Between l’Abbaye aux Hommes and Rue Saint Pierre in Caen is Rue Écuyère, ‘street of the horsewomen’. It was named for the ladies of noble families who lived in grand houses here, but times change.
After nobility came the antique sellers who for centuries made Rue Ecuyère synonymous with armoires, folderols and objets d’art. The in the 1990’s a new bar bistro, Le Vertigo, was given a licence. Le Vertigo was clearly meeting a need and others soon followed. Rue Écuyère now has a very different reputation, one considerably more popular with students of the town.
Rue Écuyère is officially the thirstiest street in Normandy and fifth thirstiest street in all of France.
Bistrography of France
This achievement has been calculated using the government’s Siren database of companies and institutions, and is based on density – on average you will stumble upon bar in Rue Écuyère every 19 meters.
Data lover Mathieu Garnier is responsible for merrily crunching the numbers and creating this bistrography of France. First prize went to rue Saint-Michel in Rennes and its astonishing bistro every 7 meters. In a straight line – calculations do not allow for the cheery drinkers’ wobble.
While rue Écuyère is less than 250 meters long, it is home to ten vibrant drinking establishments, eight of them within 100 meters.
Infamous Caen cocktail
Just a few steps from Le Vertigo is Bar le 23, birthplace of the infamous Caen cocktail ‘l’embuscade’…The Ambush! The Ambush is an explosive blend of lager, a splosh of fruity syrup, white wine and calvados first thrown together by an irresponsible hand in the 1990’s. This effervescent refreshment became such a hit it spread across Normandy, to Paris and can now be found far into a delighted Europe.
Traditionally made for sharing in pitchers, the recipe is roughly:
- 2 parts Calvados
- 3 parts white wine
- 5 parts beer (lager to the Brits)
- A splosh of pomegranate syrup or blackcurrant
- And if you are feeling fancy, a drizzle of citron syrup
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, stir and share!
The street was paved in 2009 and the little tables and chairs in front of each bar bistro spread out a little further.
Of course student favour is fickle. In the mid-60s they crowded into bars along Boulevard Maréchal-Leclerc; les Touristes, les Caennais and le Drugstore Saint-Pierre. In the 1970s they gravitated towards rue du Gaillon then home to five bars. Now they, along with the office workers and shop people of Caen, favour Rue Écuyère.
Investing in drawers
For the antique dealers the news is not so good. Just six survive, high rents pushing out tenants and those that own their shops are pessimistic. They say the public is less interested in old furniture. Thomas Ceyssel, antique dealer in the street says “Today people no longer invest in a chest of drawers“. The estate agents complain apartments prices have dropped along the road.
But for the bars along Rue Écuyère the mood is buoyant. Convivial with standing room only, conversation ranges from the political to the puerile and from high art to low humour, exactly as it should be. When the students go home each summer, tourists cheerfully fill their place.
Perhaps we will see you there;- in La tomate bleu, Bar Le 23, Ecto Bar, El Mojito, La Rhumba, L’Endroit, La Tour Solidor, Le Broc Café or Le Vertigo… Hic!