Wednesday 5 December 2018

Paris Part Three – Palais Garnier, Fontainebleau, and the Musée d’Orsay

The Palais Garnier is Paris’s opulent opera house. Opened in 1875 it is today considered one of the most famous opera houses in the world, immortalized in Gaston Leroux’s The Phanton of the Opera. It was the most expensive building constructed during the Second Empire and with its lavish design it’s not hard to see why. The grand staircase and grand foyer leave the impression that you are indeed in a Palace. The auditorium is deep red and gold, its famous chandelier illuminating the space, Chagall’s ceiling adding some colour.
The Grand Foyer of the Palais Garnier

With such a luxurious setting you’d expect ticket prices to match but the Opera seems keen on encouraging audiences in, some evenings all tickets are 40% off for under 40s. Taking advantage of this offer, we were lucky to experience Ohad Naharin’s Decadence. Consisting of extracts from various of his works it was like nothing I’ve seen before. Vibrant and energetic, the dancers even had audience members join them on stage. Those chosen displayed an impressive gusto as they joined in. A fun and unforgettable night.

The Palace of Fontainebleau
On our penultimate day we took a day trip to the Palace of Fontainebleau. It takes just short of two hours to get there but is worth it if you like history, and want to avoid the crowds at Versailles. Like many such buildings it has been through many renovations throughout the centuries, the first castle being built in the twelfth century. It is an important site in Napoleonic history as the place he abdicated. The self-guided tour of the apartments explains the various uses by rulers as well as demonstrating how they used houseware to signal their allegiances and power. The chateau also boasts a large garden which seemed to be free to access. There are no food outlets on site but Fontainebleau town has plenty of eateries.

Scale model of the Palais Garnier in the Musée d’Orsay
Our final morning involved a trip to the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a former railway station, it is an interesting building to visit. It holds the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works in the world. A highlight for me were the Van Goghs but also the impressive scale model of the Palais Garnier. Beyond the showstoppers there is large quantities of less well known but equally enchanting artworks. I would happily spend many more hours exploring.

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