This week I went to Paris. It rained, but that didn't matter. I love Paris.
I went as a guest of Cointreau UK - you may remember I wrote about an amazing event at the Cointreau Privé pop-up lounge in London last year, where I met Dita von Teese (and freaked out about it). Now the lounge has moved to Paris and I was invited to experience Cointreau Privé Parisian style, along with Alicja from We Heart, Sharn from LDNFashion and Jess from Catwalk Queen.
We stayed at the Elysées Regencia Hotel which was beautiful and very French. The buildings in France never fail to amaze me - I love the ornate stone carvings and wrought iron railings. And yes, I did take the L'occitane products with me! Don't judge!
After a wander round rainy Paris and bit of beautifying, we headed off to the Cointreau Privé lounge for a cocktail making masterclass. Our bartender (wish I could remember his name - blame the cocktails) was brilliant and made sure we always had a drink in our hands. We made a range of amazing and sometimes surprising cocktails, like a Margarita with Cointreau, a CointreauPolitan and my absolute favourite, the Mademoiselle Sophie - I am obsessed with cucumber-based drinks (try it in water! OMG!) and I love gin and tonics so this mix of Cointreau, fresh basil, cucumber, lemon juice and tonic water was right up my street. I did actually sneak off with a large slice of cucumber to eat, too. Yum.
After our class we settled in one of the cosy nooks in the main part of the lounge for tapas, more drinks and a chat. I was a bit nervous about this part of the evening as we were scheduled to interview Alexis Mabille, French fashion designer and creative director of Cointreau Privé Paris. I am rubbish at interviews, so while the other girls pulled out notebooks and dictaphones I sipped my drink for courage and prepared my one and only question, which I blurted out as soon as Alexis sat down - 'what's your favourite cocktail?'. So original, Jen! Luckily it worked out well as Alexis ordered us all a delicious strawberry, Cointreau and champagne cocktail, which of course was my plan all along...
We chatted to Alexis about the style for Cointreau Privé Paris and his inspiration. The overall design of the lounge is a reinterpretation of 1920s style but Alexis talked about junk shops and reclaimed furniture - the mix of fabrics and patterns, mismatched lampshades and beaded chandeliers created a kind of faded glamour that was so comfortable and homely. I loved it and could've stayed there all night.
Alexis also told us the meaning behind the tiny bow ties that sit atop the glasses - in France, the bow tie is considered quite dated and traditional, worn by teachers and professionals but not used much in fashion. Alexis wanted to change that and so started using the bow tie in his designs. It soon became his signature and is used throughout the Cointreau Privé lounge.
We left Cointreau for dinner - which was out of this world - and then returned just in time for a private show from the entertainment - an amazing 6ft drag act in a blonde wig and a thong, who sang songs from Mary Poppins to demonstrate his British accent. Loved. Him.
To finish off an amazing evening, Alexis invited us to join his party of family and friends where we had a little dance, drank more cocktails and slopped red wine down our white tops (well, that was just me). I realised I'd probably had a bit too much when I got into bed at 1am to read Game of Thrones and couldn't see the words.
It was a truly brilliant trip, and not just because of the free food and booze (although that's always a plus) - I really enjoyed chatting to Alexis about his interior inspiration and love of junk shops, and I learnt plenty of new cocktail recipes that I can't wait to try. Even just driving through Paris was amazing, as our guide from Cointreau France pointed out historic buildings and told us the meanings behind street names. I had a blast and now wish I was a proper Parisian. Merci, Cointreau!