Trip to Palais Garnier: Part I

My beloved has wanted to tour the Palais Garnier for ages and I thought the best way to see it was by attending a performance, and I was so right!

How it all began

Performances at Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier Opera House story includes the demolition and rebuilding of Paris as well as the attempted assassination of an emperor. From the middle to the end of 19th century, Paris was transformed from a city of narrow, unclean, unsafe medieval streets into a well-lit modern city with broad boulevards and a great sewerage system!

This was the when Baron Haussmann, under the direction of emperor Napoleon III, undertook the modernisation of Paris — demolishing existing buildings, rues, and avenues; replacing them with straight, broad streets, flanked by uniform five-story buildings. When the emperor was nearly assassinated in a narrow street outside the then-current opera house, Napoleon III decided enough was enough and commissioned a new opera building to be located in an imposing spot on one of the newly-created places.

Palais Garnier

The commission was awarded to a then-unknown architect, the young Charles Garnier, and building began almost immediately. Construction was delayed, however, by the disastrous Franco-Prussian War and the aforementioned Commune in the period 1870-71. The grand opera building finally opened its doors on 5 January, 1875.

Palais Garnier became the centre of Parisian cultural life during the Belle-Époque period of late 19th and early 20th centuries. It continued on as France’s most prestigious opera house right through the World Wars and into the 1960s.

Over the decades — through the wars and with the advent of the automobile — the exterior of Palais Garnier became dull and grimy. But a recent multi-year cleaning and renovation programme has restored it to its original glory. The interior is just as breathtaking, and it’s a must-visit place — particularly to attend a performance of the Paris Ballet Company, small opera productions, or other special performances.

Performances at Palais Garnier

Paris has been mad about opera and ballet since the mid-1600s, during the reign of Louis XIV (aka the Sun King) who founded the first Parisian opera house in 1669. Since then there have been no fewer than thirteen buildings that have housed the Paris Opera Ballet company. Through kings and revolutions, emperors and presidents and wars there have always been ballet and opera playing in Paris.

A surprisingly number of the Paris ballet houses were destroyed by fire — others have simply outlived their usefulness and been razed. For instance, there was the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin built for Marie Antoinette in 1781, abandoned during the Revolution, and destroyed in a fire during the Commune of 1871. Luckily for us, however, Palais Garnier, the grandest example of them all, still exists and is as glorious as ever.

 

Last on the card: October 2022

The rules for Brian’s Last on the Card prompt are pretty simple:

1. Post the last photo on your SD card and/or last photo on your phone for the end of the month.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t co-operate.
3. You don’t have to give any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to this post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

Musical Monday: Amy Winehouse (again)

Sadly, Amy Winehouse is another young artist who left us way too early. She’s previously featured in a 2021 Musical Monday post but I never got to see her in concert.

Winehouse, in what appears to be a recording booth, rings every emotional nuance from this song as she sings the lyrics:

Over futile odds/And laughed at by the gods/And now the final frame/Love is a losing game.

As the music fades we hear Winehouse ask quietly, and seemingly sadly:

Is that alright?

It’s a heartbreaking moment from a tremendously talented star who fell too quickly. It’s over 10 years since the singer was found dead at home of accidental alcohol poisoning, but her music still resonates and her premature death serves as a cautionary tale about the toll of stardom.

The British singer with the cat-eye makeup and massive bouffant hairstyle was far from the first artist to die too soon. Her passing, in fact, made her a part of a morbid group of stars known as “The 27 Club,” like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain before her who also died at age 27.

But Winehouse never seemed to realize how inspirational or influential she was, instead mired in highly publicised personal and legal troubles. Even after both she and her critically acclaimed 2006 “Back to Black” album won Grammys, there was still more media focus on her fights, arrests, rehab stints and tumultuous relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil (the pair would divorce in 2009) than her music.

All that attention was the exact opposite of what Winehouse wanted.

French fancies: Bonne Maman

This week I turn my attention to a well-known, beloved brand which is still family owned. Bonne Maman is a French brand of jam, marmalade, compotes, desserts, cakes and biscuits.The brand was created by Andros in 1971 as a mass-produced product with a home-made feel, with a handwritten-style label, gingham-patterned lid and a name meaning “grand-mother.” Andros promotes Bonne Maman jams as being made with “five simple ingredients that could be found in your kitchen” and without high fructose corn syrup, additives or preservatives.

How it all began

ARTICLE-BM

Jean Gervoson founded a company called Andros in the southwestern village of Biars-sur-Cère in the late 1950s, selling preserves. At this point, Gervoson was doing little more than recovering his father-in-law’s unsold plums and turning them into jam.

In 1971, he and his wife, Suzanne, officially launched the Bonne Maman label, and by the mid-’70s, it had spread to the United States – see what I did there?

In 1976, Andros expanded, buying a factory from Pierrot Gourmand, a lollipop manufacturer in the throes of bankruptcy. Andros used its new production sites to enter into the confectionery market.

The brand currently falls under the umbrella of the Andros group, which, despite its size, is wholly family-owned. While the Bonne Maman line-up of products has expanded, the premise remains the same: a commercial preserve that looks and feels homemade, the kind of product that can transport you to a past you may never have had. It was a hit from the beginning; even the French, it turns out, want fictional French grandmas.

Bonne Maman is the French girl of the supermarket: familiar but glamorous.

The endurance of Bonne Maman’s appeal is that rare thing: a shop-bought jam worth eating. It has a better ingredient list: lemon juice instead of citric acid; cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. The cooking process reduces it down more, too, so there’s more fruit per tablespoon, just by the texture and the taste.  It’s delicious but not overly sweet which I think is really key.

Let’s not forget the iconic jar. It is sturdy, cheerful, unfussy, nostalgic; the ten-sided body just feels nice in your hand and the label comes off really easily, so you can – and I do – re-use the jar.

Bonne Maman recipes

Bonne Maman is the French girl of the supermarket: familiar but glamorous. Foreign, but pronounceable. The jar is cute.  And still, it is hard to escape the most obvious conclusion: that the reason for Bonne Maman’s supremacy is that Bonne Maman is good. As someone who loves making her own jam and generally buys artisanal preserves, I still buy Bonne Maman.

Corporate Development

In 2000, Jean Gervoson retired from the group and his two sons succeeded him, Frédéric Gervoson, who took over Andros and Bonne Maman jams, and Xavier Gervoson who took over Bonne Maman cakes.

À Auneau, le groupe Andros cultive la discrétion - Auneau-Bleury-Saint-Symphorien (28700)

In 2006, Andros acquired Prolainat, a company specialising in the manufacture of ice cream, sorbet and frozen goods thereby enabling it to launch desserts. After the start provided by Prolainat, Andros built a dairy product factory in Auneau.

Contact - Andros

At the end of the 2010s, coinciding with the leadership of Florian Delmas (pictured below), the Andros Group began a shift towards environmental consciousness. In 2018 Andros Gourmand & Végétal was launched, a brand of desserts made from coconut and almond milk that was positioned as an alternative to cow’s milk yoghurts. By the end of 2020, Andros launched the first recyclable compote pot.

Florian Delmas - French-American Foundation

Throughout its history, the Andros Group has been very private. Despite being a national leader in jams and compotes, the company rarely makes statements or announcements to the press, and the R&D laboratory that still resides in Biars-sur-Cère is a top-secret area. The family empire it seems, is well guarded.

In May 2022, near the Biars-sur-Cère main factory, Andros opened a new transformation industrial site in Brive-la-Gaillarde, strengthening even more its influence in its native area.

Sustainability

Exploitation Fruitière

Andros takes pride in providing quality products that are an integral part of its sustainable approach. It starts with a thorough sourcing process that helps to identify the best possible combination of ground, climate, variety as well as human considerations.

The Andros Group’s commitments to protect the environment are of prime importance since farmers are facing an increasing number of problematic climate hazards. Andros is thus closely connected to the fruit producers around the world, attentive to each and every change. This sometimes involves helping farmers in a given country to introduce a new crop, or helping them approach their activity in a new way.

It is this responsiveness and this adaptability that help to be as resilient as possible. Andros’s sustainability values reach beyond agriculture. Everything involving the fruit itself must also make sense and be in line with Andros’s values.

Each of its partner suppliers undertakes in particular to apply an ethical charter involving the respect for each person working on site.

All images courtesy of Andros

Silent Sunday #121

It’s Sunday and today’s photo is from ma belle France.

The Musette: Lemon Bars

These are a go-to recipe for a minimum fuss dessert for unexpected guests – I get a lot of these!  They’re quick and easy to make as follows: grind up the crust in the food processor, press the crust in – so much easier than rolling –  blend filling until smooth, pour in filling, freeze, cut, done!  I store the pre-cut bars in a container in the freezer, and I just set them out to thaw a bit while I’m cleaning up after the main course. There is something so deliciously refreshing about lemon desserts, whatever the time of year.

Ingredients (makes 12-16 bars)

Crust

  • 9 soft Medjool dates, pitted
  • 145g (1 cup) raw almonds, skin on
  • 60g (3/4 cup) rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1  – 2 tbsp filtered water

Filling

  • 395g (14 oz) coconut cream (NOT milk)
  • 175g (11/4 cups) raw cashew nuts
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) freshly squeezed  lemon juice
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) maple syrup
  • pinch sea salt

Instructions

1. Make the crust in a food processor by  processing the dates, nuts, oats and salt until the mixture comes together into a sticky ball. If necessary, gradually add 1 to 2 tbsp water.

A paper lined baking pan has lemon bar crust inside of it, before being pressed in evenly. The photo is taken in direct sunlight.

2. Line a 20cm sq (8 x 8 inch) baking pan with greaseproof (parchment) paper and press the crust to the edges of the pan using a cup to ensure it’s all level then put  the pan in the freezer while you make the filling.

AN up close, overhead shot of lemon filling poured into a prepared pan in direct sunlight with stark contrast.

3. It’s best to make the filling in a high-speed blender. Puree the coconut cream, cashews, lemon zest, lemon juice, maple syrup and salt until really creamy and smooth. Pour the filling over the crust and freeze overnight. Let it thaw at room temperature for 20 minutes before slicing into bars and serving.
4. Alternatively, thaw just enough to cut into bars and then place in storage container, separated by squares of greaseproof paper, and keep in freezer until needed.

An overhead shot of creamy vegan lemon bars, cut into squares and garnished with lemon zest.

One from the vaults: Things my beloved doesn’t do – call me

Another golden oldie! This one is from October 2012 when my beloved was still circumnavigating the globe on a regular basis and our mobile phone of choice was a Blackberry – a real blast from the past.

BlackBerry Curve 8530 Price in India, Specifications (28th August 2022)

My beloved and I have an unspoken rule. He rarely rings me when he’s away and I much prefer it that way. Were he to arrange to call me every evening, I would only worry when – not if – he forgot. So, no calls, at least not on a regular basis. He’s typically away at least three nights a week and, unless something important comes up, we can catch up when he gets home.

He was away this week end and I relished the peace and quiet. From time to time, I particularly enjoy not having to converse with anyone all week end. Now you might find that a strange comment from someone who has no problem talking the proverbial hind leg off a donkey but there is something very restful about not having to chat. Thanks to Blackberry direct messaging, we can “chat” to one another for free should the need arise, like yesterday, when he was trying to ascertain if my kid sister, who’s cruising the Caribbean, was okay.

It’s a generally accepted rule that because men only listen to 10% of what women say you’ve got to tell them something ten times. My beloved is no exception. This rule also seems to apply to direct messaging. I told my beloved three times that I had a cold and wasn’t feeling well. I even commented on how fortuitous it was that he was away so that he wouldn’t catch it. But if you’d read his replies, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d never told him. His responses were all about what he’d done and what and where he’d eaten.To be fair he did say he’d rather be at home with me, but then service at home is generally better than anything he receives while away.

To be honest I hate feeling unwell when he’s around. If he’s sick, he expects a five star Florence Nightingale service while if I’m ill he’ll generally ignore me, apart from meal times when he’ll pitifully enquire whether there’s anything to eat. What he really means is am I feeling well enough to provide him with a meal? In his absence, I’ve been able to take refuge on the sofa, with the Sunday newspapers and hot toddies. The latter’s my way of coping with a common cold for which there is no cure. Of course, were I to pass on my cold to him it would miraculously morph into man-flu. The toddies have done the trick, I’m feeling much better.

He also has an annoying habit of either lobbing emails in my direction or copying me on his responses with no apparent reason as to why I should be privy to them. It may be that there’s something he wants me to do but as I gaze into my crystal ball it’s murky and not at all clear. Of course, it might be that he’s promised a client I’ll do something but has omitted to convey the request to me.

This is always very awkward. Do I ‘fess up that my beloved didn’t tell me or not? Usually, I end up apologising for the time it’s taken me, pressure of work etc etc, and then have to cancel my plans to do whatever I’ve been committed to in absentia. It’s at times like these my beloved’s undoubtably glad he’s working overseas and out of reach of my wrath.

He’s redeemed himself somewhat by calling this morning to check whether I’m well enough to go out [on my bike]. Well the sky’s a brilliant blue but it is decidedly chilly and I have a very large pile of admin to wade through so, no.

Thursday doors #174

Here are even more doors from our most recent trip to Spain.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Dan’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Trip to Bibliotheque Richelieu-Louvois

The recently re-opened and sensitively-refurbished Richelieu-Louvois site is the historic birthplace of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). Located in the heart of the capital, in 17th century this comprised  several important and beautiful buildings, including the Palais Mazarin, the Hôtel Tubeuf and the Galerie Mansart. The library was installed on the site during the first half of 18th century. Today it houses exceptional collections: manuscripts (from the remains of the most ancient writings to the manuscripts of modern writers), prints and photographs, stage music and art, letters and plans and finally the museum of coins, medals and antiques.

How it all began 

The impressive palace was the former residence of Cardinal Mazarin who founded the College des Quatre Nations, which is now known as the Institut de France that is located on the bank of the River Seine opposite The Louvre Museum.

Bibliotheque Richelieu-Louvois central hall

When you look back at the history of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, or BNF for short, this was originally the royal library.  And when it was realised that manuscripts could not be housed within the Palais du Louvre due to lack of space, they were moved in the 1660s on orders of King Louis XIV, to this former private mansion.

It was opened up to the public in the latter part of the 1600s, and by the end of 17th century the collections had expanded so much that they ended up using he adjacent Palais Mazarin along with the Hotel Tubeuf, the Mansart Gallery and other buildings. And formed in a quadrilateral design, the main royal library was housed here from the first part of 18th century.

The next major stage in the development of the Bibliotheque Richelieu-Louvois was from 1854 through to 1875, when the architect Henri Labrouste, who had already designed the Bibliotheque Saint-Genevieve, was entrusted with creating specific areas for the library.

One of the main projects was the reading room, which is now known as the Labrouste reading room, but he also designed the storage area for books, which was purely dedicated to printed volumes.

Then, from 1875, work continued to enhance and improve the Richelieu library work that continued right up until 1932 with the architects Jean-Louis Pascal and Alfred Recoura working on projects including the famous Oval room.

Further adjustments were also made including filling in courtyards, etc, just purely because the collections were growing exponentially. This work which continued up to and after World War II, were overseen by Michel Roux-Spitz.

Eventually in 1958, a reading room containing the Manuscripts Department was created, and then several other areas were organised and transformed allowing for more storage, yet by the 1970s the collections of the Bibliotheque Richelieu-Louvois were so immense that the library was becoming far too small to accommodate the collection.

Book shelves Bibliotheque Richelieu-Louvois

Arches within Bibliotheque Richelieu-Louvois

In the 1980s a new project was announced by the French President, Francois Mitterrand to construct a new library that would be one of the most modern, up to date and largest in the world. Once the new library called the Bibliotheque Francois-Mitterrand was completed, the collections at the Richelieu-Louvois library were reorganised and split up into different areas within the two libraries, and this phase of reorganisation was completed in 1997.

However, since 2010, further alterations have taken place so that the collections and the museum are now more readily and easily accessible to the public and researchers.

It’s well worth a visit just to marvel at the building, let alone the various collections.

Wordless Wednesday #141

Wednesday is devoted to photos from Australia taken on one of my many #adventuresdownunder.