Sunday, June 24, 2012

Leaving Paris with a Bang - the Opera and Versailles

I did my best to fully enjoy my final few days in Paris before heading off to Los Angeles for a few weeks.

I made it to my first performance at the Opera Garnier, which is absolutely the most stunning building I've ever seen a performance in.  The building first opened in 1875 and was the most expensive built during the Second Empire, but was instantly deemed a masterpiece.


The chandelier in the center of the theatre was designed by Garnier himself, and weighs in at 7 tons with all of its bronze and crystal accoutrement.

The gorgeous, multi-colored ceiling was a later addition in 1964 by Marc Chagall and each scene depicts a different story from a different opera.


This was the one time I looked forward to intermission since we could wander the halls and step out onto the balcony for more amazing views.


And there was even a show!  I was entertained enough by the building, but we also got to see a ballet called La Fille Mal Gardee, which pretty much means a really fun time.  I knew I was in for some good entertainment when the first thing I saw on stage was a group of large costumed men dancing ballet in chicken and rooster costumes.

It was a sweet love story filled with bright colors, big dances and grace taken from a storybook.  It actually did in fact look like scenes from a story book with its pretty pastel backdrops and scenery.  It was a very enjoyable time that I hope to be able to repeat again soon.

How do you top the ballet at the Opera Garnier?  The only answer is the Royal Fireworks at Versailles.


Thousands of people gathered, waiting for it to get dark, which didn't happen until 10:30, but it was worth the wait.  I've seen fireworks shows.  I've seen laser shows. I've seen fountain shows, and I've even seen boat parades, but I've never seen all 4 happening at the same time.  Oh my.


There was a nice slow build which started with the fountains spouting off a bit.  Then there were a few fireworks to get people going, and everything was synchronized to an upbeat, classical music soundtrack.  I would guess that there was a loose storyline that I wasn't quite following, but I'd put money down that Louis XIV was involved as there was some fighting and some celebrating.


Then came the technicolor boats and boat people.  I must get one of those outfits for an upcoming event.


There were lasers everywhere.  They superimposed people's faces (ie., Louis XIV) on large bushes and made chateaux and large buildings appear in the background.  And of course there was a grand fireworks finale.

It was a fun farewell to Paris for a few weeks as I head to the beach and hopefully warmer summer temps in Los Angeles.

A bientôt!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fete de la Musique

I've got to hand it to the French.  They know how to throw a party.  They know how to celebrate the simple and the extravagant.  Today was the first day of Summer, a seemingly simple day, but no, not here.

The French Village People?
The first day of summer is also known as Fete de La Musique, which is one enormous music festival, held all over the country. 


It was started 30 years ago by the French ministry for culture, and has now spread to over 100 countries.  In addition to celebrating the summer solstice, it's also an opportunity for musicians,professionals and amateurs alike, to perform outside of their normal venues, and for free.

People were playing all types of music all over town.  My friend Annette and I didn't leave the Marais area, and saw over 15 different performances.

There was an 8 year old singing outside of a small cafe.

There were guys on guitars singing American pop in French bars.

There were choirs singing Supertramp in the middle of the street.

We found a multi player harp recital in an outdoor museum alcove.

And of course there was your Rock and Roll.

Every good festival needs a hot man on a horn.

We saw a random parade, though it could have been a manifestation or protest of some sort.

There were tons of people in the streets of the French equivalent of West Hollywood's Boys Town.

And leave it to the boys to entertain and delight the masses, and also make you feel like you're not ready to get into a bikini this summer.


There was also angry women singing.

Sometimes it was a game to find out where the music was coming from, like this group playing on a balcony.


Of course there was much drinking in the streets with people carrying wine bottles, beer cans, and there were even tables set up making mojitos on the spot.

There was also a Sister Sledge sing-a-long, well an attempted one at least as some of the French didn't know the words after "We are family..." there was humming, made up words and silence after.

They even had a beautiful gospel choir singing in a church.

And sadly, I came home to a DJ playing in the middle of the street, right under my apartment window.  It's nearly 1am now and I'm pretty sure he's been playing the same song for about 2 hours now.  When it is finally over, I'll be looking forward to the next Fete de la Musique.