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The Sweet Nostalgia Of A Long-Lost Paris

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.

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge

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.

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