Guinguette — Traveling Back in Time

Guinguettes are taverns, often by the river, where families and friends gather to eat and drink and dance.  They were at the height of their popularity in the 19th century and there are not many left.  Renoir captured their relaxed charm in his ‘Luncheon of the Boating Party’.  And we captured some of their relaxed charm today in a guinguette on the Seine at Villeneuve Triage — a place where railroads shuffle old stock — a place not notably charming until we arrived here and stepped into our own Renoir.This little restaurant on the Seine about 15 miles from Paris was filled with family groups celebrating a steamy summer afternoon. We were the only Americans among a group of locals — not even Parisians. There were lots of kids joining in the fun with their parents.Here a father is making toy boats out of placemats for his small son.The son is quite entertained by them.The place is called ‘La Guinguette Auvergnate’ (gang ette) and features food from the Auvergne which is a lightly populated area of south central France.  Ed had a variety of pates salads and pickled herring as  an entree and I choose a vegetable and duck liver terrine.Slices of gingerbread toast were served with the terrine; we have had gingerbread paired with fois gras several times on this trip.  We don’t know if it is an old tradition or a fad.  It is very tasty.  For our main courses, Ed had an auvergne sausage and I choose souris d’agneu which is literally ‘mouse of lamb’ but is actually lamb shanks — one of my favorite meals.  There were a variety of desserts but we choose a very tasty fresh fruit cup.  All washed down with rose — and kicked off with a glass of some sort of apple brandy aperitif.  We weren’t sure; they just plopped it down on the table and it tasted of apples.Forgive me but I have always loathed accordions — Lady of Spain, anyone? — How wrong I was.For the entire afternoon – with no break, this gentleman and his keyboardest sang and played — and it was glorious music — to listen to — to dance to. There were waltzes, and polkas and traditional songs — and there were line dances known by the locals.At one point the two musicians were joined by a couple of others with traditional instruments of the Auvernge including this cabrette  which is a type of bag pipe inflated with a pump under the arm rather than by blowing.You haven’t fully experienced life until you have heard Ave Maria on a bag pipe from Brittany.  Especially in summer time on the Seine when the living is easy.So we danced and ate the afternoon away — while barges sailed byand boaters and water skiers enjoyed the heat and smooth water.And people talked and drank and swung their kids on the dance floor.And when we were done we walked a couple of miles along the Seine to catch our train home.

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12 Responses to Guinguette — Traveling Back in Time

  1. phototrips says:

    I must ask what kind of camera were you using? was it a small point and shoot-the photos are fabulous- i love taking photos-i have a big DSLR and sometimes it feels intrusive..this is why I ask..I am considering buying a small point and shoot but hate to spend more money before my travels.. Your posts are wonderful!!

    • Janet says:

      I have a Nikon D60 with a 18-55 and a 55- 200 mm lens which I love and some of my photos are taken with it. But I always carry a little Lumix point and shoot and since I don’t like to carry a purse or camera bag, unless I am specifically going out to shoot or are doing a day trip out of town, I use the small camera. The pictures from Crecy were taken with both cameras — I keep the long lens on the D60 so when I want a wide shot, I use the Lumix and when I want to move in close, which is most of the time, I use the Nikon. Virtually all of the shots taken around Paris itself are with the Lumix which I always have in my coat pocket.

  2. Jo-Anne Dooley says:

    Hey Janet – Love your travelogue! I’ll be in Paris in September and wonder if you can tell me how you got to this place? It’s exactly the kind of experience we look for when we travel!

  3. Marie-Elisabeth Lafitte says:

    I discover your blog and I congratulate you for superb reports and so kind info on my land (I am French and I like to read comments from foreigners). I want only to clarify a point on the pipe instrument. It is not a “biniou” from Brittany (which is more or less a Scottish cornemuse -bag pipe-, in which you blow). This is an auvergnat “cabrette” (from the old occitan language of south of France, crabe- goat) made from goat skin. It was a traditional instrument common in the center of France (Auvergne, Limousin…). Since the guinguette is “auvergnate” this belongs to the atmosphere of the place.

    • Janet says:

      Thanks. I have corrected it in the blog and appreciate the information. Of course that makes perfect sense since both the food and music were from the Auvergne; I am not sure where I got the idea it was of Bretagne. Are you Parisian? We will be in Paris in the fall again would love a chance to get coffee and chat. Thanks again for the information about the instrument.


      • Marie-Elisabeth Lafitte says:

        Yes I live near Paris except when I am in the south-west of France (for a longer time since we are retired). I found your blog by chance when looking at Rick’s Steeves. Don’t hesitate to contact me by mail when you return to Paris. Unfortunately my English is not very good (better writing) but it would be a pleasure to meet you.

  4. Ariel says:

    Hi! Greetings from Argentina! Thanks so much for showing this amazing place!
    We are planning a simlar trip with my couple in September, and it would be of great help if you could tell us the price of the meal!
    Thanks again!

    • Janet says:

      We were there several years ago and as I recall it was roughly 35 Euro at Auvergnate for the three course meal which included an aperitif. I had lamb shanks, an appetizer of terrine with gingerbread toasts and I can’t remember what the dessert was. I suppose wine was extra but also don’t recall. The food was good, not great but good and the dancing and setting by the river were great fun.

  5. Pingback: Cathryn Stavropoulos

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