Finding South Africa in Paris

Story and photo by Kendra Cunningham
Paris Pomme Kendra Cunningham

I did not know what was happening. Who were all these people here— these English speaking people—and why were they in Paris? I had just left dinner and was on a street I walked everyday, but it was suddenly unrecognizable. St. Michel is a popular place for everyone in Paris. It attracts characters of every caliber, from street performers to bachelors and bachelorettes on their last night of freedom. Yet, this was more unusual, wilder, and more exotic. People were drunker and rowdier, wearing wigs, beaded necklaces, and chugging beer in the street. Then, as a green haired man stumbled in front of me in a blur, I realized: it was St. Patrick’s Day.

How would I have remembered? I only paid attention to Parisian things. But as it turned out, St. Patty’s Day was just as celebrated here as anywhere. I called up my international friend and bar enthusiast, Mathieu, knowing he would be out. He gave me the cross street where I could meet him, and I was on my way—no questions asked. I arrived near Mouffetard, an area of diners and drinkers. Behind St. Eustache, an incredibly gorgeous church that rivals Notre Dame, was La Pomme d’Eve.

La Pomme d’Eve is an underground South African bar hardly known by its name. It is just “The South African Bar.” Hard to find and hardly inviting, the front entrance is poorly lit with an aged orange glow, a faded South African flag hanging down vertically, accompanied by a bouncer and snobby coat check girl. The coat check and cover charges are mandatory.

Once past the threshold, there is a stone staircase that leads down into the bar. This bar is very simple—old, made of stone, and underground. That is part of its charm.

Few people go there for glamour, hook-ups, or nights of dressing up and dancing till morning. It won’t make you feel fabulous or trendy, but it won’t make you feel like a tourist either. It’s not like other, non-French bars, like Café Oz, The Frog Bars, or The Moosehead, where college students take advantage of two-for-one Tuesdays and Students’ Nights. La Pomme d’Eve is a dim rotunda of stone groin vaults and iron chairs and tables. The lights are positioned like torches and ancient black metal hooks and hinges remain on the walls. The generous bartenders stand behind a wooden counter that curves around half the bar. It is a superb setting for good friends and loud conversations.

For St. Patrick’s Day, the Bar adopted a green glow and a live Irish jig band. Mathieu and his friends crowded around two small iron tables filled with empty stacked beer glasses. We chugged Guinness and threw our heads back for shots of Jaeger.

When I dropped a glass, the whole bar cheered and banged on tables—it wouldn’t be the first or last of the night. La Pomme d’Eve became one of my favorite haunts. It’s a place for groups of friends, and a place to get to know those your friends and acquaintances even better.


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