Not your average June weekend

Just hangin' out on top of the Opera House. No biggie.

Just hangin' out on top of the Opera House. No biggie.

Not very many people can say they've sat atop of the Palais Garnier aka the Paris Opera House. I am a fortunate one who can. A recent trip put together by the first class folks at Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac started us off in style with a private evening yacht cruise down the Seine River. (Merci Yachts de Paris)!  Champagne welcomed us, a multi-course dinner followed, and it was one of those dreamy, sultry summer evenings when even the sunshine didn't want to call it a night. The next morning we were invited to visit one of the most stunning buildings in all of Paris. Um, yes, please! Our guide was the passionate Jean-Jacques Serres (book him with www.paris-avec-moi.com) whose Wikipedia-level knowledge of the building, its history, the marble used on the stairs and walls, the performances, the costumes, and anything else that has happened between the gilded halls and walls astounded us. If you've toured the opera house before, you know that it was designed by French architect Charles Garnier. He was relatively unknown when Napoleon III announced a competition for a new state-funded opera house, and a jury chose the winner 'blindly,' having no idea who the entrants were. So back to the Opera House---the auditorium, Jean-Jacques told us, was designed to look like a jewel box. The ladies in their fine silk gowns would be the gems. Aaahhhh. But the pièce de resistance is the Marc Chagall painted ceiling. Commissioned in 1960, and unveiled in 1964,  it is actually a roughly 2,400-square-foot removable canvas, and was painted in pieces before being affixed to the ceiling. At first it seemed incongruous in the velvety opulent and baroque auditorium, but like everything in Paris, it quickly became gorgeous. We crane your necks, as Jean-Jacques implored us to do, and saw that the colorful display pays homage to 14 major composers of opera and lyrical music, as well as their masterpieces. From there, Jean-Jacques really had us tromping up and down stairs (glad I wore flat shoes), through back hallways and past bulletin boards and dressing rooms reserved for performers. In the bowels of the building, just like in Phantom of the Opera, there really is an underground lake! Lake is pushing it. Let's just say you won't be paddling your dug out canoe around it anytime soon. Apparently, during the time the Opera House was being built (1861 — 1875), an arm of the Seine was discovered. No matter how hard they tried, the builders could not keep the water out. So rather than move the Opera House, Garnier decided to build in controls and cisterns, creating this“artificial lake" that redistributed the water, and took pressure off the basement walls. It also kept water immediately available in case of a fire. Handy! From the basement we went up, Up, UP inside a tiny elevator until we reached a closed door with sunlight streaking between its cracks. The roof! Wow! is the only word I can use to describe the feeling of stepping out onto the top of one of the most famous buildings in the world for a 360 degree view of my favorite city in the world. What. A. Thrill. Just another June weekend? No way! Pinch me, please.  #paris #love Next up---Cognac!

 

 

 

 

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Kimberley Lovato

Kimberley Lovato has written about travel, lifestyle and food for national and international publications and websites including National Geographic Traveler, Executive Travel, American Way, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveller (UK), Ryan Air, b.there, Easy Jet Traveller, leitesculinaria.com and frommers.com, among others. She is the author of a Michelin Guidebook on Brussels, where she lived for six years Her culinary travel book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, about the Dordogne region of France, won the "Best Travel Book" nod in 2012 from the Society of American Travel Writers, as did her personal essay, "Lost and Liberated," which also appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing, Volume 8. When she's not plotting her next trip or her annual pilgrimage to France, she resides in San Francisco where she is a correspondent for BBC's Passport Blog, a student in Stanford University's Creative Writing Certificate program, and a brave mother of a teenaged girl.