A TRIP BACK INTO TIME
Le P’tit Bar is perhaps one of the most amazing places to visit when you are in Paris. In a small, dark and very cluttered little room, only nine square meters in size, Madame Polo runs what is perhaps the smallest bar in all of Paris. With a fat grey cat and, now just a single canary to keep her company, her petit bar serves the neighbourhood regulars, the occasional tourist and whoever else happens to wander in. With every possible surface stacked high with books, magazines and all sorts of odds and ends, with cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, photos of animals on the walls, unwashed glasses and old empty bottles on the shelves and a general Collier brothers atmosphere Madame Polo caters to her customers, selling bottles Belgian beer, Calvados and the occasional glass of wine (if you feel brave enough to trust drinking the wine in one of her unwashed glasses). She obviously isn’t very particular about cleaning much of anything up, but then, when you’re over 90, why would you want to be. It is a virtual time capsule left over from the 1960’s. She started running this place with her husband in 1965 and continued after he passed away. In a quote posted on the website Messy Nessy she explained, “I thought to close the bar many times, especially after my husband’s death, but you know, here I have my bar, and I see people. Some clients have come for more than 25 years, they feel good here and me too, as long as I have my head and I’m able to stand.” Madame Polo is perhaps the oldest bartender in the city.
Last year when I was in Paris I went to no. 7 Rue Richard Lenoir in the 11eme arrondissement and sought out this interesting little bar only to find it closed and a notice saying that the proprietress was ill and in the hospital. That wasn’t good news. With her being well over 90 years old I thought that I might not ever get the chance to experience her amazing establishment. But today I dropped by late in the afternoon and, sure enough, moving very slowly and bent over with age, Madame Polo greeted me and after shuffling into the back room, brought out a bottle of beer. She can’t see as well as she used to, and trundles along very slowly, but she is still in her little bar, with her fat grey cat and one small ruffled yellow canary. She wasn’t too talkative today, but then, I was the only one there and my knowledge of French was equal to hers in English. I was just happy to see her still sitting behind her bar with her sleepy cat and her amazing history. After I had finished my beer, with great respect and many thanks I paid my tab, left a good tip and said “au revoir” to Madame Polo. It was one of those Paris Moments I will never forget…
Photo taken at Le P’tit Bar at no. 7 Rue Richard Lenoir in Paris in May 2014.
The inside of Madame Polo’s Le P’tit Bar with its clutter, canary and fat grey cat.
Madame Polo looking over her mail behind the bar in Le P’tit Bar.
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