2021 Europe: Paris, Part 4 – Shopping & A Night at the Opera



This entry is for Wednesday, September 1. As I begin to write this it’s Friday about Noon Switzerland time. We’ll see when I finish!

We had no plans this day except for tickets for the opera in the evening, which was a pretty spontaneous decision. As we were standing in line at the Eiffel Tower, Ash discovered that opera was returning to Paris this week and he was able to snag tickets for opening night. He loves opera and had just introduced me to it a couple of weeks before when it re-opened in San Francisco and we went opening night there. Seemed like it was meant to be and he’d been really looking forward to this.

He’d been wanting to cook these shrimp we came across the other day but, other than that first day, we’d never been around when the shop was open again. Today was the day. We made our way back to Rue Rambuteau and stopped first at the gay-owned baker we’d seen. In the above photo, that’s about center with the pink awning. This was the first time we’d really been on this street when the sun was out and it looked different.

So many bakeries in this town….

…and all look amazing. That empty section is where the croissants were.

See those huge monsters on the left? That’s what we got. Shrimp from Madagascar. Plus some smaller ones to round it out.

These guys were super nice. Ash speaks about 5 languages and he has a knack for being able to correctly guess what language someone else speaks just by looking at them. He’ll approach them in that language and it seems to immediately make them warm up to him. In this case, Spanish. It’s a gift.

Their uncooked size after deveining and pealing. My hand for perspective. Yes, all that chopped garlic went in with them, along with butter.

Some pretty pasta with a jarred spicy sauce that was terrific.

The finished product. This was brunch and it pretty much held us through the rest of the day.

Oh, and we had the éclair and the plain bread roll, and saved the other two for breakfast the next day.

From there we just went walking through various shopping districts. For months before leaving, I would say to Ash “I need to get some new shirts” and he would say “wait until we go to Paris.” I was always suspect of this plan because I’ve never been much of a shopper period much less while traveling. Plus I tend to travel light and there wouldn’t be any room anyway. Ash not only prefers to check luggage because he hates carrying stuff around, he also packed an extra empty bag (which I squeezed into my backpack) for the purpose of filling up with new things. So off we went.

Without even trying, we stumbled across Cafe Coton, an upscale French men’s store that Ash favors and is primarily in Europe. And, they were having a heck of a sale, 60% off many things. I walked away with 4 shirts and Ash with 2, with the help of Richard, who was pleased to take a photo with us. He took his mask off for the photo but otherwise we were all masked the whole time.

screen shot of the weather showing 70 degrees and a high of 73, partly cloudy to full sun

We had perfect weather for staying out most of the day.

At this point it was about 3:30pm and we were ready for a break. We came across Laduree again, same place we’d had breakfast at on Monday but different location, and were able to fix our big mistake from that first visit: we forgot about the macaroons!

Cappuccinos and we asked them to pick the flavors for us which were: strawberry, pistachio, orange, and salted caramel.

After this we finally found some casual but classy black shoes I’d had in mind, then went back to the apartment to get ready for the big night out. We finished the leftover pasta and took showers. Ash realized the shirt he’d brought back didn’t fit – long story how that got mixed up – but we were able to quickly Uber back over to Cafe Coton to fix that just before it closed, Richard able to help us. We watched him lock the door as we left, then walked from there to the opera.

The Palais Garnier is the home of Paris opera and ballet. Construction began in 1861 and it opened in 1875. It’s spectacular, as you’ll see.

We made it just in time!

This night’s performance was a special presentation of a different kind of opera and not put on by the normal opera company. Still, there was tremendous excitement in the air, you could tell people were ready for the first big performance here since the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, this is the scene of about 380 performances of some kind a year – more than one a day.

It’s am amazing venue with a grand staircase leading up to the balcony seats.

That’s the bar on the left with folks having their last drink before the show starts.

This is the ceiling in the entrance over that staircase. I took the 3 photos above all standing from the same place.

To our right at the top of the stairs was this grand hall, which members can used for their own parties.

This is what was behind me from the photo above it.

The show was 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, a new work by a performer named Marina Abramovic. From the website: “At the crossroads of opera, performance art and video creation, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas includes arias from some of the Greek American soprano’s greatest roles, recalling the countless women sacrificed at the hands of 19th century composers.” Seven different sopranos sang arias from different operas – Ash recognized most of them, me only Carmen – while a short film of Marina plus Willem Dafoe (yes, that one) playing on full screen behind the singer depicting a wide variety of stories – each one ending with the death of the woman. And that’s the short version. It was creative for sure and we definitely liked some of the pieces more than others.

The stage with red curtain, gilded walls showing 4 layers of balconies.

Like something out of a movie, right?

A beautiful color mural with a crystal chandelier in the ceiling.

The ceiling above. The mural is by Chagall.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many balconies before.

A closeup of some of the intricate work.

Somehow, even though Ash just purchased tickets on Sunday, a few days before, he managed to get first row, first balcony. We couldn’t believe it. See the red velvet ledge to the right? And these were chairs, not just seats. Towards the end I literally pulled my chair up and rested my elbows on the ledge and watched from there. Again, like something out of a movie. (And let’s just say I paid more for my Broadway Hamilton ticket than we did for these seats!)

The woman in gold is Marina who was in all of the films and the final act which was done live, although she had no speaking or singing parts. The women in white were the 7 sopranos, and the others are the conductor and integral orchestra members.

I couldn’t resist asking Ash to take a photo of me sitting on that ledge. That’s one of the new shirts I bought.

I couldn’t decide which one I liked better so I included both!

The box area we sat in after everyone left. We were there on the left where those two women are. They were sitting behind us and waited for us to be done so they could take photos, too!

The mass exit. Notice that everyone is wearing masks. We all did during the entire performance as well, and your vaccination record was verified before you were allowed to enter.

We took the subway home.

We decided to find a bite to eat before heading home. We’d seen this on day one but it was nice to see it all lit up at night.

We found something that looked sort of reasonable. That’s Ash sitting in the right corner. One of the things about sitting outside in Europe, especially Paris, is you will encounter smokers nearly every time. And we did.

The place was Les Marrionners, and the guy standing on the right was out host – very friendly, as was the waiter.

Ash got an appetizer sampler and I got the onion soup. The sampler was sort of bad take on American food but the soup was pretty good.

Ash got salmon poke bowl.

I had steak tartare. The waiter was funny, wanting to make sure I knew it would be raw. Apparently many an American has been surprised by that (although I don’t see how since it’s clearly described on the menu) and then unhappy with the dish. But I knew what I was getting into. Licking the bowl when my mother made meatloaf was one of my favorite things! This was just like that.

We didn’t get to bed until midnight which was super late for us. But it was great last day in Paris.

I’m posting this on Friday, September 3rd, about 4:30pm Switzerland time.

3 thoughts on “2021 Europe: Paris, Part 4 – Shopping & A Night at the Opera”

  1. L’opera!!

    OMG – That must’ve been a great Birthday present for Ash!! I would’ve loved to have seen that presentation! I’ve been obsessed with Maria since I first listened to her sing “Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana” from “La Wally” on head phones in the music department at Hudson’s in Detroit in the late ’60s! Never got to see her in person, since she retired in the early ’60s, unfortunately.

    I was able to catch her hologram-performance at the Mondavi Center a couple of years ago. I was totally blown away by it! That lady could sing!

    I hope your trip continues to go well!! Bon Voyage!

  2. I’m glad to see you caught up with the blog. What an amazing adventure with the opera and shopping and the gardens. It’s lovely to see you two traveling together for the first time Internationally. I feel the love.

    Now the food. Omg 😱 the bread and butter, macaroons, lobsters and the views. All was making me hungry until you had to mention licking the meatloaf bowl 🤢

    ❤️❤️❤️

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