04 June 2005

As the mill turns

The tour buses arrive at 10:30 every night. Hundreds of excited tourists hop off and form a line that often stretches from rue Lepic to ave Rachel. They’re well dressed, by tourist’s standards, and chat beneath the revolving red blades of the Moulin Rouge waiting to get inside.

Buses jam the roundabout at Place Blanche. Those not going to the Moulin Rouge climb up into the narrow streets of Montmartre, where buses could never fit. Even down below, the rectangular coaches are a poor match for the circular roundabout. Motorists often get stuck waiting for an entire bus full of tourists to enter or exit the bus. This is when the horn-honking begins.

As one of the moulin's neighbors, I am privy to this ritual every night. It's such an impressive pilgrimage that it has yet to bother me. Just as quickly as the long line builds -- and the honking horns, laughter, and shouting reach a peak -- the audience files into the building and disappears. The circle remains busy, serving as a meeting point for locals and tour groups and a photo opportunity for others.

The Moulin Rouge looks small from the street. It helps to remind yourself that this is the birthplace of that scandalous dance called the "can-can", set in a neighborhood full of glamour cabarets (and less traditional revues.) Tickets range between $100 and $200 and there are three shows each night. The 11 p.m. show seems to be the most popular.

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