I took the Eurostar from St Pancras last week. The train shed looks glorious in its livery of light blue. The logic and elegance of the station two words usually associated with France far exceed those of the Gare du Nord. A rush of acceleration, and we had swept past the Dartford Crossing. But there are still some ways in which Paris can hold its own. France invented intellectuals and luxury; both are being poured into the Royal Monceau Hotel, shaken together and made into a cocktail that its owner, Alexandre Allard, calls ‘extreme luxury’.
Guests youngish billionaires from around the world will interact with contemporary artists, in a setting designed by Philippe Starck. The existing hotel was filled with art installations (an outboard motor running in a bucket, for example) and the jeunesse d’orée of Paris invited to come and join in smashing walls.
The singer of Musique Post-Bourgeois read poetry into a mega-phone. We tramped over broken mirror glass, Champagne in hand. When the lights went out, women in designer frocks found their way by the glow of their mobile phones. People smoked; the stairs looked as if they were about to give out under the crush. Health and safety? Jamais. Vive la différence.