#2. Behind the Postcard: The Second in a Series of Reals. L’apéritif

The Reals Series is meant to entertain while informing via trivial information only somewhat relevant to the topic et avec un peu d’humour.

Behind the Postcard

In this, the second in our series of Reals we look behind the l’apéritif also known as l’apéro.

We look at what real people do when they come together.  Focusing on what to expect if you’re invited to l’apéro.

If you look behind the postcards and carefully scan the horizon, you’ll see the real beauty of a region. You’ll see its people. 


L’apéro is more than snacks and drinks. It’s a moment. It’s the time set aside to be together.  Not to do, but to be!

If you visit France, it’s going to happen. And understanding what it is and when it’s going to happen is an important piece of information often overlooked in travel guides.

The what

L’apéro, is technically a before dinner drink. A drink taken to prepare the stomach for the meal. Hors-d’œuvres or what our family likes to call do-dads often accompany l’apéro.


Common do-dads include nuts, olives, cherry tomatoes, small seasonal fruits such as grapes, petite cheese treats, chips, pretzels, and pâté.

The serving sizes or portions are modest and are not intended to fill you up. The orchestration of the event is subtle, whereas most hosts have developed a second nature related to its delivery.

A seasoned presenter will seamlessly guide the guest through the event with an unnoticeable, almost hardwired intention. The host may bring in an assortment of selections throughout the l’apéro, or they may elect to display all the offerings at once.

The intention being placed equally on the preparation of the stomach as well as on the entertainment of the guest.


The tradition can be traced back to similar customs practiced in various parts of the world dating as far back as the Roman period. With some historians believing the practice may have originated in Russia or China before making its way to what we consider modern day Europe.

The type of before dinner drink can vary and is often influenced by regional and personal favorites. Preferred offerings may include suze (a French brand of bitters), whiskey, bourbon, and kir (composed of crème de cassis a blackcurrant liqueur, which is topped off with white wine).

Champagne or sparkling wine might be served in honor of a birthday or anniversary styled apéritif.


Pineau des Charentes (a fortified wine) is a local favorite served in the regions of Charente and Charente-Maritime. 

Beer or a panache (beer and lemon soda) always work well when you are out and about.


Long hot summer days often end with pastis served in a tall thin glass with a few ice cubes and water.



French media reports point to an increase in non-alcoholic choices; this trend reportedly driven by stricter laws related to alcohol levels while driving, as well as changes in social and cultural norms related to alcohol consumption. Other factors reported include an uptick in activity levels with a strong focus on healthier lifestyles.  

Regardless of the type of drink or the quantity of drinks, the custom lives on. The l’apéro is alive and well!  It knows it has to evolve and adapt in order to survive. Tradition says it will.

The when and the how

It’s the time of the day when people assemble before the evening meal, a gathering of family and friends prior to the meal in preparation of the meal — the opening act.


An invitation to this French norm should be welcomed with excitement.

Grab a small gift such as a bouquet of flowers (not carnations, which are normally reserved for funerals) or some chocolates and head that way with an open mind and a relaxed sense of adventure.

This truly French happening can’t be bought in a souvenir shop. Yet, it’s a must have and should be added to your bucket list of things to do while traveling in France.

Normally beginning anywhere from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and lasting from an hour to an hour and a half, closely followed by dinner. As a guide, the l’apéro usually begins roughly two hours prior to the start of dinner which usually occurs around 8:00 p.m. Additionally, plan to arrive a few minutes after you are expected and if not staying for dinner limit your stay to two hours.


It can linger or it can be quick. Are there days when it doesn’t happen? Sure, and depending on the stage of life you’re in — it may happen more or less often.

The why

It’s not so much the what, the when, or the how, but rather the why.

Why not is the easy answer; the more complex response is because you can.

Respectfully, as we should; at the end of the day. To celebrate and share life with those we love to do life with.


The do’s

Do go, do eat the do-dads, do drink (healthy non-alcohol alternatives are suggested), do talk in your best broken French, and do think about the coolness of the experience.

The don’ts

Don’t over think it.

The reals

You’ve heard the phrase “life is slower in France”. But is it? I might offer life is slower in France comparatively (to the speed at which Americans have become accustomed to), but it’s still real life.

There are jobs, and deadlines, and appointments, and illness, and death. There is happiness, and joy, and love, and regret.

There are bills to pay, and chores to do. There are decisions, and choices, and lists to be made.

But what do real people do in France when they come together?

They simply enjoy the moment and each other. They merely share themselves uninterrupted and without rush.

It’s real life with a twist and they call it l’apéro and it’s truly a celebration of the day.

Not to do, but to be.


If you look behind the postcards and carefully scan the horizon, you’ll see the real beauty of a region. You’ll see its people. 

What’s your dream destination and how do you plan to get behind the postcard?

Chin-Chin Suz!

13 responses to “#2. Behind the Postcard: The Second in a Series of Reals. L’apéritif”

  1. A very informative and practical post Suz as you shared the “do’s and don’ts”. And the learning the importance of the “Reals”. Living a slower paced life is so much healthier.

    Thank you for sharing Suz. Hope you are well! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Carl – thank you! And yes, learning to slow down is so beneficial – as challenging as it may be. Hope you are recovering well from your EPIC adventure. I loved following the journey of the Monarch and of the runners. Looking forward to reading more about your experience soon. And all is well – leaving today for a half marathon in Indianapolis this weekend – should be a crisp and cold and pretty flat run. Thanks for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much Susan. My pleasure. And this is tremendous to hear about your half marathon. Thanks for sharing this. Hope you have aa amazing time! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We enjoyed the slower life in Europe. And had many Apertivos …moments!

    Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It really is about the moment isn’t it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I spent ages translation how nice it is to be here and flick … vamoosh! I know its Italian. But … J’adore ça the only part I saved* sighs* oh well. But I do, like your blog. Don’t forget return visit and a comment on mine is … tres acceptable. Esme’s BOSS link share is such fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this idea and time of day. Even to meet after work before heading home it is a nice way to transition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh the things we will do when this pause is over 🙂 Nice to hear from you!


  5. The Tea Chest ♥ Avatar
    The Tea Chest ♥

    Lovely fun and what better way than to connect and experience with our friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so ready to reconnect. Is there a similar hour in Turkey?


      1. The Tea Chest ♥ Avatar
        The Tea Chest ♥

        The Turkish people are real foodies, we tend to eat twice a day. Brunch and Linner. Meals are always served with lots of little things available to take to your plate or nibble on. Love this way of eating

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me too. My daughters call those little bits – do-dads. I love the slowness the time allows.


      3. The Tea Chest ♥ Avatar
        The Tea Chest ♥

        Oh yes me too ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

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