Monday 29 August 2011

Go-go Guinguette!

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.


Craig said...

What fun! And what a beautiful setting. I have a soft spot for riverside restaurants.

Diane said...

I have to agree with Craig, it sounds like fun and there is nothing better than riverside restaurants. Diane

GaynorB said...

A really interesting post today. I love the Renoir painting and now some of the history of the times has been revealed.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Craig - the setting is lovely. The Indre is a pretty river; clear as a bell there lots of little fish darting about.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Diane - we talked to the people who run La Paillote and the dances are really popular. People specially.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Gaynor - Renoir's painting is a lovely evocation of drink, eat--a little, and be merry isn't it?

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Niall and Antoinette:
This is absolutely fascinating and completely new to us. Is the equivalent, we wonder, to be found in other countries or is this something which is peculiar to France?

Susan said...

I've been meaning to look up guingette - now you've saved me the trouble. Merci bien.

Carolyn said...

Is the guinguette in the lovely park at Montbazon?

One thing I love about the Indre is its bridges full of flowers.

Pollygarter said...

I wondered what that was when we went through Montbazon a couple of weeks ago - now I know!

The Broad said...

Absolutely fascinating -- sounds like somewhere one really ought to go!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Diane - apologies re my response. It looks as if part of it 'vanished' :-)
It should read: 'people come specially for the dances'

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Jane & Lance - My impression is that it is quite particular to France in this form [in so far as the locations are semi-rural and they open for the summer season] However, I'm very happy to be proved wrong :-)

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ Susan - no problem ;-)

@ Carolyn - I think so; cetainly the setting is lovely. It's just across the bridge on the left if you are driving towards Tours.

@ Pauline - you're welcome :-)

@ Broad - definitely! But in our case we have to practise (dancing) 1st!!

LindyLouMac said...

How interesting I had never heard this word before, this why I love blogging I learn such fascinating information.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@ LindyLouMac - as we understand it, it's a very traditional French thing which was, at one time, falling out of fashion but is now reviving.
We really enjoyed finding out more :-)