Avenue l’Opera in central Paris, ca 1900
Unlike many of the avenues in Paris the Avenue de l’Opera has few trees aside from those pictured here and is not what could be termed tree lined. This was the result of a compromise between the designer of the avenue (Haussman) and the architect of the Opera House (Garnier) so that an unobstructed view from the Louvre would be possible. Today the avenue is filled with shops and cafés. Before the Opera House was built, however, the area was made up of narrow streets that were considered unhealthy and dangerous. Those streets were replaced beginning in 1854 but the avenue was not completed until 1873. During part of that construction phase it was called “avenue Napoleon” for a few years but renamed Avenue of the Opera in 1873. The last of the buildings along the avenue were built in 1879. There is a lovely painting by Camille Pissarro, one of the famous French Impressionists, titled "Avenue de l'Opera" that was done in 1898. For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/Avenue_de_l’Opera
This is where Mrs. Gimlet and I got lost despite clear instructions from our guide, Angelique. We exited from the Louvre looking for the avenue that should have been directly to our left. We are still not sure what happened but we went too far, then returned and went too far a second time in the opposite direction. There were what seemed like hundreds of small stalls camped out on the sidewalk hawking all sorts of wares for tourists. It was crowded. After going back and forth a couple of times we crossed to the other side and stopped to sit on a convenient ledge, pulled out the meager city map, and tried to get our bearings. Mrs. Gimlet walked down to the end of the current block to see the name of that street and we trudged back the other direction once again only this time on the less crowded side of the street. Since we had been warned repeatedly about pickpockets we were glad to be away from the crush of people, the small stalls and also where we could see where we were heading.
Finally we found the avenue and all the stores. This was supposed to be our Paris shopping afternoon but by now we were tiring, had used up a good portion of our free time and still had several stores we wanted to visit. We did get into one boutique and successfully made a purchase hopped outside and found the shoe store but there was a doorman limiting access to the store because it was pretty crowded inside. We were supposed to meet the rest of the group for dinner, had yet to find the Metro station, would need to change trains, and meet up with everybody in the square by the Moulin Rouge in a short while. We couldn’t take the time to stand in line waiting to get into a store so we left. Sadly we were unable to get to the needlework shop Mrs. Gimlet wanted to visit or to the Ladurée store to get macaroons. But we knew there was another chance for Ladurée at Versailles the next day. We were still a bit fearful of getting lost once again so we hurried on to find the Metro. Apart from being packed in an extremely crowded train car with a group of British girls dressed like cows* the Metro ride was uneventful, transfers successful and arrival at Moulin Rouge well ahead of schedule. We sat and people watched feeling like Parisians while waiting for everyone else to arrive.
Moulin Rouge, Paris
* It took a small child on the train to ask the girls why they were dressed like cows. The girls said that one of them was getting married and this was the equivalent of a stag party, a sort of scavenger hunt, they were laughing and smiling while their cow bells tinkled cheerfully.