Nightlife in France
Bars and Entertainment
Apart from discothèques, there are various bars offering entertainment and which stay open later. There are also Café Concerts of which some actually charge entrance but a lot just add the cost on to the drinks. However these are not as expensive as night clubs. The atmosphere is less sophisticated and the music varies and the live music is usually at the weekend. Families are welcome and that means families with children.
In bars drinks are paid for as you go with "chitties" being placed on a special little mat with a clip on your table. The smarter the bar and the more entertainment there is the more you pay for your drinks. In country bars these are usually much cheaper.
Discothèques in France are frequently out of the town in the countryside. Many of them have laser lights going up into the night sky to help their customers locate them. Dress is casual compared to Jersey and the UK although should be smart casual. A drink is often included with the admission charge. Drinks are extremely expensive in discothèques compared to anywhere else and it is to be noticed that the pace of drinking is much slower. The behaviour of the customers is also well controlled. The Discothèques are open much later at night, often until 5.00 a.m
Look upwards at night and you can see the stars far more clearly than in the Channel Islands and the U.K. This is because there is less light pollution - with far fewer street lights and less light coming from houses which tend to have their shutters pulled.
A Coca-Cola is called a Coca
Draught beer is called a "Pression" and bottled beer is called "biere". You can order a "Demi" which is a half pint or even a "ballon" which is smaller than a half pint and comes in a tiny glass.
Gin and Tonic is Gin Schweppes
Whisky is usually drunk neat as an aperetif or with Coca Cola - "Whisky Coca". It is not drunk on any occasion like we do and most people would be surprised at drinking this after dinner.
Wine can be ordered by the glass and a "Kir" is very pleasant and popular.
A Kir is white wine with Cassis - blackcurrent liqueur. It can also be Kir Mure with blackberry liqueur, Kir Peche with Peach liqueur or Kir Framboise with Raspberry liqueur. If it is served with sparkling white wine rather than white wine it is called a Kir Petillant and of course can be in the variety of liqueur already mentioned. A super version of this is a Kir Royale which is made with Champagne.
In Brittany many establishments serve Ty Punch. This means Punch of the House and is made with Rum. It can be made with sugar syrup to sweeten it, ginger and lime and white Rum and very lethal to drink or with orange or apricot juices and it is called a "Planteur".
Pastis, Ricard and Pernod are popular aniseed flavoured alcoholic drinks to which the desired quantity of water is added
You are highly unlikely to find anyone serving Sherry.
Port is drunk as an aperitif rather than after a meal as we do.
If you want Champagne is a very acceptable aperitif and can also be served with the dessert. A single glass is a Coupe de Champagne.
The Wine List
Most moderately priced restaurants have house wine and this is served sometimes in a carafe or pichet. This is the cheapest option. Le Reserve is a red wine which is better quality than Vin de Pays and frequently a Bordeaux but should be cheaper
Liqueurs, Cognac or Armagnac (Brandy), Calvados (Apple Brandy) or Poire (a pear brandy but clear like a Schnapps) are usually served after dinner.
Traditional Dances, Fêtes and Social Events
Children are welcome with parents to all the following!
A Fest Noz is a Breton country dance event and goes on into the early hours. Drinks served are usually beer, cider and wine. Fest Noz are usually held in Salles de Fêtes - Village Halls. The dancers mainly move around in circles. It goes on quite late and the drinking is fairly intense.
Country Fêtes - mainly in summer but odd events in the autumn and winter - see Events Calendars for the main ones. These sometimes go on into the night and galettes saucise - sausages in buck wheat pancakes are frequently served or there can be a pig roast with pigs roasted over a barbecue. The pig can be served on its own with bread, on other occasions with rice and salad and on others with potatoes. A grillade is barbecued chops and steak and sometimes chips are served. Drinks on sale are usually beer, cider, wine and soft drinks but can go to pastis or whiskey.
.Christmas and New Year's Eve - all the jollifications happen on Christmas Eve when a formal meal starts on and goes on late into and sometimes all night. New Year's Eve veers to all night. Drinking is at a slower pace. The French pace their drinking rather than our habit of starting off with wild enthusiasm then moving onto soft drinks when our constitutions can take no more! Expect Onion Soup at 5.00 a.m. to give you strength to go home preferably with one of the party not drinking or by taxi!
Marriages - these can last up to four days but usually two and again drinking is paced. Starts off in the daytime just after lunch or sometimes before. The formalities must by law take place at the Mairie (Town Hall) as the Civil Wedding is standard, then Church if the couple are having the religious ceremony. The official photographs are then taken, which is sometimes preceded with a drink but not always. Be prepared for several abstemious hours prior to actually celebrating and standing outside in strong sunshine for an hour whilst pictures are taken. After this by the late afternoon, the wedding party go to where the celebration is held which can be a hotel but is frequently a Salle de Fêtes. Village Hall it may be but the catering and arrangements are usually sophisticated. There is a Vin d'honeur - Drinks - frequently Kir but also Champagne and canapés. After this the party go onto a sit down dinner which can be served to the tables or buffet style. This is mostly organised by outside caterers. The eating is interspersed with games, some of which can be quite boisterous. This event will go on all night. Have known mattresses to be brought in and placed in a side room for the children to sleep on! Day two can be a serving of leftovers or a barbecue.