Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Saturday 8thSeptember

The journey was long and difficult and has taken almost 2 days, but the train changes were made seamlessly by Andre who magically sorted out all the paperwork and bags.  He is proving to be a real ‘gem.’

We arrive in Rome just in time for dinner. The home of the Del Drago family in Rome is a vast apartment on the edge of the city, but central with incredible views. The building is an old Palazzo, which has been divided up by several well-to-do families. Of course this is just their main home in Rome. I discover that the original family home is in the outskirts of Milan, which is where the family originate from, but they also own an even larger Palazzo in the Frascati area south of the city, which is mainly used for some weekends and holidays.

Lorenzo’s father, Count Luis and his mother Sofia meet us in the foyer and we exchange the usual pleasantries. Andre and the family butler take all our bags to our rooms and we are left for an hour to get ourselves ready. And then we descend to an amazing El Fresco dinner in the garden where I am introduced to a host of family friends and family – 18 people in all. Everyone is charming, animated and delighted to see Lorenzo and meet me and I am bombarded with questions.

‘What was Deauville like this year?’ asks Lorenzo’s younger sister Valentina

‘Did you visit our villa in Cannes?’ asks his younger brother Luca

‘How did you like Biarritz?’ asks his mother

‘Did you really meet Maurice Mouvet?’ asks his cousin Martina.

I also learn that tomorrow night is a big engagement party for Lorenzo’s elder sister Aurora.

Lorenzo tells me that he will be busy for two days with family business meetings due to the current state of affairs in Italy. Of course I knew that Italian politics was a little volatile but I had no idea the seriousness that it presented to some.

‘You see my family is not well disposed to Mussolini and since he is the rising star we have to take some pragmatic precautions, so we are moving a lot of our assets to other European cities. We will not desert Italy nor relinquish our property here, but as a family we are all moving to Paris and have bought a big house in Neuilly.’

I listen intently to all he has to say and add ‘well at least that means I will see more of you.’ Lorenzo grins.

‘My sister Valentina and cousin Martina will be looking after you for the next two days and will take you to visit all the sites. In the evenings I will show you what Rome has to offer. But tomorrow night is a big special party. ’

‘Where is your older sister Aurora?’ I ask

Just as Lorenzo speaks ‘Ah, she has been immersed in preparations for her engagement party but here she is at last.’An incredibly beautiful woman and entourage arrive. I frown and am taken aback as one of them is Ashley Wilberforce-Watson, whose younger brother Peregrine is one of Eva’s escorts in London.

‘Aurora please meet my English friend Fynes’ he adds.

‘And this is her fiancé….’

‘Yes, I know, hello Ashley!’

We shake hands and everyone laughs.

‘You know Ashley ?’ asks Aurora and Lorenzo simultaneously.

‘Well, we know each other from London. I know his younger brother Peregrine better’ I say discretely.

Ashley and I chat endlessly and he tells me about himself and his love affair with Aurora, whom he met on a visit to Rome last year. I later tell Lorenzo that I do not know Ashley too well and but that he is socially well-placed since his father is an MP and a Lord with estates everywhere. Aurora has done rather well.

Sunday 9thSeptember

Described as the Capital of Civilisation, Rome is known as the ‘Eternal City’ because civilization has endured here for thousands of years. Naturally, its main attraction has always been its classical monuments and the Vatican. With Andre as our driver, we tour the city and I am shown the Coliseum and Trajan’s column, followed by the Forum and the Palantine.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 15.58.47

The Coliseum in Rome

Combo Rome Forum

View of the Forum in Rome

For a late lunch we visit the highly unusual and popular location called the Soda Parlor in the Majestic Hotel. This very smart and elegant rendezvous, containing the soda parlour itself, is decked out in attractive male-oak and the tea-room outlined in black Belgian marble.

Soda parlour x2

The Soda Parlour in Rome at the Majestic Hotel

‘Can you believe it – this is where the elite of Rome and foreign society meet for light luncheons, afternoon tea, cocktails and after theatre refreshment’ says Valentina, who nods and chats briefly to various other guests.

Soda Parlour Int

Images from The Soda Parlour in Rome

In the afternoon we visit other sites including the Parthenon and the Spanish Steps but then rest and have afternoon tea at the well-known Café Faraglia, Piazza di Venezia.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 15.51.00

The Pantheon in Rome

Caffe

Grand Caffe Faraglia and Fagiano restaurant in Rome

We get ready for the big engagement party and descend en-masse to the salubrious Grand Hotel where there is a private cocktail party in the Salone Delle Feste followed by a private dinner in one of the grand function rooms.

Grand Hotel Rome

The exterior of the Grand Hotel, Rome

The guest list was a Who’s Who of Rome society and I did meet Vittoria Colonna, Duchess of Sermoneta, Marchese don Giuseppe Patrizi Montoro, his English wife Francesca and two of his daughters Teresa and Donna, Contessa Manessei Di Collestate, the Contessa Doria Borrome, the Baroness Fiamma, Adelina Colonna Duchessa di Rignano and the Marchesa Paola Medici del Vascalles. One of the main topics of conversation was the visit of the King and Queen to Italy in May – a few months earlier and I realize how much the Italians like the British.

Grand Hotel Rome x3

Views of the Grand Hotel, Rome

I am further amazed at the number of Anglo-Italian liaisons, clearly evident by Aurora’s engagement. I am introduced to a host of other fascinating exponents including Lady Antonella Newland, Princess Teano, Contessa Mary Spetia, Contessa Doria Barromeo, Marchesa Gode de Godio, Baronessa Nisco-Mallock and the Dutchessa Adeline di Rignano.

I ask Aurora and her English friend Enid, who is married to an Italian Count, about this trend.

‘We Italians look up to Inghilterra’ says Aurora ‘do you know some call Italy ‘La Piccola Sorellad Inghilterra’ – or ‘England’s Little Sister.’ We have a warm admiration for all things English like your social affairs, clubs, sports, fashion and tea drinking. So it is natural that English marry Italians and Italians marry English.’

‘The cold blooded English woman blooms in the Italian atmosphere’adds Enid ‘the sunny skies, the vivid color, the warm climate without the grey of London, act like an elixir on the spirit.’

 ‘According to gossip, of all the international marriages, the Anglo-Italian ones appear to be the most successful’ says Aurora.

Enid continues ‘The romance in the Englishwoman finds much to satisfy her and the hot –blooded Italian cools his passion in the placid and serene society of the Anglo-Saxon.’

‘I agree’ says Aurora ‘of course it is the same for an Italian woman with an Englishman ! Besides it is well known that the northern and southern qualities simply blend harmoniously forming a brilliant balance.’

With a grin, Lorenzo says ‘this all explains why I am being told by Mama and Papa to find an English bride. Do you know Papa just told me that to marry an Englishwoman is quite the done thing among young Italians.’

‘Oh Lord’I say ‘if I am not careful I will be married off to your sister.’

After the party, a whole group of us younger people descend on the Apollo Music Hall at 183 Via Nazionale, opposite the Banca d’Italia with entry via the Teatre Eliseo. The music hall itself was adjacent to the theatre, and comprises a restaurant, ballroom, an Anglo-American bar, and had what was called ‘a funny jazz string band.’ It compared favourably with typical Parisian cabarets with good food and music and some good value acts. My dancing skills attract a lot of attention and comment.

Later, we end up at the Bombonieri, which I am told is a popular, small cabaret boasting a six-piece jazz band, no cover charge and reasonable prices.  It was an underground venue, where you descend into a paneled room with small and dainty tables and a small shaded lamps and the lighting effect throughout produced a weird effect. It was cozy and intimate with only room for a maximum of 10 dancing couples.

It was a late night.

Monday 10thSeptember

Getting up late, there is more sight-seeing on the agenda led by Valentina and Martina with a trip to the catacombs and the baths of Caracalla. We have a delightful lunch at Fagiano in the Piazza Colonna and I fall in love with the braised artichokes, something not usually found back at home but commonplace in Rome.

They take me to an early evening performance atthe quaint Salone Margherita,  which, they tell me was founded in 1898 as a Café Chantant, and named after Margherita of Savoia, King Umberto’s first wife. Here in complete luxury and refinement we see a mini-show with comedians and accomplished soubrettes.

salone-margherita1-4-768x480

The interior of the Salone Margherita in Rome

Later still, we meet Lorenzo and the rest of his family, for dinner at the celebrated Ristorante dei Castello de Cesari located at 7 Via Santa Pris. Of all the restaurants in Rome, none is more spectacular because of its extraordinary views of the Aventine, the Palatine and all of Rome. You entered the compound along a path bordered by bushes and hedges arriving at a courtyard, with two sides surrounded by buildings and the other two by trees. Climbing a staircase the large, magnificent dining room was reached with three walls of full windows giving the views, along with an outside terrace for further al fresco dining.  There was also another dining room with thick walls and small windows, suitable for winter or rainy weather.

Cesari skt x3

Views of Castello dei Cesari restaurant, Rome

Cesari x2

Castello dei Cesari restaurant, Rome

Once again, after dinner, a group of us go out dancing this time to a very strange place indeed. The Grotto of the Augusteum, was a rather spooky place, underneath the mausoleum of the Emperor Augustus. It was indeed a curious, bohemian, nocturnal rendezvous where young people congregated to drink wine, listen to poets and dance.

Tuesday 11thSeptember

Today Lorenzo takes me out of Rome and Andre drives us to Frascati, in the south of the city. We have a special tour of the Villa Torlonia in the morning and the Villa Aldobrandini in the afternoon.

Screen Shot 2019-08-30 at 19.16.38

Villa Torlonia in Frascati, Rome

Villa Torlonia, formerly known as the Villa Conti is owned by the Count Torlonia. The Villa Aldobrandini was constructed between 1598-1603 for a nephew of Clement V111. The grounds are adorned with terraces, fantastic grottoes, statuary and fountains. At lunchtime we visit the Del Drago estate, which is equally impressive and given an exquisite lunch on the terrace with fabulous views of the countryside.

Combo Italy Villa

Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati, Rome

In the evening we are back in Rome for another family dinner this time at the Grand Hotel du Quirinal on Via Nazionale. I am told that this was where their Majesties had their state dinner and other functions in May. Our dinner is exquisite and included artichoke hearts a la Mornay, beef tenderloin and Quail. If the Cesari is regarded as having the most spectacular views, the Quirinal Restaurant is regarded as the most prestigious in Rome with superb cuisine.

Hotel Quirinale x2

Views of the interior of the Hotel Quirinale restaurant, Rome

Afterward Lorenzo gives me a tour of three other night-clubs. He tells me that most people who arrive in Rome from Paris or other European cities are totally unaware of what nightlife exists. ‘Tourists flock to Rome more for its historical allure, rather than for its pleasure haunts and what nightlife does exist, is largely only known by the Italians.’

‘What has happened’he says ‘is that there has been a big surge in cabarets and night-clubs decorated and run by daring futurist artists and mostly in underground cellars and vaults. They have become the favoured haunts of Rome’s avant-garde and a showcase for their work.’

He takes me first to Bragaglia’s Art House situated in a rediscovered Roman thermal bath house said to have been built during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. Located under the vast Tittoni Palace near Piazza Barberini between Via degli Avignonesi and the parallel street of Via Rasella, it was created by Anton Giulio Bragaglia, a pioneer in Italian Futurist photography and cinema, in April 1922 just over a year ago.

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 14.47.56

One of the vast rooms in Bragaglia’s Art House , Rome

Legend has it that the baths were discovered when a printer attempting to install a new printing machine into his establishment caused the floor to collapse revealing the old Roman structure. To get there one had to descend 40 feet through a maze of futuristic paintings of nude women on cobwebbed walls below the street to access the vast, cavernous space.

Lorenzo says that the journey is too much for some ‘it is a tortuous walk and to the uninitiated presents a jaunt into a house of horrors.’ 

Various rooms have been converted into a gallery, art shop, meeting room, bar and buffet and there is even a theatre called the Teatro deli Indipendenti, which has been designed by the futurist architect Virgilio Marchi, in an elegant style with tasteful colour schemes and decorative elements reminiscent of Art Nouveau.  There was also a dancing salon where one could dance over wooden boards to protect the floor mosaics.

A suggestive orchestra and mysterious lighting created what Lorenzo says has been called ‘the most amazing and bizarre night club in Europe.’ Furnished with unique futurist frescoes and draperies that adorned the columns and the walls, the entertainment a bit too avant-garde for my taste.

Next, we visit the Bal Tic Tac, located in a building next to the nineteenth century Villino Hüffer, in via Milano 24 (on the corner with Via Nazionale) close to the city centre’s Piazza della Repubblica. This is regarded as the first true Jazz Age cabaret in Rome created by the futurist artist Giacomo Balla, and opened in 1921 and is more like a proper nightclub. To enter you went down a staircase, then a long corridor and then into a large room. The club’s interior décor – painted in bright primary colours – overwhelmed the senses as much as the music and was a triumph of skillful imagination with the staircase in red and yellow and the pillars in red and white.

In this elegant room was an entertainment of Arabian belly dancing and Spanish flamenco and the jazz band led by Ugo Filipino claimed to offer something new for Rome with two violins, a banjo, piano and drums and then the addition of a saxophone.

‘This is the place to be in Rome’ says Lorenzo as we dance with other well-heeled members of Rome’s younger, more affluent society.

Our last visit of the night was to another highly bizarre venue called Cabaret del Diavolo (the Devil’s Cabaret). This was created by multi-talented futurist artist Fortunato Depero in the basement of the Hotel Elite in Via Basilicata. The establishment is owned by the poet Gino Gore with directors including the painter Prampolini, the poet Folgore and the writer Toddi.  Described as a cabaret on Montmartre lines, it was on three floors imitating Dante’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy – Paradise was on the top floor – Perugatory a level below and Hell at the bottom.

The decor in Paradise was light blue with blue furniture, white, red, and blue lighting, and imagery that included stars and angels. In Purgatory the furniture was green, the lighting white and green, and the decoration floral. Finally, in the Inferno the furnishing was black and the lighting red, and the decor featured fire, pitchforks, dancing and battling devils, and serpents.

In each room there were uniquely formed tables and chairs in the shape of flames, hearts, lances, and pyramids and six large paintings. In Paradise the friezes depicted deep blue souls carrying their hearts in their hands and in Pergatory green souls with their hearts in their mouths. Each room also displayed ten wooden marionettes that were dramatically brought to life with the effects of flickering light.  In Paradise they were angels ascending on Jacob’s leather, in Purgatory – a paradise on earth and in Hell and the inferno damned souls cooling in the oven.

The Dantesque atmosphere in each room with its paintings, furniture, textiles and props was brought to life by flickering lights in various colours that created a mysterious and sometimes sinister ambiance.

Lorenzo says that the Diavolo is the most exclusive venue in Rome resembling a dining club rather than a nightclub and functioned more as a restaurant with irregular entertainment. ‘It is really a meeting place for Rome’s intellectual and artistic elite and young literary men and artists hold symposiums and gave occasional improvised theatrical, musical and poetic performance.’

‘Sounds completely boring to me’ I observe

However, in Hell things look up. For Hell is a bar serving diabolical cocktails like Liquid Fire, Beelzebub’s Blood, Red Hot Pokers, Grinding teeth infusion, Brown mud, Critique of Pure Reason and Stygian water. The food menu was a futurist feast that included a Forest Symphony (roast pigeon on a bed of fir tree branches with sliced polenta and kidneys) and Little Snowmen (cooked apples or carrots covered in zabaglione and beaten egg whites with eyes of small dates or cloves). There was also a Futurist Surprise Gateaux and French wines and champagne.

‘Time for supper’ I suggest.

Wednesday 12thSeptember

Today is a day of rest. Nothing happens except for relaxation in the garden. But in the evening we go to the Teatro dell’Opera (originally known as the Teatro Costanzi) and afterward for dinner at the sumptuous Casina Valadier at the Piazza Bucharest on the highest point of the Pincio Hill. The beautiful building was constructed in the 19thcentury but only turned into a restaurant in 1922 by the restaurateur Alfredo Banfi.

Thursday 13thSeptembers

Since I have now been away from home for what appears to be an age, I very reluctantly, make noises about returning to London at breakfast. We have a quick tour of the Vatican and the Villa Borghese, lunch once again at the Fagiano, but when we return in the late afternoon all our bags are packed. We have fond farewells from the entire family with assurances that we will all meet again in Paris or London very soon. We catch an early evening train for the 36-hour journey back to London. What a delightful idyll I have had.

 

 

 

Saturday 1st September

People are going home but we are still in the mood for fun and frolics so Lorenzo and I decide to abandon everyone and at short notice, decide to sort-off ‘sneak off’ to Biarritz. Before you can shake a leg, Lorenzo has got the train tickets for an evening departure on the Côte-d’argent express via the Pyrenees. How he got the tickets is anybody’s business as we were told the trains were already fully booked for the next few days. But you know what these Italians are like – they never take no for an answer.

An advertisement for Biarritz

An advertisement for Biarritz

We announce our decision at breakfast. Millie is exceedingly miffed as she has to go to Paris from some dreary business function with her husband Henri. We are driven to Paris for the 9pm departure and settle into the restaurant car and bar for a very tolerable dinner. I start talking about where we should stay but Lorenzo says it is all arranged. I frown as I know from gossip that all the best Biarritz hotels are already full and that gossip is, that this is the busiest season Biarritz has ever seen.

In the dining car, Lorenzo tells me all about Biarritz and the Basque country since he has been several times before and this is my first visit.  ‘When the first tinge of autumn is in the air, Europe’s migratory flock depart the north as Deauville closes and the Normandy coast fades and the mountain and lake resorts have finished. Very much like what we are doing. Everyone hastens across France to the very spot where Spain, France, the Atlantic Ocean and the Autumn meet.’

‘Biarritz is the French resort with a Spanish flavour. A former fishing village it is a most attractive and romantic place, lying in a narrow strip of the coast between the Pyrenees and the sea. The Climate is agreeable and healthy, bracing and invigorating and there are splendid beaches and sea bathing from May to November and a lot of things to do and see.’

‘September is the height of the Biarritz season, but we are told that Biarritz is now becoming an all year round destination.’

Of course there are numerous people who for some strange reason want to talk to us – some delightful, others dreadfully dull – but eventually we slope off early to our charming twin-berth cabin.

Sunday 2ndSeptember

In the morning we pass through the train station and are met by a liveried butler whose name is Andre – a young and charming Spanish man, who not only speaks Spanish, but also English, French and Italian, since his father is Italian and his mother Spanish and he was born in France. I swiftly learn that Andre is not only multi-talented as a linguist but is also our chauffeur and our bags vanish. My eyes pop out on stalks as I see the car, which is a gleaming white Hispano-Suiza H6. I don’t ask questions.  I am beginning to think Lorenzo is a magician of sorts because we are immediately transferred to the fashionable Hotel du Palais. The deference shown to him on arrival at the hotel is uncanny and his slight grin makes me smell a rat of sorts.

The effusive and white haired M. Cigolini or Cigi as he is called is the proprietor and meets us in the foyer with a butler who is carrying a tray with two glasses of champagne that are offered to us.  ‘We are honoured to have you here’  he says to Lorenzo ‘I have reserved one of our best suites for you and your father has given express instructions for us to do whatever we can to make your stay as pleasurable as possible.’  Lorenzo tells me that Cigi is a man of dignified and courtly manners (in other words a bit stuffy) and is regarded as one Biarritz’s many characters. Previously he had managed Claridge hotel in London, the Ritz in Paris and other hotels in Rome. He is also a friend of several reigning monarchs.

‘So that’s it’I say to Lorenzo with a grin as we go to our suite ‘your father is the key?’

‘Well, yes Fynes’ he says with a smile ‘he is part of the syndicate that owns the railway and this hotel. And, Cigi is Italian too, so anything is possible.’

The foyer of the Hotel du Palais, Biarritz

The foyer of the Hotel du Palais, Biarritz

The hotel is luxurious but I think it is somewhat Spartan in décor. While we unpack, with the help of Andre our butler, Lorenzo tells me about the Hotel du Palais. He says it was originally built as a beach palace for the Princess Eugenie, wife of Napoleon 111in 1854 but remodelled as a hotel and casino in 1870. But in 1905 it burnt down and was reconstructed exactly on the original plans but with a few modern alterations and embellishments.

‘The daily routine is simple’Lorenzo says ‘Biarritz rises languidly about noon, pulls on a bathing suit or a kimono and takes a walk to the beach. After a hasty dip one dresses for lunch. Before lunch one takes a cocktail at La Chaumiere. The accepted hour for lunch is 2pm. Thereafter, it is necessary for a snooze and then more, cocktails, dinner and dancing sprinkled of course with fetes, galas, tennis, polo and gossip.’

‘Oh that is far too much’ I say laughing.

A panorama view of Biarritz with the Hotel du Palais at the top left and Municipal Casino top right

A panorama view of Biarritz with the Hotel du Palais at the top left and Municipal Casino top right

Lorenzo follows Andre who carries our bathing suits and towels and we change in a discrete portable tent just below the hotel terrace. I catch Andre looking at Lorenzo as he changes and I frown, although Lorenzo simply smiles cheekily. We make our way to the private beach below for our dip in the sea. Once dressed again we saunter into town and have cocktails at the Chaumiere. The bartender Ernest Pasteau is English and is a most cheerful soul who shakes an excellent cocktail.

A view of the exterior of the Chaumiere, Biarritz

A view of the exterior of the Chaumiere, Biarritz

We are sat next to Mrs and Mrs Clement Hobson, an elegant couple who are informing a friend that Biarritz is the premier seaside playground of cosmopolitan society. We look around and all observe that each nationality forms a little group so there are the dainty blonde American beauties, the dark-eyed, olive skinned Spanish, elegant Parisians, the mysterious-eyed Slav faces of Russians and the delicate British roses. Mrs Hobson is Parisian and the extremely fashionable Mr Hobson (who is blind in one eye and wears a monocle) is head of the syndicate that owns the Ciro restaurant chain and reveals he is planning to open in Biarritz.

We discover that they were also in Deauville earlier like us. They ask where we are going for lunch and Lorenzo invites them to join us and takes us all to the Ritz restaurant on the first floor of the Municipal Casino for a marvellous feast in delightful surroundings. The room is long, with high ceilings and windows and the walls festooned with climbing bamboo greenery that forms a canopy above the tables. There is a splendid view of the ocean and a superb soothing orchestra. Fish contributes a lot to the menu and we partake of melon, minestrone Milanaise, Friture du pays (oysters), Carre de Veau braise aux cepes (veal steak and mushrooms), Ortolans a la broche (little bird), Salade de Romaine and Coupes d’Antigny (peach in vanilla syrup).

The Ritz restaurant, at the Municipal Casino, Biarritz

The Ritz restaurant, at the Municipal Casino, Biarritz

Lorenzo asks Hobson ‘I know you are recognised as one of the best-dressed men in London and Paris, so where do you go to be fitted out?’

‘Ah simple’ he says‘I also direct the fortune of a firm of tailors called Johns and Bonham Ltd in Albemarle Street in London. Here is my card. Come and visit.’

Back at the hotel it is indeed time for a snooze, and then when dressed again, we move to the American bar for cocktails. It is light and airy with thin columns and glass windows almost like a garden room.

A view of the American Bar in the Hotel du Palais, Biarritz

A view of the American Bar in the Hotel du Palais, Biarritz

However after a cocktail or two, we are swamped by a horde of French and American mothers with eligible daughters and quickly retreat to the sumptuous dining room and a table just for two in a quiet spot.  La Grande Salle a manger is a huge semi-circular room, beautifully carpeted with high ceiling and columns, huge windows overlooking the sea and suspended, glittering chandeliers.

Fat chance of a romantic diner à deux because as soon as we sit down we hear squeals of feminine delight and wafts of perfume and we are engulfed by June Day, Muriel Miles and Muriel Spring. ‘Fynes darling… how the devil are you ?’ says June who led the onslaught. We had met the two Muriel’s in Deauville last month and I had met June in late 1922 in Paris and I had spent sometime with her earlier in the year in Nice on the Riviera. I blush of course as she kisses me rather too passionately. Within a short time June calls over the head-waiter Masproni and asks him to move us to their table. To my great surprise there sits Leonora Hughes and the famous dancer Maurice Mouvet known simply as Maurice, along with the singer and dancer Mado Taylor.

I had seen Leonora in April and June in Paris and she was as ravishing as ever. And, do remember the previous year she had given me dancing lessons in Deauville. I had heard that she had had a bumpy ride in the summer as Maurice had been taken ill in Deauville in early July with lung trouble and was sent to rest in Switzerland, causing a problem with their bookings.

Leonora says ‘I do hope you have been keeping up with your dancing. I intend to find out later !’

I am in awe of Maurice who is charming and delightful not to mention extremely handsome and dapper. And, I am delighted when he tells us a series of hilarious stories.

The most amusing was how he danced with a rich society lady and did throw her around a bit. ‘I noticed some members of the audience were either ashen faced or giggling. The lady in question was wearing no undergarments and had obviously completely forgot.’

We have a delightful evening and eat, drink and dance the night away, although each of the young ladies are also in great demand with other eligible bachelors.  I had not forgotten Henri’s thoughts about Muriel Spring in Deauville and we learn that she had lost her English military gentleman and was clearly out fishing again. Although both Lorenzo and I are polite we make it quite clear she will not infilitrate our ranks.

Monday 3rdSeptember

We wake up with Andre serving us tea in bed on a silver service without a care in the world. We follow the same schedule as before and manage to avoid everyone and cunningly, instead of lunch at the Chaumiere, we go to the Miremont tearoom, the best patisserie in Biarritz and a favourite of Edward V11. Lorenzo feeds me a Mouchou, which is a soft almond macroon, and tells me the name means kiss in Basque. I feel slightly fluttery.

As we are changing for dinner I notice a package wrapped up neatly on the bed with lavender ribbon. The note says ‘To Fynes, with love, Lorenzo.’ I open it and there is a wonderful photograph of Lorenzo. He had gone out while I was having a nap in the afternoon and had the photograph taken with an urgent processing tab.

That evening there is a major gala fete at the Hotel de Palais with an estimated 600 guests to see the dancing of Maurice and Leonora Hughes. The room is beautifully decorated and each table has a deep red flower display. The crowd is not only the crème de la crème of Biarritz but the crème de la crème of Europe and even Alexander Moore, the American ambassador to Spain, has a party of 10. The management had to squeeze in dozens of extra tables and such was the demand that even adjoining rooms and terraces were occupied.

We sit with Mr and Mrs Clement Hobson and his party of 10 and have another delightful dinner. Lorenzo and I are constantly taken up as dancing partners.

Tuesday 4th September

We spend the late morning frolicking on the beach with June, the two Muriel’s and Leonora before meeting Maurice and some of his chums at the Chaumiere. Later that afternoon Andre and another driver, in an equally grand car, drive us all to the so called English garden of the new polo club which is very popular and crowded now that the King of Spain is to play polo at Biarritz.

We then descend on the Bar Basque, adjoining the Grand Hotel and next door to the Bellevue Casino. This popular place comprises a terrace, an inside bar with mezzanine, a pergola restaurant and a downstairs winter restaurant and cabaret. With the Chaumiere they are the two most popular places in Biarritz. The proprietor is the Marquis de Porto-Riche owner of the Grand Hotel and the Bellevue Hotel and you tend to see everyone you have seen during the day.

An exterior view of Bar Basque, Biarritz

An exterior view of Bar Basque, Biarritz

A delightful sketch of having cocktails at the Bar Basque, Biarritz

A delightful sketch of having cocktails at the Bar Basque, Biarritz

We have dinner at the Hotel du Palais and then dance at the Municipal Casino where there is a dance competition. However, although we partake in the dancing we all decline to enter the competition given that some of our group are what could be regarded as ‘professional’ dancers. Andre de Fouquierre, the Paris arbiter of elegance awarded the prizes and a blonde American won against a lady regarded as ‘Spain’s most graceful girl.’ He declared he was amazed that an American had beaten a Spaniard given that the Spanish had invented the dance.

I frown at one point as I notice something strange ‘why is it that some of the more fashionable ladies here are not wearing any jewellery?’I ask.

‘Everyone has been fascinated by the recent unprecedented display of jewels’ Leonora tells us ‘at first no-one thought anything of it and then one of the ladies revealed that many of the prominent jewellers approached various high profile ladies and offered them to wear some of their finest gems without charge believing that a human display was much better for business than simply showing them on the plush cushions in the store windows.’She paused, then continued ‘this new plan angered the rich society women who have their own jewels and some are demonstrating their disgust by not wearing any.’

June Day added ‘some declare that the jewellers innovation may kill the value of pearls and diamond for fashionable display.’

Muriel Spring commented ‘well I have noticed that some women are carrying their gem madness too far. Would you believe it, this morning I saw a diamond trimmed bathing suits – which naturally is not allowed to get wet. I ask you !’

Wednesday 5th September

After breakfast, Andre drives us along the coast to San Sebastian via Saint Jean de Luz. It is a truly scenic and wonderful excursion. Saint-Jean is charming but smaller and more intimate than glitzy Biarritz but equally fashionable and select. After parking, we stroll along the terraces around the exquisite bay and stop at the rustic Pergola for a light lunch and watch the dancers on the terrace and then visit the very ornate but small Casino.

San Sebastian is equally impressive and we check into the rather grand and new Hotel Maria Cristina.

A view of the promenade at San Sebastian

A view of the promenade at San Sebastian

Of course June Day, Muriel Miles, Muriel Spring and Mado Taylor have also made the trip with Maurice and Leonora Hughes who will be headlining in the Casino. We all have afternoon tea before taking a walk around the town. . Leonora tells us that tonight the Gala fete at the Grand Casino is ‘A Thousand and One Nights’ designed by the famous artist Jean Gabriel Domergue.

‘He usually spends the entire season from September to October here because of the demand for sumptuous galas that he decorates with his usual flair’ says Leonora.

We admit that we don’t have any appropriate costume, except our DJs. In the evening we make our way to the Casino and all the girls are impeccably costumed.

The Grand Casino at San Sebastian

The Grand Casino at San Sebastian

Maurice tells us ‘of course everyone is agog about two Spanish aristocrats who had a violent dispute in the casino at Biarritz over a woman and a duel was agreed. They drove to the bull-ring in San Sebastian and shot each other and one of them was injured but not fatally. Lord knows what happened next.’

June Day says ‘I asked the waiter why everyone was looking under the tables. Apparantly a bomb exploded under one of the gambling tables at the Casino a week ago. It proved harmless and it was a ruse by a gang of thieves intent on seizing gambling discs and whatever valuables they could lay their hands on.’

We all look under the table.

Thursday 6thSeptember

We arrive back in Biarritz at lunchtime. Just before 5pm as we are thinking about cocktails, Lorenzo has a cable from his father and before I know it I am told we have to go to Rome.

I am aghast ‘but we only just got here’ I exclaim.

‘Yes, I know, but this is urgent business’ he explains and then laughs and says ‘anyhow, I think its time for you meet all of my family.’

‘Well, I did meet your parents in Cannes if you remember’ I say sulkily

Andre is bereft as I think he has taken a shine to us and has a conversation with Lorenzo. As he begins to pack our things, we eat a hastily prepared private snack in the dining room and I notice a long conversation between Lorenzo and Cigi.

‘I have engaged Andre as our butler’ Lorenzo says afterward ‘Lord knows we need a butler between us so he is coming with us.’

‘Did you ask Andre?’

‘Of course – he suggested it !’

Within an hour Andre collects his things and in a jiffy off we go to the train station.

I am miffed because we will miss the traditional San Sebastian Sunday grand prix, the great Petroushka ball at the Municipal Casino and I did not get to see a bull fight. But Lorenzo says with glee ‘don’t worry, we will be back.’

 

 

 

Saturday 4th August

Millie has completely re-decorated and furnished Lorenzo’s apartment. She has spent week’s co-ordinating everything with help from Liberty and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann’s atelier in Paris. The result is stunning. Well, when you have unlimited funds supplied by a rich Italian what do you expect?

She has also organised a spiffiing welcome party from 6.30 -8.30 pm. Rather early I know but we do not want to start off on the wrong footing with the neighbours by having loud and noisy parties late at night. We have Champagne and canapés. The latter of which Lorenzo has co-ordinated himself which are delicious.

Millie has taken it upon herself to become the hostess with the mostess, in the most delightful way possible and greets everyone who arrives from her husband Henri and Henri’s sister Yvette, to Mama, Papa, Aunt Mimi and Sir Oliver. She introduces Lorenzo to dozens of her society friends and friends of our parents, but finally gives up when a flood of familiar faces descend including Monty, Dolly Tree, Eddie Dolly, Velma Deane, Julian (Sir Oliver’s son), Eva with Peregrine, Aubrey, Priscilla, Dora, Josephine Earle and Peggy Marsh and a host of all their guests. There are even scores of Italians – friends and acquaintances of Lorenzo’s family – that arrive and add to the joviality. We have a wonderful evening.

Much later when most people have left we take a late dinner at Bellomos nearby on Jermyn Street. Mr Bellomos is an artist in food and the restaurant is run on the most up-to-date lines (as is the hotel above). The menu was delightful with Hors d’Oeuvre Varies or Crème Jackson, Supreme de Merlan Italienne or Oeufs Brouillles au Jambon, Poulet Bouilli au Riz Sauce Supreme or Entrecote Minute or Hamord a la Newburg or Poulet Saute Chasseur with all the trimmings and either a Rhubard Tart or Beignet Souffle St Joseph for dessert.

In the following days we get ready to decamp to Deauville.

Wednesday 8th August

The promenade at Deauville

The world and his wife is at Deauville. It is tremendously busy. We take our usual rooms at the Normandy Hotel and Lorenzo and I share.

Mrs Jean Nash, one of the most famous women of the world is swanning about and at lunch on the terrace we hear the ladies discussing her. ‘She has extravagant tastes and habits’ says Mama.

 ‘She has always adored married life but not with the same husband. She clearly believes variety is the spice of marriage and she just divorced husband number three’ says Aunt Mimi

Millie chips in and says ‘she is regarded as the best dressed woman in the world and is setting a new bathing craze by wearing perfectly matched baby blue bathing robes on the beach with her latest beau Prince Sabit Bey.’

Tonight, after dinner, we are in the Casino but something appears different. Mama is the first to observe ‘Oh dear it is far too crowded’ as we struggle to find seats in the gilded ballroom. ‘Not only that but it is full of rather vulgar rich Americans’ says Aunt Mimi with disdain, as we are all squeezed into a space that is really not to our liking. But we are positioned adjacent to some of Mama’s friends who come over to greet us and end up gossiping.

‘Oh it has been frightful this year. There have been the most rancorous disputes between the various French, English and American circles.’ Says Mrs Fitzgibbon. ‘Really, some people are losing the art of etiquette and politeness.’

‘Deauville’s reputation seems to be enhanced when it is contemplated from a distance. That is certainly the case with Americans. So many of them cross the Atlantic simply because they think that they must see Deauville’ says Lady Rocksavage.

‘The trouble is’ says Comte de Maza ‘Deauville is losing its exclusivity. There are more and more provincial tourists coming here trying to appear fashionable.’

‘….and then’ says Mrs Fitzgibbon ‘there is a new fashion to have a suntan. Some women are becoming brown you know!”

‘Heavens above’ Says Mrs Reggie Fellowes ‘Whatever next?’

Millie is uncomfortable, blushes and covers herself with her shawl saying ‘hmm it is a bit chilly in here tonight isn’t it?’ as the other ladies continue to gossip.

‘Come and dance with me’ I say and we head off to the dance floor to join Lorenzo who is already dancing with the daughter of the Comte de Maza. ‘That’s a nice tan’ I whisper to Millie.

Despite the congestion the evening is pleasurable and the cabaret with the dancing of old favourites Robert Sielle and Annette Mills is quite delightful.

La Potinaire Cafe, Deauville

We swiftly settle into the gentle rhythm of life – breakfast, the beach, lunch at the Potiniére café, horse racing, beach walks, cocktails, dinner at Ciro’s or the Casino, followed by dancing and sometimes a little flutter.

Thursday 9th August

The tennis star Suzanne Lenglen with her mother and a party are the talk of the day on the beach. Lenglen is becoming bronzed like so many others. I am intrigued by this sunbathing fad and following a discrete tip from Millie head off for a walk following another chap who she tells me is a journalist writing about the subject.

The mystery of how beautiful creatures manage to get sunburnt all over as lavish décolleté gowns at night reveal, was solved when we stumbled upon a secluded spot about half a mile from the usual bathing place. We discovered a dozen charmers tanning themselves in full glory. Since we stumbled upon them by accident there were screams of surprise and a great scurry to button up shoulder straps on the bathing sits and don bath robes as we gawp in disbelief.

One of the ‘girls’ recognises me ‘honestly Fynes fancy sneaking up on a girl like that.’ Peggy Marsh scolds me.

‘Ah Peggy my dear’ I say with a smile ‘I didn’t recognize you…’

That night in the Casino, we nip into the gaming rooms and watch George Carpentier, the handsome French boxer, lose a large sum at chemin de fer. Despite his losses he dances very well in turn with Peggy Marsh and two ex-Ziegfeld beauties called Muriel Miles and Muriel Spring. Lorenzo and I catch both of them afterward.

Millie tells us that Muriel Miles is regarded as ‘one of the loveliest American women on the continent’ and she was wearing a Callot creation of black crepe de chine, a black roque with green feathers, green jade earrings and green jade brooch. ‘The combination of black and jade is a habitual theme for Miss Miles’ adds Millie.

She was less flattering about Muriel Spring ‘she calls herself a dancer and a film actress but heaven knows what she has danced in or what film she has been in. Like other beautiful and socially gifted ladies, she appears to possess an uncanny faculty for getting herself into rather spectacular scrapes. Just over a year ago she got into a spat with the couturier Paul Poiret over non-payment of a gown and then she was arrested in New York for avoiding paying duty of jewels and gowns worth £4,000.’

‘Heavens above’ I say. ‘There was some divine retribution Fynes as she was only fined £25 and got away with it saying she thought gifts were exempt of duty. I ask you.’ said Millie

‘I am told she is intent on finding a rich husband and currently has her eye on Captain from the British Army’ Henri observes nonchalantly ‘I’d avoid her if I were you… I get the impression she is simply after what she can get.’

Sunday 12th August

The Terrace at the Casino, Deauville

It is my birthday and I have a more sedate celebration than last year. A simple family dinner at Ciro’s, followed by an evening of even more dancing at the casino. Peggy tells me she is to make her debut shortly in the cabaret with a certain Marshall Hall and they are practising routines. She says that he is one of the most versatile of American dancers and creator of the role of Prince Guidon in Le Coq D’Or at the Metropolitan Opera six years ago.

Monday 20th August

We are out in force for the new cabaret entertainment in the Casino that features the exotic acrobatic dancing of the American Nina Payne and the new team of Peggy Marsh and Marshall Hall. They are all sensational.

Frank J. Gould, his new wife and Edith Kelly Gould his former wife were all present at the same baccarat table in the gaming rooms creating a bit of a sensation. They did not look at each other, and Edith Gould enjoyed winning a small fortune back from the new Mrs Gould.

Papa says ‘One has ceased to be impressed by wins or losses of a mere few hundred thousand Francs. When Sir Alfred Butt was counting out a win of over a million Francs, the other day it was considered a pleasant little haul, but nothing impressive.’

As for the dresses and jewelry – the displays in the Casino ballroom are becoming more intense every day like the frenzy of gambling. One woman walked past our table and put all the chandeliers to shame by the brilliance of her earrings – four great stones gleamed from each ear and reached to her shoulders. Many people gasped. Millie was amazed but said ‘if you think they are the biggest diamonds in existence, observe the three even larger ones hanging from her necklace!’

‘Look at that woman with the belt of real diamonds on her brocaded dress’ says Mama ‘Soon the usual glitterering bracelets and ropes of pearls will appear quite insignificant.’

Aunt Mimi adds ‘Well I still do not like those barebacked dresses. And I know you wear them Millie, but allowing one to contemplate the vertebrae of the wearer is for me most disturbing.’

Sunday 26th August

A view of the Normandy Hotel, Deauville with the Casino on the right

We wake up early since today is the Grand Prix racing but the weather is vile and has become dreary and wet. We amble down for breakfast but enthusiasm to go out in the rain is slight and many people have not even got up.

‘Goodness’ says Henri (Millie’s husband) as we eat our bacon and eggs ‘it is ghastly and like being in Scotland for heaven’s sake.’

As the rain subsides a little, we persevere and along with thousands of others, trail to the race course carrying umbrellas for a rather dull Grand Semaine with a French horse, Sao Pauloa, a comparative outsider, winning.

In late afternoon we are sat taking cocktails in a slightly wet La Potinaire Café. There has been huge excitement regarding the arrival of Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova for a flying visit and everyone is talking about them.

‘It is their belated honeymoon you know…’ says Millie ‘they have already seen the sights in London and Paris.’

‘I am told they arrived in three cars’ says Mama ‘The first for the luggage, the second for secretaries and the last for the Valentino’s and guests. They are staying in a villa rather than a hotel that is wise for privacy: they would be swamped in a hotel.’

That night the Valentino’s arrive in the Casino, take drinks, dinner, visit the baccarat rooms and watch the cabaret but are rather aloof and do not mingle much. Needless to say they cause a huge flutter. But gossip spreads like wild fire as usual. Mama comes back from conversations with her nearby groups of friends and tells us ‘they are in ill humour and not happy with the weather or their accommodation. They are also disappointed with the Casino, upset with the food and rather disdainful of all of us. Mrs Valentino apparently has her nose stuck in the air and was heard to ask ‘where is the fashionable crowd?’ I can see no smart women and no smart men’ What a cheek.’

‘Mind you’ retorts Millie ‘you were only saying the other day that Deauville has lost its attractiveness and had become less exclusive. So she might just have a point.’

Friday 30th August

The season is winding down and many people are leaving. We are having fun dancing in the Casino again but were all rather shocked to learn that Harry Pilcer narrowly escaped death in an automobile accident while racing the Dolly Sisters from Paris to Deauville. The Dollies and Pilcer had completed their respective performances in Paris and left at midnight in two cars with a bet of 2000 francs for whoever got to the Casino first. In heavy mist, Harry Pilcer tried to pass the Dollies who were being driven by the Vicomte de Rochefoucauld. His car jumped the road and struck a tree. The Dollies stopped and rescued Pilcer and his chauffeur both of whom were unconscious and bought them to Deauville. With Pilcer being cared for, they made a dash into the ballroom and Lorenzo and I managed to get a dance from each of them despite their ordeal.
Continue Reading »

New Oxford Theatre (Little Nellie Kelly), Romano’s, Hotel Metropole (Midnight Follies), Murray’s River Club and The Riviera

Friday 27th July

We are back in London. Lorenzo has been very busy with an assortment of family business issues. Taking Papa’s advice he is also thinking of opening a restaurant. Then he surprises me by leasing a rather splendid and perfectly placed apartment in Bury Street just below Piccadilly. It is spacious and very roomy. Since Millie is in London he asks her to help re-decorate and furnish it but it is going to take a while before it is all complete and we can have a party.

I have got tickets for the theatre and as usual meet Monty and Dolly at the Criterion for drinks. We tell them all about our adventures on the Riveria and Aix-le-Bains before going to the New Oxford Theatre to see Charles B. Cochran’s production of George M. Cohan’s song and dance show Little Nellie Kelly. The elegant but rather snooty actresss, simply called June, plays the lead and the other stars are Sonnie Hale, Maidie Hope and Anita Elson. It has an interesting story, with pretty frocks, pretty faces, pretty dances, clever people and moves along at slap-dash speed.

The programme for Little Nellie Kelly

Although Eileen Idare of Idare et Cie costumed the entire show, Dolly was called in at the last minute to design several modern gowns for Anita Elson and Maidie Hope, all executed by Peron, where she is now house designer. They are exquisite.

“This all happened via Eddie Dolly”
she explains “he was responsible for the dances and ensembles and was not entirely happy with some of Idare’s creations.”

The show is a mish-mash of traditional musical comedy, a romantic drama, a good ‘spoof’ crime play and a satirical revue but dancing is one of its most important features, which suits me down to the ground. There are speciality dances from the graceful and charming Forde Sisters, Henry de Bray and Terri Storey are superb in the flirting salesman dance, Santry and Norton provide some amazing acrobatic turns and Sonnie Hale and Anita Elson feature in Dancing My Worries Away.

‘Hmm that was as clean and exhilarating as a glass of dry champagne or two’ says Monty afterward. He also reminds me that Marion Forde was an American and that I had seen her in En Douce at the Casino de Paris earlier in the year and in cabaret at Le Jardin De Ma Souer.

Afterward, I take them all to Romano’s restaurant for dinner to give Lorenzo a feel for an Anglicized Italian restaurant with an international flavour. Of London’s restaurant’s few have a more distinctive character and atmosphere than Romano’s. The founder was Nicolino Alfonso Romano, affectionately called The Roman who died in 1901. He had been head waiter at the Café Royal in 1870s and out of his savings he bought a fried fish shop in the Strand and converted it into his restaurant. Romano’s has become a London institution and famous throughout the bohemian world as a resort of characters, literary journalist and theatrical and sporting notables. It has a façade of butter coloured magolica tiles and the bright and comfortable dining room is handsomely decorated in Moorish style. One side of the room is covered with a series of painted panels beneath glass and framed in Moorish shape showing a series of views of the Bosphorus all very blue and sunny looking. Sofa seats and wide arm chairs stand beneath the paintings and on another side of the room is a great alcove with Moorish arches

Romano's Restaurant

The cuisine prides itself on its specials of chicken curry, sauté de beuf and two key dishes filet de sole tabarin and chicken a la Lombarde. The menu tonight consists of Germany (a soup made by adding yolk of egg to white consommé), Mousseline de Homard Grand Duc (Lobster mousseline), Becasse au fumer (woodcock) with Salade Japonaise, biscuit Glace aux Avelines (iced sweet brought to the table on the back of a swan cut out of a block of ice is a pretty conceit). We also partake in the 1875 brandy which is famous.

‘Just so you know’ I say ‘King Edward when the Prince of Wales had his own private room and cutlery here…’

We are still feeling frisky so decide to pop into the Embassy for a spot of socialising and hoofin it. As we arrive there are squeals of delight as Eva runs over and gives me a big hug. She is with Aubrey who is very chatty too. They soon run off to dance. Then Priscilla arrives with a crowd. She comes over, kisses me on both cheeks and says we should meet soon. Peggy Marsh is also here surrounding by admirers and she too comes to visit and whispers in my ear.

‘Well Fynes my dear’ says Lorenzo with a smirk ‘looks like you have acquired a harem.’

Saturday 28th July

After a lazy day we meet Priscilla and a friend called Dora at the Criterion for cocktails. They are both looking divine in gowns by Isobel Couture of Maddox Street, who they tell us is becoming very much de rigueur. Priscilla is wearing a beaded net gown with silver tissue and pink ribbon and Dora has a frock of shot blue and silver tissue with the ceinture (waist band) relieved with pearls. Later, we make our way to the Metropole Hotel in Northumberland Avenue. We go straight to the Restaurant des Ambassadeurs which has an atmosphere of sombre hotel stateliness. The roof is painted to resemble a gorgeous torquoise blue sunset with scudding golden clouds and the lights are encased in enormous pink silk flowers that glow. We dine excellently and for some reason all feast on the same thing: a Filets de Sole Calypso, one of the masterpieces of the chef M. Graillot. The filet is cooked in fish stock and Chablis along the parsley, tarragon and paprika and topped with peeled prawns.

After dinner we take our seats in the ballroom. I have seen the cabaret here many times before but we thought it would be good to let Lorenzo see one of the best cabarets in town. I have forgotten to mention before that the ballroom area has been decorated by Ashley Tabb and comprises jade green pillars that sweep upwards to a great cream roof picked out in jade lace. The orchestra sit in a deep blue alcove flanked by two pale orange lamps. Extreme decorum and the austereness of unemotional Britain seem the keynote. I still love the Chinese lanterns made of hand painted silk that swing across the room and add a lovely flourish to the décor.

The ‘Midnight Follies’ programme, produced by Carl Hyson, is still the same and the numbers Paradise Lane, Hawaiieen, China Love, Pinkie, Cutie, The Follies Derby, Zwadir and Gipsy Night in June are still fresh and invigorating and a pot-pourri of excellent dancing, songs, costumes, lighting and effects.

Sunday 29th July

Lorenzo has hired a car and a driver and we take a late afternoon drive into the country and with Priscilla and Dora visit the area around Maidenhead. We take boat rides on the Thames and have a lovely picnic which the ladies arranged. Later, when it is getting dark we head off to Murray’s River Club near Maidenhead bridge on the edge of the river. It is a magnificent old Georgian building that has been transformed into a glamorous rendevous of ragtime and romance by Jack May who owns and runs Murray’s club in Beak Street.

‘The club is in what was the old Manor house of Maidenhead, inhabited by a generation of staid gentlemen called Herring.’ I tell them all ‘you can see their sign – a fish – still turning slowly on the house weathercock above.’

We forgo the boat rides from a mooring at the end of the lawn and instead take cocktails outside on the lawn. Strings of fairy lanterns and little lights pop up everywhere in the flowers and trees and white coated waiters wizz about with amazing dexterity.

We walk into the house and take a dance in a blue-ceilinged Japanese ballroom before taking dinner on the verandah overlooking the green sloping lawn and the river. Albert, the maitre d’hotel insinuates himself into the foreground with a pencil, dropping gentle hints which develop into our dinner.

‘I am told he was a trusted waiter on King Edward’s staff at Biarritz in 1906’ I mention.

As the evening progresses the place is hopping. No surprise really since it is only a short drive from London and always attracts a lively crowd. It is also particularly popular with the theatrical contingent and we notice several stars of the stage.

Murray's River Club at Maidenhead

The dance band is wonderful and plays such delightful songs as ‘The Dancing Honeymoon’, the alluring fox trot ‘Chicago’ and ‘Come On and Dance.’ We alternate dancing in the ballroom or outside on a crystal floor open to the sky.

Monday 30th July

We visit a strange place on Dora’s recommendation for a quiet night out. The Riviera Dance Club is located in splendid isolation in Grosvenor Road on the river and is a mock Roman Villa originally designed by one of the Stanleys.

‘It’s chief attraction is that it is unlike any other dance club anywhere. It has a much more refined and soothing atmosphere and is far less frenetic than West End Clubs’
Dora explains in the taxi.

It is in fact a private club and Dora is a member. We have to ring the front doorbell as at a private house to gain admission. It is not a large venue but has a very chic air and the décor divine. The main dining room has oyster grey stone pillars and the dance floor is flanked by black and silver brocade walls. At dinner, the windows are open to the river and there is a luscious light breeze. One dines in peace. Later, a small band plays rather subdued music but people do dance. The words ‘awefully nice’ describe the people and the place.

We have a long conversation about this ‘n’ that and both ladies quiz Lorenzo about the purchase of his apartment and his plans for the future. It is decided that when Millie has finished decorating and furnishing, the ladies will help Lorenzo arrange a welcome party. They are awfully nice.

‘Hmm this interesting’ I say at last ‘it is very seldom that you find a dance club that is content to remain just itself; that does not rely on gourmetic cuisine, the presence of celebrity, the glamour of a crowd, exhibition dancers, the lure of a late night and unlimited bubbly.’

‘What you mean is it is dull’ says Dora with a laugh.

I think she might be right. We leave early and head off to dance at the Embassy.

Since the villa is now almost completely renovated we have decided as a family to take a trip down to the Riviera to enjoy a summer break for a few weeks. So Mama, Papa, Aunt Mimi, Sir Oliver, Millie and Henri and I take the overnight train and then drive to Cap d’Antibes in two cars that we have rented.

The Villa, Cap d'Antibes

When we arrive the lorry with masses of furnishings has also arrived from Paris and there is also Lorenzo who has been persuaded to come and join us from Italy and keep me company. We have a wonderful day emptying the lorry and placing all the furniture. I am thrilled to be able to hang all the paintings that I bought from Montparnasse. They cause a bit of a debate of course but I prevail. We have employed several local people as cook, housekeeper and gardener but they do not arrive until tomorrow. It is lucky Lorenzo is here because he had the good sense to bring with him in his car boxes of Italian delicacies and he cooks us the most amazing supper. He is such a resounding success that even Papa says “well my boy I suggest you get to London and open a restaurant.”

We take a few days to sort ourselves out, and Lorenzo and the cook argue in the kitchen each night. Papa and I discuss the landscaping of the garden and grounds and the building of a swimming pool with the gardener who will arrange and organise everything for us.

Interestingly, the older generation are not good at simply relaxing and doing nothing. Despite excellent food, brilliant sunshine, amazing surroundings, the gramophone, Mah Jong and charades, they miss the hustle and bustle of big city life and start complaining. I on the other hand have got Lorenzo, so I am perfectly content with doing very little. I have enough of a distraction. Millie and I also spend a lot of time teaching Lorenzo new dance steps and generally improving our own dancing technique. However, to ease the discontent, during the day, we start taking a few trips and take leisurely visits to Juan Le Pins and Antibes. But since most places are closed there are more outbursts.

One day we head for the sandy Plage Garoupe shaded by umbrella pines. We meet the American family of Gerald and Sara Murphy. Millie reminds me that Yvette, Henri’s sister, had told us that the Murphy’s had been here last summer with Cole Porter.

‘We are staying at the Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc’ Gerald tells us.

‘The hotel is usually closed from May to September but we persuaded the owner Antoine Sella to keep the place open with a skeleton staff this summer.’

He is thrilled when we tell him that we have bought and renovated the villa near to the hotel and suggests we join them for dinner, which we graciously accept.

We spend a pleasant afternoon swimming and lounging around and the Murphy’s extol the virtues of sunbathing. Lorenzo, Millie, Henri and I are appreciative but Mama and aunt Mimi huddle under a vast umbrella afraid of the sun. Gerald and Sir Oliver have a lot in common as they are both artists and converse for ages.

We have a delightful dinner at the Hotel du Cap. I had forgotten what a beautiful place and setting it is. This is where we came to sign the contracts for the villa back in February.  However, as the pleasantness of the dinner recedes, the grumbling gets too much and we are forced to leave early. Lorenzo comes with us. On our way back to Paris we take a detour to the luxurious surroundings of Aix-Le-Bains, or as all us Brits say ‘Aches and Pains’.

Poster for Aix-le-Bains

We arrive and check into the Splendid-Royal on the Rue Georges, just up above the main centre of the town next to the Excelsior. The more salubrious first-class hotels occupy commanding ledges that give sweeping views and a fresh mountain breeze that comes down from the pine covered peaks above. The Splendid-Royal is a model of architectural perfection and gets Aix’s smart summer crowd. It has a richly carpeted lobby, lined with heavy, blue marble columns, showcases from the best Paris shops and double-sized elevators, originally built to accommodate handicapped guests.

Splendide-Royal Hotel

Aunt Mimi tells Lorenzo ‘this hotel has become a favorite with Americans, because they find the usual match-box French elevators claustrophobic.’  I share a room with Lorenzo which is vast with big windows and a balcony, roomy enough for a cozy breakfast in the morning that opens onto a white alabaster terrace with a fabulous view. We congregate for lunch in the splendid dining room with impeccable service on metropolitan standards, which is full and lively and rather like being in a fashionable Parisian café.

View of Aix-le-Bains towards Lake Bourget

‘Ah this is much better’ says aunt Mimi glancing around nodding to people she thinks she knows.

‘I have no idea why you like that dreary spot on the Riviera at this time of the year’ says Mama. ‘This is where we should be. It is a perfect mix of elegance, good weather and correct company.’

‘Well’ says Millie with a sly smile ‘looks like you and Lorenzo will be spending the summer down there all alone next year.’

 

One of three Aixes in France, Aix-le-Bains of Savoy in the lower ranges of the French Alps is delightful and picturesque and I love being here. Perched on the banks of the beautiful Lac Bourget, which is eleven miles long and therefore the longest lake in France, it has become most fashionable mountain resort in Europe full of rugged crags hovering over deep wooded valleys.

View of mountains, Aix-le-Bains

In the afternoon we take a short stroll down into the town through some quaint streets that wind down the hill with some scenic views and the alpine rooflines behind us. Since Lorenzo has never been here before Mama and Aunt Mimi have taken it upon themselves to introduce him to Aix and I tag along. We reach the thermal establishment which is a veritable palace appropriately designed with a classic Roman façade but fitted with every modern up-to-date device to aid the natural powers of the waters.

Thermal establishment, Aix-le-Bains

Mama steps into guide mode as we wander around and says, as if we haven’t noticed…. ‘the Romans founded this health resort because of the spa and the natural powers of the waters in 122B.C. More recently, the King of Sardinia laid the foundations for another thermal spa in 1776. This new structure was created in 1857.’

She continues Over a million gallons of water pour from Aix’s spring every day, hitting the surface at nearly 115 degrees. It provides the foundation for all treatments which vary according to the condition being treated from gout, nervous disorders, rheumatism, faulty blood circulation or arthritis.’

‘Of course all the ‘cure towns’ including Evian and Vichy have been made so luxurious, expensive and fashionable that many think ‘How can I be chic though sick?’ offers Aunt Mimi.

‘So you have to have the right kind of ‘chic’ malady?’ asks Lorenzo.

‘Of course. Overeating, overdrinking, insufficient use of the legs and too much wear and tear of the grey matter are chic’ replies Aunt Mimi with a laugh.

‘You see Lorenzo’ I say ‘ all the hotels are filled during the season with more or less perfect cases of overindulgence.’

In the centre of the town, just below the thermal establishment and opposite the town hall or Hotel de Ville, stands the arch of Campanus commemorating that illustrious Roman general’s soujourn here.

Place de Ville, Aix-le-Bains

Clustered around the sources, the park and the fountains are other hotels including the Villa Victoria. We walk further and wander around the delightful gardens and terraces associated with the entertainment centres of the Casino and the Villa des Fleurs. The Casino also called Le Grand Cercle was built in 1824 and is a large comfortable, rambling building with a multitude of rooms inside.

The Villa de Fleurs is an equally sumptuous building. Both host excellent restaurants, a theatre, ballrooms and salons. We sit and take tea on the terrace at the Casino listening to a concert which is given daily and browse the programme of events for both venues.

Villa des Fleurs, Aix-le-Bains

Mama continues her lecture ‘Not only is it a cure town but Aix offers the most amazing array of entertainment since there are always many notable quests staying here. Of course Aix has many royal connections. Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor as was Victor Emmanuel II, Napoleon III, Wilhelmina, George of Greece and Leopold of Belgium. There will be fetes, galas and many dancing opportunities for you boys all with the right kind of girls.’

That night we have cocktails at the hotel and then make out way to the Casino for dinner. I am hugely delighted to see that Sielle and Mills, who we caught at L’Ours cabaret in Paris a few weeks ago, are the cabaret and they are once again magnificent. As the older generation drift off, we dance the night away in wonderful surroundings. Our earlier polishing of our dance routines in the villa, pays dividends and we are highly sought after as dancing partners for  a succession of charming ladies. It is very early in the morning and almost breakfast time when we walk up the hill to our hotel and we notice other people walking down the hill.

Henri says  ‘You see one half of Aix-les-Bains goes to bed about the time that the other half ventures to be parboiled and massaged.’

The next night we have dinner in the Villa des Fleurs and spend a great evening dancing in their ballroom. But in Aix-Le-Bains the dance craze doesn’t let up. Besides the casino and the villa there are always dances every night at each of the hotels and at La Polonaire and the Castel Bisolet.

Interior of Villa des Fleurs, Aix-le-Bains, during a gala night

We have a busy and pleasurable stay taking in the air, walks, boat rides on the lake, frolicking on the landscaped sandy beach and enjoying all the evening entertainment, not to mention a steady flow of impromptu invites to private cocktail parties and soirees. Obviously we do not make the regular early morning trek of mountain climbers with their knapsacks, spiked canes and long alpenstocks but do partake of some light tennis in the afternoon and watch boule. But, all too soon, it is time to leave and return to London via Paris.

The Ritz Hotel, Ouistiti Roof Garden, New York Bar, L’Ours and Champs Elysees Restaurant

Sunday 1st July

Like any good visitor to Paris who is in the know, the only place to be on a Sunday night at this time of the year is the Ritz. Well, this is the official statement from Papa, hence his insistance that we all go. Instead of Fouquet’s all the family, along with Cecile, meet up in the Ritz bar for cocktails situated on the discreet side of the Ritz Hotel on the Rue Cambon. However, the ladies are not admitted into the main the bar, and have to sip their drinks in an adjoining annex. This of course is not appreciated by our lady-folk who are of the more strident kind. Without doubt, the bar we are in is one of the most select watering holes in the world and Frank Meyer who is in charge is the best-known drink shaker anywhere.

We collect the disgruntled ladies. “It is the last time I do that” says Mama indignantly.

We make our way into the stupendous Grill Room with its restaurant, gallery and dance floor for over 400 covers. The world that counts gathers here and it is regarded as the place for diplomats, foreign princes, newspaper proprietors, great dressmakers and American millionaires. Indeed, tonight there is a reigning King and Queen, the heir to a famous throne, the richest banker in the world, a once famous beauty who has just divorced a steel magnate, the head of the greatest jewellery house in the world, a dowdy old dowager, a French newspaper baron and a string of American woman who have married into French artistocracy including Princess de Polignac.

Papa tells Cecile “this is the habitat of international society. They talk a common language, wear a common livery, and they are as much at home here in Paris as in London or New York. But, they will only gather here together under this roof.” Cecile is looking a little uncomfortable. I do not blame her and squeeze her hand under the table.

It is a rarified atmosphere of polite extremes that I find very tedious. In fact it is rather stuffy. But our dinner is exceptional. Under M. Elles, the manager, the chefs have gained a great reputation and the cuisine features the best French dishes that include Poularde sauté au champagne, Caneton la bigarade (a succulent duck served cold with orange and porto jelly), Poularde Vendome (a stuffed bird with foie gras served with tarragon jelly) and vol-au-vont de sole Marquise.

Between courses we dance but there is no real excitement. I am relieved when we retire for coffee and cognac in the long narrow lounge. Afterward, Cecile and I, along with Millie and Henri, pop into the Ouistiti Roof Garden above the Marigny Theatre, Champs Elysees. This is our second visit to see the elegant dancing of Florence Walton and her husband Leo Leitrim, who have been dancing here for what seems like a long season. Their popularity is undiminished. Equally, this is a lovely venue and we have a marvellous time in an atmosphere much more to our liking.

Monday 2nd July

In light of poor Cecile’s ordeal at the Ritz, Millie and Henri and I decide to take her out to the Rue Daunou for a lighter, more enjoyable evening. We start by having a delightful informal dinner at Ciro’s (6 Rue Daunou). Like the Ritz this is also a society rendezvous but Millie says “this is the place where anybody who is anybody goes to see what everybody who is anybody is wearing. Far more interesting than the Ritz.”

Between the end of dinner and 11.30 when the supper-dancing establishments open there is only one thing doing in Paris and that is the cabaret underneath the famous the New York bar at 5 Rue Daunou.

Henri, who is a regular, tells us “It was first opened by Mrs Milton Henry wife of a well known jockey in 1911 but she sold out. During the war the bar became a favourite meeting place for war correspondents. In 1920 Mrs Henry returned, re-purchased the bar and installed Les Copeland at the piano as the cabaret.”

“Ah, we saw Les Copeland only the other night at the Jockey Club”
says Cecile.

“He is amazing and I used to come and listen to his singing all the time” continues Henri “anyway, in 1922 Maurice and Leonara Hughes arrived and opened the now defunct Clover Club in the Rue Caumartin. They brought with them two singers from New York’s East side – Tommy Lyman and Roy Barton. Lyman was not happy with his treatment by Maurice and so moved to the New York bar when Les Copeland quit. The boxer Jack Dempsey and Damon Runyon, who knew Lyman were then in town and made the place famous.”

“One particular night last year” says Millie “Irving Berlin was playing at the piano and Jenny Dolly was asked to dance. She persuaded Dempsey to join her and they performed a rather spirited jazz dance that they called Chicago’ on top of the piano.”

“I believe Mrs Henry has now sold the bar to a Scottish gentleman called Harry McElthone, who used to be head bartender at Ciro’s in London. I guess it may well be renamed Harry’s Bar.” Says Henri.

Moving on we visit L’Ours cabaret at 4 Rue Daunou. Small and intimate it is nevertheless luxurious and caters for a very ‘Daunou’ smart crowd. Tonight the cabaret features the dancing of a rather wonderful English couple called Sielle and Mills. I have heard of them but Millie knows a little more.

Robert Sielle & Annette Mills

“Robert Sielle is rather fun and cheeky. He had been in the Royal Flying Corps during the war and had also entertained the troops. After being demobbed he found he could dance, met Annette Mills and they formed an act. One of their first sets was at the Criterion Roof Garden in 1921 but since then they have performed on the continent as well as in London. Their great strength is that they can do the usual dances exceptionally well but they introduce an element of humour by clowning around.”

They are very polished and accomplished and their novelty numbers that included a golliwog dance were wonderfully funny. They introduced little bits of fantasy by wearing extra items of clothing over their evening clothes, which was particular effective. They remind me of Fred and Adele Astaire, but actually I think they are better.

Wednesday 4th July

Monty and Dolly Tree are in town and we meet at Fouquet’s. Dolly is very animated and orders champagne “we need to celebrate. I have become sole designer for Peron Couture. My first collection will be unveiled later in the year. I am so excited.”

She kisses both of us and we congratulate her effusively.

I have got tickets for Harry Pilcer’s Independence day fete at the new Champs-Elysees restaurant which opened a few weeks ago on 63 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. An array of French and American stars will appear as the entertainment with the proceeds going to blinded war veterans. So we continue our celebrations. We have drinks first in the bar in the basement which is the largest in Paris, and the most comfortable, before moving upstairs to our table.

The restaurant is owned and run by an American called Jules Ansaldi. Monty tells us “He was well known in New York and was considered to be one of the originators of the cabaret on Broadway. He first operated Louis Martin’s club then the Sans Souci and launched the careers of the dancers Maurice Mouvet, Joan Sawyer, Florence Walton and the Castles. After the First World War he ran the Grande Bretagne Hotel on the Rue Caumartin and in 1920 changed the restaurant into Maurice’s club.”

Dolly Sisters in Paris Sans Viole (Paris, 1923)

We have an amazing dinner and the cabaret is superb, the highlight of which was the dancing of Harry Pilcer and the gorgeous Dolly Sisters, who are still appearing in Paris Sans Viole at the Ambasadeurs. It is delightful to cause such a stir with onlookers when both of them take turns to dance with me afterward. I am indeed very lucky.

Montparnasse: Petit Napolitain, Café du Parnasse, Lavenue, Café du Dome, Jockey Club and Café de la Rotonde.

Saturday 30th June

As a little interlude to our Bois extravaganza, Cecile has insisted on staying in Paris tonight but tells me we will go south and visit the Latin Quarter of Montparnasse.

“Do remember Fynes” she says beforehand “the cafes and restaurants there are mostly of the cheaper and more modest kind… so do not put on airs and graces.”

“Of course not my dear. What on earth do I wear?”

She bashes me with a newspaper
“Don’t be silly” she snaps.

I actually know that Montparnasse is quiet different and that since the turn of the century many artists relocated there from Montmartre which they felt had been overrun with bars, nightclubs and cabarets becoming overpriced and far too commercial. They were attracted to the peace, tranquillity and cheapness of Montparnasse. Of course, its popularity will mean that it may become more like Montmartre in due course.

I meet a group of Cecile’s friends who live in the district at a little cafe: two women called Nina and Regine and two men called Sasha and Raphael. All are either artists or writers or both. I am not sure who is with whom and I feel uncomfortable to ask. However, we have a wonderful conversation talking about Montparnasse, in French of course.

Raphael says “probably no people in Paris have had so much romance spun around them as us bohemians who live here. Take a look at all the literature from Henri Murger’s La Vie Boheme, to George du Maurier’s Trilby and W.C. Morrow’s Bohemian Paris of Today.”

“Well to be honest Raphael”
says Regine “equally annoying are the dozens of American and English journalists who come here for a vacation and sit at our cafes and then spin a thousand words of gushing, puffing romanticism.”

“Actually, the only well-balanced account of the district can be found in W.R. Titterton’s Me as a Model or the wonderful clips by Arthur Moss, the Latin Quarter’s correspondent for the Paris Herald” volunteers Sasha.

“If you ask me” says Cecile “the Latin Quarter is a state of mind rather than an area.”

“Hmm very profound” I add, “my observation is that it is about freedom. Here you can dress as you please, think as you please and do as you please.”

“Bravo” says Raphael.
“Exactly” says Sasha.

It looks I have said the right thing and Cecile smiles at me approvingly.

Then I add “Of course I sometimes think that the Latin Quarter is co called because of a noteworthy scarcity of Latins.” Thankfully everyone laughs.

We visit the Petit Napolitain and then the Café du Parnasse, both on the Boulevard for aperitifs and to look at the vast array of works of art on the walls. Here there is every possible style – Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and every other kind of ism, besides some interesting Byzantine-like paintings in gold and black created by Russians influenced by their village church icons. It is breathtaking and I decide that I will come back another day and buy several that rather appealed. I certainly do not want to appear to be too affluent with my new friends.

Cecile takes us all to Lavenue restaurant on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Rue du Depart, opposite the Gare Montparnasse. A famous old café – restaurant, it skirts the fringe of bohemia and is accordingly a haunt of mixed company with a clientele of many Americans and well-known artists. The café part is modern and noisy with a band but there is a restaurant at the back comprising three rooms and we eat on a covered porch beside a courtyard garden. She pays the bill despite my protests.

We move to Le Dôme Café (or Café du Dôme) that stands as a sentinel to Bohemia on the corner of Boulevards Montparnasse and Raspail. Founded in 1898, it became renowned as an intellectual gathering place and focal point for artists and is widely known as the “the Anglo-American café.”

Le Dome, Montparnasse, Paris

Le Dome, Montparnasse, Paris

As we take a seat outside which is already almost full, Nina says “Everybody in the artistic and literary circles of the world who visit Paris comes here at some point between six in the evening and two in the morning.”

She tells me all about Cesar the oldest waiter who terrorises the nearly dozen house cats by spraying them with a soda syphon and equally how he terrorises the customers with his cheery rudeness. Nevertheless, he is an institution not to be missed but because Nina is extremely attractive tonight he is rather courteous to us. But, you must not stare or ask about his wife since she ran off with the family fortune and another waiter.

The place is packed with cosmopolitan people of note and character and, like the district generally, is full of ladies with short hair and men with long hair, in fact just like my new friends. I am discreetly made aware of Nina Hamnet, the English woman painter, who draws some of the antics and characters of the Dome and elsewhere for the Paris Herald; Ezra Pound, the esoteric poet who pours his vitriolic wrath on the heads of anti-moderns and a Turkish gentleman called Bluebird, who allegedly has had more mistresses than anyone in the café.

After a rather jolly hour or so we are off to the newest cabaret at the Jockey Club situated at 146 Boulevard Montparnasse on the corner of the Rue Campeigne Premier, that opened a few weeks ago on the site of an old wine store. It is a weird little place that was founded by the American artist Hiler Harzberg (Hiliare Hiler) and a jockey called Miller hence the name.

From the outside it looks like a dilapidated shack with quaint, attenuated cowboys painted on the peeling shutters. Regine says one must never arrive before 11pm “but certainly no later as you will hardly be able to squeeze in.”

It is meant to hold a mere 50 people but on a normal evening over 200 are crammed in like sardines. Luckily, we get a table just in time but it is tight fit. The small room is covered from to floor ceiling with the weirdest posters and inscriptions of every kind and I am told Hiler Harzberg himself has created much of the décor. There is a miniscule dance floor in the centre of the room that must be about 3 ft by 6 ft that is covered in cracking linoleum and dancing there requires real skill. The ‘orchestra’ if you can call it that, consists of a broken down piano with a Russian pianist and two cross-eyed banjoists.

All sorts of peculiar people gather here including some rather bizarre ladies such as a woman in complete male dress who smokes cheroots through a long holder and another who wears a coat that resembles a Persian carpet and dances as if in a trance. However, the Queen of the Jockey Club is the immortal Kiki. Artists love to paint her because she has a fascinating catlike face and a voluptuous body. Recently she has been a model for Man Ray who has been producing the most amazing photographs of her. Tonight her black hair is straight and greased flat and I am told that she changes the colour of her eye shadow to match her dress and changes the contour of her pencilled eyebrows to match her mood. As ornaments she wears a couple of gilt curtain rings in her ears and can usually be found by the bar smoking and sipping an exotic looking drink through two straws. However, on the spur of the moment she would show her breasts or lift her skirt up telling delighted patrons ‘that will cost you a franc or two’ and turn the money over to a needy friend. She is the embodiment of outspokenness, audacity and creativity.

Kiki of Montparnasse

The cabaret is far from conventional and starts with that wonderful American singer Les Copeland, who if you remember we have seen and heard before. This is complimented by Hiler Harzberg himself playing piano and the pretty Floriane, who does this naughty-naughty dance. Finally, Kiki takes the floor wearing a shawl, which slid over her shoulders and sings with a voice that grates and jars, moving from side to side with economical and rounded movements. She sings rather outrageously dirty songs which strangely did not offend but cause enormous merriment and jollity.

For further excitement we visit the Café de la Rotonde, opposite the Dome on the Carrefour Vavin, at the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse and Raspail, it was founded by Victor Libion in 1910. We loiter outside and snatch a table and take some beers. It is seemingly more animated and amusing that the Dome. There is also an even quainter collection of peculiar looking people comprising a more cosmopolitan and motley assembly of students, poets and artists, Bolsheviks and anarchists. Everybody seems livelier probably because the topics of conversation are not so serious.

La Rotunde, Montparnasse, Paris

After a while we decide to move inside. Throughout, the walls of the café are covered in modern art serving as an admirable background for the modern crowd. Raphael tells me “If an impoverished painter couldn’t pay their bill, the proprietor Libion would often accept a drawing, holding it until the artist could pay, which often did not happen. That is why the walls are littered with a collection of artworks, that would make many drool with envy.”

We moved upstairs to a large room, which until 9pm is a modest restaurant, but is now a dance hall with a jazz band. The atmosphere is electric and I am in my element dancing with Cecile, Nina and Regine.

I tell Raphael “this is swell here.”

Raphael offers this observation “on the surface it certainly looks attractive but to us regular habitués of the quarter there is an air of artificiality here which sometimes makes things a little too obvious for our taste!”

As I take Cecile home in a cab she asks “did you enjoy your outing?”

“Oh yes very much” I reply and then add with a smile “but I have to confess it is far too bohemian for me.”

“I think not she replies” with a glint in her eye.