bank.

If you want to visit the 'with feeling' cafés and restaurants around the Rue Sainte-Marthe, take the métro to Belleville. Go up the Boulevard de la Villette a bit less than I did the first time, and turn left. Then ask around.

The Galopin isn't on the 'in' guide's list, so I suggest you try it out first. It may be coming up for its brief time of 'with feeling' fame soon. For this weekend and next, concerts of music or theatre are planned.

For details, search the Zingueurs Web site with 'Galopin' as the keyword. This site has a lot of entertainment info; much of it concerning the 1000 'with feeling' places. For 'with feeling' itself, give Nova a hit.

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