Sunday 4th July:
The day dawned fine and sunny which lifted our spirits considerably after Saturday’s rain so we set off early for central Paris with twin objectives.. taking the Hop On Off bus for a tour of the city’s major sights and a visit to the Louvre. The Louvre, and all of Paris’ museums and Art Galleries, was free being the first Sunday of the month which made the effort more worthwhile.
We hopped on the Tour Bus at The Opera and headed off to see the sights of Paris. The last time Joy and I were here the city was consumed by the Diana & Dodi car crash so the tunnel under the Seine had become a place of pilgrimage with flowers and graffiti decorating the entrance. Now, there is no mention, no sign indicating that the tragedy had happened. History is such a hard mistress!
The Bus took us along the Champs Elysees, which was being dressed for the July 14th parades, to the Arc d’Triumph, past the Grand Palace then through the streets to the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower. Here we posed for the obligatory photographs for family.
We swept past the Military College and the Army museum and the National Assembly to the Louvre. Here we queued for two hours to get into the building then we mingled with the swarms of people turning, swirling and questing their ways around the museum. Joy & I headed for the second floor and the German, French, Dutch and Flemish paintings then made our way through the Richelieu wing and the exhibition of works from the July Monarchy, Restoration and Renaissance periods and pieces from the Napoleonic era to the the halls of objet d’art from the 5th to 19th century and out into the sunlight under the Pyramid and into the late afternoon Paris traffic.
On board the tour bus again we drove to the Ile de la Cite and stopped outside the Notre Dame Cathedral where the queues stretched across the courtyards and down alley ways as every tourist and Parisienne took advantage of the first Sunday of the month free access to museums and historic places. Joy & I opted for a coffee in a street cafe to watch the streams of tourists swirl by as we had spent several hours in the cathedral when we first visited Paris in 1997. I have a firm resolve to scan my older pictures and mix them into my new album of our trip when we get back to New Zealand and a more settled life again.
Back to the Place d’Opera and the Hostel for a brief rest before meeting up with Noeline and Durhan in Mont Marte for a drink and a late evening show at the Moulin Rouge.
We made our way to Blanche metro to emerge at 8.30 into the bustling red light area that is Pigalle. The streets were already busy with disco goers and hopeful voyeurs all responding to the constant flicker of neon and the blandishments of the door keepers. We, finding that food was more important, headed up the hill towards Mont Marte in search of a restaurant before heading back to Moulin Rouge to meet up with our friends.
We’d reserved tickets for the 11.00pm revue show but, even so, we had to join a queue that stretched along the street, blocking shop fronts, for almost two blocks, waiting for the 9.00pm show to finish and the admission of we punters for the last show of the night.
Once seated at our table, which was so close to the stage that we were constantly whacked with feathers or other costume pieces as the dancers pranced their way onto the stage, we were in a scene reminiscent of a Toulouse Lautrec painting of the interior of the music hall. Here were people seated around tables, clutching glasses of wine, lit by dim red lamps all waiting for the curtains to open and the show to begin.
The show started with an energetic song & dance number which introduced the cast and hinted at the style of costumes and the potential exposure of skin we’d see as the evening progressed.
Seated as close as we were to the stage the illusion of nudity, the element of titillation that such shows are built on, was quickly knocked into subdued reality as every dancer was wearing flesh coloured stockings under every seemingly skimpy outfit. Never the less the show ran through at a fast clip with no let up for the full two hours. The dancers coming on in briefer and, yet more concealing, costumes in a series of items that became tableaux of 19th - 20th century male fantasies - of Eastern princesses in exotic costume, their breasts exposed, being fought over by both Indian Rajahs and English Officer, of Amazonian pirates, their breasts exposed, fighting off and eventually succumbing to the strong, gallant crew of the English / French vessels and of an exotic woman, her breasts exposed, opting to escape the dastardly male throwing herself into a tank full of snakes where she wrestled them into freudian submission to emerge into the welcoming arms of the only honorable man present. This act was followed by a circus of women, their breasts exposed, presented themselves acrobatically to the audience before the grand finale of the be-feathered cast singing and can-canning a farewell to the audience and the illusion of the dance-hall.
The tableaux were interspersed with acts from a juggler, a strong man team in which the man supported the woman in a combination of physical strength and balancing and a ventriloquist whose routine, which Joy reckoned was the high light of the evening, evoked a great deal of laughter.
We parted ways with our friends, who were heading off to explore northern France, and got back to the hostel around 2.00am.