Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unusual Bars in Paris - Part 3: Large Venues

Pleasant and sociable, bars are great places to unwind in after a day’s work or a day of leisure. Paris is no exception to this trend, with chic or offbeat establishments that never fail to amaze. The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau has created a list of the most unusual bars in Paris.

In our previous posts we discussed Hotel Bars & Bars with a Difference. Those inclined to claustrophobia and who always go out as a group, will favor spacious venues. Today our journey takes us to the unusual Large Venue Bars:

The Crystal Lounge is one of the capital’s newest trendy venues. Installed on the premises of a former oriental cabaret, the place has been fully renovated and now boasts a modern design and atmosphere over 650 m², inspired by that of some of the finest London clubs. Chic and luxurious evenings from Thursday to Saturday are held on different themes with resident DJs, fashion evenings, etc. The venue is also available for private hire on other nights of the week for private or professional events.

Installed in a former art deco function room dating from 1923, Le Renard has retained the latter’s sumptuous volume which are shown off to great effect with Asian-style interior decoration and the play of light. This vast area which is both a restaurant and night bar offers an amazing atmosphere that mixes architectural splendor of the past with a program of contemporary music.

Le Petit Bain is another spacious venue: open in summer on a terrace along the banks of the Seine, it will from this summer onwards be housed on a huge 40-metre-long barge and will extend over 630 m². This “floating cultural space” which will serve as a bar, restaurant, concert hall and a place for art, will be able to host up to 400 people for convivial evenings.

These are great spots to include in your exploration of Paris.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The ‘UNESCO Effect’ in Albi

The ‘UNESCO Effect’ waits for no one. On July 31, 2010, a few minutes after Albi’s inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list was made public, the city was unexpectedly stormed by waves of tourists who had been visiting France’s South-West, soon to be followed by eager tour operators. Local hotels were besieged. During the rest of the summer, the cathedral and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum saw a 30 % increase in visitors and L’Esprit du Vin, the city’s Michelin-starred restaurant, was fully booked for lunch and dinner during the entire month of August. Recently we saw buses filled with Japanese tourists and a crew from the Japanese TV station NHK busily filming a 26-minute feature about the red city.

Albi la Belle, a red city that looks like it might belong in Lombardy, well deserves the public’s admiration. Its classified area is a twenty-hectare gem which includes the Sainte-Cécile Gothic cathedral, the adjoining Palais de la Berbie, the Saint-Salvi collegiate church (Albi’s oldest religious structure, dating from the early 11C), the Old Bridge (also from the 11C) and parts of the banks of the River Tarn. The city, whose glory days were in the 16C during the peak of the world trade, harbors several venerable old quarters which are extraordinarily well-preserved and conscientiously showcased.

Around the cathedral - something of an enormous brick elephant which truly looks like it belongs in Gotham City - are old private manors and half-timbered houses with corbelled features. Albi has an excellent quality of life (à la south of France) and is peppered with fine establishments of all genres. From the organic wine bar to the Michelin-starred restaurant; from the 18C flourmill transformed into a hotel to the sustainable design boutique, Albi is full of surprises. That the city has not been engulfed by nearby Toulouse is a gift to us all.

Practical Information from the Centre Départemental de Tourisme du Tarn:

Michelin-starred Restaurant:

L’Esprit du Vin:
Like many of his peers nowadays, David Enjalran, the chef at L’Esprit du Vin (one Michelin star), has got rid of the heavy yoke of his elaborate old menu in order to better devote his talents to the ingredients and inspiration of the moment. While his roots are firmly planted in his region, he tends to wander, taking patrons along for ever-interesting culinary journeys.


Le Sens des choses:
Made in France by small regional manufacturers (from Cantal to the Ariège) using recycled or recyclable natural, tactile materials (clay, cardboard, wood, wool, linen, porcelain, stoneware), the objects chosen by Séverine Paillet are ‘meaningful’ - the shop’s name in French signifies ‘The Meaning of Things’. As sustainable as they are useful, from the window planter made of linen fibre to the walking stick with a silicone handle; from the wool jewellery to the natural schistose sandstone whetting stone; from the fruit bowl made of chestnut wood from the Limousin region to the cardboard bookshelves, everything in this boutique which opened in May 2010 opposite Albi’s covered market is thought-provoking and attractive.

To watch a video of this UNESCO World Heritage city click here. For travel destination ideas click here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Unusual Bars in Paris - Part 2: Bars with a Difference

Pleasant and sociable, bars are great places to unwind in after a day’s work or a day of leisure. Paris is no exception to this trend, with chic or offbeat establishments that never fail to amaze. The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau has created a list of the most unusual bars in Paris.

In a bar, the originality can be in the decoration, the musical environment with a good DJ at the turntables orquite simply in the atmosphere created by regular clients and newcomers. In Part 1 we discussed Hotel Bars. The second stop on our journey through the Unusual Bars of Paris is Bars with a Difference:

Original and unique in its concept is the Soiréebus organized by Bus Event and taking place aboard a bus, which changes from an ordinary means of transport into a venue for partying. Fully-equipped (video screens, lighting and sound system, DJ, cloakroom and toilets), the vehicle takes clients on a “mobile” soirée around Paris enabling them to admire the beautiful streets of the city, the Palais Garnier opera house, the Eiffel Tower and Place Vendôme and the Champs Élysées. The bus can host up to 60 people, including 23 people seated.

It may be rented by groups for an evening, but may also be boarded by individuals during the Paris Night Ride evenings on Friday evening, when the bus shuttles between three partner pubs, in three different districts.

At Le Pompon, a former synagogue transformed into a bar and nightclub, a festive ambience is assured right from the start of the evening. Guest DJs or live bands offer a variety of rock, electro or hip-hop. Created by Charaf, from Pain O Chokolat and Omar, the owner of the famous couscous restaurant of the same name, the place became one of the trendiest places in the capital in just a few months.

Vodka fans will find glasses to their taste at the Molotov, an opulent little Russian bar, all in red and black and decorated with paintings and objects on the theme, tongue-in-cheek of course, of Soviet propaganda, with portraits of Stalin and uniforms of the Red Army. More than fifty vodkas are on offer and the place is purposely offbeat in its ironic concept and decoration.

Another place for fans of Russia, the piano-bar of the restaurant Le Raspoutine, is an evening institution that never ages. Serge Gainsbourg was a regular in the 1980s; vodka is the drink here and the atmosphere is lively with dances and songs taken up in chorus as the night advances…

In a different genre, Le Footsie offers an atypical concert, as the price of cocktails varies according to the offer and demand in the establishment. Taking its name from the equivalent of the English CAC 40, the place displays the prices of drinks on plasma screens and it requires the art of a trader to order at the right time, i.e. when the client’s favourite cocktail is displayed at a low price! Atmosphere guaranteed, just like on the market floor in Paris, London or New York.

These are great spots to include in your exploration of Paris.
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