When I was away on my multiple trips for business, I had plenty of time to read and web surf. Low and behold, I came across a fun item, that combined three of my favorite things.....nature, dress swanky and drinking. I know drinking is not a hobby, for yours truly, it's been known to be a sport! There was once a place that drew crowds of Parisians away from their grand boulevards and sidewalk cafés, and fashion houses.... to rediscover their inner
drunk child, wine & dine in chestnut tree houses and celebrate summer like Robinson Crusoe!
Perhaps you’ve heard of a “guingette”, a sort of French equivalent to a summer hoedown, meaning not your Mistress in France, but a actual hoedown, traditionally located next to the river and particularly popular in the 19th and early 20th century, serving food and ample drinks, accompanied by lively music and dancing. Monet and Renoir immortalized such vibrant scenes in their paintings but it seems the most enchanting of these summer establishments has been long forgotten by Parisians. Les Guinguettes de Robinson was the place to see and be seen in the summer of the 1850s. Parisians descended to the small district south of the city en masse to relax high up in the branches of chestnut trees and dance in the forest. It all began in 1848 in the hamlet of St. Eloi when an innkeeper was inspired by the popular myth of Robinson Crusoe.
In this unusual forest setting, dance halls and bars entertained Parisians in exotic island huts, adults and children alike amused themselves on rides, swings and various attractions and participated in donkey races (after a little too much wine).Customers in chestnut treehouses were served lunch of roast chicken and champagne, their meals hoisted up to them in baskets via rope pulley systems. In 1855, a food critic wrote that ‘lavish tables were set and lovebirds without feathers but forks in hand exchanged happy kisses in the breeze, witnessed only by the foliage’. For Parisians who couldn’t flock to the seaside during the summer months, could now escape the city thanks to the expansion of the “suburban” railway lines around Paris in the late 1850s, Les Guingettes de Robinson provided a uniquely enchanting and exotic summer adventure. For over a century, this Robinson Crusoe Village was a Parisian paradise.
During the Second World War however, the spirit of the guingette fell out of fashion and after the war the Robinson dance halls and taverns began closing one after the other. In the 1950s, one of the popular dance hall pavilions was sold to a Renault factory, before giving way to private homes.
I think this sounds like the perfect venture for the Mistress and houseboys this summer. Bound to be a smash hit here in Bucks County...what with us having more liquor license per capita than anywhere else in the state. They don't call this area Big Bucks Drunk County for nothing. I can't think of a better way to enjoy my gin and tonics.