We’ve never been on tour and not played Paris and naturally, it’s a city to look forward to. The audiences here are generally some of the best in the world and the two shows we have just played in ‘Zenith’ arena were exceptional and extremely vocal. The Zenith is a long way from our first choice venue as it has virtually no redeeming features apart from its optimum size. The backstage areas are tired and cramped, the building itself looks quite horrid but worst of all, it is a sweat-box with little or no air conditioning. It’s always hot and sweaty and if the weather is warm (which thankfully it wasn’t on our show days) it can be uncomfortable. Built in 1983 and somewhat reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, the hall was intended to be used for a fixed term of three years after which it was to be dismantled and replaced by a new hall nearby. However, instead, its success gave birth to a chain of new halls throughout France. The reason we are here this tour is that the popular Bercy arena is undergoing some renovation. That is another story as we hear of all sorts of turmoil regarding its progress. Lets hope it returns as our venue of choice.
pic Jean Marc Lecleire
One of the rare occasions I will eat lunch on a show day came on the second day here when Laurie and I reunited with our Shepherds Bush neighbours from 20 years ago and now live in France. Carol and Jerome took us to La Fermette Marbeuf (5, rue Marbeuf), a journey into Belle Epoque Paris of a century ago. This jewel of a restaurant, dating from 1898, was rediscovered in the course of renovation thirty years ago and it must have been like opening King Tut’s tomb. There are wonderful things here: Art Nouveau mosaic and stained glass sunflowers, peacocks, dragonflies, beautiful women, cast iron pillars, and a soaring glass ceiling.
Hotel choices in Paris can be interesting as we have stayed in many and they all have one thing in common, over the top prices. Our choice this tour is the newly opened Peninsula. A chain that actually originated in Hong Kong sits on top of our league table of top hotels in the US but as yet unproven in Europe. I understand the chain is expanding across the continent with the Peninsula, London currently under construction. The Peninsula Paris is the height of luxury and has been designed with the latest in-room electronics which sadly only serve to irritate the user. With no physical ‘switches’, the operation is done from two iPad style devices on either side of the bed. In theory, great. The room is topped off with another wishy-washy toilet but clearly not the top of the range model and therefore a bit of a let down. Enough about that. The most wonderful feature of the hotel is the rooftop bar with a superb view of the Eiffel Tower and last night after the second Paris show, we congregated up there after having a swift round of drinks in my room. Although the drinks were pricey, we all thought it was money well spent and there was an air of magic in the slightly chilled air. Could have been the Martinis.
We woke to a glorious day off in Paris with soaring temperatures. Laurie is out with me so we went out, hopped on the Metro ending up in a long queue to get into the Louvre. Once inside, the enormity of the museum was all too apparent along with its impossibly large and splendid collection. Obviously the Mona Lisa had to be ticked off the list and most interesting for me was the human camera-bun-fight perpetually going on in front of the iconic masterpiece. A selfie with the Mona Lisa seems to be currently trending by way of one of those detestable, narcissistic selfie-sticks. We decided that a week of visits is what’s required to really appreciate everything in the Louvre and headed across the river into Saint Germain and a myriad of cafes and Brasseries where we had a bite to eat and a glass of chilled white. We came across an incredible cheese shop called Nicole Barthelemy and recognised the familiar face of actor Owen Wilson who is visiting Paris whilst currently filming Zoolander 2 in Rome. Laurie introduced us and we chatted inside the shop amongst the sublime odours of the most French of cheese selections I’ve ever seen. Owen was wearing a ‘Maui’ t-shirt and it turns out we have mutual friends on the island. We wandered back to the hotel and met up with a few of the chaps for a perfect on-street brasserie meal at a place called Le Stella on Avenue Victor Hugo.