We Filipinos are fond of fairy tales. The wedding of celebrity doctors Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho in 2017 was nothing short of a fairy tale. At least in the place and setting where it happened.
I was waiting for my invitation to that great event but I think the mailman misplaced it. On second thought, maybe I was not really invited.
So I did the next best thing, I visited the place where the wedding reception was held. It was in the Opera House in Paris, or also known as Palais Garnier.
This 19th century architectual masterpiece was built by Charles Garnier and opened in 1875. Today, it is home to Paris Ballet, and besides being a venue for great art performances, it is also open for visitors to tour. Well, I guess it can be rented for a wedding reception too.
It was almost closing time when we got to the Opera House, and so we did not have much time to roam, but just enough to get a feel of this grandiose place.
Here’s the majestic staircase where Belo and Hayden did their magical wedding dance.
Of course I had to climb up those steps as if I’m in a fairy tale story too. My wife and I did not dance though on those stairs for we might stumble and fall, and end up in a tragic tale instead.
Here’s the grand foyer (photo below) where the wedding banquet and tables were set up. The newly wed couple and their guests dined under these intricate painted ceilings and opulent lights.
As I said, this is an Opera House, so here’s the auditorium that can sit 2000 people and where the real magical performances are happening.
Below is an interesting Christmas tree made up of ballet shoes which was displayed during our visit. I have no idea what the golden tractor tires are for.
There is also a mystery surrounding the construction of this palatial edifice that facts and fictions are blurred. The famous tale of the “Phantom of the Opera,” a classic novel by a Frenchman, Gaston Leroux, a story that was retold in so many ways was inspired from the history of Palais Garnier.
We roamed around the halls perhaps looking for traces of Belo or perhaps searching for the phantom, until a lady with a bell called everyone still inside the opera house announcing that it was time to close. We were among the last ones who exited the place that night.
I know this place was already enchanting even before Belo rented this place. Maybe someday I’ll have my birthday bash or a wedding anniversary here. Alright, I’ll dream on.
From Belo’s wedding reception place, albeit two years too late,
(*photos taken with an iPhone at Palais Garnier, Paris)
She probably has the most recognizable face. I am not her secret lover nor am I looking for an affair. I’m not even a devoted fan, but I just got to meet her to discover for myself what is this madness about her.
It was a cold and cloudy morning with intermittent drizzle, but that did not deter me from meeting her on our appointed date. The subway transit, known as the Metro was not running due to the labor force strike, but that did not stop me either. I could walk, or I could use Uber.
So I went to the palace where she resides. They even have these aesthetic glass pyramids in the inner court (photo above).
When I entered her royal residence, I passed through some naked guard statues. I thought to myself, if our medical mission is here, some of these guards could avail of our “operation tuli.” But I get it, circumcision was not in vogue in that era.
Some of the sculptures were really huge.
And so were the paintings.
The palace was enormous with more than 60,600 square meters to roam around. You could get lost here. I climbed up some majestic stairways and passed through several long hallways in search of my lady.
Finally, I entered the room where she was (photo above). For some reason, there was not much crowd around her that day. I think I was fortunate, I don’t have to navigate through a long line. Or perhaps I was favored, and she set aside a time for me to meet her.
In the end, I was face to face with her, my lady, Mona Lisa.
I was a little disappointed though. Maybe I was expecting more. Maybe I was thinking that it was something more grand, and not a tiny 30 x 21 inches affair. Or maybe I was just hoping that she would break into a full smile when I meet her. Maybe.
Now I cannot forget her enigmatic smile. And just like the sentiments in the song “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole, I felt the same:
Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa? Or is this your way to hide a broken heart? Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep. They just lie there and they die there.
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa? Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?
(*My wife took these pictures, and this rendezvous had no intention of being disloyal to my real lady. Photos taken at Louvre Museum)