Monday, 20 August 2018

A Night and Dinner at the Moulin Rouge, Pigalle, Paris

Dancing, dinner, sipping champagne and splashing (yes, splashing) at the iconic Moulin Rouge in Paris. 

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I've wanted to go to Paris since I was in my early 20s. But then kids came along, with work and all the other stuff and I forgot. Until I was having a cuppa with my best friend one day and I was having a moan about how I'd let my travel ambitions slip and wish I'd gone to Paris one day.

"Let's do it!" She said. 

So we did. 

Although I'd have been happy seeing the Eiffel Tower and having a peek around the Louvre, my friend said she'd always wanted to see a show at the Moulin Rouge

So we decided to do that, too. 

We were SO FLIPPING EXCITED. It was all we could talk about for WEEKS. 


Photo by Moulin Rouge - used with permission

We stayed in a hotel in the Crimée area of Paris, quite a way away from the main tourist attractions, and about 50 minutes walk from the Moulin Rouge in Pigalle, a 30-minute metro ride or a 10-minute taxi ride. Blanche is the nearest metro stop to the Moulin Rouge. 

On arrival - you can't miss it - it's the building with the red flashing lights and the windmill on the top ('Moulin Rouge' means 'red windmill' in French). We had our tickets checked outside by a burly doorman and were ushered in. We went through security and lined up on a red carpet to wait for a table. 

A waiter called us through and we ascended some steps and into the hall itself. Here, I have to say, I was a bit bedazzled by what I saw. The whole hall had a large stage upfront, and tables set out in front of it. The lights were dimmed, and the hall was lit by beautiful little red lamps on the tables. We were shown to our table, right in front of the stage, towards the back of the hall (lucky us) and brought a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket to share. Above us, there was the illusion of the ceiling of a tent, fabric draped across the top of the hall and old fashioned Moulin Rouge posters adorned the pillars and the walls. Singers appeared and sang. 

We were handed a menu and we chose our three-course dinner, which we picked from the Minstinguett menu. I ate a mozzarella salad with juicy tomatoes, which was gorgeous - and then salmon with a tomato sauce and vegetables. I was surprised to find the meals quite healthy and low carb and the portions seemed fairly small, but just right. A chocolate tart arrived for pudding, which was luscious, with a light orange sauce. I'd read some reviews that the food wasn't highly rated, but we both loved it. The presentation made it feel extra special too. I'd definitely order from the menu again. 


Photo by Moulin Rouge - used with permission

Now. Despite some people taking photographs, it's worth mentioning that you're not allowed to take any photographs at all inside the hall. This includes selfies during dinner or the performance. A few people around us took photos during dinner and they were immediately told by waiters to stop. There is a photographer who circulates and will take a picture of your group as a souvenir. We decided to go for it, as it was a special occasion. We ended up with a large photo of us together and two match books with our individual faces on. It cost us €21 and was a good quality pic. I liked that she took two or three photos of us to make sure at least one of them turned out right. Nothing worse than getting a photo and finding out your eyes are closed or you were about to sneeze. It's a great memento of our night out. 

Once dinner is done and cleared away, you're left to finish your champagne at leisure. It's about now that the hall starts filling up with people who have come for the same show as you but didn't have dinner. Two more couples were seated at our table with us, their drinks were brought and the show started. Yes, it's cosy and you do feel a little squeezed in but who cares? It's part of the atmosphere. 

The lights dimmed and dancers started to appear as the show started.


Photo by Moulin Rouge - used with permission

I don't want to give too much away in case you go and see the show yourself (do go see it) but here are a few pointers:

1. Most of the dancers are topless, or wearing skimpy bikini-type costumes with feathers, sequins and other special effects. Don't be offended. You're in Paris. Just drink up the atmosphere and enjoy the show. 

2. There is some splashing. Yes, splashing. You'll see when you get there.

3. Most of the songs are sung in French. And even if you don't speak French, this isn't a problem as you'll get the idea of what the song is about. The show is made up of mini stories with acting and dance routines. Trust me. You'll get it. 

4. You'll most probably come away wanting to wear the costumes yourself. As soon as the lights came up after the last dance I was clapping and thinking 'Oh my gosh I want to wear those outfits' when I looked over at my friend who shouted eagerly, through the cheering, 'I want to wear those costumes!'. You'll want to wear the costumes. They're amazing. 

5. Forget Burlesque or sexy routines or the writhing Christina Aguilera/Pink/Maya video from the theme song from the Nicole Kidman movie. The performances are cheeky, yes, but not overtly sexual. 

As well as the dancers, there are other performances, including acrobats, a dancer with a hoop and a contortionist, which was amazing. 

The Can Can was my favourite part. I imagined it would be just a chorus line of ladies kicking up their fluffy skirts, but it was so much more than that. It was energetic and loud, with lots doing the splits and others leaping up into the air. And I loved that Can Can dress they all wore. I'm trying to get one. Just for fun. Or for the weekly shop. Whatever. I loved it, with the cheeky little ankle boots. Someone get me a red, white and blue Can Can dress with matching navy ankle boots for goodness' sake. 

As the evening finished, we paid up any extras with our waiter (beware that extra drinks are expensive, with soft drinks around €8 each and small bottles of water around €5 each). A half bottle of champagne each is included in the price you pre-book - check your ticket for details. You can go for dinner like we did or choose to just go with a bottle of champagne to share between two of you, if you prefer. 

We walked out into the balmy August air, joined the hoards of people across the road taking selfies with the lit up red windmill in the background and hailed a taxi back to the hotel. 

It sounds cheesy I know, and I'd tell you if it was anything different, but we had an absolutely amazing evening. We'll remember it always. And while some reviews I've seen have said it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, I don't get it. The service was faultless. the food was really good and the champagne, too. We really did feel very special. 

And, I'm an art lover. 

Ever since I was a teenager I loved the art of Toulouse Lautrec and other nineteenth century French painters. In the 1880s, the Moulin Rouge was the centre of the Paris art scene (and the red light district, which is still true). And, although the building isn't the original one he would have been in (the original was destroyed by fire), to be sitting on the spot where the Can Can was first performed, where my art heroes once enjoyed shows like the one I saw, sipping on chilled, fizzy champagne with my best mate in the world while watching dancers kick and do the splits in their frilly dresses and ankle boots, I was in complete joy. 

Thank you, Moulin Rouge, it was emotional. 

We travelled by Eurostar (which takes just over 2 hours to Paris from London) and visited the Moulin Rouge on our first night. You can have a look at the range of Moulin Rouge tickets here


Got any questions? Are you visiting Paris or the Moulin Rouge? Ask me in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them. 


Because no photography is allowed inside the Moulin Rouge theatre, all photos in this post were kindly provided by the Moulin Rouge, and are posted with permission. 





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