Friday, February 4, 2011

After Dinner Dancing en Paquebot France

If one was not predisposed to take in the more subdued and quieter atmosphere in the Salon Riviera, first class passengers made their way after dinner to the First Class Grand Salon (Salon Fontainebleau) for some after dinner dancing or a gala evening.

Designed and decorated by Maxime Old the Salon Fontainebleau had a raised ceiling in the centre, with lower more intimate spaces at the corners to encourage conversation amongst passengers. A similar use of space was used in the Tourist Class Café Rive Gauche. The general colour tone of the room was gray with gold highlights. In what would colloquially described as "Mad Men Style" today, the overall effect is a lot more refined and pure than anything the Mad Men designers have come up with to date.

Capacious and bright the room was flooded with natural light during the day via large windows on each side. The ceiling constructed of suspended aluminium beams, and plates of frosted glass was designed by Disderot and hovered over a grey, green and white marble mosaic dance floor. The walls on which stunning abstract tapestries were hung were fabricated and constructed of vitrified molten glass. This gave the room an almost ceremonial atmosphere.

On the base of grey the room was a visual feast of colour, with tapestries taking pride and place around the exterior walls. As with all other tapestries on the ship these were woven and produced off artist's drawings by Aubusson. A triptych of tapestries by Lucien Coutard entitled "Les Femmes Fleurs" were hung immediately behind the bandstand. A riot of colour these were typical of Coutard's work, portraying floral couples constructed from various components of plants and flowers, such as petals and leaves with human legs and arms.

Additional tapestries by Claude Idoux entitled "Jardin Magique"and "Fee Mirabelle" consisting of variegated vertical white bands and a phantasmagoria of abstract riotous colour within hung on opposite walls.

Two more tapestries by Camille Hilaire entitled "Sous Bois" and "Foret de France" shimmered like stain glass or some pirate's treasure chest.

My esteemed maritime historian whom I mentioned in other posts called the seating "unfortunate" complaining that it was too heavy and lacked style. As said before I a not sure whether he realises it or not that this was the sixties and the SS France was ushering in a new era. The seating designed by Maxime Old consisted of a variety of armchairs in similar rather elongated lines upholstered in either leather or fabric, in the most wonderful yellows and blues. Seating groups were grouped around metal framed coffee tables of which some were tiled. For gala evenings to accommodate all extra folding chairs in blue leather were bought in as extra seating.

Overall a tour de force of wonderful design colour and light. A lasting credit to Monsieur Old!


One cannot help but be aware of events unfolding in Egypt at the moment. Having visited the country several years ago I instantly fell in love with the country and it’s people. A country that is so rich in history, art, and culture that it has influenced various parts of Western Culture for the last 2000 years.

The fact that the Cairo and other cities in the country are under siege greatly concern me especially when the main spots of violence are happening within the bounds of the Egyptian Museum and the Library in Alexandria.

I am greatly inspired by those Egyptians who have put politics aside to try and protect these two great institutions with sometimes nothing more than their bare hands.

I sincerely hope that the Egyptian people gain for themselves a true democracy that benefits all.
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