When I looked at my calendar the other day and saw that I only had three weeks left in Paris, I will admit that I freaked out a little bit. The time has genuinely flown by and my bucket list of things I want to see and do in Paris is not yet all ticked off. Not to gloat, but I have done quite a bit, there were just a few stragglers remaining, mainly to experience the Parisian theatre and music scene, see some plays, concerts etc. So, I’ve made it my mission these last weeks to complete my list and make the most of the city – as usual it’s not exactly going to plan…
- The Theatre Scene
In an effort to tick this one off, I booked to see a few plays in various theatres across Paris and dragged my somewhat unwilling friends along with me. Given our student budget the plays were leaning more on the side of amateur drama, with my friends and I often being some of the only audience members (I won’t lie it was slightly awkward.) The plays ranged from romantic dramas about cheating partners to Beckett’s classic En attendant Godot – what they all had in common however, was their liberal use of nudity. One key cultural difference which has become more blatant is that the French attitude to nudity is definitely different to us prudish Brits. I hate to admit that I was basically the only one in the audience suppressing my giggles when a 70 year old man stripped naked on stage in one of the scenes – I diverted my eyes to look directly at my friend who then burst out laughing attracting some of the most piercing death stares I’ve ever seen. (The French are the masters of the aggressive stare.) On the whole, they are much less phased by nudity than the British and seem to actively embrace it. Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of their book. Unsurprisingly, my attempts to absorb French culture by watching Beckett’s classic En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) were not much more successful. Firstly, technical issues meant we were literally waiting for Godot for thirty minutes to start with and anyone familiar with the play knows that at the end Godot never shows up – and then in an ironic turn of events the play was cancelled. We are still waiting for Godot.
- The Music Scene
I had really hoped that my efforts to see some live music would be slightly more successful. When I saw that Loyle Carner was playing in Paris I jumped at the chance but with the tickets selling out in 10 minutes my friend and I tragically ended up on the waiting list. A week later I found out that I had made it off the waiting list ! But I was facing my first solo concert (gulp.) I was apprehensive to say the least – but with the encouragement of my friends to go and be the main character I arrived at the concert hall nervous, excited and way too sober to deal with the reality of my aloneness. So, I got a few glasses of wine down and braved the crowd. I knew I had to befriend some poor, unsuspecting individuals and after sussing out some fellow English speakers I accosted two Londoners who agreed to make me one of the lads for the evening. To my surprise, I would actually recommend everyone experience a solo concert at least once – I’m not sure how soon I would do it again but I did feel quite ‘adult’.
To top off the week’s musical exploits, my friends and I decided to make a return to one of our favourite shitty Paris clubs – Le Violon Dingue (The Crazy Violin – great name I am aware). In Oxford terms I would probably describe it as a blend of Bridge’s tunes and Plush’s underground, slightly claustrophobic setting with the addition of a significant number of older feral French men. Why do we so often end up back at this excellent institution?, you may ask. It may be because of its fond resemblance to Oxford clubbing but I think it’s mostly because of its complete lack of pretension. Le Violon Dingue is a truly humbling experience. As you stumble out of the dungeon-like setting with a Long Island in hand at about 5am and probably with a French man trailing behind you, it almost reminds you that in the great city of Paris you are only really worthy of Le Violon Dingue.
Illustration credits: Yii-Jen Deng