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.


Kamel Daoud

“L’islamisme est le nouveau totalitarisme de notre siècle donc il pèse par la peur, par l’oppression, par la violence, par le meurtre.”

“Islamism is the new totalitarianism of our century. It weighs by fear, by oppression, by violence, by murder.”

When Daoud speaks, people listen. He is a courageous man. Why? Because from his home in Oran, Algeria, this outspoken intellectual, journalist and novelist dares to openly criticize Islam.


Born in 1970 in Mostaganem, Algeria, Daoud won the French literary Goncourt prize for his first novel as well as a raft of other prestigious (French) prizes. In November 2015, The New York Times featured an op-ed opinion piece by Daoud titled “Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It” in both English and French.

But the most compelling op-ed piece, published again by The New York Times in February 2016 and following the sexual attacks on European women by Arab men on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, is his article entitled “The Sexual Misery of the Arab World“. It was published simultaneously with Le Monde newspaper in three languages: English, French, and Arabic.

“Cologne, place of fantasies”
According to writer Kamel Daoud, the welcome of refugees forces us to admit that giving them papers does not suffice in curing them of the profound sexism that rages in the arabo-Muslim world.

In August 2016 another important article came out: Paradise, the new Muslim utopia.

All this makes for highly educative and informative reading. Thank the universe for original and free thinkers like Kamel Daoud!! (I say “universe” because I am a pantheist who does not believe in a distinct personal god. Although the term pantheism was not coined until after his death, Spinoza is regarded as its most celebrated advocate. His work, Ethics, was the major source from which Western pantheism spread. Food for thought as a future blog post!)

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