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Travel: Getting a kick out of Paris? Experience the can-can in Montmartre

© PAThe streets of Montmartre.
The streets of Montmartre.

We are backstage at the world’s most famous and exotic cabaret and the atmosphere is electric.

Amidst billowing plumes of ruby red ostrich feathers and costumes dripping diamante, we meet Scotland’s very own Moulin Rouge dancers as they prepare to take to the stage once graced by Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli.

Glasgow’s Lucy Monaghan and Michaela Rondelli, from Perthshire, have been featured by The Sunday Post in the past. Now we are here in person to see them in action.

The girls, both 29, are part of the 60-strong chorus who, outwith their 24 costume changes each night, tread the boards of this iconic venue led by Sarah Tandy, from Whitburn. Bidding them “break a leg”, we head back to the lavish Belle Epoque-style auditorium where anticipation ripples through the 800-strong crowd seated tier upon intricate tier at tables bathed in warm red lamp glow.

It’s a feast for the senses. The cabaret’s trademark can-can is there, as loud and proud as it was when the show first opened in 1889, still with high kicks, yelps and knicker flashes galore, but there’s more. We’re whisked away with pirates to Indonesia, gasp in awe as a water maiden tumbles with snakes submerged in a giant aquarium that magically appears from beneath the stage, take in feats of immense strength and derring-do, and are mesmerised by high-wire romance until we reach the spectacular finale.

© PHILIPPE WOJAZER
Moulin Rouge.

We were based in Montmartre, a hilltop “village” in the colourful 18th arrondissement just a short walk from the red windmill-topped venue – a trip to mark my daughter’s 16th birthday. Our garret studio flat in the Aparthotel Adagio Montmartre afforded fabulous views and every home comfort, as well as being within easy walking distance of all that this charming community has to offer.

Getting here from Aberdeen was easy as tarte, too. We took the train, a first class experience with LNER, direct to London. Once greeted and seated by train manager Ed Tumath, we were plied with refreshments and were at King’s Cross in what seemed like no time.

It took less than five minutes on foot to reach our base for the night, the five-star St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, within easy striking distance of Camden Town, the Royal Opera House, British Museum and Covent Garden. A scene setter in the Harry Potter movie Chamber Of Secrets, and its grand staircase the backdrop for the Spice Girls’ Wannabe video, it’s a dream for my teen.

We luxuriated in its spa, dined in style in the Booking Office 1869 restaurant and, after a sumptuous sleep and hearty breakfast in its Chambers Club, we stepped out of the hotel and directly into St Pancras International Station for the Eurostar train journey to Paris. Just over two hours later, we arrived at the Gard Du Nord for the 10-minute taxi to Montmartre.

Et voilà, its crowning glory – the white Basilica Sacre Coeur, built in 1875 at the summit of the Butte Montmartre. From the top of its dome (300 stairs up) is a glorious view to the Eiffel Tower, Pantheon and the Bois de Vincennes.

In its hushed calm, we lit a candle for lost loved ones, whispered prayers . . . and answered some. Top of my bookworm teen’s wish list was a visit to Shakespeare And Company on the Rue de la Bucherie.

An Aladdin’s cave for lit lovers, our three-hour visit resulted in a beautifully bound and stamped copy of Homer’s Iliad (chosen by junior) and former Makar Jackie Kay’s Bessie Smith (pour moi).

How to top that? A lunch trip on the Seine with Bateaux Parisiens. With a menu including escargot tart, sea bass fillet, cheese, fine wine and champagne, our cruise carried us past the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the city’s own Statue of Liberty.

Later, wandering Montmartre’s cobbled streets, posing for portraits by street artists, and enjoying the charming “village square” restaurants, we savoured heaven on earth. And as a jazz guitar combo strummed La Vie En Rose, we had to agree.


P.S.

Perched on top of the Moulin Rouge, is the “Toit” a rooftop terrace beneath the famous mill’s illuminated wings. It’s the ideal spot for cocktails and tapas. Guests can buy tickets for just the show, or go all out and enjoy the pre-show dinner/dance.

Factfile 

LNER, advance fares, Aberdeen to London from £39.90. Eurostar from £39. St Pancras Renaissance, prices from £376 per night. The McDonalds paid just over £670 for three nights in the Aparthotel Adagio Montmartre.