Walking down the icy Rue du Faubourg in the 8th, my hands tucked deep in the pockets of my East Village North Face puffer, I quickly pull one out to check my sticky-note with the address. Coming across ‘hôtel particulier’, I think the tall walls might hide a church. I see the number corresponds to a rather modern, white apartment complex. Peaking into the lobby and checking the door, I enter looking lost. There, through the corridor stands a beautiful old church. As instructed, I turn left, walk down a flight of stairs, through a lobby, take a right towards the room and there it is – a bustling bar.
Welcome to “La Cave,” started by a friend’s brother and some of the monks about 5 years ago, it was decided to create a space where people could hang out and chat. The place ended up being so successful, the monks opened up similar bars at their other monasteries across France.
At the entrance is a table, with two men and one computer in which they take all your information so you can become a remember and receive your membership ID card. The room is packed; people sit on stools and recline on sofas, clotted in circles to chat. The room is smoky (due to a technicality in French law, it is one of the few places you can still smoke indoors because it is considered “private” since everyone is a member). It’s where the next generation bourgeoisie come for cheap beer and to catch up after a long week of studying. A few monks line the walls, laughing and speaking with some of the members.
At midnight, the volunteer staff calls for all to be silent. A monk stands on a table facing the room. Everyone gathers around him and in unison repeats the Lord’s Prayer (I try to whisper along in English, unable to even start to translate into French to keep up with those around me). Following the prayer, he reads from the Bible a short passage about not coveting what your neighbor has, something of which everyone can relate. Once finished, everyone grabs the stools, creating a chain, passing them back into a small back room to close up shop, prior to a continued night of reveling including an end of Paris Fashion Week party and Carnival masks.