Palais Garnier: 40 Days of Paris, Days 3 and 4
Why 40 Days of Paris? Find out. PS: there’s also a gallery of pics at the end of this post. Just in case you’re ready for pictoral stimulation now.
Fact: I’m an easy crier. Whether I’m sad, happy, stressed, nervous, or in some other extreme situation (or not extreme, for that matter; I’ve even cried at my share of cheesy commercials – don’t judge, people), it’s probably caused a burst of liquid from my eyeballs. Since I moved to Paris, the tears come more freely, I think from—and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this because it sounds super corny—the sheer beauty of things I’ve seen and how lucky I know I am to be seeing them. Standing in front of some of the paintings at the d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Orangerie, sitting on the Seine at sunset, watching the sun come up over the rooftops I can see from outside my window, or rounding a cobble-streeted corner in Montmartre to see yet another beautiful, winding cobblestone street … those things get me every time. I’m that girl.
Yesterday, when I went to the Palais Garnier/Opera House for Day 4 of my 40 Days of Paris, I didn’t expect to be that girl yet again. But when I walked in and saw the ornate ceilings, the incredible staircase, the intricate architecture, I got all verklempt again. Palais Garnier is truly one of the most beautiful places in Paris, and whether you’re a visitor or a local, it should be on your list of must-sees. Every bit of it was stunning, but …
The two most tear-worthy things:
The ceiling around the chandelier in the amphitheatre, painted by Marc Chagall. I only got a few pics, because iPhone 4 just doesn’t do it justice. (Go here for more history and better pics.) The painting consists of 12 canvas panels and pays tribute to 14 different composers. Its muted colors are quite a contrast to the grandness of the rest of the design and architecture, but it works beautifully. (Understatement of the millennium.)
This second one is just a personal thing for me, but I loved standing on the balconies outside, overlooking Avenue de l’Opéra. The Palais Garnier is at the intersection of four streets, all named after composers or liberettists, which basically makes it the heart of Paris. Many might disagree with me there; Avenue de l’Opéra is full of touristy things: money exchanges, visitors bureaus, and oversized tour buses. When I first moved here, I cringed at the sight of it, wishing I’d somehow found a flat in Montmartre or Batignolles or Saint-Germain.
But inevitably, I’d have to walk up and down Avenue de l’Opéra to get my daily errands done, since it is my neighborhood. I’d notice the people just sitting on the steps in front of the Opera house, watching the world go by, and I noticed that they were both tourists and locals. One day, I sat down there myself and found that I really enjoyed watching all those people, from everywhere in the world or from just down the street on their lunch hours. Pretty soon, when I’d come home from wherever I’d been (inevitably on a bike), instead of parking my bike at the station on rue de Richelieu and Avenue de l’Opéra, I’d find myself riding up the incredibly busy Avenue to get a little closer to the Opera House, to feel the business of the street and of Paris. Somewhere in all those rides and walks and errands and people watching, Avenue de l’Opéra became another one of those icons (along with the arches by the Louvre) that make me feel like home. The heart of Paris is in the center of my neighborhood and the center of my heart. Which is probably why I took about 1000 pictures of the view from that balcony yesterday. And it’s also probably why I’m crying as I write this. (See? I told you. My god. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME??)
The days are flying by. Way too fast.
(Oh, and P.S., in case you’re wondering what happened to Day 3: I had a slight fever and a cough that wouldn’t quit. So I watched a mini Breaking Bad marathon. Not exactly Paris, but it was just what I needed.)