With hotel balconies overlooking the cobble-stoned, tree-lined Avenue Frochot in the south Pigalle district where Toulouse-Lautrec once lived, one feels transported to a bygone day aka Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris.’
Located on a corner at the junction of Rue Victor Masse and Rue Henry Monnier in the 9th arrondissement, the boutique, 37-room Grand Pigalle Hotel encapsulates the romance of the belle époque era with its quaint curtain-and-glass, off-street entrance and its striking black and white speckled tiled lobby floor and comfortable settees and wide, leather-clad chairs. To enhance the feeling further, directly across the street is an original art nouveau installation.
Converted after 18 months of renovation from an older, larger hotel and opened just five months ago, the property is the brainchild of three lifelong friends in the hospitality sector, Romée de Goriainoff, Pierre-Charles Cros and Olivier Bon, who sought the expertise of interior designer, Dorothée Meilichzon, founder of the CHZON agency, to create the nostalgic atmosphere they wanted.
The hotel’s general manager is Valeriya Savchuk, a young Ukranian woman trained at École Hôtelière de Lausanne.
While the streets of this renown district descend from the Boulevard de Clichy in bright neon signs as depicted in faded postcards for generations, the modern South Pigalle, known as SoPi, is now considered chic and cosmopolitan, the original carefree cabaret haunts that entertained Lautrec and Co. now home to cocktail bars, neo-bistros, food shops and concept stores.
As in most Parisian hotels, rooms at the Grand Pigalle are not spacious but they are cozy, even charming, with pull wall-lights outside every room and thick ‘martini’ carpet leading to them.
Rooms on the 5th floor, are decorated in neutral colors of black and gray with speckled carpet, a fireplace feature and a brass-framed bed snug against a gold-colored back wall.
The breakfast area, with food served buffet-style, is located at the rear of the ground floor, and features a checkered floor, bare, whitewashed walls and low ceiling, its windows facing the busy street. By night, it is converted into an intimate wine and cocktail bar, with a distinct emphasis on the Italian grape ranging from Nero d’Avola de Gulfi to Sicilian, Benanti and Alberto Graci to Etna and Barolos of Burlotto.
Ready for some fun in the Pigalle? The hotel’s convenient location means you have many options with ‘Au Lapin Agile’ and ‘Crazy Horse’ offering two popular cabarets, both within short taxi rides.
Debuting as a center of music in 1860 before being taken over by cabaret artist Aristide Bruant at the dawn of the 20thcentury, Au Lapin Agile, housed in a quaint old house on the slopes of Montmartre, attracts thousands of patrons every year. With its low ceiling, dim lighting, earthy tiled floor and quirky wall decorations that include a bronze crucified Christ beside a framed Bagavita, a Picasso reproduction of the cabaret club itself and framed humorous and some risqué sketches, Au Lapin Agile oozes ‘Old World’ authenticity.
The fact that the meager furnishings are merely carved, well-worn wooden tables matters little for the reason for coming to this traditional Parisian nightclub is to enjoy a soirée of traditional French music encompassing love ballads, sea chanteys and rousing drinking songs. As performers gather around a central table, singling solo or in groups, often teasingly interacting with the audience, they don’t disappoint.
In contrast, with nubile dancers named Venus Océane and Dreamy Blue, Crazy Horse and its latest show ‘Désirs’ – as the names suggest – is way different. Assisted by the latest in sound/lighting technology and special effects, a troupe of beautiful, classically trained female dancers, perform a series of tightly-choreographed routines ranging from ‘Red Shoes,’ an homage to all ballerinas, to ‘Spoutnik,’ a trip into space.
Steven Spielberg, described the show as “magic;” Beyoncé “as the ultimate sexy show and former tennis star Boris Becker as “a great vibe” – so perhaps well worth seeing.
For a slice of Parisian nostalgia in a popular setting with plenty of choice nearby in terms of restaurants, cafes and lively nightlife, try the Grand Pigalle Hotel.