27 May 2012

L'Opéra Garnier

Opening hours in Paris resemble Melbourne Metro's train timetables - they're sometimes aspirational.   Yes, I know that we missed out on Berthillion because they're always closed on Tuesdays, but when I tried to visit the office of the agent for our apartment in the middle of the afternoon, when they were supposed to be open, I realised that I shouldn't take advertised opening hours for granted.   Likewise, I sought out a particular shop to buy an item for W -  not yet open, well after the posted opening time.  And it is true that the advertised times during which one may tour the Opéra Garnier are subject to the caveat that it may be closed if there is a "special event", so I suppose it was just unfortunate that some "event" (based on our discussion with the friendly security guy, we suspect a wedding rehearsal!)  precluded our tour when we arrived for the second time (after being too late the first time).
However, we're persistent.  Part of the reason was that Sue's initial idea was that we attend an opera.   A tour seemed an economical compromise, particularly as by retaining our Musée d'Orsay tickets, we got a discount.   Pity that the Metro trip from Hotel d'Ville involves a change in the rabbit-warren at Chatelet (we've come to hate that place).    But the return on the 29 bus was much more comfortable.
I digress.  Our third attempt to undertake a tour of the Opéra resulted in success, and more than made up for the trials that we had suffered. 

It's a bit of a pity that the entry is around the back.   It would be nice to climb the main stairs at the front and make a grand entrance.    However, knowing that we wanted the "unaccompanied tour" option, we made our way past the tour groups lining up (noting that the building was virtually surrounded by tour buses!), and were very politely welcomed at the ticket office (no queue!) and by the staff at the entry point.Through a fairly dark passage, and voila, the Grand Staircase!  Marble of various colours and impressive lighting.  And visitors are welcome to climb it, sit on it and pose for photos on it.    Then on to the numerous foyers, especially the almost-overwhelming Grand Foyer, with access on to the balcony looking straight down Avenue de l'Opéra.

  A royal wave to the assembled crowd in front might not have been out of place (no, we didn't).   We viewed the main auditorium from a couple of the boxes, but not to complain - the view was the best in the house.   There were masses of red (velvet seats) and gold (gilt paint), all lit by the immense crystal chandelier.   The stage curtain was open, as workers were assembling a set, so we couldn't really admire the braid and pompons.  Other parts of the building open included the library-museum and Salon du Glacier.

In short, definitely a Paris must-see.

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