In the early hours of this morning we were rudely awoken by a smoke alarm. We didn’t know it was a smoke alarm at the time, thinking it was some ridiculous car alarm going off but, this morning, we were informed that some stupid moron of a hotel guest had figured it would be okay to have a cigarette in the room. All it did was wake everyone up.
I have no idea what happened to the hotel guest but I kind of hope he (or she though Mirinda is certain it had to be a man…and possibly the rude oriental chap from yesterday) was put to death in the nearest open square.
The smoke alarm wasn’t the only thing to interrupt my sleep. The garbage was collected as well…twice. And there were the noisy cars and the customers leaving the restaurants after midnight. Still, I must have managed some sleep otherwise how did the various noises wake me up?
Eventually we crawled across the street for breakfast at a lovely little cafe which charges half the amount the hotel does where we started to plan our day. Then we decided to go without a plan and just head out. It turned out to be a stroke of genius. Like the genius of Garnier. Or Harry.
There’s nothing quite like the ingenuity of Harry. Before Harry’s Bar was like it is now, it was an old bistro. An American bought it then his business partner who happened to own a bar in Manhattan, pulled it apart (the bar in Manhattan), bit by bit and had it shipped to Paris and rebuilt it inside the bistro.
So here we sat, late Sunday afternoon, enjoying a beer, pretending we were in Manhattan…which we were, sort of.
We needed a bit of a rest having had a wonderful guided tour of Garnier’s opera house.
Finished in 1875, it stands as a grandiose testament to La Belle Époque. Lots of gold, seemingly endless varieties of marble, sweeping staircases, everything designed to show off the audience as they arrived in their finery. Back then it was more about the audience than the performers.
An amazing place, which reminds you of the worst excesses of Versailles but, somehow, and I suspect it’s because it’s artistic, it looks okay here. Did I say ‘okay’? I meant magnificent. The whole place is pretty damned magnificent.
Mirinda reckons it’s the whole theatre thing. It’s acceptable because it’s a set rather than something that two ridiculous people lived in while the poor withered away outside their gates. Maybe she’s right.
We even got to go into the auditorium. There had been some doubt because the crew were running a tech rehearsal while our guided tour was going on but they stopped for lunch just as we were close. We sneaked in for a gander. Actually, we only sneaked in with our tour guide whose English was very good though quite funny at times.
I did rather like the Chagall ceiling in the auditorium which seemed to fly in the face of the remaining classically inspired building. In fact, the original ceiling which is classical, is hidden underneath (or on top given it’s the ceiling) the Chagall. He insisted, saying it was to preserve the original masterpiece. I reckon he was being a bit of a tease. He must have known that people would be really, really annoyed that not only did they have to put up with a modernist ceiling, but the original classical ceiling was but centimetres away.
Meanwhile, back in Harry’s Bar, we found out that the Bloody Mary was first made here by cocktail mixer Fernand Petiot in 1921…at least that’s one claim. There are a few others. But I so like Harry’s Bar that I’m going to believe it was old Fernand’s idea. Not that I like Bloody Marys, because I don’t.
Rather than leave the opera house, we decided to stick around for a bit and went to the restaurant which was a tad confusing because it was a buffet of all three courses and a hot drink. The food was lovely though and we filled ourselves up nicely before heading out.
The plan was to head for…actually, as I’ve already mentioned, there wasn’t a plan, we were just going to wander around and see where we ended up. Then we heard the music coming from the front of the opera house so we headed for it.
There, on the main steps, was a young and very enthusiastic brass band playing songs that vaguely sounded familiar. They were excellent and had drawn quite the appreciative crowd.
We were quite impressed with how the trombone and saxophone players did a whole section on their backs with their legs waggling in the air…without missing a note. A very talented lot.
We eventually dragged ourselves away and, after having a few drinks with Harry, headed back to the hotel via Starbucks for a bit of a rest before heading out for Papa Jazz Club across the river in St Germain de Pres.
We checked two sources and they both said it was open tonight with live jazz from 8:30. Sadly no-one told the actual Papa Jazz because he’d gone home to bed and locked the place up solid as the proverbial. Frozen, we headed for a cafe for a light dinner (we were still digesting the all-you-can-eat buffet from lunch time) at the Cafe Bonaparte where our waiter was not English as Mirinda claimed – he was French…as was the Captain.
An update on the bizarre happenings last night…apparently it was an Algerian chap who was smoking a cigar with the window shut. He then left, like a thief in the night, without paying for the mini bar, all of which he’d devoured over his two night stay. If that wasn’t enough, the poor night porter (who’s a cage fighter in his spare time) smashed his head on a low ceiling (he’s quite tall) trying to get to the alarm as quickly as possible. Eventually (when he’d been relieved by the morning guy at 8am) he took himself off to the hospital where they gave him stitches because the wound was so bad.
We had a jolly good laugh with him in reception after unsuccessfully going to the Jazz Club. A lovely man.