Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Five go mad in Paris
So the trip to the salsa capital of Europe finally happened. Early start left us feeling a bit dazed for most of Saturday. There were a few changes of plan - the open-air salsa at Quai St-Bernard on Saturday nights hasn't had approval yet this year, which was a shame. But there was a small-scale event happening on Saturday afternoon right on the edge of the river - a salsa 'flashmob' followed by dancing. We got there to see a group of people doing a lineup to compas (the Haitian dance, same rhythm as merengue, music a bit more interesting and words in French/Creole). There was also semba, kizomba and salsa. It was really good to dance in the open air and people were friendly. I had to do the "my friend wants to dance with you, but she doesn't speak French" bit for the only time that weekend so Noemi could dance with the teacher (he has some classy bachata moves).
I asked where was the best place to go that night, and was told there were two alternatives - one in Montparnasse south of the river, and Rétro République which was near where we were staying but reserved for a special event that evening (and all-Cuban apparently). In the end we decided to save our energy for Sunday rather than trying to blag our way into Retro. Andrea and I walked up to Montmartre. We were just walking down from Sacré Coeur, got to the top of the steps next to the funicular railway, and there was a very funky band busking on the first landing, being watched by a crowd sat on the steps. So inevitably we had to dance -we went down to the next landing, started a bit of Cuban (we were on pavement and not wearing dancing shoes) and the sax player invited us up to dance in front of them. Good music if just a bit too far the wrong side of 200bpm - two long songs were enough, but the audience was appreciative and I think we appeared in quite a few tourist snapshots. We got congratulated (in a trilingual conversation) by a couple of guys who caught up with us at the bottom of the steps. On to a crowded bar, musically quite nostalgic for me (anyone remember 'Uptown Top Ranking'?) and very eclectic. The only dancing was a drunk couple who got up and did a slightly wobbly kizomba to a Malian track.
Sunday afternoon was Barrio Latino. Very busy, very hot, some very good dancers. Unfortunately even an espresso couldn't stop a mid-afternoon slump - I had a couple of good dances but wasn't at my best, while everyone else had a great time. David apparently had his best dance of the year, and Andrea was kept dancing almost continuously (and very stylishly, as you can see in the video above. The guy she was dancing with has great technique - I'm going to study it carefully.) We had planned to head out to for a picnic at Belleville afterwards where there was supposed to be open-air salsa (the 'Caravane de la salsa' but the weather wasn't looking promising and we all needed a break.
A late meal in Chartier, half a bottle of their robust house red and an espresso replenished my energy levels. Sunday's usual CBL night in O'Sullivans was off because of the world cup, which left us with the WAGG club on the Left Bank. This was great: a crowded cellar, pure Cuban salsa and nothing else, didn't get turned down once. I got asked to dance by a woman who proceeded to give me the best LA-style dance I'd had all weekend, and had several other nice (Cuban) dances with friendly dancers.
On the train back to the airport on Monday afternoon we all sat down next to a young woman with a large suitcase, who ended up in animated conversation with Noemi - not only was she Romanian, but she'd been in Barrio Latino the previous afternoon.
Thanks for advice to Alias on SalsaForums (who regularly posts English-language updates about the Paris salsa scene), and to everyone on the SalsaFrance forum who responded to my questions.