Moulin Rouge

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Adult family

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I visited the Moulin Rouge in Paris for dinner followed by the 9pm show with my 16 year old daughter (believe it or not the lower age limit is 6!). She had heard of the film and was interested to see the real thing, so while we were in Paris we decided to go.

We booked through a third party (Viator) since their prices seemed to be a little lower than booking directly with the venue, possibly because of the exchange rate at this time. It's worth booking in advance one way or another anyway because even on a weeknight in February it was fully booked.

Although originally in the red light district, the area is now quite refined. We went along early and visited the Sacre Coeur first, got my daughter's portrait drawn on Montmartre then walked down from there. The route was lined with speciality delicatessens and I rather wished I'd allowed enough time to look at those more closely.

The building is an experience in itself: the outside with the iconic red windmill from which it gets its name, the entrance area with pictures from the show and posters designed by Toulouse Lautrec himself, ornamentation and gilt everywhere. Even the ladies' toilets were and experience with each cubicle bearing the stage name of one of the famous performers. By booking for a meal we found that we did not have to queue at all. To be honest seats are pre-allocated anyway so ignore the advice of some websites to get there early, it will make no difference to where you sit.

The main seating area is a bit cramped. They've tried to maximise the number of people they can seat with the result that they have 6 people on tables which would be more comfortable for 4. There are good views from everywhere in the auditorium if you're facing the right way, if not (as was the case for me) you may get a crick in the neck from twisting around to see the show. They seat couples strictly opposite to each other so one person in each group always gets a good view. I'm not sure what they would have done if a guest was in a wheelchair, there were ramps and lifts but the would need to allow more space at the table.

The food was good but perhaps not as spectacular as you'd expect for the price. There's no lower age for drinking in France so we were both given half a bottle of champagne, but water was free so we went easy on the alcohol! If you have an allergy make absolutely sure they know about it before you go. My daughter is allergic to dairy products so we thought we'd played safe by requesting the vegan menu, but instead of the promised sorbet for dessert they brought us dairy-based ice creams. To be fair they did replace these when we explained, but I felt it was an mistake which should not have happened.

As for the show, to be honest I think men would enjoy it more than we did. The singers and dancers were very competent and the costumes spectacular, but I found the fact that most of the girls were topless to be a bit "weird" rather than an enhancement. It would also help if you speak French since there seemed to be a story running through the show which was lost on us.

We did enjoy the international specialist acts who appeared between the main scenes, especially the incredible roller skaters and the hilarious acrobats. And of course, the show ended with the Can Can which was invented there!

On leaving there were no cabs immediately outside we started walking towards Pigalle and picked up a taxi very quickly. I was rather glad we hadn't had to walk too far as the area around Pigalle is very much still a red light district, with "toy stores" which don't sell lego! An experience in itself but perhaps not the best place for 2 girls late at night.

All in all it was a once in a lifetime experience and definitely worth a visit. I wouldn't rule out going again but if I did it would be for my husband's benefit (he was away skiing with my son at the time) and I think I'd brush up on my French first.

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