Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

"Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity." -Mlle. Coco Chanel


 
August 10, 1995…best day of my life because my daughter, Gracie, was born. August 13, 2006…second best in my life because I met my husband. November 12, 2014…yesterday, third best day of my life because I was fortunate enough to have…a private visit of Coco Chanel’s apartment in Paris! Swear to God, it was the third best day of my life.

I have a very special person to thank for this. My friend, Diandra de Morell Douglas, made it all happen. I told her she is like my personal Make-A-Wish Foundation. Diandra waved her magic wand and there I was…in Coco Chanel’s living room. This was no wait in line, grab a headset, and mingle with the masses kind of tour. As everything that Diandra touches, it was special and by special I mean first class. We were greeted at 31 rue Cambon by a very special woman named Madame VBA and an exceptionally handsome, well-dressed gentleman who helped with our visit. For the next two hours, we had a private tour of every inch of the legendary 31 rue Cambon.

But, as with everything in my life, nothing goes off smoothly. The evening before our visit as I was organizing my outfit, I felt a little pang in my right ribs…the exact position of my diaphragm pacer. A diaphragm pacer is a surgically inserted stretch of wires that attach to five different spots inside my delicate little body intended to aid my diaphragm with breathing. After nearly dying in surgery a few years ago to have the diaphragm pacer inserted, I spent the next eight weeks on oxycodone from the pain. On top of that, after six months of trying…the diaphragm pacer was not successful. So, all I have to show for it is five wires coming out of my right rib cage causing me worry and stress every day. Usually, the pacer is fine and has not caused me any actual trouble…until this night. The night before the best day of my life at Mlle. Chanel’s apartment! I thought to myself, “Just ignore it. Don’t tell my husband because he will do something about it. Deal with it after Mlle. Chanel’s apartment.” No such luck. As much as I tried to ignore it, I knew something was wrong. I had to tell my husband. Of course, he over-investigates and starts poking and prodding and cleaning and touching my extremely delicate diaphragm pacer. I almost fainted and I was forced to scream at David 500 times. He is not the most gentle human being on earth and in case you don’t believe me…he accidentally cut the cat’s ear off last week. David managed to clean and sterilize the pacer, put gauze over it and decided to have the nurses look at it in the morning.

The entire evening my thoughts were the following… “I don’t care if my diaphragm pacer explodes, I am not going to the hospital and missing my Coco Chanel apartment tour. I don’t care if I die as long as I die in Coco Chanel’s apartment and actually, I hope that happens. Nothing is going to stop me from visiting Coco Chanel’s apartment. Not my diaphragm pacer and not my ALS. Come hell or high water I will be at 31 rue Cambon, Paris, at 3 PM on the dot!”

Thanks be to Allah (that’s how my caregivers say it), I made it through the night. I made a mental note of how many crazy pills I had left just in case I had a panic attack in the morning. I was so stressed out, I couldn’t even wash my hair so I had to wear a hat. It was a leopard hat, so it’s okay. My nurses arrive at 10 AM and immediately dive into investigating “le pacer.” It did not suck because my nurse (male) is a total babe. Temperature taken, pulse taken, blood pressure taken, visual of pacer noted… The results were in… The pacer was not infected but they were going to call a doctor to come to my apartment anyway. My answer: “Please tell the doctor that I am not available until after my Coco Chanel apartment tour.” They looked at me like I was crazy but I didn’t care.

 


My caregivers got me, Humpty Dumpty, all put together and it only took three hours. I swear to God it took three hours to put me together. My daughter did my makeup and on my way out of the door there is a mirror in the entry and I always look at it and say, “Hi Ellie. Remember when you were pretty?” My husband, Gracie and I laughed that I am nearly a skeleton in regards to weight but my face always looks fat. I carry my weight in my face. That’s nice.

We decided to walk to Mlle. Chanel’s apartment because it is only a few blocks from our apartment. That means I am technically neighbors with Mlle. Chanel. On our walk down rue Saint-Honoré, I couldn’t help myself but think, “Paris is truly amazing. The architecture, the gardens, the fashion, the style… Everything has happened here and anything can happen here. I am living in the middle of a history book. A glorious history book.”

Madame VBA greeted my husband, my daughter, my caregiver and me at the bottom of the legendary Art Deco mirrored steps inside the front doors of 31 rue Cambon. The very steps that Mlle. Chanel sat upon as she watched her fashion shows. If I could have leapt out of my wheelchair and licked the stairs, I would have. Luckily for my daughter, I remained seated but I was truly in awe.

 
We were taken through a private elevator and up to the second floor (third floor in France) to the entry of the famous apartment. When our guide opened the double doors, I literally gasped. An audible gasp. You would have too because before my eyes was a room completely paneled in 18th-century Chinese cormandel screens. On the far left wall was a German mirror with eagles and the center was shaped in the famous hexagon shape mimicking Place Vendôme and the stopper of the Chanel No.5 perfume bottle. Under the mirror was an antique reddish altar table with two deer/antelope and a bundle of gilt wheat atop it. There were two Venetian statues greeting the guests. There was a French bergère chair that Karl Lagerfeld found in an antique shop that was the exact chair that Mlle. Chanel had been photographed in at Horst’s studio in 1937. On the opposite wall was the chair of all chairs. It was the actual chair that Mlle. Chanel sat in, kneeled on and stood on as she pinned her creations on the models/mannequins. Be still my heart.

 
 
 
 


Next we were headed into the salon. That’s a living room to us Americans. Another audible gasp. Maybe two…for here I was…sitting in Mlle. Chanel’s living room! I honestly had to hold back tears. We spent about 30 minutes in the salon and our wonderfully knowledgeable guide and I had the best conversation I’ve ever had in my life. She told me about everything in the room…its provenance, its significance, its details, and its history. I thought to myself, “Okay, it’s official, I can die now. I have seen the best and it will never get better than this.” My most favorite part about the whole day was learning about all of the details. Starting at the top, the rock crystal chandelier had subtle nearly hidden backward C’s and number 5’s in the ironwork. It also had crystal beads mimicking Mlle. Chanel’s pearls. The original sofa in beige suede had very unique pillows. Madame VBA brought the pillow over to my wheelchair and showed me the details… It was quilted! It was the original idea for the quilted bag and the exact size! This was the pillow that started it all…the famous quilted bag! This room was everything. There were more 18th-century Chinese screens, seated Buddha statues, rock crystal orbs, rock crystal lamps, French needlepoint chairs, wheat table, silver and marble lions (symbol of her astrological sign, Leo), books everywhere, a petite black and gold painting of a sheath of wheat (symbol of abundance) given to her by Salvador Dali, Cubist andirons, terra-cotta camel (symbol of humility), glass frogs (symbol of luck), beautiful Korean bowls with painted flowers and walls covered with a golden colored fabric/wallpaper that set the tone for the whole room. And there were those famous deer! Those famous bronze deer. They were given to Mlle. Chanel by her good friends, Misia and Joseph Sert. If I could have licked those as well, I would have. As I was gazing around the room I was trying to soak it up as much as humanly possible. I wanted to breathe it in. I rudely asked if we could take a photo and our generous host cheered, “Mais, oui!” This day just keeps getting better.

 
 
 
 
 


The third room that we were led into was the study. More 18th-century Chinese screens but this time there was a little secret involved. We were told that these are the screens that the current Chanel fashion designers take yearly inspiration from and adapt into their design. There was a chic console table designed by Jean Michel Frank (or was it Jean Prove) as well.

 


The last room of the apartment that we saw was a showstopper as well…the dining room. Rock crystal chandelier, Venetian mirrors that were not actually Venetian (they were something else but I forgot, maybe Spanish), more 18th-century Chinese screens with symbolism, flanking the fireplace were two tables that originally had marble tops but Mlle. Chanel replaced them with black lacquer tops. Genius. While most of the apartment has figures of animals there is one bust of an actual human. Our guide told us that Mlle. Chanel would never reveal the heritage of the bust. We were told that Mlle. Chanel would make up stories about the identification of the bust differently to her guests. Only recently was it discovered that the bust was the uncle of Mlle. Chanel’s lover and original patron, Boy Capel. All of the curtains in the apartment were ivory/cream tailored straight, exactly touching the floor, minimal design. No obnoxious fluff. The carpet was the same… ivory/cream low pile (for lack of a better word).

 
 
 
 


What I noticed most about the apartment was the symmetry. Pairs, pairs and more pairs. Double mirrors, double side tables, double orbs, double chandeliers, double candelabras, double deer, double camels, double lamps etc. And then to throw that off, Mlle. Chanel would juxtapose the whole shebang with a singular Buddha. What I learned the most about the apartment was the symbolism. According to our guide, Mlle. Chanel was very superstitious and had signs of good luck, wealth, abundance etc. scattered throughout the apartment. What I admired most about the apartment was the inspiration that she drew from her apartment and incorporated into her design or quite possibly vice versa. The Camellia flower, the pearls, the black lacquer, the Chinese screens, the number 5, the hexagon, the shape of her famous perfume bottle embedded in the Chinese screen, the quilted pillows etc..

I have never had so much fun in my entire life. I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors and I could see that my face was flushed. Flushed with happiness or maybe that was the diaphragm pacer infection setting in. After the tour of the apartment, we were lucky enough to be invited to the haute couture salon and into a room where the latest collection is on display. Baccarat crystal chandeliers, black lacquered screens/doors, white orchids, industrial chandeliers, double C carpet, white sofas and those famous Art Deco mirrored stairs. After two hours of my blaze of glory apartment tour, it was time to go. As much as I wanted to get on my knees and bow to our guide in appreciation, my ALS forced me to have some decorum, remain seated and I just politely said, “Merci Beaucoup,” about 4000 times.

 
 
 


I am aware that an event like this is very special and I am very appreciative. I would like to thank everyone involved… Mme. Douglas, Mme. Karella, Mme. Bouruet-Aubertot and M. Cruz.

In case you are wondering what happened with my diaphragm pacer after the apartment visit here is the scoop… Because this is France, a doctor, a real doctor, showed up at my apartment to personally check on my diaphragm pacer. Good news…It is not infected and I am not going to die…at least not today. The doctor wrote me a couple precautionary prescriptions for antibiotics and a bonus of crazy pills. For the next week, a nurse will come to my apartment to check on the pacer. Can you say “socialized medicine!”

*Something you don’t know about me? I truly love knowing all about all of you. I am one of those people who is actually interested in the personalities, the likes, dislikes, the nuances, the interesting stories and the emotions of other people. My husband is the opposite and for that, I am better than him. Thank you so much for all of your comments about yourselves. You are all so unique and I love you all for it. My favorite is the woman who said that she loved God and battered fish. Also a quick update on my Thanksgiving dinner…Heather from lostinarles.blogspot.com, suggested I make a reservation at Ralph’s restaurant. Ralph’s is the insanely chic restaurant in the Ralph Lauren shop on the Left Bank of Paris. Genius idea! This is exactly where I need to be. We called and emailed our reservation but received an email back that they are fully booked…duh. I have never ever pulled the ALS card once in my entire career of ALS but I might today…If any of you know anyone at Ralph’s restaurant (if you have to call Mr. Lauren himself, feel free) who could help secure a reservation and squeeze in a desperate American and her un-American French husband for Thanksgiving dinner, I would so appreciate it. As a token of my appreciation, you can have Grace. :-)

44 comments:

  1. I literally sat here and wept as I read your blog and looked through the pictures! First things first, holy hot caregiver!!! Why is it when I visit, you keep the cute ones away from me??

    I don't know how you got through that home without a full blown panic attack! I literally couldn't breathe when I saw you and Gracie at the bottom of that famous staircase!!! The Chanel logo in the carpet, the walls, chandeliers, the tables...omg!!!!! Gracie should have dumped you on the bed, you scream "Call a doctor, my diaphragm stimulator is shutting down, I'm dying!" Then David gets his iPhone and takes pics as you are being treated by French Doctors in Coco's bed. I'm forever jealous of you!!! That said, it makes me cry with joy for the amazing experience you got with two of your favoritist people - Gracie & David

    I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is probably the most perfect flat and I adored the tour. I am so happy for you and the enthusiasm is indeed contagious.

    ReplyDelete
  3. i'm working on that reservation...seriously!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. OMG - I am hyperventilating! What an extraordinary day! I can't tell you how much I would love to have that kind of tour and to be in the space where she breathed and created. I covet few labels - Chanel is one of the few. Thank-you, thank-you for sharing this with us.

    Barbara

    ReplyDelete
  5. You know, for someone who used to be cute, you're still pretty cute.
    Bernadette

    ReplyDelete
  6. So pleased everything turned out to be well with your diaphragm pacer, big "yay" for hot french doctors. Now on to the seething of my envy! I'm a huge Chanel worshiper, like you, I'd have licked the stairs, licked the poor deer, hell I'd have licked Karl's skull pinkie ring to get an invite. I'm so pleased you got to go and breathe all the magic in and then share it with us, thank you so much for all the amazing photos too. The world needs more girlfriends like Diandra, what a beautiful friendship you two have.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a fantastic tour and opportunity for you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. What great photos! I'm very happy for you that you had a private tour of Miss Coco's apartment but...ummmm...that nurse would "make a bulldog break a chain" as a close friend would say. Is he always the one that shows up?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for letting us share in your private tour of Coco Chanel's gorgeous apartment. Diandra Douglas is, indeed, a fabulous friend to arrange something so perfect for you. Your caregiver is quite a babe and I so glad that you have proper medical visits in France. Good luck with your reservations - maybe Diandra could wave her magic wand and arrange that, too. The picture of lovely you, your handsome husband and adorable Gracie is so sweet!

    ReplyDelete
  10. NOvember 12th is my SONS birthday!I will always think of YOU too now on that DAY!WE share another thing in common!As for MADAME DOUGLAS.............I canNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH for doing this for your DEAR DEAR FRIEND ELLIE...........I was spellbound by the photos and the stories.......a pillow was the inspiration for the handbag!!!!!I LOVE THAT!THANK YOU for sharing the TOUR with US...............I felt like I was there with YOU!That BLACKAMOOR was something.........any info on that that you can recall?I love the photo of all of you but special to me is the shot of you from behind in your leopard hat...........in the shop.Anyway, one of those AIDS can print that out for me............I would adore that..........I see MARY above is working on RALPH's...........somethings gotta give here.
    Now, tell us a bit more detail about the cat's EAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!XOXOXOXO

    ReplyDelete
  11. oh MY gosh! I am speechless, well almost, and so thrilled for you, why I felt like I was there with you, the "ultimate", I would be bug eyed, oh my oh my oh my!!!!!!! Merci Mme. Douglas! I agree, Thanksgiving at RL shop on the left bank of Paris, yes yes yes! Chinese fine, didn't exactly throw me a thrill and far better than Mexican crepe or yuck American junk food, though the idea of old movies, reminds me of watching black & whites with my mom, she knew every movie star, every dress, every chair and chandelier, who was in love with who (really, lol), we watched them over and over together. ….oh I hope & thank Mary above for working on this! I would be beside myself too! Love your hat, you look marvelous to me ~ never hurts to have an eye candy male nurse! we "never" got blind to those things! lol XO great pics of y'all!

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a treat to be in her fabulous apartment! I think I would have had to have a full blown attack there, just for the hell of it - especially with that cute nurse there to take care of me!

    I'm hoping to be at my new home in Ohio by Thanksgiving, cooking up some of your mother's yummy goodies. Right now, I'm driving back and forth between FL and AL taking boxes from one house to another and trying to get my mom moved up to Ohio with us. I'm exhausted and you've brightened my evening by taking me away from this drudgery to lovely Paris! Merci!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ellie I am also working on the reservation if I'm successful I will email you
    I had never noticed that you have beautiful hands and I'm so excited and jealous of your tour of mme Chanel's apartment. I gasped when I saw the staircase and you and Gracie looking so wonderful there. Your blog never disappoints and never fails to give me a big smile!
    Luv u

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well holy smokes! Oh my. I cannot get over a) how gorgeous your caretaker is (enjoy that!), b) that you have to deal with such horrific health/medical annoyances that you do not deserve, and c) that you had THIS private tour. Of all tours, this is the Queen. You captured the experience for me. Thank you. The colors in her place are stunning and I suspect were breathtaking in reality. Thank you to your friend Diandra, too, for sharing her powers. Michelle

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you for the glorious details! I loved hearing your descriptions and sharing your passion. J'adore the blog, and more often than not I laugh out loud every single visit. Thank you for being such an inspiration. Jane

    ReplyDelete
  16. Love your blog and love your cookbook! I so look forward to your blog-the laughter you must hear is from me! jane

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have read this post 4 times already this morning, it's so delightful. I will no doubt read it many more times. Thank you for sharing the third best day of your life with us! Best of luck with the Thanksgiving reservation. I wish I could help (no useful connections), but I'm sure someone can! Can't wait to hear all about it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I wish I could get you into that restaurant.
    Thank you for yet another wonderful post.
    You are a gift xxx

    ReplyDelete
  19. Several years back, I had the opportunity to visit my son and daughter-in-law for Thanksgiving in Monaco. Finding a turkey took some work, but we managed to cook up a great bird with all the fixings. ( I brought a bag of Stuffing, as requested! ) But the best part was that we were cooking for my cousin Albert. Yes, the Prince. My mother was Grace's sister.. He had told my son that he missed spending the holiday in Philadelphia, so we decided to bring it across the pond...A very special memory, as we crowded into the tiny apartment, laughing, telling stories and toasting Grace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excuse me........BUT do you know Ellie named her daughter GRACE after your AUNT!You need to go back a few posts........like two months maybe.........she saw One of the PRINCESSES dining with her two SONS on a LAKE............I hope you are aware of this if not Ellie can guide you to where it is!SORRY, to barge in.........but I was just checking the comments and YOU took my breath away............I know you took Ellie's breath away too!I drove by your childhood home a few years ago.....whilst visiting a dear friend.I told her lets go find HER HOUSE!Which we did...........XX.THANK YOU for SHARING THIS!!This made MY DAY!!!!!!!!!

      Delete
    2. I most certainly did name my daughter Grace after Princess Grace. There is no one more elegant, more sophisticated or more beautiful. Your aunt is Princess Grace? Be still my heart. Does that make you a princess by association? I think it does. XOXO

      Delete
    3. My heart is also fluttering
      There's no woman more beautiful and chic than princess Grace!!!

      Delete
    4. SISTER .......ELLIE..........SISTER......this Lovely woman commenting is PRINCESS GRACE's SISTER!!!!!!!XO

      Delete
  20. OMG... Ellie...check your e-mail!!
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YOU GOT HER INTO RALPHS for TURKEY DAY???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Delete
    2. I take that to be a YES!!!!!!!!FANTASTIC!!

      Delete
  21. I love travelling with you! I too, noticed your beautiful hands, and promptly thought I need a manicure before I see you again;) You look radiant and I am so happy that you have such generous friends to make these moments happen. Thanks for bringing us along.xob

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so funny you said that about my hands because my kinesiologist and I just had a 20 minute discussion about how fat my hands look. :-) My manicure is good because my manicurist is the best in Paris… She does Carla Bruni's nails! So sweet of you to notice. XOXO

      Delete
  22. Thank goodness I am not the only one who teared up while reading this (and I do believe that we are at a unanimous consensus regarding hottie Olivier Martinez Jr. too aka Your Boyfriend). Yes, I have seen this apartment photographed a million times and while each time I see a stunning new detail, nothing and I mean nothing can compare to seeing it through your eyes and what it means to you. While looking at these photos, I just kept repeating "I am so happy for you Ellie" as if you could hear me (the cuckoo clock is chiming, I know). Spectacular is the right word...no wait, magnificent is better. But of course, being the sentimental sap that I am, the photo of you with David and Gracie by your side is my favorite. Add me to the list of those thanking your wonderful friend Diandra for making this happen. A tip of the leopard hat to her...

    It was very generous of you to include the address to my blog - thank you - but now there has to be a way to get you in to Ralph's. Let's get this Tday Countdown started...!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Holy Sh*t Ellie, your boyfriend is totally babyliscious. So happy for you realizing your dream and visiting The Apartment....I totally would have tried to steal the toilet paper from Mml. Chanels bathroom if I had the chance.
    Bon Weekend,
    C

    ReplyDelete
  24. This morning I woke up thinking about this post, that is what you do to me :-)

    ps. love your manicure!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Add me to the list of people who think you are fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I recently discovered your blog and I always enjoy reading your post...you write so well with such a dry but endearing sense of humor. Your day at Mlle. Chanel's was special, indeed - thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ellie,
    So glad you're in at Ralph's for Thanksgiving! We will expect a full report... In addition to your natural talent as a motivational writer, you give the best tour guide commentary ever! No bland, dry, droning monotone about whatever the subject... Your photos of your visit are the best. Now whenever I see some slick, over-produced photos of Mlle. Chanel's apartment, I will think how lucky I am to have seen much more personal photos. And, if I ever have the opportunity to get anywhere close to visiting Mlle. Chanel's, I will have to stifle a laugh, picturing you wanting to lick the bronze deer!
    xo, Catherine
    P.S. The photo of you, Grace and your husband is the best!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Ellie,
    I have passed this on to a friend of a friend who works for Ralph. I would love to help contribute to one of your best days ever. I love reading your blog. You are an inspiration.
    Bon Chance.
    Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  29. Good Morning Ellie, dropping by to see if RL Thanksgiving is booked, hee hee…looking GOOD over here. I'll wear my pearls, ha ha, and yes indeed your hands and you look great. I am digging in the dirt and packing to move so no nice nails for me. And Grace Kelly is the finest, my ulitmate favorite soul, I named my daughter Grace too. I will likely eat at Basmati's here in Grayton Beach, Florida, chinese (lol) and over the top fine restaurant! XO

    ReplyDelete
  30. So glad that people with many more connections than I got you in for a proper American style Thanksgiving. Anyway, I noticed you had a manicure and were wearing your Collier de Chien and orange driving moccasins. Attagirl. It made me think of my sister, who at the age of 50, has completely given up, and dresses in schlumpy dog walking clothes every day. After 4 years
    with ALS, you do things with more flair than my perfectly healthy sister, and I plan to start some shit with her about it on Thanksgiving. Have some decorum, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I am green with envy. I recently had another trip to Paris (I am obsessed with that city. It's pure perfection to me.) We had a friend who said he thought he could get us into Chanel's apartment. We wanted to go there to pray. It didn't work out. :( But I am so thankful for all you gorgeous details. I too would like to die there.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Totally swooning...as much over that magnificent mecca as your babe of a nurse!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I just discovered your blog yesterday and have been enjoying reading your posts so much! Our daughter met a young man while studying abroad in Paris two summers ago. They are still quite serious. We have been to Paris (and other areas in France) twice, and know we will be going back. On our visit this year, I told my husband I had to go 31 rue Cambon. I had to see it. My husband loves to indulge me and insisted that he buy me a Chanel bag. I was so excited, the sales associate could tell, and said "Let's go the staircase and take a photo of you there with your bag" I was dying! So off we go, she takes us there, only to find it roped off as they were tearing up the carpet for replacement!!! So I totally am so jealous of your visit, but LOVING all of your photos and descriptions! What an amazing day you had there! I am going back next visit!!!!! Thank you for sharing your visit!

    ReplyDelete