The Blue Notes: Jacques Bonsergent

Scene.

Limpid water runs through, halving the quarter, with cafe’s, art galleries and bars on both banks. Bridges loop over Canal Saint Martin. Dangling limbs of deciduous trees and street art span down the length of the promenades. Narrow roads zigzag. Jagged corners cut from old stone buildings, and in between, long shadows, hidden passages that lead to dives, and small tables of Parisians with their feet out. 

This subway stop, named after an immortalized WW1 sergeant, leads to the best hood in Paris.

I live here, so, it’s 100% likely I’m biased.

Runners and Bicyclists cruise around the canal in the AM; hooded teenagers huddle and smoke weed at night. The area is serene, and well located with Gare De L’est to the north, Republique to the south and Belleville to the east.

Haunts.

A green swirled, pistachio and chocolate escargot is the notorious pastry from Du Pain et Des Idees. The Boulangerie is also notorious for its queues.

Liberté, a new school boulangerie has an all-white facade and interior embellished with ruby red framboise croissants. Not your thing? Try a Pasteis from DonAntonia, a sneaky Portuguese bakery just across the canal. Still not your thing, grab a vegan banana chocolate cookie from Ima.

DSCF4781

Surrounded by dangling plants, books and daylight, Radiodays, Ten Belles, and Caoa make a trifecta of cozy coffee shops to lounge, conduct meetings or to f*** up some baked goods.

At night, a myriad of restaurant lights could blind you of the modest frontage of one of the cities best cocktail dens, Gravity Bar. The iconic Chez Prune with it’s UNESCO level terrace is harder to miss.

Across the canal, tucked between two buildings is a pathway to Comptoir General, an African nightclub fixed with palm trees and frighteningly strong Ti-Punches. On a small street near the canal, Brigitte serves up great classic cocktails and ambiance. L’Apostrophe is a dim-lit dive with live Jazz every Saturday and cheap glasses of red. If you can wait until morning, Restaurant Nola has a boozy Jazz brunch and Jambalaya.

Rue des Viniagres, Rue Lancry, Rue Lucien Sampaix and the riverwalks create a web of nightlife and neighborhood gems. Next to the hospital, Rue Marie et Louise and Rue Bichat also hold some surprising gastronomic dives. It’s also the location of the painful, and terrible night of November 13th, 2015.

Several of the bars are still open, so you can grab a pint and feel the solidarity.

History.

The history of the canals is well-documented by persons far more qualified than me, so, I’ll keep my synopsis brief.

The canal’s creation dates back to Napoleonic times. The emperor hollowed the canals to give Paris access to fresh water from the River Ourc. They transformed into a pivotal shipment route for agriculture, as the surrounding area at that time were pastures of farmland. The city spread, and infrastructure plucked and replaced pastoral life. The canals lost relevance.

In the 60’s, the decaying waterways were to be paved over by cement. Luckily, in an act of philosophical foresight, France overturned, and the canals remained. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s gentrification occurred around the canals, as the area had low rent and was close in proximity to the centric hub, Place Republique. 

The 10th Arrondissement is too good. The two tastes of a Parisian and a New Yorker went on a Tinder date and had a baby.

Seriously, I’ve never felt at home in Paris, but here, within a month, I feel an urge to try and make it home again.

A neighborhood can be many things; Chelsea and Soho had expensive, shiny objects that were fun to look at, but ultimately hollow; Harlem and Saint Germain Des Pres have an amazing legacy, both vastly different in content and culture; but it’s rare and personal, I believe, for a neighborhood to hold that power, which makes you not want to be anywhere else.

 

With Love,

Alexander

@african.bowtie

Copper Bay: World-Class Cocktails and a Landscape Redefined by Social Media

Home to a battery of bars, street food, theaters, and bobo haunts, the flourishing 10th arrondissement of Paris is brimming with places. So much so, that its consistency could be its own downfall. Steps east and west of Chateau D’eau, citizens flood from the subway stop and pack nearby haunts. You’ll pass black trench coats, drug dealing, Doc Marten’s, Indian food, large hats, homelessness, handsome dogs, and litter. Oh, joie.

Copper Bay, however, is an outpost.

gallery-15
via Copperbay.fr

On a small, unassuming street, lies this superb cocktail lounge that makes everything look easy.  Ambiance. Crowd. Modesty. Soul, check. Theme*? I think so, but it doesn’t need one. Cocktails? Yes, and they make them very, very well.

The bar front doesn’t announce itself with spangled lights or a flappy sign, but rather 1 or 2 Parisiennes out front, speaking in a hushed, sophisticated tone over cigarettes.

Dark blue and orange tones light a spacious room.  It’s filled with well-dressed people who don’t intrude on your agenda with theirs, but rather, set a convivial backdrop to a fantastic stop in your night.

Via CopperBay.fr

Cocktail bars of this caliber, succumb to their ego–I’ve had unpleasant experiences at many of the renowned bars in the LES, E. Village, and even (gasp) Pigalle.

CopperBay is modest.

The bar’s remote location and its authenticity to the owner, I believe, create this modesty.

Aurelie Panhelleux is busy; it’s Friday 00h30, but she still stops to chat with us a bit about their seasonal menus. She’s earnest in tone and speaks in English, even if I could have gotten the gist in French. (Ahem, maybe)

The menu rotates based on weather rather than date. She said to expect warm, lush ingredients for their upcoming release.

Several patrons enter and give daps, or coddle the bar as if they’re waiting for the bartenders to end their shift. It hits me. They all know each other. As a bar featured on World Best Bars, I assumed differently. Copper Bay should be a destination bar, but by definition, it’s actually a dive bar.

IMG_6631 2.jpg

Within the larger sphere of the 10th quarter’s nightlife, this bar carves a distinct sphere for itself. Copper Bay and it’s patrons consider something other than wine, food, or partying as the main attraction. A new dynamic is added.

The Parisienne scene is more mature and expansive than it was at first glance. Copper Bay isn’t a kitschy tiki bar or a faux speakeasy, like so many other a la mode cocktail bars, rather it’s an authentic refuge that’s amassed a loyal following and cultivated a scene of its own.

The bar transcends the realms of a neighborhood staple and a cocktail bar on the world’s stage. This could have only happened now, in our era. Social Media allows us to probe into other spheres of life, to discover what we wouldn’t have known in past lives.

Still, Paris is off the grid to Anglosaxons. Sifting through trashy tourist reviews and a wine-based palate of the French is like searching two different worlds. There are two Paris’s, one that’s wholly French and one that is a bit like a theme park. Copper Bay angles its way into an invisible space, creating something world-class yet not world renowned.

Sure, it’s documented. But only people who have both researched cocktails, and who are informed about Paris are who will find this establishment.


Aurelie hands us a menu. Thick like a textbook, each cocktail has its own page, a description and a colorful pie graph illustrating each ingredient’s dose.

We order

-Clear my Colada: a modern revisit to the Pina Colada is built with an aged Pineapple rum, emulsified banana, fig and Verjus for a tart finish.

-Mr. Seguin: creamy, purple and savory, the drink is composed of beet juice, chive vodka, and feta cream. 

Both drinks swim smooth and host edible garnishes with them.

IMG_6633

In Paris, I’ve experienced many false friends in the form of sugary, light cocktails. There are a time and place for that, but with the sun sliding further on the horizon each day, with winter coming, one needs to feel belonging, one needs a cozy den to settle in and I wouldn’t have settled anywhere else.

 

With Love,

Alexander

 

Copper Bay is nautical themed.

ps. Copper Bay is currently having a soft opening in Marseille! Congrats!

Copper Bay IG: @copperbay_paris

My IG: @african.bowtie

 

 

The Blue Notes: L’Ours Bar in Chateau D’eau

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

How do you choose a bar at random in Paris?

On a sweltering, August night, you choose based on the number of Parisian’s clustered out front. On a frigid, November night, you check the windows’ opacity.

L’Ours bar (the bear bar) had a particularly foggy frontage, but it wasn’t the reason we’d chosen the place.

Inside, a blond Brit wearing an oversized, black Supreme sweater sweeps passed us with 4 carbonated highballs in his hands. He nudges two of them to his date, a Frenchie. Whether they know each other or are on a Tinder date isn’t clear. But if it is a date,  L’Ours was a good choice. They santé, and he jokes that ‘this should last them a while.’

It’s crowded.

On its peaks, the bar is elbow to elbow. On its droughts, you’re lucky to find a seat. The usual suspects make an appearance, knit sweaters, blue button-down shirts, Suncoo blouses,  Godard thick-framed glasses.  The crowd isn’t edgy, or pretentious, just your run-of-the-mill Yuppie.

The bar isn’t edgy, or pretentious either; it’s sociable and…kinda fun! There are bear masks hanging from walls. At the bar, jars of quirky garnishes rest in a colorful spectrum. And the liquor selection isn’t overBEARing (boom).

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetI like L’Ours bar a lot, but, it’s frustrating because they only do things slightly better than average.

They have house cocktails, for example, which is a good sign…a plus! As I taste each of them (Le Grande Ours, Jardin Anglais), one thing becomes clear–they’re too sweet. Still, the L’Ours team makes a good effort (and look polished doing it). The bartenders are quick, down to earth, and professional. For the crowd size, they make a great team.

Five elegant girls swoop in to nab the table that just emptied behind us. The tinder daters leave, so we scoot down on our standing table, and order more drinks. I make a mental note that Happy Hour is a RiDIcuLOus deal at 6 Euro per drink.

Moments later a large swathe of people come through the doors. They look numb, disoriented from the cold. Perhaps a pub crawl, I speculate, and that means it’s time for us to go.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetBars such as the L’Ours don’t necessarily make you stop and say, ‘wow, that was a real treat!’  I’m not sure who says that anyways. But their crowd, vibe, and good drinks nudge you in the right direction.

It’s a real treat to have a reliable bar in the arsenal.  One where you can take a pub crawl, a tinder date, or a coworker. The bar is truly lighthearted, and no matter the occasion, it’s a place you can be assured a good time. And that’s sets the bear high for the rest of the evening.

Branding in France distills down to three principles; is it cute, is it time-honored, or is it refined?

I suspiciously eye the garnish–a gummi bear. There’s a soft power in cuteness, just as there’s a soft power in reliability.

With Love,

Alexander


IG: @animauxbars

8 Rue de Paradis, Paris, France

The Blue Notes: Denfert Rochereau

fullsizeoutput_c06

Lines seem to be a theme in Denfert Rochereau.

DSCF4155DSCF4158

You ascend the staircase, and just across the street is a line for the Catacombs. On the West side is a line for the ORLY Bus. To the Southwest, I’ve seen Cafe Oz have lines that intersect the line for the ORLY Bus. It’s almost a joke, except, I have a hunch that it literally is a joke. Look. There. A Parisienne sitting with a Spritz, watching you suffer. They’re laughing. They’re toasting to you.

Play it cool.

Once I saw a guy ask acceuil (information), ‘where’s the bus driver?’ and put his face towards the sky in agony when the answer was ‘he’s taking a coffee.’

Again, play. it. cool.

Denfert, once you step out of the line, is a fantastic little place. It’s great for a day or a night. It’s great for meeting friends, walking around, exploration and drinks.

fullsizeoutput_c08fullsizeoutput_c0a

Rue Daguerre, just a block away, is a major walking street in Denfert Rochereau that is home to bars, cafés, and eateries. There are also boutiques, a fish market, a good bowl of pho and a wonderful stall for farm-to-table produce.

I’ll write another article on it, but I recommend walking through and seeing what attracts you. (Coming soon)

fullsizeoutput_c0efullsizeoutput_c14fullsizeoutput_c10

A sprawling playground for adults called Les Grands Voisins is down Avenue Denfert Rochereau. It’s a massive beer garden with live music, pop-up shops and a few food vendors inside an abandoned hospital.

At night, big band jazz jams for an exuberant crowd of at least 100 people. During the day board-game developers give tutorials for their newest releases. Since moving from Brooklyn, this is one of the few places that have impressed me with its uniqueness and creativity.

fullsizeoutput_c1dfullsizeoutput_c1cfullsizeoutput_c1f

The history of the neighborhood is well documented and even referenced in Les Miserables, unique periods of style marks the architecture.

fullsizeoutput_c1afullsizeoutput_c18fullsizeoutput_c1bDSCF4177

There’s also a hodgepodge of cool street art. While not enough to stop and admire, it puts a nice accent on the neighborhood.

fullsizeoutput_c20

Denfert Rochereau is my favorite hub in South Paris, because of its variety of bars, restaurants, and shops. It is well worth a visit, for reasons other than standing in line.

With Love,

Alex

Read Also:

Letter from the Editor: Mental Health

October 2nd, 2018

Today, I had this thought.

It’s overcast, a glum, fall day in Paris, only the first like this, and I’d been pinned to my mattress by the weather and the suffocating sensation of depression. I fell into a 2-hour waking dream where I confessed to an old, random acquaintance of mine that despite all of my facades, and Instagram stories or whatever, I’m not feeling well.

And I need to be candid.

I’ve just finished writing a book, and am thoroughly exhausted from this experience, in the literal meaning, like an empty, discarded, rusting automobile. I’m tired of hiding this  side of me, and I’ve decided that I’ll take this blog a new, authentic direction, which doesn’t limit itself to drinks, bars, experiences, and ‘cool,’ but also confronts the situation of living abroad with depression, because it is in times of displacement where one can feel most vulnerable, and I’d like to write about it.

The two topics don’t inherently go together, in fact, they almost seem to oppose one another, but that’s life–we figure it out as we go.

Living abroad in regards to mental health.

Love you all, Alexander.

Très Chic, Très Zen Bars: Des Prés Tapas in Montrouge

Listen. Tapas are Spanish, but the Spanish don’t just eat Tapas. Got it?

One of my friends from Madrid reminded me of this cliché like…hmm..they only drink sangria, and dance Flamenca, and stay up gabbing until 4am, wait, no, that is a real thing. If anything, the Spanish rival the French in terms of tradition, but the French will forever be difficult to top in cuisine.

So, when the French make French tapas, believe that they are insane.

fullsizeoutput_b7d

Hol’ up. This site is about drinks though, correct? True, but while in Europe we have to get a few things straight. Each country in Europe has their own drinking ideology, and they are often very different from ours.

fullsizeoutput_b87
That’s me.

The French believe in complements, not to be confused with compliments. Rather than balance, drinks build off of a meal and elevate the experience, creating uplifting, convivial atmosphere. A stark contrast from a moody dive bar banging Gang of Four, ironic leather vests, and empty rocks glasses. If the French sound uppity, they’re not, they are just raised this way. It’s instinctual. And it’s a little unfair to label instinct as uppityness (yes, it’s a word).

Anyways, back to the food, back to Des Pres Tapas. I’m almost done and I’ve hardly written about the restaurant!

fullsizeoutput_b8d

fullsizeoutput_b8c

Their raison d’etre is their tapas, a spectrum of flavors, neatly divided on a menu as meat, fish, or vegetable. Gambas sauteed in Pastis, hand-made falafel, mini-croque monsieurs, and roasted veggies with thick wedges of Pecorino delight the table. Pair four or five plates with a cheap glass of Rosé, and you won’t be disappointed. Pair it with a bottle, and you’ll be feeling all types of jolly as you hobble out of the somewhat cramped, casual yet elegant spot.

fullsizeoutput_b80

Opened just earlier this month, Des Pres is the laid back edition of their next-door neighbor, and the Montrouge culinary Juggernaut, Aubergine et Cie. I’d imagine that the owners have plans for the future.

They have draft beers from Brasserie Toussaint, a craft brewery from Louveciennes, (dare you to pronounce that) France. And a large list of wines as cheap as 3 Euro a glass.

DSCF3472
Me also

If you want a drink without all the fuss of eating involved, below I have a list of other bars in the area for a cocktail. Also, I’ll attach Des Pres info, if you want to do your own snooping.

Bise,

Alexander

Insta: @african.bowtie

Mapstr: @african.bowtie

Address: 38 Avenue Henri Ginoux, 92120 Montrouge

Website: des-pres.fr

Read also:

  • 5 Decent Enough Bars Walking Distance from Porte D’Orleans
  • 5 Bars That Make the Terminus Marie De Montrouge Less Boring
    • coming soon