One of the cool things about living in Paris (rather than visiting) is that you can take the time to explore hidden gems and smaller sites you wouldn’t otherwise have time for on a Greatest Hits tour in a week-long or weekend trip.
I’m lucky in that my office is centrally located in the heart of Paris, surrounded by some of the swankiest areas. I can see La Madeleine from our windows. Since we moved to this location back in October, our gregarious Office & Happiness Manager (official title, and it suits her!) has organized a couple of quick lunchtime trips to cool things to see nearby.
Unfortunately I missed out on the first one (to the Chapelle Expiatoire – where Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were originally buried and now a museum about the darker sides of Paris’ history through the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. It’s now closed until May). I refused to miss out on another one, this time to the Opéra Garnier.
The Palais Garnier
Just up the street is the magnificent Opéra Garnier. I’ve been wanting to get inside for ages, but had not yet found the time. Theaters are always spectacular anyway, but this one is high on my list for musical theater nerd reasons: Phantom of the Opera (dun dun dundundunnnnnnn)
It. is. breathtaking.
I am so glad I went. I uttered little “Wows” repeatedly as I turned corners and caught first glimpses of each part of this building. You enter through the back, and go through this big rotunda before you even enter the impressive part. Once you actually enter the ticketed area, you climb grand staircases loaded with marble and lined with gigantic mirrors up to the incredible painted ceiling. Everything is gilt. Everything shines.
We wandered around and at one point, after being stunned by this impressive black and gold little room, I turned a corner and audibly gasped.
I have never seen so much gold in one room in my life.
Quite honestly, the Opéra Garnier is more impressive and more beautiful to me than Versailles. As a friend of mine put it, it’s the same amount of gold but in a much smaller footprint.
Beyond the gold, you get to peek into the actual theater as well, where they were in the middle of constructing scenery for their current ballet. Along the walls, the seats are all in boxes with velvet-lined walls and even a dressing area at the front of each to prepare before taking your seat. The ceiling, featuring the infamous (well-secured) chandelier, was painted by Chagall in the 60s and is shockingly different from the rest of the Belle Epoque theater. There is also an entire library of hundreds of books of music, and vignettes of the stage sets of a couple of the theater’s more prestigious performances.
If I didn’t already want to see a performance here, I certainly do now. Bring on the champagne and opera glasses.