latin quarter, Maps

Dungeon Style Nightclubs #1

Caveau de la Bolée 25 rue de l’Hirondelle 75006

As a non-European coming from Wisconsin, USA where a vintage building is maybe 100 years old, I’ve always been starstruck by the medieval caves that are in Paris.

No no, I’m not talking about a bat cave or dungeon (although some of them were once prisons, but that’s another story), I’m referring to what Americans would probably compare to an unfinished basement with cement walls.

Here in Paris, they are often hundreds of years old and most buildings have them. Sometimes they function as storage space (usually the case in apartment buildings like mine) or maybe they have been converted into parking garages.

During the World Wars many served as bomb shelters and before electricity this where you could keep food and wine fresh. But my favorite kind of cave is one that serves a highly essential purpose.NIGHTCLUBS!

Hey, if you want to party all night on a rooftop balcony with an Eiffel Tower view and 20€ cocktails, that’s your business. But FFS, please don’t come to Paris without spending at least one night drinking cheap beer until sunrise in an authentic cave bar.

My favorite “secret” Paris cabaret, Les Trois Mailletz

From your first steps down whatever shallow staircase you take to descend into the depths of history, you’ll be hooked. Sure the bar might be sticky from spilt Jagerbombs and the bathrooms will surely be covered in graffiti- but these kind of pubs are where you are going to have a blast as you dance the night away to 80’s French hits under a 14th century vaulted ceiling amongst Parisians/students/tourists/2nd shift restaurant industry workers of all different ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles.

Stumbling home at 6am

My favorite thing about these kind of places is how unpretentious they are. People come here to let loose and have fun, unlike many other more classy establishments that will deny you entry based on any number of irrelevant factors. From the well-known jazz clubs like Caveau des Oubliettes (former Guillotine Pub, home to a real French Revolution era guillotine blade) et Caveau De La Huchette “officiel” – to the lesser known, yet more authentic The Violon Dingue and La Pomme d’Eve – Paris has many bars like this you won’t find front and center under popular nightclubs in your typical tour guide books- but after 7 years in Paris, these are the places where I’ve had my most wild, memorable nights.

A fun night out at the Pomme d’Eve, one of my favorite late night bars in Paris

The cave pictured here is the 14th century Caveau de la Bolée, which is currently being restored and updated to be a café by day and cave club after hours. I stopped by recently to see if I could get a look at the cave which the owner was happy to show me.

Historically, this space was initially the cellar of an Abbaye that once stood in this area before turning into various nightclubs frequented by the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Francois Villion, and Paul Verlaine who sought out these discrete hangouts, out of sight and sound from the chaos of the streets above.

Long gone are the days of cigarette smoke, heated political debates, and libertine romances in dark corners; but remnants of the past like grotesque sculptures and perfectly carved signatures will undoubtedly continue to endure for years to come.

Rue de l’Hirondelle

latin quarter, Maps

Dungeon Style Nightclubs #2

Caveau de la Huchette 5 rue de la Huchette Paris 75005

Dating in Paris gets taken to a whole new level, especially when the rendez-vous location is a 16th century medieval cave once frequented by the mythical Templar Knights (think Gerard Butler circa 300 fighting for God rather than Sparta) before evolving into a legendary jazz hotspot in the post WWII period when Paris thrived.

There is much more history to the Caveau de la Huchette, but today I’ll be sharing a bit of my own personal saga from 2014, which I’d like to think I can owe in part to this epic cabaret-theater watering hole of the Latin Quarter.

One of the first dates I had with my French Amour was here and looking back- the noisy cave packed with swing-dance enthusiasts, regulars, and a few odd tourists was the perfect location for a new couple who could barely communicate! (At the time, my French was the equivalent to a 5-year-old child and his English vocabulary consisted of anything you’d say to a tourist in a Paris dive bar)

When he said we would meet on the Rue de la Huchette after sunset, I initially had my doubts. Sure It’s a fun area, but its also super touristy; filled with cheap restaurants serving “Authentic French Food” catered to American tourists and bars advertising free shots where dirty bras hang from the ceiling.

Great location to have a fun night, but not quite romantic, even for this quirky Wisconsin girl who is the farthest thing from high maintenance! I didn’t need a trendy cocktail bar but a place where I’d likely meet an 18 year old American university student with his head in a toilet after too many beers wasn’t what I had in mind.

However my low expectations were replaced with stars that filled my eyes as he paid the small cover inside entryway of the Caveau de la Huchette and we descended down to the cave below, stooped and hand in hand.

What I was met with still remains to be one of my best Paris memories.

What I encountered going down into the cave.. MADNESS!

The cave, which was quite large compared to similar underground pubs in the city- was buzzing with couples dancing. And not just any old aimless arms waving and booties shaking, but with authentic swing dancers!

Dapper men were tossing their partners all over the place as a jazz band played on the stage and I felt like I walked onto a 1940’s Fred Astaire film. We took a place in an intimate corner seated on a shaky table where we got to know each other better as we sipped wine and reveled at the scene before us.

An older photo from the Caveau de la Huchette similar to the atmosphere I experienced

But then it got even better.

Suddenly a man appeared with a large blank canvas which he set up on an easel beneath a light. Gently rocking back and forth in time with the music; he began to paint the chaotic scene that flowed on and around the dance floor in front of him. When I worked up the courage to go and have a look after he finished, I was amazed to find that we were included in his impromptu masterpiece!

The Painting

Barely visible in the corner is a couple, a darker bearded face leaning in close to a paler one. (see photos)It was us, forever frozen in the historic Caveau de la Huchette. And at that moment, I knew I found a special guy who might pronounce the word Beach as Bitch but he needed no dictionary to translate the language of love- which for me speaks through history rather than popularity.

First date 2014
Still going strong in 2020!