The word "guinguette" comes from the old french word "guiguer" meaning "to jump", and the word "guinguet", the name of sourish, sharp wine that used to be made near Argenteuil, just to the north of Croissy.
Combining Café and popular entertainment , the Parisian Guinguettes or musichall dances, enjoyed great success from the 18th century. Springing up just outside the city, they escaped the "octroi", a compulsary duty or tax on all merchandise which entered through the gates of the city and where therefore able to serve drinks at a much reduced price.
In 1859, Paris was expanding and the city grew from 12 to 20 local districts (arrondissements) and spread out over 11 neighbouring local villages (communes): this is how the dancehalls developed along the edges of the Seine. Still escaping the imposition of duty, more music halls sprung up further from Paris center, Profiting from the expansion of the train network ans tapping into the new craze for all sports nautical.
The first passenger rail service was put into service in 1837 between Gare St-Lazare and St-Germain-en-laye and the trains were nicknamed the "pleasure trains". The stations and train timetables were even published on the posters for the dances. In this way, during the high season in the summer months, the whole of Paris flocked to the edges of the Seine.
At that time, the most popular places were: la Grenouillère (Croissy), la Maison Fournaise (Chatou), le Bal des Canotiers (Bougival), La Maison LemaireLa Maison Giquel (Carrières-sur-Seine), (Rueil) or Robinson (Bezons).
At the start of the 20th century, the attraction of the river bank began to wane: the fashion for boating had passed and the river became polluted. Little by little the various establishmenys closed their doors.
Nowadays, there are no longer any "guinguettes" or dancehalls and the buildings that housed them have mostly vanished. Some associations try to preserve this heritage: La Maison Fournaise has been saved and transformed into a museum and restaurant, les "Amis de la Grenouillère" at Croissy keep alive the memory of the famous Grenouillère as painted by Monet and Renoir through their museum and actions to restore the historic site at Rueil while the Association of the Friends of the Giquel workshop continue to run and renovate the former café restaurant and boathouse. All of these initiatives play a role in restoring the heyday of the music halls along the banks of the Seine here.
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