A Night at the Palais Garnier


‘Close your eyes and let the music set you free’ –  ‘Music of the Night’, Phantom of the Opéra

As a young girl, I would sit and watch the ballerina in my jewellery box twirling round and round and I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to dance so gracefully.  It wasn’t just a jewellery box to me; winding it up and popping open the lid to see her pirouette to the clumsy, almost tinny rendition of Swan Lake gave me such joy.  From that moment on I dreamt of attending the ballet one day and envisioned it to be a magical moment.   

I decided long ago that my first ballet experience had to be at the Palais Garnier and performed by the Paris Opéra Ballet.  Why?   Well, the Paris Opéra Ballet was founded more than three centuries ago by Louis XIV and also happen to be one of the world’s greatest and oldest ballet companies. Anyone that knows me well can tell you that not only do I get excited by historical details such as these but I’m also just a little obsessed with Louis XIV and Versailles. Speaking of the Château de Versailles, it’s level of opulence and grandeur can be found at the Palais Garnier, so to me it was the perfect combination and choice.  


Breathtaking extravagance, opulence and grandeur everywhere


The dramatic lighting intensifies the grandeur, mystery and mood of  the Palais Garnier

As soon as I worked out when I could be in Paris again, I checked Garnier’s website hoping that this time I would be in luck.  The stars must have been aligned because a performance of La Fille mal gardée fit into my schedule perfectly. I was finally going to the  ballet!  I was thrilled!  Talk about dreams coming true!  It certainly was a pinch me moment. Tickets hadn’t even gone on sale yet so as an added bonus, I would be able to pick one of the best seats in the house!  If you plan on going to see a performance, I strongly recommend booking your tickets as early as you can so that you can do the same.  


My perfect seat – 2ème loge de face (2nd floor box)


Le Réprimande

La Fille mal gardée is set in provincial France and was inspired by a painting by Pierre-Antoine Baudouins (La Réprimande, 1789). It staged just days before the storming of the Bastille in 1789 and is one of the oldest works in the modern ballet repertoire.  I couldn’t have planned it better!  It seemed entirely appropriate and meaningful to make this my first ballet, seeing as I would be in Paris for la Fête Nationale (Bastille Day) and because I am so fascinated by that period.  Could it get any better than this?

La Fille mal gardée is a charming and amusing story centred around peasants Lise and Colas. They are in love and want to get married but Lise’s widowed mother Simone has already arranged for Lise’s marriage to Alain, the son of a rich landowner.  Simone takes every opportunity to stand in the way of the young lovers, trying to prevent their union but they obviously have other ideas.  What follows is a comedic tale filled with determination from all parties that will bring a smile to your face and many laughs from the audience.  I absolutely loved it.  My ballet experience was everything I had hoped for and more. The dancers were amazing, every move so graceful, and the music helped to make the story come to life. There were many clips on YouTube to chose from but I just loved the music to this one so much. It suited the story and feel of the ballet so wonderfully. Perfectly positioned in a box on the second level,  I couldn’t help but notice that the stage sets and colourful costumes mirrored and complemented the colours of the magnificent ceiling painted by Marc Chagall.

Attending the ballet at such a grand and opulent theatre was an experience I will never forget.   Sitting on red velvet chairs and being surrounded by gold with an eight tonne chandelier hanging above you really sets the tone. I have never seen such a level of grandeur and opulence in one place before.  I was literally blown away by its sheer beauty and jaw dropping magnificence.  It truly is incredible; with so much beauty everywhere, trying to take everything in at once was quite overwhelming. 


Sumptuous red velvet and gilding in the auditorium

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the Palais Garnier is just as lavish and opulent as the Château de Versailles, if not more so.   As you now know, I am a huge fan of Versailles and Louis XIV so that is really saying something.  The Grand Staircase has to be seen to be believed and  it’s Grand Foyer bears a striking resemblance to the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, making it almost impossible to pick a favourite.  To be honest, if you simply can’t fit Versailles into your schedule and are looking to be wowed by grandeur, luxury and opulence then you can’t go wrong substituting it with the Palais Garnier instead.


The Grand Foyer, Opéra Garnier


And the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles -equally stunning


Inauguration of the Paris Opéra in 1875

On the 14th of January, 1858, an attempt was made to assassinate Napoleon III.  Multiple bombs were thrown into the crowd by Italian anarchists as he arrived at l’Opéra le   Peletier, the opéra at the time.  It was a miracle that Napoleon III survived the attempt as eight people were killed and almost five hundred were injured in the explosion.  The very next day saw Napoleon III give orders for a new opéra house to be built with a safer entrance for his arrival.  The Palais Garnier was designed by Charles Garnier who was a relatively unknown architect at the time and took fifteen years to construct, opening in 1875. 

Unfortunately, Napoleon III died two years prior to it’s completion and he never got the chance to see or enjoy the opéra house he commissioned.

Thanks to The Phantom of the Opéra, the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux, the Palais Garnier is probably the most famous opéra house in the world and is shrouded in mystery.  It is here that the story is set, a classic tale that is so intertwined with historic detail that it is hard to seperate fact from fiction.  There really was a chandelier related accident and the Phantom’s notorious Box Nº 5 does exist as does the Phantom’s lair, the underground tunnels and lake running underneath the building.  Unfortunately for Phantom of the Opéra fans, the lake is not open for viewing to the general public but rest assured it is put to good use by the city’s pompiers (firemen) for diver training.


A perfect juxtaposition of modern and classical; Marc Chagall’s controversial fresco and the famous chandelier featured in The Phantom of the Opéra

Beauty, history, culture and opulence, all rolled up in the mystery of literary gothic fiction and a touch of horror.  What more could you ask for?  I will definitely be attending a performance here every time I visit Paris, be it an opéra or a ballet but if that’s not your thing, I strongly recommend you take a tour of the Garnier instead.  Trust me, you wont regret it and can thank me later.  Perhaps, book an after hour tour to explore the Phantom’s realm without the crowds.  Just don’t lag behind, you never know…..the Phantom might just be lurking in the shadows…..

Bisous de Paris 💋

Corey Frye – ‘A French Frye in Paris’ Tour Guide Extraordinaire!


“Oh! To wander in Paris! Adorable and delightful existence! Strolling is a science, the gastronomy of the eye. To wander is to do nothing, to stroll is to live”.  – Honoré de Balzac, (Physiologie du Mariage, 1829)

French poet Charles Baudelaire conceptualised the term flâneur, describing it as a gentleman stroller, a casual wanderer of the many streets and arcades of a nineteenth century Paris, whilst gazing upon society and its kaleidoscope of life.  He could very well have been referring to Corey Frye; A French Frye in Paris, the highly sought-after tour guide.  I recently had the pleasure of experiencing five of Corey’s tours, showing me a fascinating side of Paris in a way I could never have experienced on my own. 


The idiom ‘to know a city like the back of your hand’ is a big statement but it is the phrase that comes to mind that best describes Corey’s extensive knowledge of the famous City of Lights.  His passion and enthusiasm for Paris is undeniable and it clearly shows as he amazes and mesmerises you with interesting historical, informative and sometimes obscure facts, on top of pointing out great places to eat or visit along the way.  He reveals details and secret spots that are unknown to some (if not most) of the locals and his ability to point out hidden details almost every step of the way is amazing and captivating. For two hours, you will be transported back in time as Corey paints a colourful picture through anecdotes of what it must have been like to live during historic periods, such as medieval Paris, the French Revolution, the Belle Époque and World War II.     

As well as possessing such remarkable and insightful knowledge, Corey is genuine and friendly with a great sense of humour that is refreshing and puts you at ease instantly.  By the end of the tour, I literally felt like I had been walking around Paris with a friend rather than a tour guide. The only disappointment is when the tour is over and you realise that you will now have to walk around Paris without Corey’s expertise and insight; rendering you once again oblivious to all of the city’s hidden secrets and mysteries.

Corey has single-handedly revolutionised the guided tour industry by being the first to offer unique, free, weekly live video broadcasts via Facebook. Corey‘s signature sign off, “If you can’t bring yourself to Paris, I’ll bring Paris to you” is exactly what he does. Every Saturday (5pm Paris time), by visiting the public Facebook group aptly called, ‘A French Frye in Paris’, you can be whisked away, allowing you to interact in real-time as Corey leads you through a new Parisian location each week. It’s also a great way to sample and get a feel of what his tours are all about. 

Straight after the walking tour, Patreon subscribers can then participate in a live private Facebook Café Chat with Corey that often feature a special guest who offer their own invaluable experiences, tips and passion for Paris.  Each Café chat is held at a different establishment which (as an added bonus) exposes you to a variety of places that you can pop onto your list of things to do and perhaps try for yourself.  Some of the Café Chats have fantastic views, (way too many to list!), some are quirky, (a cat café) and some exotic, (an absinthe bar).  How’s that for variety?

Patreon subscribers are also privy to many other benefits, including having access to a very active private Facebook community group, exclusive content and printable PDF maps of the live Facebook tours indicating all the spots visited on each walk. They were an invaluable resource that I used when planning my recent trip that allowed me to explore and see things I had no idea existed before watching the live tours.  

If you are interested in a tour that is definitely a cut above the rest, then A French Frye in Paris is what you have been searching for. One thing is certain, my future trips to Paris would not be complete unless l take at least one walking tour with Corey on every visit. 

Find Corey on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/AFrenchFryeInParis/

Or to book a tour: https://afrenchfryeinparis.com/guided-tours-of-paris/

Bisous de Paris 💋

Notre Dame Cathedral


‘I have made it a ritual to always light a candle when I visit’

If you twisted my arm and forced me to pick just one favourite monument in Paris, I would reluctantly say (reluctantly because who in their right mind could only pick one?) that it would have to be the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Why Notre Dame?  Well, I have visited it on every one of my trips to Paris and will most likely visit it every time I return because of the way it makes me feel.  Not forgetting the fact that construction started in 1163 and took nearly 200 years to complete, which is astounding in itself, the connection I have to Notre Dame is inexplicable except to say that it moves me.  When I enter through it’s incredibly ornate, massive doors, a sense of calm, peace and awe washes over me in a way that is hard to imagine, unless you have felt it for yourself.  The hushed whispers of tourists and the dim lighting from its numerous medieval chandeliers only add to the ambience and solemn atmosphere inside. Taking a moment to appreciate your surroundings whilst inhaling the faint smells of wood and candle wax is extremely meditative.  It is thoroughly soothing, peaceful and refreshing.


I lost count of these stunning, atmospheric chandeliers.


The subtle smell of candle wax adds to the atmosphere.

Measuring in at 130m in length, 48m in width and at 35m tall, Notre Dame is an impressive structure to say the least.  It would be better described as a French Gothic masterpiece.  I can’t help but think of what life must have been like for the craftsmen and labourers who unknowingly contributed to such an iconic cathedral.  It is completely overwhelming to take in during one visit and I feel compelled to return again and again to discover something new each time.

On my last visit, I spent the better part of a Sunday afternoon there and managed to attend the International Service (Sundays at 11:30am).  It was an incredible experience to say the least. With bells ringing on arrival, followed by dramatic organ music and the angelic, operatic voices of the choir singers all set against the beauty of its stained-glass windows, it seemed more like an elaborate opera performance rather than a weekly church service.  It was truly amazing.


The magnificent and dramatic organ of Notre Dame.


One of three stunning, stained glass roses.

Inside the church itself, you can enter The Treasury, where you will see sacred vases, ornaments and liturgical books amongst other relics. Unsurprisingly, Notre Dame’s most priceless piece by far, is the Crown of Thorns.  Funnily enough, it’s not found in The Treasury but right at the back of the cathedral, behind the alter, contained in a blood red glass display.  Keep your eyes open because I walked right past it twice and had to ask for help before locating it!


 In the Treasury:  Archbishop Sibour’s mid 19th century missal. 


The hard to spot Crown of Thorns.

If you have the energy and aren’t afraid of heights or claustrophobic, then climbing to the top of the towers is a must.  Be warned, there are 387 steps up a strictly one-way only, narrow staircase but the view is spectacular.  Make sure you reserve your timeslot before you intend to climb up; otherwise, quite frankly, don’t bother showing up.  I used an app called ‘Duck the Line’ and it was such a time saver.  Reservation access through the app is available from 7:30am on the day you wish to climb the tower and it will also notify you when it is your turn to ascend.  When the app alerts you, you simply present your phone to the Notre Dame official to gain entry. I only had to wait five minutes for access!  This allows you to avoid waiting in a long queue while you explore the outside of the cathedral.  Brilliant!  I actually think the view here is the best view of Paris. Yes, even better than the view from the Eiffel Tower.  After all, what is the view of Paris without the Eiffel Tower in it?  You can also get up close to one of the tower’s massive bells – don’t worry, this one doesn’t toll so your ears are safe!


I can picture Quasimodo up here.

Don’t forget to walk around the back and have a look at the cathedral from a different perspective, giving you a completely different view.  There is a small garden area where you can sit and enjoy the magnificent buttresses and carved gargoyle drain spouts – what a fabulous way to protect the building from water damage.  The rainwater literally comes out of the gargoyle’s mouths away from the building!  Speaking of gargoyles, the statues at the top of the Notre Dame are not gargoyles, they are chimeras. The gargoyles serve a functional purpose whilst the chimeras are purely decorative.  My favourite is the famous Stryga.


 Spot the real gargoyles while you take a break in the garden. 


The notoriously fabulous chimera – Stryga.

If you haven’t had your fill yet, at the end of the square in front of Notre Dame, you will find the Archaeological Crypt.  Here, you can walk amongst  ancient, medieval ruins that were found under Notre Dame during renovations – an eerie time capsule that gives you a glimpse into some fascinating urban and architectural development.


Fascinating ruins.

After all of that, before you say au revoir, make sure you locate Point Zéro in the square just outside the cathedral doors – it is officially the very centre of Paris itself!  Place your foot on it and take a touristy photo or put a coin on it and make a wish – or both!

I bet you can’t guess what I wished for!


Make a wish @ Point Zéro!

Bisous de Paris 💋