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Often the unexpected is what makes a vacation truly memorable. And sometimes the unexpected is so out of left field that it cannot be replicated. While we absolutely loved our week in Paris in 2011, one incident stands out as a story we tell over and over again. It is deliciously wicked and if we were to visit Paris twenty more times, I doubt it would ever happen again.
If we had stayed at a different hotel, it wouldn’t have happened. If we had gone down to breakfast a half hour earlier it wouldn’t have happened. But kismet – it happened.
As I recounted in my first post on Paris, we arrived around noon on Sept. 17th. We lugged our baggage onto the train and finally settled in at our hotel, the Tim Hotel at the Place Marcel-Sembat in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.
After spending the rest of the day sightseeing to get an overview of Paris, we had a quick bite and retired for the night. After a good night’s sleep we got up, showered and planned our day – the Palais de Versailles was on our agenda.
Our hotel came with a complimentary continental breakfast so around nine AM we were ready to head downstairs from our third floor room. I was just heading to the door when there was a knock.
“Hmm,” I commented to my wife. “Must be the hotel staff wanting to clean the room. A bit early, don’t you think?” I opened the door.
There, with her hand raised for another knock, was not the maid, but a gorgeous blonde. A stunner. A knockout. Could have been a model or a movie star.
And…she was stark naked! Not a stitch. My jaw dropped. She looked at me, then over at my wife, and said, “Oh! Excusez moi. Wrong room!”
Oh…did I mention that there was a naked man standing just behind her and over to the side a bit? A naked couple. Strangers in the morning.
I closed the door and my wife exclaimed, “What the heck was that?!?!”
“Well,” I replied, “This is Paris!”
We waited a few minutes and then my wife asked if I thought it was safe to go down for breakfast. “Sure,” I said, “Let’s go.”
I opened the door and we ventured out and there, down the hall a bit, were our naked friends, conferring with each other. No doubt trying to figure out what room they were supposed to have gone to. Janis and I decided we’d just casually walk by them and go down to breakfast.
As I walked by her, the woman touched my shoulder. “Excusez-moi, monsieur. Parlez-vous français?”
“Oui. Un peu,” I replied.
“Etes-vous shockée?” she asked. “Are you shocked?”
“Oui. Un peu.”
She then turned to my wife as she put a finger to her lips. “Shhh. Secrète, s’il vous plait,” she said. Please no tell.”
We agreed and went down to breakfast, chuckling and wondering where the heck they stored their clothes. They didn’t even have a handbag. In any event, by the time we finished breakfast and returned to our room, they were nowhere to be seen.
All during our day, spent at the fabulous Palais de Versailles, Janis would ask me, “What are you grinning about?” Five years later it still brings a chuckle. My only regret is I was so stunned I didn’t have the wit to ask my wife to stand with them so I could take a picture.
Paris, of course, is known as being a center of romance and sexuality. And a few days later we visited the Montmartre district. This area in the north of the city on the Right Bank of the Seine could be called the district of the sacred and the profane. At the top of the Mont Martre is the Basilica de Sacré Coeur. The streets below are a warren of cafés, shops and the night club district. The most prominent venue is the famous Moulin Rouge.
We stopped by the Moulin Rouge to book tickets and discovered that they were sold out about a week ahead. We were heading to Rome to board a Mediterranean cruise two days later and flying back to Paris on Oct. 2nd to catch a plane back to Canada the next day, so we booked tickets for the last show on the 2nd – the 11 PM show.
We had no idea of what to expect. But we had seen the Baz Luhrmann movie starring Nicole Kidman and we expected no less. We were not disappointed.
The venue is an intimate one. Only 800 seats and all of them at tables with white table cloths and a candle in a red jar. Food and drink are available before the show starts but there is no service during the show. We bought a bottle of wine which lasted to the end of the show.
The show opens with all of the cast on stage in a huge song and dance number. There are both male and female singers and dancers including the 60 fabulous Doriss Girls. I can’t remember how long the show was, but probably close to two hours. It went through several different sets and themes including a pirate theme, a circus theme and a history of the Moulin Rouge theme.
The colorful costumes are amazing in themselves. Feathers, fancy headgear and tear-away clothes. Many numbers featured the Doriss girls ripping their tops off and going topless.
Toplessness is taken as a matter of course in Paris. Children as young as six can attend a show at the Moulin Rouge and they offer a discount for children under twelve.
Indeed there is much to amuse children. The circus part of the show includes six miniature horses on the stage. And they have special guest performers. Two very talented acrobats exhibited both skill and strength and there was a comedian as well who performed in pantomime. There were also singers, sometimes with accompanying dancers, sometimes without.
One of the more spectacular parts of the show occurred about halfway through. The stage was cleared and the floor rolled back. Then up from the floor rose a huge glass tank. Inside was an anaconda.
To much fanfare a young woman was carried onto the stage in a Roman litter. She got up and climbed some steps to the top of the tank. The topless woman then dove into the tank and wrestled the snake. An unbelievable spectacle. Sure beat anything Nicole Kidman did in the movie!
The finale of the show was the can-can done up in grand style with a full chorus line of dancers in exotic costumes. My description doesn’t do it justice, nor does the five minute promotional video at the Moulin Rouge website. But it will give you a flavor, not only of the show, but of the venue itself. Janis and I would definitely see it again. It is better than any show we’ve seen in Las Vegas.
When the show ended, we had an usher take a picture of us by the doors. Then we sauntered over to the gift shop where we bought a DVD of the show as well as a couple of souvenir posters.
The Moulin Rouge has been around for over a century and classic posters captured the changing shows. Each runs for a decade or more. The current show, Feérie, has been running since December 23, 1999. The two posters we bought were for the first show featuring the Doriss Girls in 1963 and the current how, Féerie. We have them hanging in our bedroom which has a Parisian theme. (What can I say – we just loved Paris!)
After leaving the Moulin Rouge we had to catch a cab back to our hotel near the airport since the trains did not run that late. So we needed some cash and set out to find a cash machine. We wandered down Boulevard de Clichy and discovered wall to wall sex shops and strip clubs.
Needless to say, we didn’t enter any of these places. We doubled back and finally found an ATM near the Moulin Rouge. But one friend at work says he visited a strip club in the area once and the bouncers strong-arm you into buying a lap dance. He did not recommend it unless that was what you were looking for.
The next morning we flew back to Vancouver. Our last little excursion to the Moulin Rouge just hours before we left was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s a bit ironic that two of our favorite memories of that trip were our first morning, the naked strangers, and our last evening, the Moulin Rouge. Both a bit racier than our usual entertainment, but absolutely memorable.
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