A day off in Paris should always be cherished and relished and the high point will usually be the evening meal. The choice of cafes, bistros and brasseries can be bewildering so recommendations are always gratefully accepted. Not that I would really have noticed but in the last 50 years, the number of cafes in Paris has dwindled from 200,000 to around 30,000. Cafe society in Paris is very sadly on a slow decline and whilst coffee or glass of wine is still used as a pretext for conversation, research has revealed that not all is well on the Parisian streets. Paris has always been unique in so many ways and its renowned fine dining trademark is being challenged by all parts of the globe. Traditionalism discourages innovation and competition from foreign chefs who are innovating and embracing internationalism, fusion, and cultural diversity means that the French are having to look at new ways to innovate. Many bistros and cafes have been bought up by larger ‘chains’ only to be rebranded to the detriment of the cuisine and prices inevitably get hiked. Current government taxation and red tape in France certainly doesn’t encourage new and small businesses. Recent tax hikes don’t reward the successful and employment regulations imposed by both left and right wing governments over the past 20 years have sent 60,000 French businessmen abroad, who employ around 16 people each. That’s a million jobs. I googled ‘Starbucks in Paris’ and was aghast to discovered that there are now TEN branches within the confines of the Periferique. It’s not all doom and gloom as the French are particularly resillient and resourceful and will I’m sure fight back; the government will surely soon rectify their errors. Long may Paris be the place it is, arguably the most beautiful city in the world.
However, this evening was special as Richard and I had dinner with Danny Cummings who is in Paris at the moment. The restaurant of choice was Le Bistrot de Paris on Rue de Lille, a typically brilliant old-style bistro with a simple menu that ticks all the right boxes. Jean, our waiter is described by Danny as the best waiter in Paris. I’m inclined to agree. Stuffed and smiling with laughter from our all-too-brief reunion, we headed round the corner to a cafe for after dinner drinks. I love drinking wine in France, it always seems to taste better and the Cote du Rhone we had at the table was perfect. Then we had beers. Leffe on tap.
Show day consisted of more urgent gym work than usual as a direct result of familiar over-indulgence. I ordered breakfast as usual, a continental, Paris style..and left it in the room to acclimatize whilst I sweated in the chamber of pain. Once cooled down in the room, I tucked into the plate of cheese and ham. The cheese in France is still I believe the best in the world and even a hotel room service tray can deliver cheese heaven. I noticed that gluten free bread was on offer so I ordered toast. It was actually pretty nice and the cheese combination worked.
At 4:30 we stepped out into the street and started our journey through ridiculous Paris traffic to the Bercy. It took about half an hour, not too bad I suppose and when we arrived… I think you know the next bit.
After sound check, Danny showed up at the gig and there were many hugs and we sat chatting in catering for a few hours or until it was time for the pre-show routine. Ruth Moody is with us once more for the next few shows in France. I can’t over-emphasize just how great Ruth is. It was sheer bliss to hear her singing again and I spend a while at the FOH desk with Dan listening to her set. The Bercy was completely sold out. Not a spare seat in the house and they loved Ruth. Her album ‘These Wilder Things’ has been getting great reviews lately and if you haven’t already bought it, you need to order it. It’s a purchase you won’t regret.
pic Jean-Luc Lebeury
With the 12,000 strong crowd suitable warmed up we took to the stage to an almighty roar. As with all seated shows on this tour, the crowd seemed to hang on every note and were extremely respectful as a whole, then came the ‘rush’. Rushing to the front of the stage at a not-so predetermined point in the show has become the norm at our shows and this being French show no.1, it seemed like no-one quite knew when to go. It happened at the beginning of the playout of Speedway at Nazareth. It appeared as though someone stood up, faked a rush, hesitated and everyone bolted. There was no going back and within seconds we were playing to a heaving mob of smiling faces a good portion of whom were armed with iPhones and a variety of other recording devices. All I can say to them is “you’re missing the show”. After the usual encores and waves, we ran to the cars where Danny was waiting and we were soon back at the over-priced Mandarin.
The Mandarin, located in amongst the ‘money’ in Paris is an impressive place and some of the styling is wonderful but that didn’t prevent the housekeeping from taking one of my tea mugs from the room. Extremely irritating. More about that later. The timing was inopportune as Dan came to my room for a late night cuppa and some music after our drinks session at cafe Flottes round the corner. We had decided to venture outside of the hotel for after show drinks as at the Mandarin hotel bar, a bottle of beer will set you back 15 Euros. Paris isn’t cheap but that is taking the piss.
As I post I have had no word on the missing tea mug. Maybe this will help.