What a totally fantastic way to explode a myth! Excitement levels were already fit to bursting when the exclamation ooh là là drifted across the music hall.
It was so loud and so animated and so perfect! After all we were sitting watching the most famous cabaret in the world.
Welcome to Paris’s Moulin Rouge, a mixture of fun, colour, music, dance and elegance. With first class seats and sipping champagne, my teenage daughter Flossie and I were enjoying a fabulous Saturday night out.
Established in 1889, the Moulin Rouge started off with an audacious bet that it became “the palace of the dance and women and a cabaret more luxurious, bigger and elegant than the ones that existed at the time.”
135 years later and after more than two hours of brilliance, it’s obvious that bet has well and truly been won.
The grand tradition of the French Music Hall greets you at the world-renowned venue in the capital’s Montmartre district and there is no missing it, thanks to the huge red windmill on the roof, added at the whim of builder Joseph Oller and showman Charles Zilder, as a nostalgic nod to the area’s countryside past.
Step inside the warm glow of red and you are swiftly greeted by tuxedo wearing front of house who guide you through the formalities with speed and before you know it, you are transported into the glitzy world of the Moulin Rouge.
Decorated in the flamboyant style “Belle Epoque”, with beautiful authentic mural paintings, Morris columns and original posters of the artists who performed at the beginning, the music hall is simply sublime with lamp lit tables covered in the best cloths, ready for 850 guests who can enjoy either a dinner and show package or just watch the performance, while sipping the best champagne.
More than 80 artists from across the world entertain twice nightly with the Féerie” show, created by Doris Haug and Ruggero Angeletti, since 1961. And the show is so popular it attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year.
With Bill Goodson as choreographer, the show is full of 1,000 costumes with feathers, rhinstones and sequins, all designed by Corrado Collabucci and 800 beautifully crafted pairs of shoes courtesy of Maison Clairvoy.
When the curtain rises, the fizz of excitement begins, and the €8 million show begins with four main scenes to entertain.
And it is glitz, glamour and fun all the way, starting off with a nostalgic trip in the Moulin garden and all its magic, to The Pirates, where a boat is anchored in Indonesia and there is adventure to be had, with a temple surrounded by women, jewels and tigresses and a fight for love.
A complete change of scene sees the circus come to town, with clowns, Siamese twins, pierrots, acrobats, jugglers and even weird wild animals.
The show also pays tribute to Parisian women throughout the years, with the highlight being the Moulin Rouge performers and their unique version of the French CanCan.
It’s this which not surprisingly gets the most ooh là là’s, after all it’s what the Moulin Rouge is famous for.
With revolutionary movements, screams, boisterous rhythm, frills and flowing skirts are lifted to reveal the young dancer’s legs and frilly knickers.
The dancers are picked for their ballet skills and physical strength and have to endure lots of training and rehearsals to ensure they live up to the perfection demanded.
It’s a wonderful sight and sums up Paris’ magnificent flair which the city oozes. There is so much to see and do and one of the best ways to sample the best on offer is via The Big Bus hop on and hop off.
The 24-hour bus with onboard commentary allows you to take the red route for 120 minutes and spot all the iconic landmarks from The Notre Dame Cathedral, which is being restored after a big fire in 2019 to the city’s symbol, The Eiffel Tower.
Big Bus also has other options including 48-hour explore tickets, night tours and river cruises, all designed for you to get the best out of the city.
Paris is busy gearing up for The Olympics in July and so finding good quality accommodation at an affordable rate will become more tricky.
Holiday Inn has a range of accommodation around the city and a great choice for being central is the Gare de Lyon Bastille Hotel.
Housed in traditional French architecture, the four-star hotel is just minutes away from the railway station and handy for the Metro and buses too, with the Opera Bastille close by.
Rooms have recently been renovated and are well appointed with luxury beds, elegant bathrooms and all the mod cons.
Breakfast with the tastiest home-made madeleines in town, set you up for the day and certainly give you that ooh là là feeling!
If you are visiting from the UK, direct flights are available via low-cost airlines and www.holidayextras.com can help with airport parking, lounges and transfers. For more tourist information, please visit: www.parisjetaime.com.
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.
Photographs by Sandie Bertrand – Moulin Rouge