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Paris’ Belle Époque

Paris, France

Paris’ old opera house with its Marc Chagall ceiling puts the twinkle in the belle époque (around 1900), while the Jacquemart-Andre Museum, adorned with paintings (by Rembrandt, Botticelli, and Bellini) and opulent furnishings, shows how the rich and fabulous lived in that beautiful age.

Complete Video Script

A glimpse of the decadence of Paris' "beautiful age" (or belle époque) is enjoyed along the Champs-Elysées.

Paris' old opera house — the grand palace of this gilded age — was finished in 1875. The real show was before and after, when the elite of Paris — out to see and be seen — strutted their elegant stuff in the extravagant lobbies. Think of the grand marble stairway as a theater itself, filled with Paris' beautiful people.

The actual theater is a palace of plush and ornate seating. Above it all, a delightful ceiling — painted by Marc Chagall in the 1960s — frolics around an eight-ton chandelier.

Nearby, the Jacquemart-André Museum fills a 19th-century mansion offering the public a rare aristocratic open house. Edouard André and his wife, Nélie Jacquemart, spent their lives and fortune designing, building, and decorating this incredible mansion.

I'm enjoying tour by one of the museums fine guides, Ciara.

Ciara: Because, you know, they had no children, they had a lot of money and they used to travel a lot, and then they'd bring many souvenirs.
Rick: So, these are souvenirs?
Ciara: Exactly.
Rick: What's this?
Ciara: That's the music room.

You can almost imagine the clatter of jewelry mixing with the chamber music as Edouard and Nélie threw a party.

Rick: This is the Italian room.
Ciara: Exactly, because they traveled in Italy. They loved Italian arts and they brought paintings of Bellini, Botticelli, Mantegna, Caravaggio…

…And Tiepolo, whose fresco graces the mansion's lobby.

Ciara: And this is the bedroom.
Rick: So the monsieur and madame lived here?
Ciara: Yes, but this was the room of madame, chambre of madame.
Rick: So they had two different bedrooms?
Ciara: Exactly. That's Nélie Jacquemart.

…And this was Edouard's bedroom, complete with a deluxe bathroom.

For more of the decadence of that age check out the ritzy shops. It's Ritzy in the true sense, since they cluster around the original Ritz Hotel.

Enjoy the luxury of this neighborhood by window-shopping, or as the French say, faire du lèche-vitrines — window licking.