Paris opera house


We had such a good time last night! My office colleagues and I were treated to an outing (by our employer): a guided tour of the Paris opera house and a cocktail party afterwards.

We were over one hundred, but broken up into small groups. While recounting stories and legends along the way, Delphine, our tour guide, shepherded my small group around the building. For tourists, this service is available to everyone and I highly recommend it. Above is the magnificient ceiling painted by Marc Chagall in 1964. (For those who don’t know, there’s a stunning museum, the MUSÉE NATIONAL MARC CHAGALLin Nice, France. A must-see.)

As I sat in the plush red velvet seat, my head craned upwards to gaze at the ceiling, the thought that ran through my head was this: I cannot imagine my life without art and beauty in it.


If anyone has watched the movie, The Phantom of the Opera (I don’t know which version, there were many), this is the box that was in the film.


Here we are backstage (this was the most exciting part). We were surprised to learn that the floor slopes downwards.


In this photo below you can see the vista of the avenue de l’Opéra from the window, Delphine telling us a story, and the bust of Charles Garnier, the architect who built “Le Palais Garnier” in 1874.


After the two-hour tour, we trooped down the avenue de l’Opéra in the cold night to Drouant restaurant where flutes of champagne and hors d’oeuvres awaited us. Every year the famous literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, takes place in this Michelin 3-star dining establishment.

Restaurant recommendation: looking for a superlative meal in an elegant restaurant in the center of Paris? The Drouant. The champagne, wine and food that I consumed was of the highest quality.

Below are just a few of my lovely colleagues. Only one of them is French. I really like working in an international context and environment.


crème de cassis, France’s favorite liqueur


6 pm is officially apéritif hour here in France. In anticipation, and as a reward for my weekend labor, I purchased a bottle of crème de cassis yesterday. Crème de cassis is a sweet, red liqueur made from blackcurrents. Nearly 16 million litres of the stuff is produced annually in the Burgundy region of France. Traditionally, you pour a small amount into a glass of white wine to make a favorite cocktail called kir. The first time I did this, decades ago, I was unaware of the high alcohol content of crème de cassis (18%). With a friend, I poured, giggled and guzzled my way through an entire bottle of wine, copiously fueled with cassis. Then I promptly passed out. 

I like to pour cassis into a glass of chilled crémant. From only 5 to 7 euros a bottle, as opposed to 33 euros for a good bottle of champagne, it makes a delicious apéritif with a splash of that blackcurrant (or raspberry) liqueur thrown in. When the wine is sparkling, or if it’s champagne, then the cocktail is called a kir royale.

March 3, 2013 millefeuille + crémant 031

Under AOC regulations (Appellation d’origine contrôlée), all sparkling wines using the champagne method – but produced outside of the Champagne region – are forbidden to use the appellation “champagne.”

March 3, 2013 millefeuille + crémant 034

Sparkling wines called crémant are so named because their lower carbon dioxide levels give them a creamy rather than fizzy mouth-feel. In France, there are seven appellations for crémant (an appellation is a protected geographical region):

  • Crémant d’Alsace
  • Crémant de Bordeaux
  • Crémant de Bourgogne
  • Crémant de Die
  • Crémant du Jura
  • Crémant de Limoux
  • Crémant de Loire