Thursday, April 30, 2009

Le Train Bleu - One of My Really Magical Early Experiences

Le Train Bleu Restaurant at Gare de Lyon

Le Train Bleu Restaurant in Paris for me represents one of the most exciting times of living in Europe for the first time as an adolescent.

It's name derives from the Blue Train that, between 1922 and 1938, transported the rich and famous in great style to the French Riviera - traveling between Calais through Paris to La Cote d'Azure. To the new freedoms 'la plage' (the beach) had to offer.

In Paris waiting to catch the train, I climbed stairs to Le Train Bleu restaurent ...

... and entered the still fin de siecle Baroque revival splendor of the restaurant ...

Seated, I watched the platform of the station below and saw the train being prepared for our journey ...

During the meal, I remember tasting the most beautiful looking drink I'd ever seen - an all cloudy and rosy pink standard from the original menu called an 'Eugenie', named after the French Empress and consisting of gin and pineapple and I guess other ingredients my inexperience didn't let me identify.

Today, I looked over the current menu of the restaurant online ...

Seriously yum! And I love the period ring of the names of the last two courses: The Indulgences and The Indiscretions!

After we finished our dinner, I remember the people who took me traveling paying the bill - and I asked to have it as a memento - and amazingly I still do ...

Finally, we were in the train and overnight headed south - to stay with French cousins at Cap d'Antibes ...

My cousin Jean-Louis and his mother Jacqueline

My cousin Jean-Louis and his wife Marie-Claire

Jacqueline at her Riviera home in Cap d'Antibes

The magic of the Riviera experience in the 1920s captured the imagination of so many people.

In 1924, Serge de Diaghilev commissioned a ballet for the Ballet Russe based on this new beach scene. It was called 'Le Train Bleu' ...

Original Ballet Russe Production of 'Le Train Bleu (1924)

... with a stage curtain by Picasso ...

... a libretto by Jean Cocteau, choreography by Bronislava Nijinska (Vaslav Nijinsky's sister), music by Darius Milhaud and costumes by Coco Chanel.

It's an athletic romp - not ballet in any way that's usually thought of. The beginning segment from the Paris Opera Ballet's workshop version is full of hot hot guys in bathing costumes doing cartwheels and other pretty watchable stuff.

Others were also interested in Le Train Bleu experience, such as Agatha Christie ...

As you can see from the menu, the prices are not mind-boggling - so if you're ever in Paris ... see you there!


  1. Hey Nick - which gare/station is the restaurant in?

  2. What a delicious (in every sense of the word) romp through Another World. How marvelous to have that memory from your younger years! I envy you a cousin like Jean-Louis...purely on the basis of the photo, mind you

    Looking at the photos of the ceiling, I remembered something one of the rather elderly librarians at my university once told me as we shelved very heavy art books one afternoon. "I have always longed for my bedroom ceiling to be adorned with a fresco of myself being received bodily into heaven." -- And why not?

  3. Wow wow wow wow!!! I want to go there right now.

    Looking at your cousin I'm guessing what might have begun your attraction to men.

    Alan down in Florida

  4. hey paul

    le train bleu is a feast for the eyes when you walk in - i didn't take any photos at the time and used those from the their website - my only souvenir is the bill - and a precious one at that

    sadly jean-louis died quite young of cancer - mid 30's - might do a post on him cos i have some lovely photos of him and his first wife, marie-claire, a photographer.

    i'm still in touch with his second wife Chantel, who is so completely open and unpretentious

  5. hey alan,

    so do i - i have such intensely fond memories of that particular holiday across europe

    curiously (or not so curiously) jean-louis looks quite like my father - and while he is obviously attractive it's in a weird way for me

    chat soon



  6. I'm sorry but as a french guy, i have to tell you that the "côte d'azur" is feminile, then it must be "la côte d'azur".
    Plus, as a young hairy blond guy (with grey-green-blue minged eyes)(i'm 33), i want to -- thank -- you for all your work which is such a real support for all of us and me in particular, every single word has been spelled with all my strengh and devotion.

    Absolutely devoted to you

  7. hey yannick

    thanks for the correction - like to improve as much as i can - really, i appreciate your comment! (i'm off to makes the appropriate changes!)

    and glad you like the blog - hope you keep in touch!


  8. hey paul in NY

    just had the thought that a full mirror ceiling will also show being bodily taken to heaven!

  9. hey guys

    just put another photo of jean-louis and his wife into the post

    more like i remember him - really!

  10. I keep in touch, as it is feminile it should end by azur no e ...
    Thank you

  11. hey yannick

    thanks again for taking the time to correct my lousy French! but it'll hopefully improve with more suggestions and corrections

    be in touch


  12. HA! You're right, a mirrored bedroom ceiling could, indeed, so one being taken bodily to heaven. BUT this particular librarian would NEVER (shudder) have something like that in his place. The most "loose" I ever saw him was late one afternoon when I dropped by his place and he admitted to being slightly drunk on Cream Sherry because I was the 6th person to drop in and he'd had a very small sherry with each visitor so they would not be forced to drink alone.

    And I look forward to a post on Jean-Louis! Thanks for the additional photo.

  13. hey paul in NY

    i have sometimes found that such librarians are the worst! in the SECRET room and along with the mirrored ceiling AND walls, there's all the spanking and other gear - just a thought - LOL!

    and i'll do the j-L post soon!

  14. love your historical photos of friends.....more are always welcome.

    Also, I'll be taking the taxi directly to the Blue Train restaurant. My reservation is already

    [My neice lives in Paris with her 2 kids and French husband.]

    Douglas...........los angeles

  15. hey douglas

    with a niece in Paris, you are well-placed to take up that reservation at Le Train Bleu

    glad you like historical posts of friends cos i really enjoy putting them together - more to come then!

    so, i mentioned in the post, i'll see you there!

  16. That is a wonderful post, reminds me of travelling to the south of France, from Brusells to Antibe in the only single sleeping compartment, the service was great and wonderful to wake up in the sunshine. By the way did you know that the Empress Eugenie and her son, who died in Africa fighting with the Britsh, are buried in the Roman Catholic Abbey at Farnborough, Hampshire. Must pay a visit to the Gare de Lyon. Thanks.

  17. hey juicer

    sounds as though you been having pretty great travel experiences too

    yes, i knew bout the empress eugenie - she lived in england for many years in a a kind of court in exile situation after 1871 - by all reports she was not a very fun person - and moved to Farnborough on the death of her son in 1885

    le train bleu is a treat not to be missed - you'll enjoy it - so see you there!

    take care


  18. hey nick! wow, you cannot imagine how much i missed your blog! i have not been online since 3 months, as i was doing an internship at castle tyrol museum in southern tyrol. now i'm back in vienna, and i have just spent the last couple of hours in trying to keep up with what you posted those last months. nick, you are an artist! and your blog is always a delight! :-)

  19. hey my friend in vienna

    that's very sweet of you, very!

    appreciation like yours inspires me on - really!

    was the internship you were doing at the tyrolean castle art restoration oriented? and is it good to be back in vienna?

    great to hear from you