Author Archives: C.C.
Author Archives: C.C.
They aren’t kidding – chunky Chilean empanadas (baked pastry parcels stuffed with beef, chicken, cheese or vegetables) and savoury com pie with beef, olives and eggs always sell out early at this simple Little Italy spot. A mini empanada will only set you back £1. Bread and salsas are also homemade.
AUNTIES & UNCLES
Brunch is an institution for Torontonians and there’s usually a line outside this cafe with a menu of cheap and cheery homemade favourites. Plop yourself down in one of the mismatched chairs and dig into dishes such as grilled brie with pear chutney and walnuts on challah, banana oatmeal pancakes or grilled Canadian cheddar.
Cuba receives more tourists from Canada than any other nation, so it’s no surprise to find this restaurant serving Cuban dishes, such as ropa vieja (shredded beef in spicy tomato sauce with ripe plantains, white rice and black beans). Every effort has been made to keep its original comer-store vibe.
PAN ON THE DANFORTH
As Greek as Greektown (aka The Danforth), colourful, casual Pan serves unpretentious dishes such as calamari, moussaka and chicken stuffed with spinach and feta. Finish with a sticky chocolate baklava. A band plays Thursday to Saturday.
This delightful Hungarian diner in The Annex neighbourhood, with its checkered tablecloths and friendly family staff, has barely changed in at least a generation, even after a facelift last year. The enormous, perfectly crunchy breaded schnitzels are the best in town and the cucumber salad is a treat. Hopefully they’ll never change a thing. Note that menu prices include tax, which is unusual in Canada.
The Financial District branch of this popular Italian restaurant (there are multi pie offshoots in Toronto and more in LA) occupies a former courthouse with high, vaulted ceilings and labyrinthine dining areas. It’s open, fun and, despite the size, generally packed. Reasonably priced wood – fired pizzas, rich pastas and fresh panini would make the Godfather proud.
Dinner at acclaimed chef Susur Lee’s flagship restaurant in the Entertainment District is quite an experience. Servers help navigate the selection of East-meets-West delights to get the pairings right. The signature Singaporean slaw is a wonderful dance of flavours, textures and aromas.
Ramen noodles are practically a religion in Japan and they’re now increasingly popular in Toronto. The brains behind this clever outfit leapt on the bandwagon with their distinct flavour: caramelised pork. There’s even a version with cheese, if you can imagine. This branch (there are several across Toronto) is lively, noisy, steamy and beery, but classy.
QUEEN MOTHER CAFE
This Queen St institution is loved for its cosy, dark-wood booths and excellent menu of Lao and Thai specialities, including curries and dumplings. Canadian comfort food is also on offer. Check out the display of old stuff they found in the walls when they renovated and don’t miss the garden patio.
An unmissable journey is aboard the vintage rack-and-pinion Diakofto-Kalavryta railway. It takes travellers on a scenic one-hour ride through dramatic Vouraikos Gorge, with its reddish cliffs and rushing rapids below. The energetic can ask to be dropped off at one of the tiny stations en route and walk back. It’s a 14-mile, five-hour hike from Kalavryta to Diakofto.
THE MENALON TRAIL
This well signposted, 45-mile trail stretches from Stem nits a to Lagkadia, passing through the dramatic scenery of the Lousios Gorge, the western slopes of Mt Menalon, the Mylaon River valley and the Gortynian Mountains. Completed in May 2015 by volunteers, the trail is divided into eight sections of varying difficulty. You can download the excellent Menalon Trail topo Guide app for detailed maps.
These extraordinary caves were in habited since Neolithic times, but abandoned in 4 BC after an earthquake and not rediscovered until around 1895. Visitors can explore via a half-hour eerie glide by boat through the cave’s many passages, giving you time to admire the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, before walking the remaining 300m. The site is seven miles south of Areopoli.
The Olympic Games took place here for at least 1,000 years, until their abolition by Theodosius I in 393 AD. Little remains of the magnificent temples and athletic facilities, but enough exists to give you a hint of this sanctuary’s former glory. Visit the Museum of Olympia beforehand. The site is a five-minute walk from the village of Olympia.
Spread over a steep mountainside of the Taygetos range, this former provincial capital of the Byzantine Empire stands as Greece’s most compelling set of medieval ruins. A classic fortified city, Mystras is surrounded by olive and orange trees. Treading cobblestones worn smooth by centuries of footsteps, you can walk with the ghosts, ducking into palace ruins, monasteries and churches, most dating from between 1271 and 1460.
In the barren foothills of Mt Agios Ilias and Mt Zara, the sombre, mighty ruins of Mycenae were the home of the mythical King Agamemnon and the most powerful kingdom in Greece for 400 years, from 1600 BC. Six miles to the north, and close enough to combine with Mycenae as a day trip, Ancient Nemea was once the venue for the biennial Nemean Games, held in honour of Zeus.
This town occupies a knockout location on a small port beneath the towering Palamidi fortress, bursting with boutique hotels, quayside cafe and museums, and flanked by a couple of beaches. Arvantia Beach is a small pebble shoreline a five-minute walk south of town; from its car park, a pine lined, two-mile path runs to long, sandy, Karathona Beach. Nafplio can get seriously crowded during peak season, but it’s a great spot.
This former fishing village has excellent beaches with wonderfully clean, cold water, courtesy of underground springs and there’s good hiking in the hills above. Celebrated author Nikos Kazantzakis lived here for a while and based the protagonist of his 1946 novel, Zorba the Creek, on a local man. The resort is now popular with British and German tourists, but less hot and busy during the shoulder seasons.
This lovely Venetian port town on Messinia Bay has streets lined with medieval mansions and churches leading to a castle-topped promontory. Its main attraction, though, is Zaga Beach – a mile-long sweep of golden sand just south of town, near which loggerhead turtles regularly come to lay their eggs. You can cut through the castle to get there if walking, or go by road.
The renovated Egyptian Museum has the most important collection of Egyptian treasure outside Cairo. Highlights include a fine statue of Ramses II and the world’s largest papyrus collection. Afterwards, stroll to central Piazza Castello, dominated by the part-medieval, part-Baroque Palazzo Madama.
Named for its most famous barfly, the Count of Cavour, this beautiful upstairs drinking room combines a magical, mirrored setting with a great collection of contemporary art. Drop by for an aperrtivo-Italy’s famed pre-dinner drink and snack. If it’s too difficult to tear yourself away from such luxury, there’s a bar menu until midnight.
BANCO VINI E ALIMENTI
A new-breed hybrid restaurant-bar-deli, this smartly designed place does clever selections of small dishes, such as scallop carpaccio with lime yoghurt. While the vibe might be casual wine bar, don’t underestimate the food: this is serious Piedmontese cooking.
Join the crowds at Europe’s largest food market, where hundreds of stalls spill out onto the piazza. There’s a large covered fish and meat section, but the main fascination lies in the organic-produce area, where you can forage for big bags of grissini and small wheels of Tomino di Talucco cheese.
MUSEO NAZIONALE DELL’AUTOMOBILE
As the birthplace of one of the world’s leading car manufacturers (the ‘T’ in Fiat stands for Torino), Turin is the obvious place for a car museum. This modem pilgrimage site is a city highlight three miles south of the centre, not far from the 1920s Lingotto factory. Expect a rollercoaster journey through car history, design and pollution issues.
The symbol of Turin, this 167m tower with its distinctive spire appears on the Italian two-cent coin. Begun in 1862, it was intended to be a synagogue, but never used as such; it now houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. For dazzling 360-degree views, take the panoramic lift to the 85m-high outdoor viewing deck.
Opened in 1856, this 136 acre, French-style park kisses the banks of the River Po and is filled with joggers, promenaders and lovers night and day. Walk off any food excesses here, strolling south along the river to arrive at the Castello del Valentino -a gorgeous château built in the 17th century, now used only for special events – and beyond it a mock medieval village from 1882.
The Slow Food phenomenon began in Turin and supermarket Eataly serves as something of a mothership, with two sites in town. The original Lingotto base, in a converted factory, houses a staggering array of sustainable food and drink, plus kitchenware, cookbooks and specialist lunch counters. There’s also the smaller, more central branch, Eataly Incontra.
Contemporary-art lovers could devote a whole day to Turin’s galleries, but if there’s time for only one, make it the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. It has 45,000 works in its vaults dedicated to artists including De Chirico, Otto Dix and Klee. It’s great on postwar Italy, featuring Paolini, Boetti, Anselmo, Penone and Pistoletto.
With gabled facades and cobbled streets, this is a small, photogenic city that joined the Hanseatic League in the 13th century, but spent most of the 17th and 18th centuries belonging to Sweden. The entire Old Town is Unesco-listed: check out the carvings in St Nikolai Church, the main square dominated by the 1602 Wasserkunst (waterworks) and the Rathaus Historical Exhibition.
This vibrant city was once the second-most important member of the Hanseatic League after Lubeck. Its square gables, Gothic turrets, ornate portals and vaulted arches make it a leading example of Backsteingotik (classic red-brick Gothic gabled architecture) in northern Germany. Stralsund’s Unesco-recognised Old Town is on its own island, and its historic streets and many attractions make it an unmissable stop.
A former summer residence of the Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, this town’s treasures include the Munster- a church on the site of a once-powerful Cistercian abbey, with an intricate high altar and an ornate pulpit. Organ recitals and choir performances are held May to September, usually at 7.30pm on Fridays.
In 1886, the steam train Molli began puffing to Heiligendamm. In 1910, the line was extended along the coast to Kuhlungsborn. Today, Molli still departs Bad Doberan several times daily, showing off the coastal scenery. For an enjoyable walk, get off at Heiligendamm, walk to Steilkuste station and pick up the train again.
Nature lovers and artists will be captivated by this far-flung splinter of land between Stralsund and Rostock, which hosts 60,000 migratory cranes every spring and autumn. The area is picturesque so, not surprisingly, it’s home to an artists’ colony in Ahrenshoop, which has an especially wild and windblown beach.The tiny town of Prerow is renowned for its model-ship-filled seafarers’ church and lighthouse.
With its white-sand beaches, chestnut, oak, elm and poplar trees, charming architecture and a national park, Rugen offers myriad ways to enjoy nature. Despite the island’s popularity, its 400-square-mile surface area, fringed by 360 miles of coastline, has plenty of quiet corners. You can enjoy Rugen on a day trip from Stralsund, but consider staying. Sail & Surf Rugen hires SUP boards, catamarans and windsurfing gear, and offers lessons.
Smoked-fish stands dot Stralsund’s harbour area, but this fish bar has the best of the Baltic and beyond. Choose from the glass-fronted counters, get a beer and wait at a picnic table. People love the fish sandwiches. Around town, drink locally brewed beers by Stortebeker Brewing.
Binz is Rugen’s largest and most celebrated seaside resort, full of ornate Victorian villas, white sand and bluewater, and also home to this top restaurant. Seasonal dishes are combined in menus (one veggie) that delight with their creativity. A relaxed vibe and tables outside let you revel in long summer nights.
Gloriously hokey, Karls is a roadside attraction in the cheesiest tradition, eight miles northeast from Rostock. It’s a hodgepodge of petting zoo, playgrounds, cafes, shops and strawberry fields, but what you’re really here for is the fresh strawberry ice cream. Watch staff make preserves, then listen to mechanical bears sing Elvis.
This West End oldie has a fantastic lineup featuring the best indie films, plus shorts and mini-festivals. Regular Q&As with directors draw film enthusiasts, too. It’s possible to make a night of it at the Curzon, thanks to the Konditor & Cook cafe upstairs (the cakes are a highlight) and an ultra-comfortable bar.
Tucked under Waterloo Bridge is the British Film Institute, with four cinemas that screen thousands of films each year (mostly arthouse), a gallery devoted to the moving image and the mediatheque, where you can watch film and TV highlights from the BFI National Archive. It also has a film store for books and DVDs, a restaurant and a gorgeous cafe.
LONDON FILM MUSEUM
Although technically dedicated to British film, this museum currently hosts only one exhibition: Bond in Motion. Get shaken and stirred while browsing the largest official collection of 007 vehicles, including Bond’s submersible Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me and his iconic Aston Martin DB5.
This 1770s Palladian masterpiece fronting the River Thames is home to two galleries, including the Courtauld Gallery, and is often used as a filming location: period drama Down ton Abbey, several Sherlock Holmes films and action movies Golden Eye and X-Men: First Class all shot scenes here. An outdoor cinema is rolled out in its courtyard during warmer months.
Nicknamed for its unusual shape, 30 St Mary Axe is arguably the City’s most distinctive skyscraper. Built in 2003 by award-winning Norman Foster, the Gherkin has become an emblem of modem London and often appears in films. Searcys restaurant on the 39th floor can be booked for private hire and has occasional public-dining nights. The Gherkin is sometimes open during the September Open House London weekend too.
PORTO BELLO ROAD
Portobello Road Market trades an eclectic mix of food, antiques and street fashion. Scenes from 2014 film Paddington were shot here, but this heaving strip of West London life is most famous for its starring role in the British romcom Notting Hill. Book to see a film at the street’s Electric Cinema or stop for a bite at its appropriately retro diner.
Clink78 is a fantastic 630-bed hostel in a 19th-century courthouse where members of The Clash stood trial in 1978. There are pod-bed dorms plus private rooms – some in converted cells.
The four adorable, spacious suites at Main House in Notting Hill have vast bathrooms; the uppermost suite occupies the entire top floor. Owner Caroline is full of local knowledge.
Handsome and luxurious, the Beaumont in Mayfair is all Art Deco opulence. Rooms and suites are swish, with a 1920s Modernist aesthetic. Prices include local drop-offs in the hotel’s vintage Daimler.
The restorative power of a few days spent in the peace and tranquillity of the countryside can never be underestimated – it’s succour to the soul. And if that’s what you’re in need of, Switzerland certainly won’t disappoint. Wherever you are among its 26 cantons, you’re never far from a mountain, forest, lake or river. In short, the whole country is a haven for nature lovers. Ticino, the southernmost region, is Switzerland with a bit of Italian flair. With palm trees, clean lakeside beaches and rustic villages with narrow alleyways leading to piazzas, it feels like the Mediterranean starts just south of the Alps. Lake Lugano and the larger Lake Maggiore straddle Switzerland and Italy, both offering dramatic mountain scenery. The pretty town of Lugano offers a cultural hit too, with regular music festivals and the new LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura centre. It’s from here that you can catch the Gotthard Panorama Express to Lucerne.
It takes 5 ½ hours from Lugano, and the route, which first opened in 1882, is fantastically picturesque. Sit in the photography carriage of the train, where you can open the windows to get that perfect shot. Just minutes after you pass through the nine-mile-long Gotthard Tunnel (the world’s longest when it opened), keep an eye out for a rock in Goschenen, known as the Devil’s Stone, 12 metres in diameter. At Wassen, the line’s two horseshoe-curve tunnels will disorientate you, as they give you three different views of the village. And your journey will take a turn of a different kind in Fluelen, where passengers transfer to a pad die steamer bound for Lucerne.
After a leisurely cruise, the steamer arrives in Lucerne, where you’ll feel on top of the world among the mountains. The city of Lucerne has a good choice of museums and galleries, and it’s full of historic sites such as the famous wooden Kapellbrucke (Chapel Bridge) dating from the early 1300s. But it’s the region’s countryside that’s the real draw. Take a boat trip across Lake Lucerne, or hop on the world’s steepest cog railway to the top of the mighty Mount Pilatus, which stands at 2,132m. If you’re more of a walker, head to the Alpine valleys, tranquil lakes and mountains.
Back in 1967, a teenage Frosty Hesson spent his summer alternating between listening to bands in Golden Gate Park and surfing the cold waters of neighbouring Ocean Beach. A few years later, along with many other young San Franciscans, he had drifted down to Santa Cruz, a classic Californian beach town to the south of the Bay Area. ‘You had hippies, students and surfers all mixing together, a bunch of non-conformists finding away of life they enjoyed,’ recalls Frosty, standing on the dramatic headland at Steamer Lane, a renowned surfing spot. ‘There’s still a lot of radical thinking around here. Perhaps there’s something in the water,’ he says, as a classic campervan pulls up next to him, with a ‘Keep Santa Cruz weird’ sticker brandished on its bumper.
In the ocean below, a pod of younger surfers look like seals in their sleek wetsuits. Not far beyond them, an otter plays in the forest of kelp. A pelican swoops past and the barks of sea lions reverberate out from underneath the town wharf – signs that the decades-long clean-water campaign here is working to good effect. A short stroll away, the sandy sweep of Cowell Beach and vintage fairground rides on the boardwalk are beginning to fill with holidaymakers. At Steamer Lane, Frosty is soon joined by other silver-haired surfing legends who’ve been in town since the ’60s. One of them, Jane McKenzie, arrives on her bicycle carrying her long board. ‘You see those waves and feel humbled by an entity greater than you. It’s a certain kind of person who’s drawn here,’ she says, looking out at the growing swell.
By late afternoon, the engorged tide is too enticing to resist. The old-timers slip into the water. On the cliff above, a circle has formed around a guitar player. Nearby a group of students are hula-hooping, their neon rings glinting in the setting sun. Here, at least, it seems summer might last forever.
HEN SUMMER TURNED TO autumn, most of the flower children returned to university or settled down in conventional jobs. But not everyone was ready to give up their newfound alternative lifestyles. Bob Bernstein was one of those who ended up on a commune in the Californian countryside. ‘They picked me up when I was hitchhiking and I’ve been there ever since,’ says Bob of Porno Tierra, a collective north of San Francisco which he joined in 1971. ‘It was pretty wild. No-one had ever farmed before. We just knew we wanted out of the city.’ Nowadays Bob and his apples, juices and cider vinegars are a regular fixture at the Berkeley farmers’ markets, where he is known to many as ‘Bernie’, thanks to his resemblance to the senator Bernie Sanders.
Just across the water from San Francisco, on the east side of the bay, Berkeley remains a bastion of counter-culture. During the ’60s, the university was at the heart of the anti-Vietnam-War protest movements, and many students never left town after graduating. There must be a higher percentage of proudly grey, longhaired citizens here than anywhere else in America. This is a place where holistic centres abut biofuel garages, bars serving kombucha fermented health drinks are more numerous than Starbucks, and grocery shopping is carried out conspicuously with canvas bags at the tri-weekly farmers’ markets.
At the Thursday market on Shattuck Avenue, locals are joined by out-of-towners, drawn by the promise of produce so good that North Berkeley has acquired the nickname ‘the Gourmet Ghetto’. Wiggly-shaped baby squashes, corn with the husks still on and peppers popping in reds, yellows, greens and purples form a tableau that is almost psychedelic in its explosion of colour and pattern. Still-warm loaves of spelt bread, Bernie’s apple juices and a stall selling raspberry-basil sorbet and bran died cherry ice-cream tempt shoppers. Baskets of plump peaches are so fragrant that they demand to be eaten right there and then.
Given that so many hippies stayed in Berkeley, it’s not surprising this became the crucible of the organic food revolution. ‘Living in Berkeley in the ’60s, there was this sense that we could change the world. Everyone knew someone who’d dropped out to join a commune and you just absorbed the understanding that we had to care for the land,’ says Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse. Since opening on Shattuck Avenue in 1971, the restaurant has been one of the earliest champions of local and sustainable food, pioneering now widespread practices, such as changing dishes daily according to what’s in season and naming producers on the menu. Gourmands from around the world continue to make the pilgrimage here, passing under the vine-trellised entrance into the small serving room, where warm wood and brass finishing give the appearance of a homely French-style brasserie. Dishes are seemingly simple – a wild salmon carpaccio, roasted lamb with green garlic – but when the provenance is this good, it’s best left unadorned.
Opposite Chez Panisse stands another Berkeley institution: the Cheese Board Collective. Founded the same year as the Summer of Love, the deli is a veritable library of cheddars, goudas, American jacks and goat’s cheeses. Inside, chalked blackboards announce seasonal specials, and a cow statue, clothed in multi-coloured crochet knit, stands guard. Next door, a pizzeria serves thin pies with toppings that change daily, but are always vegetarian, and a live jazz band keeps customers tapping their feet as they wait. What makes this place unique is the way it is run, as a co-op. All staff earn the same hourly wage, no matter how long they’ve been there, and decisions are made by the consensus of all 54 employees. ‘For customers who remember the ’60s, we’re a touchstone to that period of political action,’ says worker Cathy Goldsmith, as she carefully slices a wedge of gruyere.
Social consciousness is woven throughout the fabric of Berkeley. Its farmers’ markets, which would be the envy of wealthy communities everywhere, are accessible to those on lower incomes, thanks to food stamp programmes. In the poorer southwest area of town, the Spiral Gardens Community Farm is another example of trying to bring Eden to everyone. Kanchan Dawn Hunter is just visible among the luxuriant jungle of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. A scrum of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are proof of the chemical-free policy here. ‘When my husband founded the gardens 14 years ago, this was a vacant lot surrounded by liquor stores. It was difficult for the neighbourhood to access fresh food,’ recalls Kanchan. Now, the project teaches locals to grow their own and distributes free produce to those in need. Visitors support the gardens by buying seeds, fruit and vegetables, while learning about native plants and sustainable growing practices from the volunteers. ‘It’s environmental justice in action,’ says Kanchan, looking the picture of an eco warrior with her straw hat and dreads braided with cowrie shells.
Deep inside Golden Gate Park the soundtrack of modern day San Francisco – the frenetic patter of laptops in techie-filled coffee shops, streets rolling with Uber traffic – seems far, far away. A more primal sound beats out near the Conservatory of Flowers, the park’s Victorian-era greenhouse. On this spot known colloquially as Hippie Hill, drum circles congregate in a fug of marijuana smoke most days. One afternoon, a lone musician is tapping out a rhythm on a homemade drum, fashioned from PVC piping and emblazoned with the words ‘Waste not, want not’. Reclining on the slope, he soaks up the last light, the golden Californian rays playing on his long hair and beard.
Fifty years ago, Golden Gate Park and the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood next to it became the epicentre for a movement that would change the world. The Summer of Love sprung up in 1967 like a field of wild flowers. Tens of thousands of young people from across America descended on this area of less than a square mile. Casting off the corseted fashions and attitudes of their hometowns, they came to embrace the liberated atmosphere. Sitting cross-legged and catatonic on the grass, or dancing and swaying, they listened to bands like Jeffers on Airplane hold free open-air gigs in the park.
At the foot of Hippie Hill, the tree where Janis Joplin serenaded onlookers still stands. While much of today’s San Francisco would be unrecognisable to Janis, this area remains a time warp. A mint-green VW campervan pulls up next to the Conservatory of Flowers. Out steps local Mark Souza, wearing a ’60s rock band T-shirt and a velvet jacket, joined by his partner Michael Grauer and their four Australian Shepherd dogs, ‘We came to appreciate the dahlias and the sunset,’ says Mark, ‘We like to be free, and the van means we can hit the road – all six of us – whenever we like.’
A short amble away, Haight Street, lined with record stores and shops selling bongs, rock crystals and hand-dyed psychedelia, is similarly full of bohemian romantics. Holding a guitar in one hand, Kaveh Mahdavi is on his way to band practice when he stops for a smoke beside a mural to Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia. Kaveh used to work for IBM until, like so many generations before him, he dropped out and bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco. ‘I was attracted to the neighbourhood because it’s a little weird around the edges,’ he says. ‘People talk about the energy of certain places. Something drew me here.’
The hippie dream was meant to have died with the Summer of Love. The promised paradise of free love and free thinking soon turned sour. Overrun by dropouts, Haight-Ashbury became a dystopic muddle of crime, drug addiction, sexual disease and disaffection. In October 1967, local activists even staged a mock funeral down Haight Street, pronouncing ‘The Death of the Hippie’. But half a century later, many of the hippies’ values, from respecting the environment to celebrating creative individuality, have seeped into the mainstream. And nowhere are these ideals more alive than in California’s Bay Area.
Flower shops and bistros thrive cheek by jowl along die Rue Lepic, gateway to Paris’s neon-dappled hilltop village of Montmartre. Late into the night, the griddle-hiss from burger joints is a siren call to bar-crawlers. One classic hang-out is the Cafe des Deux Moulins (‘Two Windmills Cafe’). Festooned with fairy lights, this invitingly gaudy corner spot has undergone remodelling since its starring role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s smash hit Amalie (2001).
A coy celebration of Montmartre’s bijou eccentricity and leafy charm as an artists’ haven, the film made an instant star of Audrey Tautou, who played the titular lovelorn waitress. Her face peeks knowingly from a comer display inside Deox Moulins, while the cafe’s ceiling emulates the texture of a Belgian waffle. From breakfast till the 2am close, the pink banquettes are filled with young bohemian couples, who eat crepes and watch the world go by.
Just downhill is its veteran namesake the Moulin Rouge, the notorious cabaret venue marked by a red windmill on its roof. Birthplace of the classic can-can, it has given its name to a half-dozen films: John Huston’s 1952 drama is a stuffy granddad to Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 extravaganza, which had Nicole Kidman’s consumptive courtesan swinging from the rafters. These days, clustered around myriad tables set with lamps and buckets of house champagne, audiences enjoy a show so mad and multi-coloured it regularly feels like an absinthe hallucination. During countless costume changes full-stage choreography gives way to circus interludes: whirling podium dances with ropes have you fearing for the performers’ safety, but they never put a foot out of place. The Moulin Rouge can’t be accused of resting on its laurels, so much as fluffing them up and wearing them as a headdress three times nightly.