|Paris is a city of wonderful neighborhoods.
You can move around every day and always find different sights, sounds,
smells and pleasures.
I am enthralled by the wide
boulevards and upscale shops around the Opera.
A first glimpse up the Avenue De L’Opera is memorable. The
wide avenue has one of the most exciting backdrops. While some say it’s
eclectic and overdone, I think the Garnier Opera is one of the sights you
will carry with you forever. Along the way there are fashionable hotels and
upscale shops. As you cross the Boul Des Capucines, you enter Paris’ ninth;
the Opera Quarter. And as you get closer you see this ‘giant wedding cake’
made up of stone, marble and bronze. The style ranges from Classical to
Baroque with the many columns, friezes and sculptures, its copper green
roofed cupola. Atop is the statue of Apollo holding a golden lyre 76.3
meters above ground. Along the sides is the line of lamppost statues of
vestal virgins lighting the way. And this is only the beginning. A dazzling
interior built for grand theatrical events awaits you. But this is only once
corner of the 9th arrondissement. Read on. There’s so much more.
The Palais, designed by Charles Garnier, was not the first
theatre to house the Paris Opera. From the time it was founded by Louis XIV
in 1669, it was the thirteenth. And lucky thirteen it was. The project was
put out to competition and an unknown, thirty-five year old architect won
the competition. Because of the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the
Paris Commune, the building construction took fifteen years. It was
completed in 1875. While the outside is ornate and inviting, the interior is
a warren of richly decorated foyers covered with beautiful mosaics in
spectacular colors on golden backgrounds, The flowing designs of the Grand
Staircase is itself a showplace when the Paris whose who gather for a gala
performance. This is the theatre of The Phantom, with the famous, eight ton,
crystal chandelier and the main theatre’s ceiling, adorned by a magnificent
One climbs the Grand Staircase greeted by two bronze
torcheres, large female figures brandishing bouquets of light. The
thirty-meter staircase leads to the orchestral stalls, which offer a
splendid view of the stage. The five-tiered auditorium is not large by
modern standards but beautifully decorated and twenty meters high it is
totally impressive. It is built in a horseshoe shape and contains 1,900 red
velvet seats. Even the painted canvas curtain imitates drapery with gold
braid and pompoms.
I chose to walk around freely and admire the various
corners at my own pace. I saw the bookstore-boutique, a charming museum and
the 20th century Salon du Glacier at the end of the bar gallery. The riot of
colors and the painted ceiling was completed after the opening of the opera
house. Today, one can stroll through the foyers or have a refreshing drink
Guided tours are available. They last one and a half
hours. Call ahead at: 1 40 01 25 17 or 1 40 01 22 63
Walking around freely is fun even if there is a fee.
But there is more to the Opera Quarter. It is an area of
shoppers, bankers, brokers and sightseers. There is still that 19th century
grandeur along the Grands Boulevards designed by Baron Haussmann. The great
stores like Au Printemps and Les Galleries Lafayette.
Around December they are brightly adorned with colored
lights and extremely inviting for shoppers. Boul Des Capucines, Italiens,
Montmartre, Poissoniere, Bonne-Nouvelle, St Denis or St Martin (technically
on the border of the 10th) run all the way to La Republic. These tree lined
streets offer fashion. The term boulevardier was given to those well
-dressed shoppers seen in the area in the 19th century. Of course, the area
has changed but there are still hints of 19th century charm behind the gaudy
Here too, one can partake in the great and lively auctions
of rare objets d’art that take place at Drouot (Hotel des Ventes) at 9 Rue
Drouot. They have been conducting auctions here since the 1850s.
This is also a district of Museums. The wax museum or
Musee Grevin is a popular place to visit at 10 Blvd Montmartre. Tel: 47 70
85 05. Also a 19th century creation, it is as good as London’s Mme Tussaud’s.
Famous figures from history and the Belle Époque are brought to life with
historical scenes like the arrest of Louis XVI. There are even theatrical,
sports and political figures meticulously done in wax.
Everything changes when you get to the northern boundary
on Boul De Clichy. Here the shops are basic and the street crowded with tour
buses waiting for the tourist groups to visit Montmarte. But within the 9th
there are reasonable small hotels and some great restaurant finds.
My favorite is the inexpensive, traditional Chartier at 7,
rue du Faubourg Montmartre. I discovered it by accident when I stayed in the
old Follies Bergere district at a 104 room, 3 star Hotel Alexanrda, 38 rue
du Faubourg Montmartre tel: 45 23 01 27. The large Chartier is a noisy but
friendly restaurant dates back to the 1890s, built to offer ‘beef or
vegetable broth’ on marble tables and catering to middle class working
You sit wherever you can and watch the people. Everyone
discusses the menu, which is beef stew, calf’s head, beef bouruignon, white
or mutton stews and heady beers. Many great names of the entertainment world
dropped in for a typical meal. They include, Edith Piaf,
Tino Rossi, Maurice Chevalier and the entire Compagnons de la Chanson.
Add actors, film makers like Romy Schneider, Alain Delon and
Jean-Paul Belmondo who shot scenes in this historical melting pot and
theatrical area. Nobody famous showed up the night I was there. Oh, well.
There are paintings and murals dating back to the Twenties
by artists who traded their work for free meals. Today, they serve over 1200
meals a day due to their policy of good food and low prices.
Their menu announces “Un repas sans vin est une journee
Sans soleil” (A meal without wine is a day without sunshine.” And while
there is little sunshine in this wonderful old restaurant with high ceilings
and great ambiance, it is made up for by the mood of the diners and the
service of this unique place.
The ninth has a nice feel to it. It reminds me of a
working class district but the fashionable streets cut it in two and there
is something for everyone. Even St Trinite, in the center of the area is
imposing. A walk around the Opera is its own reward and I always think of
Picasso when I walk through the Place Diaghilev, at the back. It was here
that the great artist fell in love with one of his many lovers, or so he
Interested in shopping. You’ve come to the right place
with all the fashionable stores nearby. Add the Galleries Layayette and
you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s visual and elegant.
Nearby on the square, the Café de La Paix was, for years,
a place to pause, see the glamorous people and be seen. I spent hours as a
boy looking at pictures of the people near the old Grand Hotel and dreaming
of a time when I’d follow in their footsteps.
The Grand Hotel Intercontinental-De l’Athenee has replaced
the hotel I always associate with Greta Garbo and 12 Boul des Capucines and
the Café de La Paix became a fabled place. Not all the accommodations are
that expensive, There’s something for every budget.
Here, nearby, is the headquarters of American Express
On my first trip to France I would come here to collect my
mail. How times have changed. Or have they. A walk through the ninth is like
a walk through history. It has a worm feel to it. Try it. You will be
A historical sight and good place for a beer or light
lunch csan be found at “SANK ROO DOUGH-NOO”. That’s cinq rue Donou if you
speak French or No. 5 rue Danou a site that every Parisian and tourist
knows. This is where you’ll find Harry’s Bar and American Grill, a place
frequented by the great expatriate writers like Ernest Hemingway. There’s a
Harry’s in many cities. But this is where it all started. I wouldn’t go to
Paris and miss Harry’s.
Au Petit Riche, 25 Rue le Peletier 47 70 68 68
(Authentic Bistro atmosphere with the auction crowd)
Musee de la Vie Romantique, devoted to musicians, writers
& painters who visited the painter Ary Scheffer when he lived here. They
include George Sand, Chopin, Delecroix, Liszt, Dickens and Turgenev.
16 rue Chaptal TEL; 48 74 95 38 Closed Mondays.
Musee Gustave Moreau, the symbolist artist influence of
Rouault and Matisse At: 14 rue de la Rochefoucauld Tel: 48 74 38 50 Closed
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)