Everything I learnt going to a French nightclub
They have smoking rooms, goddamn
The queue for this club is long, it's a really long queue and I don't really want to be stood in it, but then who actually enjoys queuing? The club experience is nothing without a queue, because would it be a club experience if you didn't spend half an hour outside, sobering up, and wondering whether, really, deep down, you actually want to go inside of this warehouse?
I didn't come on holiday to queue, I came on holiday to take enough photos to make my Instagram followers jealous and perceive me interesting, because what else is Instagram for? And I came on holiday to get away from the UK and the day to day life of work and university and stress and mental health and looking out of the window at the same skyline, the clouds that seem to consume it as of late, and to get away from Brexit and see something of the world before it's too late.
The queue for the club is long and I'm thinking all of this, pretending it will become material for a story or something, and I'm wondering why I'm here. The club is very secret, I'm told. But it's better than spending your holiday in an English pub, I suppose. The club has no sign, it looks like a typical French street, a door with a letter box where the door staff can look at you. We're queuing past a locked up shop with the shutters down, and I don't feel the exclusivity. It's in a residential area, so they can't advertise it, and in the queue, this enormous queue, you're not allowed to talk, or at least not loudly.
It's December in Bordeaux and the club queue is long and we're all freezing cold. It's bitterly cold, where your hands are so cold that when you try and put them in your pockets they hurt, and your lips and nose feel nothing but numb, and you can't keep your jaw from chattering.
I've queued in the cold before, in a long queue like this, being cold is part of the experience. British clubs, standing in the smoking area, freezing in a shirt, when I'm drunk and can still feel the cold, a cigarette burning the lips because I don't usually do this.
Some people will talk to me, or at me, and we become friends and I add them on Facebook and we're definitely going for that coffee on Thursday. "We should do something sober," we lie to each other. British clubs. Inside there's sweat on the walls and the ceiling is dripping with condensation, and there's an odour of perfume and aftershave and sweat and a stale stench of sticky alcohol. British clubs. The darkness is protruded by strobes and smoke and camera flashes and barlights. British clubs. I wonder if this French club will be any different.
The queue is massive still and only getting longer, and we meet some girls from Manchester in front of us who apparently we have mutual friends with, strangely, so we decide to stick together. I am very aware that there doesn't seem to be that many French people in this queue. Everyone seems to be English or Spanish, and at each end of the street there are locals walking by, staring at us and or how long the queue is.
We finally get to the front of the enormous queue, sober and stone cold frozen, and we get inside and I feel validated because I'm 'exclusive' now. On the left there is a cloakroom, and on the right is the door to the club. I'm wearing a long grey coat and a scarf, not the usual club attire I know, but it's that or freeze. I don't have any change for the cloakroom, so I take off my scarf and stuff it into my pocket and keep my coat on.
Inside is like any British club. The walls are glowing with lighting and there are some island tables to the side along the walls, and the bar is well lit and the centre of attention. There's a huddle at the bar. Everyone is drinking beer and it's fucking expensive, and I dread to think how much spirits cost. It seems the £3 doubles and the promotion of binge drinking stops at the Channel, so I savour the drinks I can afford.
Away from the bar there are some sofas that line the walls, surrounding a small dancefloor, and there are mirrors around the back wall, which is really off putting when every five minutes you notice yourself and how drunk you look. A small flight of stairs leads downstairs to the toilets. The staircase is narrow and curves around a corner near the bottom, like an active challenge to all those drunk enough who dare to descend and ascend, trying not to fall.
At the bar we meet our first French person that isn't a member of staff, and they are with a Scottish comedian who has come down from Paris and is travelling around France. He tells me I should get into stand up because I have a funny face.
Whereas British clubs seem to be primarily made up of dancefloor, a big main bar, and a smaller bar with some eats, this place seems to be the antithesis of that. There is one small dancefloor, and it is surrounded by sofas. The walk to the dancefloor leads you to end of the building, seemingly, and you have to walk by countless tables with chairs and islands on which you can lean. The dancers are being forced into one small corner at the back of the room. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing?
Maybe they dance less in France? I'm not adverse to this. Who really dances in clubs, even in the UK?
Do we not all just stand in small circles, looking at each other, mouthing lyrics to songs and pointing at each other, embrace when something nostalgic comes on? Or get annoyed when someone else's circle starts to encroach on our own, and shout into the ear of another person? And if you're like me, nod your head and flex your knees and swivel your feet in time to the music as a substitute for dancing? Maybe this is all nightclubs are, places for people to get drunk and stand in rough circles.
To smoke, there is no smoking area – there is a smoking room. It is like a corridor, or a shed attached indoors, and there is a big ventilation unit on the ceiling which I assume is to suck out all of the smoke, but when I walk in it seems like it isn't working.
It's as if you walk in and within an instant you want to walk out, now feeling like you've smoked a pack in a flash, without any of the niccy rush. My clothes will smell of smoke forever now. There is a bar that you can lean on with a couple of ashtrays, but everyone seems to throw their dead butts to the floor. It's a strange feeling to walk back into the staleness of nightclub atmosphere and feel like you're breathing fresh air.
When we leave we leave the way we came, out of the door which now is no longer exclusive, everyone is allowed to leave, must leave. They're very strict about keeping the noise down, maybe this is a residential area. There are no chicken shops or takeaways nearby, which is really disappointing. Say what you like about Britain, but we really know how to strategically place a takeaway.
Maybe that's all I learnt about going to a French nightclub – that the dancefloors are small – too small to stand in a circle – that they smoke inside, and they badly place their takeaways. Life is a journey of discovery, after all.