Friday, January 28, 2011

Le Cafe Rive Gauche en Paquebot France

Continuing on our tour of the public spaces we are moving down to Tourist Class to the Tourist Class Smoking Room (Café Rive Gauche). Candidly Tourist Class on French Line Liners was referred to as the Rive Gauche or left bank. However travelling Tourist class did not mean that you were going to forsake any of the pleasures that were obtained by not travelling First. The fact that over 28 different designers were used for the interior spaces of the liner, it is debatable that one class (especially where the public salons are concerned) was more luxurious than the other.

A word of note here originally First and Tourist class public rooms were known as just that, First Class Salon, Tourist Class Salon etc. However after a cruise where the ship was converted to one class cruising the French Line were rather embarrassed when a lady passenger asked directions to the Dining Salon. The ever obliging and socially correct steward answered said passenger with the question “First or Tourist?” Said passenger was mortified as she was under the impression that the ship was a one class ship (all First). With true French diplomacy the French line changed all the names of the public spaces to the names mentioned from hereon to avoid any further confusion.

Remember my disappointment with a very well known maritime historian and his book on this wonderful ship? He practically did not even mention this wonderful room! He did enclose a photograph, however without a description, commenting that the interior looked like a movie set.

From a decorative point of view this was perhaps one of the most adventurous rooms on the liner. Taking on a rather hard utilitarian and mechanical feel to due to the nature of the furnishings it came to life with a wonderful colour pallet.

Designed overall by Micheline Wellemetz the decor consisted of aluminium sheets embossed with warm lacquering set around a dance floor. This was in total contrast to the First Class equivalent, Salon Riviera.

The room was quite large, just over 500 metres square, however was broken up into smaller areas by screens and furniture to encourage passengers to socialize in more intimate settings.

Whereas the Salon Riviera was done in cool shades of grey and muted other colours with highlights of black, the Café Rive Gauche had a much warmer pallet of browns and ochres, offset with furniture upholstered in total contrast with blues and greens.

As in the Salon Riviera and other public spaces on the France a huge tapestry by Jean-Denis Malcles entittled "les Arlequins, Peinture" dominated the room, this time being behind the bandstand and the dance floor. I am glad that the France was full of such tapestries as not only did they give the rooms a textural quality they were also meant to showcase one of the great handicrafts of France.

Once our passengers who were reduced so in circumstances to have travel in Tourist Class did the room come to life!

Don your dinner jackets gentlemen and ladies your evening dresses and jewelery as next stop on our tour will be the First Class Dining Salon, la Salle a Manger , Chambord!


  1. I'm intrigued by the embossed aluminum and the modern tapestries. I wonder what happened to them? Could they have reincarnated in some grand apartment?

  2. Those chair are to die for. I'd love to have a set.

    Best- The Townhouselady

    P.S. Thanks so much for the lovely comment today.

  3. Looks like a great place!! Just to chill out and yeah the chairs are to die for!!


  4. David, what a wonderful post. The design of the Rive Gauche is Mid-Century fabulous.
    Years ago when I was just a wee thing, my parents took me on a cruise on the SS Cambodge from Bangkok to Singapore. Those were the days of First, Tourist and Steerage. I still remember how the snotty french waiters treated my mother when she wanted black coffee instead of cafe au lait for breakfast.

  5. ===============================================

    This beautiful pics make dream everyone !
    have a super-super new week super David !

  6. Belle, I am glad that you are able to remember such stories. What a trip for a wee young thing!

    Mark, I wish I knew! There awas an auction a couple of years ago odf some items, but no tapestries or furniture. No doubt in private collections or gathering dust somewhere.

    THL and Andy, when I first saw these chairs, my jaw just dropped! I love them and to think that there must have been at least 200 of the things, I have never seen one except for photographs in their original setting.

    Jean-Pierre, merci!


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