Although I’ve visited Paris three times, there are inevitably many things I didn’t see due to time constraints. So, here’s a wishlist of things to see and do on my next trip to Paris.
1. Palais Garnier / Opéra de Paris
I am utterly enchanted with the Palais Garnier, mostly because of my love for Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. We were unable to visit on the last trip as we would have had to rush through the tour, which would have been a real pity. I’d love to see the opera boxes, the auditorium, grand staircase, and learn about the rich and convoluted history of the opera. Besides the intriguing stories and mystery surrounding the opera, there’s a wealth of amazing architecture, artworks, and luxurious Baroque decor.
I’d love to see the subterranean lake that is said to have been the lair of the famous Opera Ghost, but alas, it seems that most tours don’t take visitors that far underground. I’d settle for a glimpse of Box 5, and maybe a sneaky peek into the manager’s office. Until my next visit to Paris, I think I’ll just re-read Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera and daydream about secret passages and eerie voices in the Palais Garnier.
2. Catacombs of Paris
I have a morbid curiosity when it comes to death. I have wanted to visit the catacombs of Paris for years, to walk among the rows of stacked human bones and to feel the heavy presence of inescapable mortality. Above the ossuary entry is the inscription, Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la Mort (‘Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death”). I think it’s important to be confronted with death every now and again, to re-evaluate our existence and to contemplate the meaning of life, and the inevitability of death.
I have visited an ossuary before – the Capuchin Crypt in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome – and I was moved by the artistic arrangement of the bones, and the inscription at the entrance to the crypt:
“What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be…”
A visit to the Catacombs of Paris is an experience that I look forward to, especially considering the disconnection we have from death these days. Sometimes it’s refreshing to delve into the morbid – at least, that’s what I believe.
3. Cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge
A night of champagne, great French food, dancing, and fun – what could be better for a night out in Paris? It’s a bit pricey, but totally worth it. I can’t wait to see the burlesque performances, the famous Parisian can-can dancers, and then walk through the streets of Montmartre at night abuzz and giddy from good French champagne. Ideally, hand in hand with some of my best girlfriends. A girl can dream, n’est pas?
4. Place des Vosges
Situated in the Marais district of Paris, the Place des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris, and perhaps one of the most beautiful squares in the world. I’m keen to see the architecture of the buildings – the characteristic mansard style of roof, tall chimneys, and blue slate roof tiles. I can imagine strolling past the fountain and enjoying the outdoors while admiring the old buildings. I’ve never visited the Marais district of Paris, but it’s definitely on my “to-see” list!
5. Musée Rodin
As an art enthusiast, I’m very keen to visit the Musée Rodin, and to see Auguste Rodin’s most famous works – The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell – in person. Many of the sculptures are displayed in the large museum garden, and visitors can walk about at their own pace.
6. Pompidou Centre
I’ve actually never visited a modern art museum, so I’d love to have a look at the exhibits in the Pompidou Centre. I’m a huge fan of Kandinsky, and yet I’ve never seen his work in person, so this would be a great opportunity to do so. I’m also excited to see several famous Fauvist and Cubist works! The strange architecture of the building itself is also worth checking out.
7. Point zero
I’m guessing that I missed this one because I simply wasn’t looking for it. It’s in the courtyard right in front of the Notre Dame cathedral – Point Zero, the point from where all distances are measured from Paris. Apparently it’s quite difficult to spot among the cobblestones (and crowds!), so I guess it’d take some dedicated searching. Legend has it that if you set foot on this spot, you are destined to return to Paris – it’s worth a try, isn’t it?
9. Espace Montmartre Salvador Dali
I have been a fan of Surrealism and Spanish artist Salvador Dali since learning about them in my high school art classes. I first saw Dali’s works in person in 2010, at a small museum in Barcelona. I walked around for hours, soaking up Dali’s works – creations that were fuelled equally by his delusions and genius. I’d love to see more, and to learn a bit more about this fascinating and eccentric man.
There are a few more things I’d like to see in Paris, but these are the main ones. Until then, it’s time for planning, and daydreaming about the city of lights.