Monday, October 6, 2008

Club de Jazz: Le Caveau des Oubliettes

Le Caveau des Oubliettes (on left) fronts onto a medieval lane that was once the principal route to Lyons and on to Rome.

This “Pub et Club de Jazz” on the pedestrian-only Rue Galande has been in business since 1920. However, the cellar (caveau) referred to in the name is not of the sort for storing wine. An “oubliette” was a dungeon cell with a trap door at the top as its only opening (the word “oubliette” comes from the French word for “forgotten,” as in to lock up and throw away the key). These cells originally served as dormitories for monks who studied in earlier times down at the end of the street, but they were later converted to prison cells connected by underground passageways to the Petit Châtelet, a medieval fortress prison once located about a block from here.
So that we do not forget its heritage, the owners have installed an actual guillotine against the wall to the right as you enter. It’s no replication, mind you, but the real deal, dating from 1792. Go ahead – you know you want to! The more timid can still get a good look by peering in through the window. I swear I’m not making this up.
The web site is:
The home page shows a photo of green grass. “Why might that be?” you may ask. Well, the entire ground floor surface is covered in actual sod (replaced as necessary). Don’t ask me why. I can imagine the fun a US food/health inspector would have with that!
As an enticement to go in and give the place a gander, they have even paved a portion of the sidewalk with sod, as well. Only in Paris!
Live music in the 13th century cellars starts around 10:30 daily. Cover charge on Fridays and Saturdays (usually progressive jazz); other nights offer jazz jam sessions (no cover, but 5€ drink minimum).
52, rue Galande; tel. 01 46 34 23 09
Metro: St-Michel/Notre-Dame or Maubert Mutualité

Click on the photo to prove to yourself that this isn't astroturf.

The ground floor decor is razor sharp!