I've always loved the circus arts: juggling, high wire, clowning; I also love the animals, especially big cats, these days un-PC. So when Le Duc noticed that the Cirque d'Hiver or "Winter Circus" was running, we jumped at the chance to see both the spectacle and the 1852 indoor ampitheatre.
The building is a jewel box of vibrant marbles, ruby velvet, 150 year-old murals, gilt and glamour- a full bar at a circus, with upholstered banquettes, chandeliers, champagne. Now that's family fun.
Sightlines are unobstructed by a central pole, since the dome is small and supported by a 20-sided polygon building. We sat mere yards from the ring, bouncing nets over us. The acts ranged from dignified animal numbers (thank god, no tigers in silly hats) to breathtaking trapeze, all accompanied by a zestful eight piece orchestra, punctuated by the aahhs! of rapt families.
I happened to pack this Hermes "La Magie" scarf, with its art deco circus theme, so of course wore it, receiving compliments and smiles from the staff.
About two-thirds of the kids were dressed in standard jeans and tees; one third in French finery: velvet dresses, skirts and matching sweaters, tiny preppy quilted jackets. Two sisters in pink tulle ballet skirts, and a teenaged girl in a tiger-ear headband.
After the show, we skipped next door to Le Clown Bar, one of our all time favourite wine bars- just 12 tiny tables and a zinc.
Packed with clown memorabilia (and a few live specimens), it's a tiny, unpretentious treasure, alive with colour and stunning tile work.
Thank god for the hearty and skillful cooking (boudin noir for Le Duc, galettes de morue for me, and a steak tartare for Jules) that provided ballast against rafts of VDP de la Vallee du Paradis Langedoc, a wine so seductive that the three family members present indulged in various animal behaviours of our own.