Gypsy Jazz in the Quartier Latin
Monday is the new Friday at Le Piano Vache, est. 1969, especially if you’re a fan of gypsy jazz. It’s tucked away behind the Panthéon, in the 5th Arrondissement, just above the Quartier Latin, where the rue Laplace connects the rue Valette and the rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève and forms a one-block stretch of quiet. Pure and neighborhoody Paris. In the evening, humid darkness settles down into the cobbled cracks.
One of the first bars in Paris to play rock music, Le Piano Vache rotates rock with funk and punk, new wave and metal. The vibe is chill and studenty—more Parisian laissez-faire than frat-boy brawl. There are patchwork couches, wooden cabaret chairs, rickety tables, plus the young and interested, packed along the banquettes like so many macarons in a display. Because of the lighting, the whole place glows red. The bar is small and unpretentious, wallpapered with yellowed posters in an anarchy of papier-mâché. There are two rooms: first, a narrow bar for sipping cheap imported beer, and second, just past a collage of passport photos (as if when folk arrive here, they decide spontaneously to stay), the back room, sectioned into table enclaves, where live music plays. The decor comprises dusty bottles and ceramic cows, wrought iron hat racks, sewing bodices. One horned bull’s head oversees the broken-down piano, the thickly postered walls.
I recommend starting your evening at the excellent Café de la Nouvelle Mairie (which caters to the wine snobs, the intelligentsia and the execs of Universal and is not open weekends). Sit at one of the tiny sidewalk tables and order yourself some hand-selected food and wine from the chalkboard carte (we had a marvelous white Roussillon, baguette, grilled ramps and cheese). Forget the week ahead and get lost in the idylls of the little fountained park across the street. Stay until dark, then saunter past the Panthéon and its imposing pillars, winding your way to the bar.
Le Piano Vache is just the thing for Monday blues (and tired Tuesday mornings). The set wraps up just after two. You’ll walk home with la pompe rhythm still in your feet, ducking through the narrow streets. I half expected Orson Welles to pop out from behind a corner, a silhouette in gray fedora, as the upswing strumming of the sound track swells anew.
By Meghan Flaherty for Untapped Paris.
Editor’s note: Have you friended us on Facebook yet? If not, you missed our photo contest and a chance to win two nights in Paris at the Legend hotel, which we just gave away with our partner Tempting Places. Don’t be left out next time!