Paris: Meshes in the After Hours at the Palais-Royal
By Theadora Brack
In high anticipation of the return of springtime and the critically acclaimed “Mad Men” television series, I’ve suddenly got a strong hankering for Champagne cocktails, heady scents, and beaded party gowns, along with some old-fashioned, toe-tapping, finger-snapping haughty-naughty tunes. For the love of all that is sweet, lowdown, and swanky, what would Don Draper do?
You’ve got that thing
Celebrating Mad Men’s approaching sixth, coming in April, let’s hobnob it over to the rendezvous-worthy bar Le Defender at the historic Hôtel du Louvre, and listen to some retro-lounge sounds, featuring Siegfried “Ziggy” Mandacé and his three fabulous quartets. Get ready to step out and I don’t mean maybe, guys and dolls. His beat can’t be beat.
Let’s do it
Located near the Jardin du Palais-Royale and shops, the joint flaunts a real surreal David Lynch vibe. Setting the scene: From floor to ceiling, the bar is decked out in warm tones of mahogany, gold, black marble, and red velvet with a Napoleonic twist. Don Draper would have felt very much at home here on the love seat.
Tip: It’s also a sublime people-watching hotshot spot. Performers from the nearby Comédie Française often pop by for drinks.
Give me one for my baby
Here’s the deal: The shows are free with a purchase of a beverage, and they’re wickedly expensive. But holy moly, when are you going to get another chance to kick back with a classic tiny-bubbled cocktail in hand, while listening to the tipsy-curvy jazz in the City of Light? Sometimes you just got splurge a little, is what my grandmother Helen J. Wentz would say.
So nurse your drink and make it last like there’s no tomorrow. And Don, yes, the coveted top shelf Armagnac from 1963 by Château Laubade is stocked. And the Champagne cocktail? Why, it’s “Ziggilicious,” the charismatic bandleader said with a wink.
Ziggy on fire
Possessing the spirit and style of stars and starlets from days gone by, the band’s chemistry is flawless, infectious and timeless. From the roaring 1920s to groovy 1960s, Ziggy’s playlist includes everything from Django Reinhardt, Georges Brassens, and Serge Gainsbourg, to Irving Berlin, Miles Davis, and Joao Gilberto.
You’ll find Ziggy and one of his quartets here at the bar Le Defender on Thursday and Friday nights at 9 PM. Drop my name, and if time permits, he’ll take your requests, avec plaisir! Want catbird seating? Arrive twenty to thirty minutes before the show, suggests Ziggy.
What to wear?
Suggested attire is “dressy,” so I’d recommend taking the fine vintage route. For a full-bodied time-travel experience, drop by the nearby Didier Ludot at 24 Galerie Montpensier-Jardin du Palais Royal. It’s a great place to window-shop for high ticket vintage garb. All big wig names are represented here.
And the band played on
Yearning for a little “La Vie en Rose” to take home with you? Before the show, trek it to Boîtes à Musique Anna Joliet. Located at the northern end of the Jardin du Palais Royal, Anna and her collection of hand-cranked music boxes have held court here for three decades. Prices start at only €8.
Looking for a specific tune? Just ask. Here you’ll find Debussy, Chopin, and Charles Trénet, along with Mozart, Beethoven and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yes, my fellow felines, “Memory” is always in stock.
Tip: In the mood for more tiny bubbles? Don’t miss the nearby Palais-Royal Métro bejeweled entrance. It has never failed to lift this gal’s spirits to soaring heights.
The buoyant Kiosque des Noctambules (The Kiosk of the Night Owls) was built in 2000 by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel in celebration of the Métro’s centennial. Created also as a nod to Hector Guimard’s curvaceous Art Nouveau entrances, its glass-beaded cupolas symbolize the dreamy meshes of day, night and afternoon. Where is the love? Trust me, it’s here.
In the words of Draper , “Live like there’s no tomorrow, just in case there isn’t one.” Mais oui!
Looking for some fine vintage duds to wear to your next shindig? Ask Virginia! Trust me. She knows. For the love of Joan, Don and Roger, be prepared to swoon. Golly, it’s perfection.