Opéra national de Paris & Montemarte
Here is the magnificent Opéra national de Paris (Palais Garnier), designed by Charles Garnier. It was the setting for Phantom of the Opera, which has added significantly to its tourism value.
We went on a paid tour (around 90 min.) and it was well worth it — for the history of the Opéra as well as Pairs. Here are a few interesting things:
- It was built by Napoleon III after someone tried to assassinate him in front of the old, temporary opera house. He decided that the best way to avoid being killed on the way to the theater in the future was to build a brand new one, complete with his own private, more secure entrance.
- The Opéra, with its resplendent glamor and opulence, was the place to see and be seen by the wealthy of Paris. When it opened 1874, there were more gaslights inside the Opera than in the whole city of Pairs.
- Opera and ballet came to France via Italy (teatro and balletto), who stole the ideas from the Greek.
- The French developed ballet as it’s known today, based on geometry: hands held in circles representing the continuity of life, feet positioned in triangles representing stability.
- Italian teatro were stories from Greek mythology set to music. The Opéra is full of statues of Apollo with his lyre, and other gods and goddesses related to music.
- Napoleon III never actually walked through his private entrance to see a performance because he died in England before it was finished.
Isabella practiced some of what she’d learned on the tour in front of the mirrors in the foyer.
From the Opéra, it was on to Montemarte, the artsy district of Paris where the famous Impressionist painters and other artists hung out.
We almost made it to the house where Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo for two years, but we got distracted by the cafe where Amélie was filmed (looks nothing like it did in the movie). We were hungry so we stopped there for a puff pastry with vegetables and an accidentally ordered (but delicious) salmon tartare.
Montemarte was a great place to wander, with lots of thrift stores and used clothing shops. We stopped at Lila Paris on rue des Martyrs, a shop of jewelry and hair accessories created exclusively by the owner, Lila.
Isabella’s one souvenir came from Lila, this beautiful headband.
When I asked Lila how she has time to make everything, she said she simply doesn’t have a life — when her family gets together on weekends, she is working. After being so accustomed to shops full of Chinese imports in the US, it was great to pay an artist directly for her work.
The next day we were off to Bons en Chablais, France (near the Swiss border) for some fun with old friends. See you there!