My eight year old daughter wants to be a fashion designer more than anything on the planet. A few years ago, in an attempt to direct this passion toward something substantive and away from something superficial, I gave her a card with Coco Chanel’s famous quotation, “Fashion fades, only style remains.” Since then Coco Chanel has become her idol, mentor and muse. Little Chick spends hours reading about her on wikipedia, collects books about her, even dressed as Coco Chanel for Halloween.
On this trip to Paris we made a pilgrimage to the original Chanel boutique at 29 Rue Cambon. Little Chick was in awe, and once inside she turned a bit shy. I think she was completely mesmerized by all the gorgeous gowns and the giant flower arrangements and the swanky European women lounging on sofas with their dogs and diamonds.
I felt so painfully American.
They were broadcasting the spring fashion show on video screens, and I chuckled as “Whole Lotta Love” blared through the store. (I simply cannot account for my recent love affair with Led Zeppelin. I just can’t seem to escape it lately.)
It wasn’t long before Little Chick had a dedicated team of Chanel sales associates offering her tea and bringing her Chanel paraphernalia. Little Chick commandeered her own sofa and proceeded to interview her new entourage about Chanel’s favorite fabrics, why tweed, what did she do during the war, why was she buried in Switzerland, why did she love camellias.
These Chanel employees rose to the occasion. They were so charming and patient and kind to my kiddo. It was such a sweet experience and far-exceeded our very high expectations. As we left the boutique, Little Chick further disarmed the haute couture sales team with some good-ole-southern-girl goodbye bear hugs. I swear I actually saw one of those French women tear up.
I felt so deliciously American.
Buzzed and soaring from all the hugging and waving goodbye and air-kissing, we couldn’t possibly transition straight back to an art museum. So we crossed the street to visit the place where Coco Chanel lived for so many years – The Ritz.
It’s such a timeless hotel you can almost feel the ghosts strolling beside you in the ornate hallways. I tried to figure out which exit Princess Diana had used. I imagined Hemingway cruising the corridor toward his bar. Chanel coming in from her boutique. Charles Ritz checking on his staff.
Of course Charles Ritz was not only a legendary luxury hotelier, but also an avid fly-fisherman. I wanted to ask the concierge if there were any photographs or memorabilia of Charles Ritz fishing. But I was feeling a bit sheepish. We weren’t staying there and the guy behind the concierge desk looked so formal and daunting. (At this point I had no idea how inaccurately I had judged him.)
Quickly my shyness passed, and I decided to ask him. That’s pretty much all it took…
Apparently the mere mention of “fly-fishing” is international code for ditch your post, abandon your real work, and talk talk talk talk talk about fishing.
So it’s pretty much the same in every country!
We gabbed and gabbed and talked and chatted. His father-in-law is a big fisherman and taught him to fish in southern France. He loves la TWEET. Loves loves loves la TWEET.
TWEET? TREAT? What was he saying?
La truite. Ah, trout!
Ooh, I love the tweet too.
About this time a lovely Asian couple arrived at the desk. I think they were actual hotel guests who probably needed dinner reservations. But Concierge was un-phased. It was time to talk about carp fishing.
Truthfully, he feels carp fishing has too much equipment. Too hard to feel the beauty of nature when you’re hauling all that stuff. But it’s so fun to have something so big on your line! Big big big. Carp get big! (There were dramatic re-enactments.) Now his son prefers carp fishing so he is going to have to start carp fishing more. Do I do the carp fishing too, or just the TWEET?
I felt terrible for the couple waiting for his attention, but we were having so much fun talking TWEET and he didn’t seem worried. He wanted to know all about fishing in Montana and Texas — and did we plan to fish while in France…
I had to say no, and in fact we were off to the Musee D’Orsay from here. We all exchanged grandiose goodbyes, excused ourselves and allowed him to get back to work. The revolving doors spun us back onto the streets of Paris, and back into reality. Once again we had a little extra bounce in our step from another deliciously unscripted Parisian encounter.
It’s so funny. We went to the Chanel boutique and the Ritz Hotel to pay homage and commune with big-name famous ghosts. But in both cases it was the lively French characters that made our visit silly, soulful and unique. I’m sorry I didn’t catch the names of our fleeting new French friends, but we will remember them fondly for sure. The true spirit of Joie De Vivre.
It was all very very Paris.