Guinguette nf: small restaurant with music and dancing. [Oxford Hachette French Dictionary]
|advertising the dances|
'La Paillote' is a guinguette in Montbazon just near Tours. We drove past it a few weeks ago when we had visitors. The word "guinguette" rang a very faint but elusive bell. Cue a search on Google to aid the brain cells. A few minutes later we were very much the wiser as to the origin and history of guinguettes. We went back recently for lunch.
|La Paillote, the white marquee is the dance hall|
They originally started out in the 18th century as somewhere just to have a drink. There was a rise in the Parisian population, wine production in the Ile de France rose, and guinguettes grew up in the small villages just outside the gates and walls of Paris serving a sour-ish wine [un vin aigrelet]. At the same time public balls began to appear in Paris. By the 19th century the emphasis had shifted and a guinguette also became a place where one could dance the latest dances such as the waltz, polka, and mazurka.
The Larousse has the following entry: an establishment outside or close the the (city) walls where working class people came to drink, eat and dance on holidays [« Guinguette : établissement situé hors ou près des murs, où les gens du peuple vont boire, manger et danser les jours de fêtes »].
|Renoir: Moulin de la Galette|
Renoir's painting of the 'Moulin de la galette' was the 'faint bell' which had chimed when we saw the word guinguette. The guinguette later called the 'Moulin de la galette' opened in 1834. In the early 19th century Montmartre, where it was located, was outside the Paris city limits and quite rural with fields and vineyards. Later on in the 19th century, taking advantage of the fashion for rowing and canoeing, the guinguettes moved to riverside locations well outside the ever-expanding Paris.
Guinguettes never called themselves that--they saw the term as 'common'. Some of them had quite colourful names such as: 'The chalet of my aunt' or 'The true fisheman's wooden leg'. They also spread to the provinces and were mostly to be found alongside rivers. La Paillote is on the river Indre. We also noticed one at Chinon on the Vienne just opposite the town. It has a great view across the river to the castle.
|restaurant section of La Paillote|
Guinguette's are really only open for the summer season. La Paillote will close soon; either round the 15th September or a couple of weeks later, depending on the weather and trade. Looking round while we were having lunch we thought that a number of the other clients would probably be able to show a "very efficient shoe" at the dances La Paillote holds every Friday and Sunday from 3 to 8 pm. Perhaps next summer, after some practice over the winter, we might give it a go ourselves!
If you'd like to know more, there's a website [in French] which is devoted to guinguette culture.