Last week, on my walk home, I wandered past a group of the most beautiful, chic people clustered around an illuminated top hat. So, naturally, I referred to the oracle that is Google to find out why. And Google told me that I live 2 minutes’ walk from one of the legends of the Paris clubbing world.
I’d never heard of Le Baron, (which is sign enough that they shouldn’t have let me in), but apparently it’s somewhat of a phenomenon. So I asked a Parisian friend who’s very into clubbing about it.
“It’s one of the three most exclusive clubs in Paris,” he told me. “I’ve never been.”
So, of course, I decided I had to go. When I heard there was going to be a little concert there, I persuaded a friend to come with me to see what all the hype was about.
It can’t be that exclusive, because we didn’t have any problem getting past the bouncer and into Le Baron’s velvet lounge. And once we were in, it was fun. It was. Yes, the ratio of assholes-to-nice-people was not in our favour, and the club is so tiny that we got bored of its clientele pretty quickly. But it was quaint, gathering round the piano to listen the horrendously dressed indie band, like it were a recital in somebody’s living room, and the drinks were delicious. (If you go, try the cocktail named after the club – it’s made with strawberry puree and it’s divine.) But really, nothing made it more impressive than any other more pedestrian club, except the length of the queue outside.
Then, two days later, I found myself in a different world entirely. Because twice a month, in “Les Caves”, as the network of ancient cellars is known, the medieval world is resurrected. When my ex-boss at the bookshop invited me to come with him and the rest of the staff, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for.
“You need a medieval costume,” he said. “Otherwise you can rent one there.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I thought. “I’ll throw on a peasant shirt and some corduroys and I’ll be fine.”
I was not. The man at the door informed me I needed to lease one of their tunics to be allowed entry. 5 euros later, I thought I was looking pretty medieval, and then I went downstairs. There were men in chainmail. There were girls in leather, hand-stitched corsets. There were people in furs and metal armor, and velvet dresses, and goats’ hair shirts. There was a fully dressed jester, a period-authentic belly dancer and I swear I actually saw the villain from Ever After.
And before I had a chance to find my colleagues, a rather dashing man had invited me to dance and was teaching me the steps to my first medieval jig. I was thrown right in at the deep end as I stumbled my way through dance after dance with partner after partner. At La Taverne Medievale, no one gets left out.
And it got me thinking about exclusion. About the bouncer and the list and the red velvet rope. The whole clubbing world is built on it – the idea that the harder it is to get in, the better the club is. We’re obsessed with stacking ourselves like Jenga blocks, and trying to scramble up the pile. “Aspiration” it’s sometimes called, and I know with my eating club and my sorority, I have fallen prey to its lure like everyone else.
But you know what? If Le Baron is at the top, I’d rather be in the cellar, listening to lute playing and drinking out of a tankard. Yes, there’s still competition down there (apparently chugging contests have been around for a millennium, and there were certainly some guys too impressed by the length of their own swords) but everyone gets involved. I was dressed as the lowliest of the lows – a peasant who hadn’t even made her own costume! – but no one seemed to mind.
In two weeks’ time, Les Caves is having a special Pirate themed night. Le Baron could be hosting Bon Iver that evening for all I care; I know where I’m going to be.