The bitter winds and freezing cold air aren’t deterring the masses on the magnifique Avenue des Champs-Élysées this evening. Camera bulbs flash as groups – huddling together for warmth – make lasting memories, posing for photos in front of Arc de Triomphe, couples walking hand in hand, the 1.18 miles which make up one of the world’s most iconic streets are typically teeming.
As our car comes to a halt, the mystery of the last few weeks begin to unravel. We’re at 136 Champs-Élysées, Peugeot Avenue as is otherwise known, and the vast showroom has been transformed into a purple-hued paradise of bright lights, lifestyle messaging and perma-tweeting bloggers for the next few hours. A red carpet leads into the venue, and that star treatment continuing throughout the evening – we later revel in course after course of delicate and delectable plates prepared by founder and Chef executive of Parisian restaurant La Bigarrade and holder of 2 Michelin stars, Christophe Pelé.
We’re here having received an intriguingly secretive invite offering an ‘unforgettable eXperYence in Paris’. Inappropriate capitalisation aside, there was something fascinating about this less-is-more approach to an event invitation, and despite our best attempts to extract more information – Googling, social media scrambling, plain old asking – our super sleuth skills turned out to be quite under par. The ‘eXperYence’ was becoming all the more seductive, and having been assured it was all above board (because if they were axe murderers, they would have told us, right?), we could bring a plus one, and that we’d be personally greeted at Charles De Gaulle; that was us sold (we’re cheap), count us in…
And so, fast-forward back to tonight, 136 Champs-Élysées and all its dazzling neon wonder. The French car manufacturers have something they want to share with us, not a new version of the 206 – something I still remember fondly as my second ever car – instead, adorning the showroom is a more refined, stylish modelling of the multipurpose compact Peugeot 208 that received a ruck of rave reviews when it launched last year. In a bid to attract the higher end market, as well as those drivers who appreciate style, the 208 XY is a rather sophisticated little motor; the Purple Night colouring (one of six colours available) accentuates the bodywork, whilst the trims and skirt contrast in a shiny bright chrome.
We listen to Anna Costamagna, Design Stylist for the XY, and learn that Peugeot are keen to explore experience over function; this is a car that can accomodate the busiest of individuals – be that driving in New York, eating in Paris, dancing in Rio (as the satisfyingly garish neon displays around us, coax us to) or something more realistic… nipping out to Sainsbury’s in, say – with the 208 XY, you can be confident that you’ll be arriving with panache.
And, speaking of panache and style, once the formalities are over, we enjoy a last few drinks in the purple palace, before making our way back to the equally stylish Mama Shelter – we’re glad we went with our gut.