I’m not a huge one on New Year’s Resolutions, it just happened to be a coincidence that I joined the gym the same month I decided to finally finish the "nightlife" research for my latest guidebook.
I’ve got a huge list of places to check out: bars, soirées, clubs, etc. It can be exhausting. I have to force myself to sleep in so I can stay up past midnight (most places are sooooo uninteresting until at least 2am). I have to inhale large quantities of cigarette smoke (at least until 2008, heh heh) and try not to drink more than one cocktail if I want to get any work done (or remember what on Earth I was doing the night before). If there was ever a class at the gym for nightlife training (and there should be), my gym would have it.
I love my gym (Usine Opéra). It’s never crowded, even at night and on the weekends, and it has mood lighting so I don’t have to see my twiggy legs glowing under glaring fluorescent lights. Oh, and it smells good. 🙂 It always seems like there are more trainers walking around than clients, which helps when I’m trying to figure out how to use one of the machines without pulling something. They did some sort of test on me when I first joined, and I found out I only have 16% body fat, which would explain why my fingers turn blue when the temperature in my flat goes below 22°C/72°F. So they recommended I do a bit of strength training and lay off the cardio machines (which are more fun for watching TV while working out — they had Men in Black II on yesterday). I was doing some sort of leg lift thingy when a trainer walks by and stops to watch. "You need more weight," she says. I try and explain that my own trainer told me to start off easy so that I don’t pull anything. She sorta huffs at that and asks how long I’d been coming. "This is my second day," I reply. Still, she tells me to at least add more weight for the third set. So I do, and the next day most of my body aches. I can’t open the heavy iron door of my building without my pectoral muscles screaming (I use both hands, like the little old lady on the 2nd floor).
But there’s stuff to do! It’s a Tuesday night, which I bet you’d think would be a boring night to go out in Paris. You’d be wrong. I start off at the super-cool Hôtel Amour in the 9th (8 rue Navarin) for a reception launching IcoNoMix #2, the magazine of the contemporary art tour people, Art Process. If you’re into contemporary art — or would like to be — these are the people to know (and Eric and Isabelle are cool cats).
I couldn’t stay too long because I had to make it to La Java for the Phil Nichol stand-up comedy show (organized by Anything Matters) with my friend Karen. I like La Java, a cozy little club between Oberkampf and the Canal St-Martin (at the end of a slightly seedy-looking passageway, photo on the left). The show (in English) was hilarious. Scotland-born Canadian Phil plays the guitar, sings, rants, and ends up in his birthday suit, asking us to all do the same (in the name of world peace, of course). If you live in the UK try and check out one of his shows. A good summary can be found here. If you want to see more stand-up comedy in English, check out Anything Matters‘ website.
The award-winning "Naked Racist" Phil Nichol, at La Java.
Afterwards, I drug Karen to the Paris-Paris to hear the Love Gods, a Franco-Australian band with some excellent catchy tunes. We were there quite late, but didn’t miss a thing because the show started right on time an hour later as usual. 😉 By 2am I had to shovel the smoke out of the way to get some Perrier at the bar (having already passed my two-drink limit at La Java — where the wine and spirits are a tad more affordable). Every Tuesday night (except the 30th January) is the Ullmann Cabarock. Free entry, great bands, drinks from €10 — just be sure to send in your name to get on the list! Luckily, it was still in the low 60s that night, so waiting for a taxi was no big deal. Gotta love global warming.
Love Gods kicking butt at Le Paris-Paris.
Slept in and barely had time to shower the smoke out of my hair on Wednesday for lunch at the Angl’Opéra Restaurant/Café (39 ave de l’Opéra, 2nd) with a cool PR woman who gave me a tour of the adjoining Hôtel Edouard VII. I went nuts (having skipped breakfast) and got an entrée, main dish AND dessert (well LOOK at it! Could YOU say no?!).
We had such a good time chatting (we both have freelanced for the Time Out Guide) and then looking at the rooms (great balcony views over the Avenue de l’Opéra), that I ended up skipping the gym and going straight to my friend David‘s. He was working on a hot-chocolate-with-salted-caramel recipe and asked if I could come taste it. Despite the impending crise de foie, I waddled out of the Angl’Opéra and hopped on a metro to the other side of town. I could never turn down a friend in need. Especially one offering chocolate AND caramel!
Wednesday night was a bit more laid back. I attended a talk titled "What’s Happening on Capitol Hill" at AARO by Patricia Woods (of the Woods Institute). After all, an election year is coming up, good to keep tabs on what’s going on back home.
Thursday starts off tranquil enough. I go to the gym to try out one of the Pilates classes. I had done Pilates with a friend before, but never in a class. In Paris it’s relatively new and hard to find (and usually very expensive). This was one of the reasons I joined, so I show up without any idea how excruciatingly painful the following 60 minutes would be, both for my abs and my ego. Being thin doesn’t mean you’re in shape! If you’ve never done Pilates, let me describe how it goes: you contract
your lower abdominal muscles until you can barely breathe, then you proceed to crunch every othermuscle around it until your "inner core" is a quivering, burning piece of pathetic meat. I wasn’t sure I was breathing correctly "from my diaphragm", so I asked the instructor after class (there were only about six of us in there, like most classes). She told me to come early for the next class (in two days) and she’d work with me. I didn’t make it back to the gym for three days, despite the relaxing half hour spent in the sauna afterwards trying to unclench the muscles. They were still hurting so much I couldn’t laugh or sneeze without falling over in pain for the next two days. I love the gym.
The Gentlemen Dancers of Régine’s "Au Bonheur des Dames" (and their willing participants)
I went home and made some pasta. That evening I had a networking meeting and then was going directly to meet with some girlfriends for the ladies’ soirée at Régine’s, "Au Bonheure des Dames". About half way through my meeting I started to feel "funny". A bit sick like I’d eaten a huge vanilla shake (I’m lactose intolerant, ugh). I didn’t think too much about it. At 9pm I meet my friends on the Champs-Elysées and we head over to the soirée. "AU Bonheur des Dames" takes place every Thursday night. It’s a FREE show open to women only from 9:30pm-11:30pm. The line-up is something like this: free drinks (we started off with Bailey’s shots, moved onto wine, then cocktails, then more Bailey’s), free buffet dinner (that night there was some sort of giant meatball, lentils with pork, and cooked spinach), then a free male-stripper show. It was Bridget Jones theme night so there were bunny ears on the tables for the girls’ to wear. When we had drank and eaten as much as we could (I only sipped and nibbled, as the growling tummy was getting worse), the show started: there was a Cuban dancer, a Arabian Shiek, and an acrobatic Zorro who did some pretty amazing flips in the air.
Unlike the US Chippendales shows, in Paris there isn’t a "no touch" rule. The male dancers pick ladies from the audience to participate in the show — and boy do they participate! My recommendation if you want to go up there: wear pants! But not much more, because it gets very hot in there. Whoo! I have to say that we were all quite impressed with the moves. Scandalously fun!
"Let me just give you a hand with that wedgie…" (Note: That’s not MY hand!)
After the show, men are allowed in and the drinks are no longer free (my Perrier cost €10, for example). But it’s an attractive ‘after-work’ crowd of men, a bit older on average than the 25-35 age range of the women. At this point everyone was dancing. I interviewed some of the dancers. Apparently tipping isn’t prohibited, but considering the smallest bill in France is €5, you rarely see it! If you’d like to go to the show, I recommend wearing the sexiest outfit you can (there’s limited space, so you have to get the doorman to let you in just like a nightclub), bring €2 for the coat check, and drink fast. And invite some of your male friends to meet you afterwards for the dancing.
Feeling like I’d seen enough to write my review, I said good night to my friends and head out (the coatcheck girl handed me a real moleskine journal, a gift for the Bridget Jones theme, I’m guessing). I caught the last metro home, where I proceeded to lose the pasta lunch and everything that followed. Maybe I’m oversharing here, but I think y’all should realize that while this job is fun, it’s also a job that one has to do no matter how I feel. Freelancers don’t get to call in sick!I sleep the next day until 2pm, convinced I’ve got the gastro (stomach flu) bug going around, but after a few bananas I’m back en forme. Maybe it was the pasta sauce, camping out in my fridge for an undetermined amount of time. Maybe it was the Pilates crushing my digestive tract. Maybe my body is trying to tell me to slow down. So I stay in Friday night.