Michael Kiwanuka- LIVE in Exeter

Michael Kiwanuka doesn’t have to say much. He walks on the stage of the tiny Phoenix, nods slightly at his devoted audience, picks up his guitar, and plays an hour and a half of mesmerising soul. He makes us clap and sway our hips at one moment, and freeze open-mouthed with glisten-eyed wonder at the pure emotion pouring out of one man and an acoustic guitar the next. The room falls silent for these moments, and everyone unites in their imagination of what it’s like to not be white middle-class Devonians in the local arts centre.

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It’s a rare thing when a new album provokes as much audience reaction as a debut. But Michael and band (which were brilliant, and so serious and succinct in what they’re doing) succeed in exciting the crowd with tracks from Love and Hate that aren’t even released singles. I also have an immense amount of respect for an artist that doesn’t play the single that a lot of people know him by, and that put him in the ‘British Folk’ category in 2012. The Home Again single wasn’t even hinted at.

The transition between the two albums is fluent, though, firmly creating the notion that the two, while involving a lot of musical and personal development, provide Kiwanuka with a successful back-catalogue of already-classics.

‘The power went down on the bus today so I couldn’t play Fifa- had to go and actually look around. I like Exeter, I’ll be back’, he says shyly, before closing the set with the epic title single of the new album.

Next time, a full brass section and gospel backing choir please Michael- but for now I’m happy with the soulful authenticity of this 29-year-old Fifa-playing boy from North London.

The tour continues until May next year, with a few more UK dates towards the end. To find out more and get tickets click here.

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My Paris To-Do List- The Travel Edit

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My recent trip to Paris held so much expectation, I was almost more nervous than excited. It was everything I wanted to be, and more. That made it pretty tough to narrow down my 8 food/ shopping /cultural picks, but maybe it’ll help if you fancy a city break, or, like me, you just like reading about other people’s holidays and wanderlust-ing from your desk.

 

FOOD-

Fromagarie Denard- Cheese, meats, bread, wine- what more could you want? The people who work in this small street-side deli are friendly, and clearly so passionate about what they’re selling you. The menu is unique- the experts choose your cheeses based on what flavours you like, and when your food arrives they explain each item, telling you which tiny little village it came from and even advising you on which order to eat your cheese in. Sitting on the pavement in the most Parisian way, this is definitely a good experience for a new-comer to the city, and a good introduction to the amazing foods that it has to offer. Find out more about the specialists at http://fromagerie-danard.com/en.

 

Bistrotters- We were recommended this restaurant by a friend, and we weren’t disappointed. The food is fresh, colourful and simply beautiful to look at. The service was friendly, and I had the best dessert I have ever tried- french toast with dark chocolate and a salted caramel sauce. I dream about it every night. Booking ahead is essential- this place is very popular with locals and travellers alike. Reserve your table here- http://www.bistrotters.com.

 

Dose- This tiny Latin Quarter coffee shop would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there- something I’ve decided is generally a good sign when trying to avoid tourist traps. So much care is taken over the coffee (they call themselves ‘dealer de café’) and the atmosphere is relaxed and slow. We sat outside on benches scattered with colourful cushions, enjoying some early morning people-watching and sharing a freshly baked croissant. When we walked past a little later in the day the place was teeming with locals, so maybe grab an early table and enjoy your coffee before Paris has fully woken up. https://www.facebook.com/dosedealerdecafe/.

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CULTURE-

The Louvre- Although an obvious one, I really do think the Louvre is worth it. It’s such a beautiful building, you don’t even have to go inside to enjoy a lot of it’s splendour. Paying the small entry fee (or if you’re under 26 and have an EU driving licence it’s free) and taking half an hour to queue (you can pre-book but I actually enjoyed taking some time to enjoy the surroundings of the museum) is a small price to pay for what could be a whole day of exploring. The exhibitions are numerous and there’s something for everyone- we especially enjoyed the Egyptian corner and obviously we crammed ourselves amongst the throng of flashing cameras to peek at the Mona Lisa. Some things just have to be done. After your visit, head to a local store to grab picnic food and sit in the Jardin des Tuileries, enjoying the middle-of-the-city sanctuary that these huge grounds provide.

 

Arch de Triomph- Again another obvious one. But maybe it’s on every ‘must-do’ list for a reason. Free for under 26’s in the EU again, and with a definitely bearable queue, the views from the top of this stunning building are un-beatable. From Sacre Coeur to the Eiffel Tower, and all the way down the Champs Elisees, you can see pretty much everything apart from the building you’re up (we even spotted the apartment we were staying in). Take your time to wander the whole way around the roof of the Arch, taking in every view.

 

Sacre Coeur- My favourite evening in Paris was spent sat on the steps of Sacre Coeur, watching the sun set over the city, occasionally turning around and staring in awe at one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. We sat for hours, surrounded by tourists and locals alike. I can’t really explain the sheer beauty of this place, you just have to go and experience it for yourself.

SHOPPING-

Shakespeare and Co.- I’d been told a lot about Shakespeare and Co. before we visited Paris, but it surpassed every expectation. The shop itself is a rabbit-den of treasures- we visited three days in a row and I found something new to look at each time. People bustle outside, but the atmosphere is relaxed, and the adjoining coffee shop is the perfect place to enjoy the books you’ve just bought with a cup of good coffee and a view of Notre Dame. One to take your time over.

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Rue Mouffetard- One of the oldest food markets in the city, this Latin Quarter street fills with locals on weekend lunchtimes, its streets bursting with freshly baked bread and pastries, specialist cheeses, cured meats, crepes, and pretty much any other culinary treat you could want from France. After grabbing your coffee and a book at Shakespeare, spend the late morning wandering up and down the lane deciding what to get for lunch- check out what the locals are queuing for. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
If you’re reading this while planning a trip to Paris, or you’re already sat in a little french cafe wondering what to do next, you have my full envy. Remember to take time to slow down and enjoy the small things that make travelling the addictive and eye-opening experience that we all love so much. We can too-easily forget to just stop and look around us when we’re somewhere new- sometimes doing nearly-nothing is the best way to experience life. Profiter de chaque seconde!