Paris, France

The Chunnel

We'll be taking the "Chunnel" from London to Paris.  This amazing piece of engineering travels below the sea,
crossing the channel in 2 hours and 35 minutes.

The Paris Opera House - Opera Garnier

The amazing setting of  The Phantom of the Opera (book, Broadway show, and multiple movies.)

Opéra Garnier

The sumptuous and prestigious Paris Opera building, designed by Charles Garnier in 1861 and completed in 1875, is one of the largest theatre venues in the world. A lavish epitaph to the manic architectural activities of the Second Empire under Napoleon III, and aptly described as a "triumph of molded pastry," it lent a suitable image to the frivolity and materialism of the so-called naughty Eighties and Nineties.


The sheer mass of its stage — 11,000 square meters (or 118,404 square feet), with room for 450 players — seems to dwarf the respectable 2156-seat capacity auditorium, whose ceiling was painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall. At the Musée d'Orsay, one may view a complete slice-away maquette (model) of this amazingly ornate edifice, but anyone with an architectural gilt complex should make the pilgrimage to the glimmering marble-and-onyx Grand Staircase.

When the emperor and empress were presented with the model, the latter is reputed to have questioned, "What is this style? It's not a style. It's not Greek, it's not Louis XVI." Garnier allegedly replied, "No, those styles have had their day. This style is Napoleon III, and you complain?"


In fact, the Opéra was constructed by the grand bourgeois more as a stage for self-display: its vestibules, galleries, stairs, anterooms, and other areas are much vaster than the mere auditorium for the select high society in attendance. Here one could stroll, step, sip, chat, ogle, and parade oneself in lengthy intermissions. That was the point, after all: the operatic performance itself was an intermission between obligatory social strutting. The personalities on view in the foyer and on the Grand Staircase were considered as important as the artists on stage singing Faust or La Traviata.

"Napoleon wanted to turn Paris into Rome under the Caesars, only with louder music and more marble. And it was done. His architects gave him the Arc de Triomphe and the Madeleine. His nephew Napoleon III wanted to turn Paris into Rome with Versailles piled on top, and it was done. His architects gave him the Paris Opera, an addition to the Louvre, and miles of new boulevards."

Tom Wolfe (b. 1931),
U.S. journalist, author.

A few statistics are in order: the Opéra is 56m (185ft) high, 172m (568ft) long, and 101m (333ft) wide. The main chandelier weighs in at six and a half tons, while 19km (12 miles) of halls and corridors wind over several levels. It took 13 painters, 73 sculptors, and 14 plasterers and stucco specialists to achieve the opulent decor. The structure is built on top of an underground lake and stream, which persist beneath its cellars. The tale for the classic horror movie, The Phantom of the Opera, was set here. For an entry fee, you can stroll around the interior at your leisure (except occasionally during rehearsals). The Musée de l'Opéra, containing a few paintings and theatrical mementos, is unremarkable.


More Places to Visit

The Louvre Museum

The River Seine

Notre Dame

The Eiffel Tower

The Arc de Triomphe

To learn more, visit these websites: