Honeybees are known to form their hives in more secluded, closed off spaces. This is why the roof of the opera house Palais Garnier seems to be one place that fits their liking, and the opera house is now a producer of its own honey. Recently, a few bees have moved into the Paris opera house and made it their new home, adding to the list of intriguing events that have taken place at the Palais Garnier.
The Palais Garnier is a historical opera house commissioned by Napoleon III and the source of inspiration for The Phantom of the Opera. The famous roof is now part of the honey industry, producing honey that’s been referred to as “pots of gold” or “pure gold.” The same roof where former dance students weren’t allowed, honeybees are now using the rooftop as shelter, adding to the opera house’s rural aesthetic. The location and environment on the roof is clear of any pesticides that may harm the bees, encouraging a more organic honey and a higher expense.
Jean Paucton, a prop designer and graphic artist at Garnier, also serves as an urban beekeeper at the opera house. After receiving his first hive, Paucton didn’t want to risk taking his bees home to the countryside (honeybees can’t survive in a sealed hive more than 48 hours), so he decided to move them to the roof of the Palais Garnier. Two weeks later, when Paucton went to check on his hives and take them back home, he realized the bees had produced more honey in the city than expected.
The linden trees that surround the structure produce a strong flavor that mimics their fragrance. The linden trees’ fragrance is known to put off a sweet perfume—a scent that’s described as a mix of honey and lemon peels. The honey produced from the nectar of linden trees as well as the weeds and flowers surrounding them are considered to have a fruity, nutty flavor, as per most chefs and pastry makers. Paucton believes the chestnuts and linden trees, used to make his honey, create another unique taste. ”Some people say it tastes like bubble gum,” he says. He admits it doesn’t appeal to everyone and that it’s more of an acquired taste.
Today, the Palais Garnier is still open to visitors, being just as welcoming to tourists and French citizens as it is to the honeybees atop its roof.
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