On the day President Bush pronounced those strikingly "virtual-sounding" words: "The game is over" the Prince of Wales was on an official visit to this city. Staking his territory as "The King of Eurostars," he hosted a luncheon held at the British Embasador's residence to celebrate UK beef's return to grace, on this side of the Channel. At 50-something... Prince Charles turned on that "schoolboy charm" which French fans of Hollywood icon Hugh Grant see as "typiquement anglais." The conclusion to his Royal Highness's speech? English meat and Gallic vintages "enhance" each other perfectly.
"Slow coaches," those rosbifs? No longer. As of September 28, Eurostar trains emerging from the Channel Tunnel's "mouth" at Folkestone will be empowered to run at their full speed of 300km/h. Following the completion of the first stretch of the Chunnel's brand-new rail link, Paris will be just 2hr 35minutes from "Waterloo International." Come what may, this 20-minute cut in journey time constitutes an "extended metaphor" for "building bridges." Among its engineering highlights: a 1.2km bridge over the River Medway, a 1.4km viaduct in Ashford, 41 underbridges (beneath the line), 53 overbridges and 23 footbridges.
Wannabe a "Eurostar"? Two design champs have managed to become "household names": Habitat founder, Sir Terence Conran, an ardent francophile whose lifestyle empire includes several Parisian hotspots (the Wagg club and Alcazar on rue Mazarine, and the brand-new Senso restaurant in the 8th arrondissement) and naturellement Philippe Starck. Commissioned to re-style Eurostar's trains and terminals, the latter has received yet another accolade. From February 26 to May 12, the Pompidou Center will be his "castle." In lieu of a run-of-the-mill retrospective showcasing his objects in chronological order, Starck has personally orchestrated a surrealist scenography "à la David Lynch." Music by Laurie Anderson and actors surreptitiously weaving their way through the crowd will contribute to its spectacular atmosphere. Housed in an 800 square meter beige velvet ellipse, this "Magical Mystery Tour" features 11 bronze plinths each virtually "supporting" a Philippe Starck "talking head" talking about "what Starck is about." The mouthpieces of his hyper-creative unconscious? (Infoline: 01 44 78 12 33/Web visit: www.centrepompidou.fr/expositions/starck/)
Toni & Guy
Where to get that zany "Cool Britannia" haircut? Chez Toni & Guy. Brothers, these entrepreneurial Brits have gone global. Their first snip into the French market? A couple of salons. One in Aix-en-Provence. Another, here, on rue St-Honoré, notorious for its Saturday DJ sessions... This month, they're launching an underground space on the Left Bank, whose zen ambience targets a slicker clientele (264 bd St-Germain, 7e). Hot on its heels comes a 350 square meter "Academy" on rue Tiquetonne, that's hyped as hip and high tech with game consoles and plasma screens relaying Fashion TV's catwalk reports.
Some "Eurostars " are better known in their country of adoption than where they were born. The epitome of "Swinging London" during the '60s, singer/actress Jane Birkin made a mini-skirted appearance in cult movie "Blow Up" and married "James Bond" theme composer John Barry. Then, took "French leave"... In Paris, on a filmset, she met Serge Gainsbourg with whom she recorded "Je t'aime moi non plus," a famously steamy cross-Channel hit he'd originally penned for Brigitte Bardot. And, the rest of their helter-skelter family saga is history... Jane B. became Gainsbourg's muse, her "signature" British accent adding a zest of quirky humanity to his urbanely poetic, often painful or ironic, lyrics. Currently on tour billed as "France's favorite English chanteuse," Birkin is at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées for five nights (Feb 25-28 & Mar 1). Via violinist Djamel Benyelles's baroquely ethnic arrangements, during this show titled "Arabesque," like her latest CD released last October she revisits her longtime companion's repertoire giving it an oriental twist, "totally in keeping with Serge's humor and sense of tragedy. And, his gypsy, suitcase and fiddle... edge."
French actor/broadcaster Antoine de Caunes is as familiar to "Anglo" television audiences as Jane Birkin is to les "frogs." His claim to "Eurostardom"? A program dubbed "Rapido," for the purposes of which he spoke like Maurice Chevalier in fast-forward mode, followed by "Eurostrash," an ongoing production co-presented with Jean-Paul Gaultier. Even more wacky! Not unlike Jane Birkin, who has three daughters Kate (a photographer/rehab counselor, by John Barry), Charlotte (an actress, by Serge Gainsbourg) and Lou Doillon (also an actress, by French film director Jacques Doillon) de Caunes has founded a dynasty of "Eurostars." His daughter, Emma herself the proud mother of a "Eurobaby," fathered by French Touch recording artist Sinclair is currently at the Théâtre Marigny just off the Champs-Elysées in the leading role of"La Nuit du Thermomètre," a play by branché author Diastème, which is to be made into a motion picture co-starring Guillaume (never-looked-back-since "The Beach") Canet... To be shot in English as well as French. Bien sûr! (Box office: 01 53 96 70 20)