On our first day in Paris at the start of our two-week+ November vacation in France, we managed to drag our sleep-deprived bodies (and heavy suitcases) onto the train from Charles de Gaulle airport headed to the center of Paris. After a short walk from the Saint-Michel Notre Dame Metro stop to our hotel on Île Saint-Louis (in the middle of the Seine), we were so pleased and relieved that we were able to immediately get into our room. During our three nights in Paris, we grew to appreciate the coziness and convenient location of our home base at Hotel Saint Louis en L’Isle.
I tend to really overplan for our trips, optimistically thinking that we can hit many more sights than is remotely reasonable. I managed to hold down the destination count a bit, though you wouldn’t know that from our Fitbit footstep count that day – nine miles! The plan for our first day was to head to Palais Garnier, the incredibly photogenic opera house in Paris that was built 1861-1875. Along the way we would wind our way through some of the many covered passages of Paris, the 19th Century’s more charming predecessors to today’s shopping malls, grabbing a nice big lunch along the way.
We knew that Palais Garnier’s decor was heavy on gilded elements, but it turns out that it’s definitely not alone in Paris, where they will gild not just the lily, but also the escargot:
The passages totally had their shine on, too:
Palais Garnier more than meets expectations with its over-the-top decor. The theater itself is shown in the image at the top of this post. (The stage was being reconfigured during our visit.) Here are some other details from the theater, including the ceiling painted by Russian artist Marc Chagall in 1964:
The grand staircase was filled with visitors craning their necks to take in all the details. Click on the images to do the same:
It’s easy to imagine the crowds out on the balcony during the intermission of an opera, but we pretty much had it all to ourselves (except for the pigeons):
For us, the highlight of the Palais Garnier was its Grand Salon – talk about a lot of gold!
After leaving the Palais, we crossed over Boulevard Haussmann to check out the Christmas displays in the windows of the Galeries Lafayette department store. The store has a publicly accessible rooftop gallery with a fantastic up-close elevated view of the Palais – and much of Paris, for that matter – including this brightly gilded statuary:
The gold of the Palais doesn’t end there. Keeping up with its neighbor for the holiday season, each year the store erects a huge Christmas tree under its central, glass-ceiling dome:
Returning to our hotel afterwards, completely exhausted and still stuffed from our lunch, we collapsed into bed and slept through the night for a full 12 hours! Tomorrow, the Marais!