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.

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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

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

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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