Fancy a romantic weekend away to Paris, or a couple of nights of revelry in Amsterdam? Well, Blue Islands have recently announced the opening of direct links to both from Jersey, starting in February 2013, and to celebrate, we thought we’d take a look at some of the more fruity locations to visit while you’re there. While you’re in Paris, you’ll no doubt want to take in the Eiffel Tower, and in Amsterdam you won’t want to pass up the opportunity of seeing the Van Gogh Museum – but there are plenty more less explored areas just waiting to be discovered. Here are just a few of our recommendations.
HAVE A DRINK AND A DANCE IN DAVID LYNCH’S NIGHTCLUB
Silencio is the first ever nightspot to be opened by Twin Peaks, Eraserhead and Blue Velvet director David Lynch. Those familiar with his career will be aware that Mr. Lynch has long had a penchant for doing the last thing expected of him (see the ‘David Lynch Weather Report’ webisodes or his 2011 cinematic surf guitar-cum-electronica album Crazy Clown Time), and who would have expected him to open up a club in the heart of artists’ mecca Rue Montmartre? Named after the club in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Silencio features a maze of intimate rooms, including a bar, restaurant, art gallery, 24-seat cinema and concert room. For the full experience you’ll have to part with a €1,000 membership fee, but the club is open to all after midnight. The décor, the music and the general ambience combine to produce an experience not unlike, one imagines, having a party inside David Lynch’s brain; who wouldn’t want to try that?
silencio-club.com DANS LE NOIR
DINNER IN THE DARK
Also located on Rue Montmartre is a restaurant that offers a totally unique dining experience, a ‘sensory awakening’ in which diners eat in total darkness, served by blind people. Mobile phones, iPods, digital watches and any other light-producing objects are strictly forbidden from the restaurant, stored in lockers upon entry, and the concept is designed to both enhance diners’ sensitivity to taste and to create a bond of trust between visitors and their waiters; blind guides who, according to the website, ‘are naturally more efficient in the dark.’ Meals generally take around an hour and a half, by which time you may well have half your dinner down you, so dress accordingly.
One of the unique things about Paris is its huge network of underground tunnels, sewers and caves – 180 miles of them to be precise. Throughout the middle ages, Paris’ cemeteries suffered atrocious overcrowding, until the skeletal remains of 6 million Parisians were transferred to tunnels originally dug as gypsum quarries. What now exists is a beautifully macabre tribute to the dead, femurs and skulls lining the tunnel walls and ceilings. Throughout the 20th Century especially, there has been a culture of ‘catephiles’; artists, hedonists and supposed sects who have illegally entered parts of these subterranean crypts to hold parties and exhibitions – in 2004, a mysterious fully-equipped cinema was discovered there. There are legitimate ways to explore the tunnels though, namely through the Catacombs Museum. Thoroughly recommended.
PARIS FLEA MARKET
SHOPPING IN ST OUEN?
Located at Porte de Cligancourt is Paris’ most famous flea market, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. Covering seven hectares, comprised of 2,000 shops and attracting 120,000 – 180,000 visitors per weekend, it’s in fact the world’s biggest antiques market, but shoppers can find anything from toys to vintage clothing, obscure books to trinkets, kitchenware to furniture. You name it, one market trader or another will have it, and will be willing to haggle over a price. The history of the market dates back 200 years, when ‘crochetuers’ (‘pickers’) – rag & bone men to you and I – would sell junk found in Paris bins from pop-up stalls set up within the Paris walls. The market has come a long way since; even France’s most famous designer Phillipe Starck is in on the act, having last month opened a restaurant and stall there.
Yes, we’re back in Montmartre again. When you think of French vineyards, Bordeaux and Burgundy tend to be the first names that spring to mind. However, nestled in the hilly Parisian bohemia that is Montmartre is Paris’ last remaining vineyard. The area was once covered in vineyards, but the increasing urbanisation destroyed all but this one of them. Bordered by the public Musee de Montmartre and the famous Lapin Agile cabaret club – once frequented by Renoir and Picasso – Close Montmartre is closed to the public except for during the annual Fete des Jardins. The festival is one of only three ways to purchase wine from the vineyard; the other two are by either buying a mini bottle from the Montmartre tourism office or from occasional charity wine auctions, which are invite only. Tourism office then.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT TOUR
THE CIVILISED WAY TO LEARN ABOUT BROTHELS, PIMPS AND PROSTITUTES
As one of the only cities in Europe that allows legally licensed prostitution, Amsterdam has had a long history of visitors flocking to see its famous Red Light District. One of the most lasting images for any visitor to the area is that of rows of windows displaying active sex workers available for business. In 1994 the Prostitution Information Centre was set up to educate workers and public and to improve the working conditions of prostitutes in the city. The Information Centre runs the De Wallenwinkel Red Light District Store, which operates tours around the area twice a week. Led by a former prostitute, the tours give an insight into the history of the area and a glimpse at the many brothels, peep shows, strip clubs and sex shops in the area. Not a trip for the prudish, that’s for sure.
A FRUITY WAY TO LEARN ABOUT THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
They say sex sells, and don’t the owners of the “Venustempel” know it, the museum attracting around 500,000 visitors per year. Opened in 1985, the museum is a shrine to all things erotic, with artefacts, paintings and photography depicting sexual attitudes throughout the ages, from the randy Ancient Greeks to the joyless priests of the Middle Ages. An impressive range of exhibits from all over the globe, from ancient phallic stone statuettes to Victorian paintings of mucky business, demonstrate that a fascination with carnal activities is most definitely not just a modern phenomoneon.
ROLL UP FOR THE MYSTERY TOUR
Located at the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, a canal of the Red Light District, the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum is actually two small museums for the price of one, set within walking distance of one another. With artefacts and literature illustrating the history of hemp as a plant used by man for textiles over thousands of years, and more modern exhibits such as vaporisers and bongs, as well as a live cannabis garden, displaying man’s love affair with getting completely stoned out of its head, the museum offers a broad look at a plant which has had a bearing on history in more ways than one. Educational and informative, and my mate swears blind he went in there fine and walked out zonked from the fumes.
INK TO MAKE YOU THINK
Opened this summer by Henk Schiffmacher, a man with a massive beard (who once tattooed Kurt Cobain) and loads of tattoos, Amsterdam Tattoo Museum is a celebration of an art form which has a tendency to divide opinion, but which has made an indelible mark (yes, pun intended, many thanks) on human history. With displays of primitive and modern tattooing techniques and implements – including the gruesome but often weirdly beautiful scarification and branding practices – as well as live gigs and exhibitions from guests artists, the museum is both informative and a lot of fun. You can even get a tattoo from Henk there – and sign up to donate your inked skin to the museum when you die. If that’s not self-sufficient museumery, what is?
LIKE WILLY WONKA’S CHOCOLATE FACTORY, BUT FOR GROWN MEN
Like Heineken? Like experiences? Then you’ll ruddy love the Heineken Experience, set in the company’s 1867-built brewery, now converted into a visitor’s centre. See the historic brew room, sit back and enjoy the frankly bizarre ‘Brew U’ 4D simulator (which lets guests experience the sensation of being brewed and bottled), get your own personalised Heineken, enjoy interactive shows, crush barley and get generally excited about Heineken. If you missed out on going to a theme park as a kid and feel you might have missed the boat, then perhaps the Heineken Experience is just the catharsis you need.