Farewell, Paris

Au revoir, dear Paris.  We had a wonderful time in this beautiful city, but tomorrow morning we leave for home.  Sad to leave and looking forward to getting home-the best way to feel at the end of a trip.  I love the beauty and history here, but I have noticed a few changes since we were here three years ago.

It doesn’t seem as crowded.  I had read that tourism was down, and we certainly noticed fewer people on the streets.  There was a stronger police presence and increased security checks at public sites.  We got used to seeing young soldiers walking around with automatic rifles.  Although friendly before, staff at restaurants and shops seemed to make a stronger effort to be welcoming.

I got a Parisian cold, so our last day was a bit low key.  We walked around our arrondissement and enjoyed a final view of some lovely sites.

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Beautiful apartments

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Iconic outdoor cafes where the French will bundle up and sit outside even in cold weather.

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Our street, Rue Cler

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We sat outside and enjoyed a final cafe at our neighborhood bistro.

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We enjoyed our final Paris dinner at 7 eme VIN, 68 Avenue Bosquet.  Recommended by a friend, it serves classic French cuisine. I finally tried escargots (snails).  Our waiter showed me how to get them out of their shells.  It was harder than it looked, but I got them out and they were delicious.

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Here are some things I learned on this trip that may help my friends planning a trip to Paris.

Packing

I do a pretty good job of packing light, but bringing the right shoes – comfortable, stylish and multi-use – has always been a challenge.  Tennis shoes used to be a tourist dead-giveaway.  Now, it seems like at least half the people on the streets of Paris are wearing tennis shoes.  Even white shoes which used to be the biggest tourist no-no of all are on the feet of some of the stylish Parisians-as long as they are classic Adidas Stan Smith white leather.  Black leather is always a good choice and white soles are now quite stylish.

Paris seems a little more casual than it was when I was here three years ago.  I still see beautifully dressed women and men everywhere, but it feels a little more OK to be a bit less dressed up.

Bread

Eating great bread is one of the special treats of Paris.  Look for an artisanale boulangerie and order une baguette tradition which means that the bread was made on site in an established way with established ingredients. It really is the best bread.

Language

Don’t be afraid to use your French, no matter how limited.  Often people smiled when I spoke French with them, and I always wondered how badly I had screwed up what I wanted to say.  But I feel like they appreciated my efforts, and it made the trip more fun to speak the language.  Paul expanded his French interactions from one word, merci, when we first arrived to at least ten French words he would comfortable attempt.  At first I felt badly when I would speak French and a French person would respond in English.  But a woman who has lived here for three years told me that is quite common when they hear an American accent.  And, truthfully, it often made things easier.

It’s been a wonderful seventeen days in the “City of Light”, and I know we will return soon.

The Largest Flea Market in the World

We took the No. 4 metro to the end of the line, Porte de Clignancourt, to visit the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen Market, the largest flea market in the world.

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1,700 dealers spread over 750,000 square feet, this market is huge!  We got off the metro and followed the crowds.  I expected an antiques market, and it certainly had beautiful antiques.

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It was so much more than an antiques market. When we first got to the market, we passed stalls of clothes, shoes, purses, and a lot of miscellaneous flea market stuff.

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Then we got to the antiques section and saw stalls selling beautiful furniture, chandeliers, Louis Vuitton trunks and vintage designer clothes and jewelry.

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A number of stalls sold antique books and papers.

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Some of the items were definitely one-of-a-kind.

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We even saw a stall selling shells.

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We covered a lot of ground, but I am really not sure if we saw it all.  Then it was back to our neighborhood to pick up something for dinner and settle in for the night to watch the Ryder Cup.

Saxe-Breteul Market and Nuit Blanche

We started our day with a trip to the beautiful Saxe-Breteul market.  Of the many markets in Paris, this one is known as the most beautiful and one of the best.  Known for its organic and high quality foods, the market street has a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower.

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There are a number of excellent fishmongers from Normandy and Brittany who come to this market, but one of them must be known as the best-the line for that stall was at least three times longer than at any other stall.

There were stalls of beautiful flowers

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And produce

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And breads

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And olives

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and wine.

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I had read about a farmer at this market who specializes in apples and had an interesting conversation with her about which apples to buy.  When we got to some of the finer points of apple preferences, I struggled with my French.  She asked me if I wanted her to speak in English. We continued our conversation in English and she picked out the perfect apples for us – nouveau verger.

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Nuit Blanche

We were so lucky to be in Paris for Nuit Blanche, a free, contemporary out-door art festival all over the city on the first Saturday in October.  It starts at seven in the evening and lasts to the early morning hours.  The metro stays open and offers free rides from 2:30-5:30 AM. I had read a little about it and a friend who used to live in Paris emailed me some information.  Many of the art activities were along the Seine, and a painted pink line guided everyone along the route .  The first installation we saw was a clock swinging from a crane along with an amplified ticking sound.

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There were a number of large film screens set up.  One showed a documentary about painting and installing a large set backdrop for the Paris Opera.  At the end of the film about twenty men carried the completed set in a long roll on their shoulders from the workshop through the city to the Paris Opera and installed it.

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At the end of another film from the Paris Opera on a different screen, twenty men left the audience and picked up a long roll like the backdrop in the earlier film and walked off with it on their shoulders.

After enjoying the art work along the Seine, we took the metro to the Hotel De Ville, the beautiful building housing the Paris city government, and saw an art installation of changing figures and faces on the windows of the building.

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Nuit Blanche was such a fun event – I never knew what to expect or where it would be. Nuit Blanche means “white night” which is a sleepless night.  It wasn’t for us- we came back to our neighborhood long before the night was over.  The little Vietnamese restaurant on our street was closing but opened their doors for us.  We had an interesting conversation with the owners about how they felt about living in France. And to top of this great day, we went to a little dessert shop around the corner from us and I discovered a wonderful new way to eat crepes – with ice cream.

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Canal Saint-Martin Walk

This morning we took the metro to the Republic metro stop and followed a “Paris City Walk”  route along the Saint-Martin Canal.  Someone at our cooking class had recommended the Canal Saint-Martin boat cruise, but many of the comments I read about this excursion said it was long and slow.  So, we decided to explore the area on foot.

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The 4.5 km canal was originally built in 1802 to supply fresh water to the city.  It was interesting to observe the lock system in action.

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Although there were some lovely arched bridges over the canal, we did not find the area as charming as the descriptions we read said it would be.  Part of the walk took us through a little tent encampment for homeless people.  Although the area seemed a bit dreary, it was interesting to see a different side of Paris.

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From there we went for lunch at a charming little bistro and sat at a corner table looking out onto the sidewalk.  We did a little shopping at the beautiful Galeries Lafayette department store.

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We ate dinner at Le Florimonde, 19 ave de La-Motte Picquet.  We walked through a soft rain to get to the warm and welcoming small restaurant. Although not everything we ate on the 38-euro three-course meal was rave worthy, the risotto was amazing and I would return to eat it again.

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Pompidou

When we went to the Centre Pompidou the last time we were in Paris, most of it was closed to visitors, so we were excited to return today. The museum is the largest museum for modern art in Europe.  Although there was a line to get in, it moved quickly and we only had to wait about thirty minutes.

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Named after Georges Pompidou, President of France from 1969 to 1974, the building was completed in 1977. Unique with its exposed skeleton of brightly colored tubes for mechanical systems and a clear tube for the escalator, it offers beautiful views of the Paris skyline.

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The Pomidou has a great free app that provides wonderful commentary about both the permanent and temporary exhibits.  Many of the Paris museums offer free apps, so I check the museum web site before we go.  The apps can be downloaded at home or in the museum using the museum wifi.  I try to remember to bring ear buds with me.  We were very lucky to see the new exhibit of the works of 20th century surrealist Belgian painter Rene Magritte.

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It was a large and thought-provoking exhibit.  The excellent museum app provided commentary by the artist and the curator of the exhibition.

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The Beat Generation exhibition, a very large retrospective of more than 500 works, was in its final week.  This multi-media exhibit focused on the literary and artistic movement born in the late 1940s after the end of WWII that ushered in the hippie culture as well as the civil rights movement during the 60s.

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A very long, narrow box displayed all the pages of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road laid out end-to-end.

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A large board displayed newspaper headlines and magazine covers from the 50s and 60s.  It was interesting to be reminded of the major events of those years.

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There was an interesting film of a very young Bob Dylan singing Subterranean Homesick Blues while showing cue cards with the lyrics in 1965.  Perhaps it is the first music video.

The Singing Posters is a display of Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl using phonetic spelling to look like it would sound if he were reading it aloud.

Foundation Louis Vuitton and a Hidden Passages Walk

Today we visited the beautiful Foundation Louis Vuitton art museum dedicated to contemporary art.  Designed by Frank Gehry, the museum opened in 2014 in the Bois de Boulogne. We were disappointed to learn that there were no exhibitions today but soon learned that the building and the few permanent art pieces were worth the trip. Dan Burin’s beautiful temporary installation of colored and striped panes over the normally clear glass sails is stunning.

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In the lower-level grotto forty-three prism-shaped columns designed by Olafur Eliasson.  Of varying widths and lit from within, two sides are mirrored and one side is yellow glass.

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Standing in just the right spot, it is possible to see forty-three images of yourself reflected at one time.

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A beautiful fish sculpture designed by Frank Gehry hangs in the lobby over the restaurant.  At night the fish light up.

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On the west terrace is an interesting piece by Adrian Vllar Rojas called “Where the Slaves Live.”  It looks like an archeological find with layers of natural materials and everyday objects.

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The beautiful rose sculpture in the lobby by Isa Genzken is presented as a gift to visitors to thank them for coming.

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The white parts of the building are called igloos, and this walkway is called the canyon.

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Hidden Passages Walk

Paul has a wonderful app called “Paris City Walks” that maps out different routes and points of interest.  It’s great for people like us who like to get off the beaten path and explore new areas.   Today we did a great walk called “1st and 2nd Arrondissements Hidden passages.”  The hidden passages are old-fashioned arcades with beautiful architectural features.

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Many of them are glass-covered passageways lined with cute little shops and restaurants.

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We ended up in parts of the 1st and 2nd Arr. that we did not know existed.  On one street we looked up and saw a beautiful view of Sacre Coeur.

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Musee Picasso and More

Return to Palais Garnier

First stop today was a return visit to the Palais Garnier to see the auditorium that was closed when we took a guided tour earlier.  We especially wanted to see the Marc Chagall ceiling. Completed in 1964, the beautiful ceiling was controversial at first because it was replacing the original ceiling and was in a contemporary style unlike the rest of the 19th century building.

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Palais-Royal Garden

Our next stop was the lovely Palais-Royal Garden, created in 1633 for Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis XIII’s chief minister. The two long central gardens are bordered by flower gardens designed by American Mark Rudkin.

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The long gardens are fenced off, but sitting areas with benches are at each end of the gardens.

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Parisian Police

Crosswalks on Parisian streets are marked with wide white lines, and some have crossing lights.  We think cars are supposed to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks when there are no crossing lights, but we aren’t sure and always make sure the way is clear before we cross.  This morning as we were crossing a road with a large group of people, a car sped up, changed lanes and looked as if it would have hit us if we hadn’t run the rest of the way across the road.  We heard a loud whistle, turned around and saw a police officer wave the offending car over to the side of the road.  The driver had to get out of his car, and as we walked on, he was still detained by the officers.  I was pretty impressed with how the police handled this situation.

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Musee Picasso

The Musee Picasso was closed for renovation the last we were in Paris, so we were excited that it was now open.  When Picasso died in 1973 art work in his own collection was donated to the French government as payment for the inheritance tax on his estate and is the foundation for this museum.

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The museum did an excellent job of chronologically presenting Picasso’s work and the influences on him.

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Post Musee Picasso

We enjoy the musicians that play in the metro stations and try to make sure to have change with us so we can show our appreciation.  Today we saw the biggest group ever.  I think their peppy music made everyone walk a little lighter and smile a little more.

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Can’t believe I have been in Paris for over a week and am having my first crepe today.

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Images from an Evening Stroll

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Replica of statue commemorating Christmas 1914 cease fire.

Replica of statue commemorating Christmas 1914 cease fire.

Normandy

Clarence “Cobby” Saatzer, Paul’s grandfather, led a platoon of fifty men onto Utah Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  He lost fifteen of those men the first day.  From his first battle at Utah Beach, Cobby went on to fight many other WWII battles and was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze and a Silver Star.  He was recommended for the Medal of Honor during the Battle of the Bulge.

As we traveled to Normandy to visit some of the D-Day sites, we remembered his stories about that day and thought about the sacrifices made by Cobby, both our fathers and so many others.

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Caen Normandy Memorial Center for History and Peace

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Three-fourths of the city of Caen was destroyed in the summer of 1944, so museum founder Jean-Marie Girault felt it was a fitting location for the museum, which focuses on WWII, D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy, and the Cold War.  The museum covers these events with the goal of keeping these memories alive to save us from “man’s inhumanity to man”. I highly recommend visiting this museum for anyone interested in WWII and D-Day.

Large flags from the countries involved fly outside the entrance of the museum.

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Our visit started with a moving film about the D-Day Invasion.  Using mostly actual footage, the twenty-minute film powerfully conveyed the horrors of that day.  The museum did an excellent job presenting complex historical information, and I left having a much greater understanding of what happened during WWII and why.

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Since the original copy of “Unconditional Surrender” was first installed in Sarasota, FL. where I live, I was especially interested to see another copy outside the museum.

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Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument

The highest point between American D-Day landing points Omaha Beach and Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc was fortified with German concrete casemates and gun pits.  The monument here was erected by the French to honor members of the American Second Ranger Battalion who scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on Americans landing on Omaha and Utah Beach.

We went in the gun pits and got the same view the Germans did.

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We saw casemates

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and craters made by the bombs.

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 Omaha Beach

It was sobering to look out over Omaha Beach, where more than 2,000 soldiers died in the initial attack.

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Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

As we walked down the central mall and saw the 9,387 headstones of American soldiers who died in the Normandy battles to liberate France and drive into Nazi Germany, we felt overwhelming sadness at the loss of life.  From some views, it seemed that the headstones went on forever.

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A single rose lay at the base of many of the headstones.  I wondered who had put them there and felt warmed by the thought of people remembering these soldiers.

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The Garden of the Missing is outlined with polyantha roses.  Names of the missing are engraved on granite walls surrounding the garden.  Bronze rosettes mark the names of soldiers whose remains were found and identified later.

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At the center of The Memorial the statue “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves” faces west toward the headstones.

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An impressive granite illustration on one wall of The Memorial shows the movement of the troops and the progress of the assault.

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It was a very emotional day, but we appreciate the opportunity to experience the power of these places and be reminded of the sacrifices made by so many.

 

 

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Frances McDormand Loves Me

We took advantage of the exceptionally gorgeous day and went to our favorite park in Paris, Luxembourg Gardens.  It has beautiful flowers, more than 100 sculptures and more grass than most Paris gardens.

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Grass seems pretty precious and in short supply at most Paris parks and most of the time people are not allowed to walk on it.  Not only are there grassy areas for people to use at this garden, they even have signs making sure people know it.

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Created beginning in 1612, Luxembourg Garden was originally the garden for the Luxembourg Palace, home for the widow of King Henry IV of France.  The palace is now the meeting place of the French Senate.

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There are beautiful tree-lined walk ways.

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Because this weekend was Fetes des Jardins (Garden Festival), a celebration of nature in the city, there were special activities in the garden.  We saw a bee hive demonstration, unique flower arrangements, and an exhibition about new ways to grow fruit.

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We always see people doing tai chi and playing chess when we visit this garden.

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One especially beautiful view in the park is from this statue looking down the to the Pantheon at the end.

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After enjoying the park we decided to check out Le Comptoir Relais, 5 Carrefour de l’Odeon, a restaurant Paul was interested in trying because he had read such great reviews..  By the time we found it, we were ready for lunch and decided to wait in line for a table.  Good thing we did because we later found out that it is booked months in advance for dinner.  It was a typical French bistro with the tables so close together, many of them had to be moved out for someone to sit down.  We were able to translate enough of the menu to have a pretty good idea of what we were ordering.

Our lunch was amazing.  Paul had roast pork and I had a salad of seasonal vegetables that were truly the freshest, most flavorful, most beautifully prepared I have ever had.

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After we ordered I noticed the woman at the next table, less that two feet from ours, and was pretty sure it Frances McDormand (Oscar winning actress from Fargo.)  I heard her speak and was sure it was Frances McDormand.  She was with her husband, Joel, half of the famous Coen brothers directors.  I discretely told Paul who we was sitting next to us, and I think we were pretty cool about it.  As she was leaving, she touched my shoulder and said, “Have a good trip.” I touched her arm and said, “We love you.” She said, “I love you, too.” Not sure if it was the great food and 1/2 bottle of wine Paul and I shared or the close encounter with a most-admired and obviously warm star, but I felt pretty rosy for the rest of the day.

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Palais Garnier-Home of the Phantom of the Opera

A tour of the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris Opera Ballet, was the highlight of our day.  Called “probably the most famous opera house in the world”, it is over-the-top opulent and beautiful.

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We took an excellent guided tour, which I recommend for anyone visiting the Opera for the first time.

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Palais Garnier is the setting for the 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera which is the basis for the subsequent films and play of the same name.  Our guide shared some interesting information about what really happened and how it appeared in the 1910 novel.  In 1896 a  piece of the six and a half ton chandelier in the auditorium  fell from the ceiling and killed an opera patron, inspiring the story of The Phantom of the Opera. A plaque on the door of the number five box identifies it as the phantom’s box.  There really is water under the building-a cistern that was built to address the water in the unstable ground.  Although it is big enough for a small boat, our guide didn’t think a boat had ever been there.  The Phantom of the Opera has never been performed in Paris, but that will change in about two weeks when it comes to Paris.

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Because the auditorium was closed for rehearsal, we were given tickets to come back and see it on another date.  We were able to see the rest of the building, including a special exhibit about American choreographers who had a connection with Palais Garnier.

The Grand Foyer

The Grand Foyer

One of many painted ceilings.

One of many painted ceilings.

A preserved set model for one of the operas performed there.

A preserved set model for one of the operas performed there.

The Rest of the Day

It was a multi-ethnic day of eating-Italian for lunch at Alfredo Positano, 9 Rue de Guidarde

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Vietnamese for dinner at Les 3 Sapeques, 30 Rue Bosquet,  the very homey, but very yummy restaurant next door to our apartment

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And a little pre-dinner walk in a new part of Paris

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