Thursday, November 19, 2009
On Paris by night
”Will this do?”
His eyes examined my outfit carefully, while his entire posture gave me the distinct feeling he was merely trying to figure out a way to break the news to me gently. Carl was the nicest boy in the world, but he was still – and in this moment unmistakably so – French.
“No jeans,” he said firmly, though apologetically. “They will only accept customers who are properly dressed up. It’s a fancy place.” We were eighteen, and he was showing us Paris by night. We had to abide by his rules now.
When we finally left home – “home” being the apartment building Carl lived in with his family, where I and two other Norwegian girls resided as house guests for a week, with a fourth girl living in the approximate neighbourhood – Carl had personally approved everyone’s outfits. We were ready to see what Parisians did for fun.
The club was not far away, and the night was perfect for walking in those unusually lazy streets. It was February, or maybe early March, but spring had already come to Paris. The night was warm, and the city sounds were those of excitement stemming from spring romance and end-of-winter parties. Carl walked us through the quartiers of Paris quickly, but never ceasing to fill the role of guide whenever an attraction appeared. "Look at the Eiffel Tower. C’est beau, avec les lumières, n’est-ce pas?" We spoke French and English, having left behind all intentions of correct grammar we even managed to communicate quite easy. "Qu’est-ce que c’est?"
"L’Hôtel des Invalides."
The line outside the club was already long. Even though it was over an hour until the doors would open, we were standing at the end of a queue stretching around two corners of a large building, underneath a couple of pink neon flamingos. There was anticipation among the people waiting in that line. They were young, beautiful, well-dressed (Carl’s advice had been invaluable, after all), and on their way into the hottest of the hot Parisian clubs.
We still felt slightly underdressed, but otherwise well-prepared. We had even stopped at an ATM to withdraw the (to us) large sum of 30 euros each to pay the entrance fee. This had already been a matter of discussion – although we all had been eager to see the Paris nightlife, we were not prepared for the monetary cost. 30 euros was a lot of money for a short time of fun, but we eventually agreed that it would be worth it. After all, how often did we go clubbing in Paris?
When we finally reached the doors of the club, a panzer guard wanted to check our ID. In France they have little or no age-limitations when it comes to buying or drinking alcohol, for instance, but some nightclubs are still restricted to adults over eighteen years of age. And this was the terrible truth that hit us on the way towards the panzer guard. We were all eighteen or older, but some of us had problems proving just that. At home, we normally used our VISA cards as ID. They had pictures and date of birth on them, and if you also could remember your zodiac sign to reply to the test-question on the way through the entrance door, no one would think a VISA card an invalid ID. But even in the Paris nightlife, French bureaucracy is unwavering. Either you show them an authorized, French, identity card, or an international passport, or you leave. No discussion.
Carl didn’t even try to negotiate. No use. Out of the four, only one had left her passport in the apartment building. We could go back, get the passport, and then return, but as this was the last night and we had an early departure in the morning, that was out of the question. After all, this was only ever supposed to be a short introduction to the Parisian nightlife, rather than a full taste, and we didn’t feel much like walking the relatively long distance back to the apartment and then probably be too tired to go out at all.
Instead, we got an introduction to a Parisian “brown” bar – complete with cheap drinks and scribbled toilet walls. I drank Long Island Iced Tea, and wasn’t too disappointed.
Image by Stefano Ruggeri.