Archive | October, 2011

Louis’s queue – A chance to see the Louis Vuitton workshops

18 Oct

Louis Vuitton Workshops Paris Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerThis weekend I got yet another reminder of the accidental Parisienne I am. On Thursday a good friend tipped me off on a wonderful only-in-Paris-and-free-can-you-believe-it event. The Dior, Givenchy, Kenzo, Guerlain, Louis Vuitton workshops and haute couture salons all opened their doors to the public for two days over the weekend.  These tours promised rare behind-the-scenes access to these iconic fashion houses and their historic locations. Even if I had the money I would probably never own a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Dior dress (well, maybe a Dior dress).  However, the lure of seeing how these works of art are made seemed irresistible.

So on Saturday midmorning, off we went to the suburbs where the LV workshops are located. We felt pretty proud of ourselves for actually leaving the city and buying a metro card that took us out of Zone 1.  It felt adventurous that the location of the workshops was off my Paris Moleskin map and that I had to draw a little map to get us there.  We had a vague idea that we wouldn’t be the only ones to find this opportunity interesting, but figured this site was out-of-town and was less likely to be as popular as some of the other sites involved in the open day.

Oh dear, I hear you saying. Yes, the innocence of those not in the know.  The worst part is that I had enough evidence to point to the inevitable conclusion.  I had seen the daily, yes, daily queue of the legions of LV fans outside of the store on the Champs Elysees.  I had seen the 41,604+ likes on the open day Louis's queue Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerFacebook page.  I read clearly (well, with the help of about 3 translation programmes) that all the free tickets for accessing the workshop had been taken. The website also said something like, “come along anyway, you might get lucky and get in”, or I think that’s what it said.  And that’s what I chose to see. You can’t say I’m not an optomist.

I was in denial even when the security guard around the block from the entrance said the wait would be 3 hours. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day and I’d learned that sometimes when they say 3 hours they didn’t really mean it.  In this case he didn’t mean it, after about an hour waiting we heard that it would be another 4 hours, if we were lucky.

The bad news - Louis Vuitton Paris Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerNeedless to say we left Louis’s long queue when we heard this announcement.  However, the other hopefuls, the true fans, were undeterred by this news.  This group of diehards were interestingly mostly French and looked, well, kind of boring.  They were not fashion-types  in all-black. Nor were they LV fetishists, decked head-to-toe in the label and anxious to show anyone and everyone the famous interlocking LV they had tattooed across their butts. No, our fellow queuers were a group of nondescript, casually dressed people of mixed ages.

The closest our fellow queuers got to fanatic was the man who brought out a “look book” of all of LV bags he owned to share with the security guard. He leafed through the small glossy pages of amateur snaps stopping at the of one or two of his favourites: a yellow leather suitcase, a vintage trunk. I suspect he was trying to convince the guard of his allegiance and a possible promotion in the queue.  It didn’t work.

Maybe the absence of the fashionistas, fetishists and other stereotypical fans was because they had gotten their act together, reserved tickets and thus, walked right past the want-to-be queue. However, if the want-to-bes were all Johnny-come-latelys like us, they would have left with us. And this crowd looked dug in.  A group or two in front of us brought a picnic.  The man behind had his Kindle. Rodin's queue Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerA rare chance to see behind the scenes of such an iconic place must focus minds. Maybe people who love excellent craftmanship and design come in all shapes and sizes. Of course they do, it’s only the ads for the products that suggest a certain lifestyle. I hope they did eventually see the no-doubt fascinating LV atelier.

After deserting, we nipped off to salvage the beautiful day and go to the Rodin Museum. We got there only to find out that Rodin’s queue was long too. Too long. So eventually we had some food in a cafe in the autumn sun and walked home along the Seine – by accident, another only-in-Paris-and-free-can-you-believe-it day.

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The fall

11 Oct

Paris Windows Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerSometime between 5.30 and 6 am last Sunday, the doorbell woke me up. My husband was surprisingly already out of bed and went to get it.

I heard talking. I heard the door close and my husband make his way back to the bedroom.

“What’s going on? What did they want?” I was really tired and really wanted to go back to sleep.  “What time is it?”

“There’s been an accident next door and they needed a broom.”

“An accident? A broom? Who needed a broom?”

“He kept saying something in French, then did some rowing movements. I finally figured out he needed a broom.”

“Why did he need a broom? What’s happened? What time is it?”

My husband had a serious look on his face. “Ah … I think someone fell out of a window and into the flat next door. They need to sweep up the broken glass.”

“What?”

“The police and fire brigade are here. I think they’re going to try to lift him out of a window.”

“What?” I got up and looked out the window and saw a fire truck and ambulance.  There were police, fire fighters and ambulance workers running in and out of the building.  It was all strangely quiet – no sirens, no police radios, no running engines, no talking.  There were just people moving up and down our stairs, in and out of our building, doing their jobs, quietly.   If something terrible has happened shouldn’t there be noise?

“A man fell out of a window and into the flat next door? How is that possible?” I demanded. I was still asleep and crabby.

“I don’t know,” my husband said. He was tired and confused himself, “But I think that’s what’s happened.”

“It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I know,” he said. “But, that’s what’s happened.”

“He fell into next door? How could that work? Our building is straight up and down with no balconies. If you fall out of a window, you end up on the ground.  Not in the flat next door.”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“Oh, my god. Is there anything we can do?”

“I think stay out their way and let them do their jobs.”

“But I don’t understand what happened,” I said.

My husband shrugged.

Neither of us could go back to sleep. My husband started to clean the kitchen. He had to be busy and I don’t think he knew what else to do.

What the hell was going on? I went to the door and tentatively looked out through the peep-hole. I saw emergency workers move past the door. I grew a bit bolder and opened the door a crack.  A view into the flat next door was reflected in the hall window.  I could see people moving inside the flat and quite close to the door.  Apparently they were working on someone in the middle of the flat.  The middle of the flat?  How did he fall into the middle of the flat so far away from the windows?

Emergency workers passed, met my eyes but did not say anything.  One female police officer kept walking to the door of the flat next door, then back across the hall to the top of the stairs, and then back to the door.  A fellow officer came up and looked at her. “You ok?” he quietly seemed to ask. She shrugged.  He grabbed her hand quickly and gave it a little squeeze. I thought, they must see some awful things. The quietness added to the tension.  I wanted to yell, “What the hell happened here?”

I stopped a police officer in the hall but could only whisper, “What happened?”

“A man fell out of a 4th floor kitchen window to the 2nd floor,” he said quietly and straightforwardly.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Neither do I.”

Then I heard some noise in the flat next door. Then a voice, “What are you doing to me?”

Oh my god, the man who fell was American.

“What are you doing to me?” he said again, confused but loud and clear.

“Monsieur, you are in Paris, Monsieur. You are sick. We need to take you to the hospital,” replied the quiet, calming French female voice.

“I’m not sick. I’m not that sick. What are you doing to me?”

“Monsieur, we have to take you to the hospital,” she replied, again quietly.

“But I don’t want to go to the hospital,”

“Monsieur, do you live alone?”

“Yes, I am alone. I don’t want to go to the hospital. I’m fine,” he said loudly and defiantly.

“We have to take you. We have to take care of you.”

Then he whispered, “I am scared.” All his force had gone.

“I know,” she said softly. “Monsieur, we will take care of you.”

Everything was quiet again.

It’s been a week since the fall and, despite speaking to several neighbours and the concierge who lives in and looks after the building, I don’t know much more about what happened. No one is clear about the story. Some did not even hear anything happening. I even  had a cheeky look into the vacant apartment next door while the builders repaired the broken window.  I know that the man who fell is named John and he is from New York. I know he was only visiting Paris for the weekend but will be in hospital for a long time. 

I also found out that John has friends in Paris who are looking after him. I did not find this out until Wednesday. Until I got this information I kept hearing him say in his clear American accent that he was alone and that he was scared. I also kept finding myself imagining what it would feel like to break through a window – the impact with the glass on my head and back just before the glass gave way, my arm hitting the frame, my head and back landing on the bed of broken pieces and these pieces imbedding into my skin. I kept thinking that the medic spoke English, but what if she hadn’t. I kept thinking about the fact that until Sunday morning, neither I nor my husband knew the emergency number here in France.

I feel better knowing that he is not by himself so far away from home. I still don’t understand what happened, but whatever happened I wish John a speedy recovery.

Paris Fashion Week Critique

3 Oct

Fashionista with Fone Photo By Jennifer Flueckiger

Editors Note:  I, the accidental parisienne, am now back in Paris after a wonderful holiday. Special thanks to my guest contributors Elizabeth and Richard for their great posts!

It’s Paris Fashion Week. The town is even more crowded with beautiful people wanting to see and be seen.  Bars and restaurants are closed for exclusive private functions.  Spaces all over the city have been appropriated for shows – Grand Palais, Jeu de Paume, Musee Rodin, the Ritz, Hotel InterContinental and even the School of Medicine and interestingly, a convent

Enough with the legs 2 Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerHowever, the Tuileries Gardens is the epicentre of the activity and thus, the fashion world. Valentino, Chloe, Lanvin and many others will use the Espace Ephemere Tuileries for their shows. A three block-long temporary structure on the North side of the gardens is the home to accessory dealers hoping for big orders. Leggy models and women carrying notebooks and in high-heels are crawling all over the usually relaxed space.

You can imagine I was really excited to receive my unexpected and exclusive invitation to the Tuileries on Friday. I was invited for lunch and a game of soccer/football with my friend’s 4 year old son and his pals at the playground.  I arrived in my t-shirt, sweats and soccer shoes and we had a grand time playing in the unexpected late September sunshine until it was time for go back to school for the afternoon. 

The mother of one of my little team mates is a buyer for a big department store in Paris and we stopped by the big sales exhibition tent to say hello.  She could not leave the exhibition and we arranged a meeting at an outside fenced area.  Other fashionistas from inside the tent also gathered in the fenced area to take a break, have a cigarette or enjoy the sunshine.

Tidy piles in the Tuileries Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerWhile mother and son talked through the fence, my other team mates were much more interested in the large tidy piles of autumn leaves assembled by ground keepers.  They were having a ball throwing the leaves all around and in the air.  But they were making a huge mess that the long suffering ground keepers would have to clean up.  Earlier in the afternoon, I heard my friend talk her son out of throwing dirt by reasoning with him that if he took the dirt away there would be no place for the flowers to grow.  He seemed to think this made sense and put dirt back.  I thought I’d give this reasoned approach a try.

“Hey guys, a man has spent a really long time raking these leaves together into nice tidy piles.  If you throw the leaves around and make a mess he is going to have to do it all over again.  So don’t you think you should stop throwing leaves?”

The three boys and a girl were up to their necks in fall foliage. They did all stop to listen to what I said.  They did all take a few seconds to seriously consider my suggestion and then simultaneously they did all decide to throw their big, wet arm load of leaves at me. Apparently, this was even more fun than throwing leaves in the air.  Squeals of delight.  Hilarious laughter.  Leaves down my top. Leaves in my socks. Leaves in my hair.  I know I got what I deserved.

“Who thought children were a good idea,” one of the fenced in fashionistas was clearly disturbed by all the commotion. She looked though the fence with a screwed up face and then at me and my friend, and then of course, at what we were wearing.

I heard my friend’s son come up beside me and I saw he had another huge armful of leaves.  I protected my face as I thought these were destined for me but he had other ideas.  He marched right past me with his load and headed towards the fence.

“No, No, No,” we all cried as he got closer to the wire grid.  He looked so determined but then paused and lowered his load of ammunition.  Some of the fashionistas made faces and backed away. 

He drew his pile back up again.“No, No,” we shouted. And again he stopped but kept staring intently at his intended targets.

He is a very cute kid. The smears of apricot compote on his back would not have been visible to the fashionistas and he looked especially cute with his armful of autumn and leaves all over his hair and clothes. Always with an eye for a good visual, several of the fashionistas came closer with their phones. His picture is probably linked from “Cute Parisian boy at Tuileries! Loving #ParisFashionWeek #pfw!” on Twitter. However, this was the moment of weakness for which he was waiting.  His face was sheer determination, his jaw set.

Fashionistas saved by the fence Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger“No,” we yelled. Pow! No restraint this time. Leaves everywhere. There were a few shrieks but the fence saved the Louboutins, fancy designer shoes. No damage done, but the verdict was clear. He’d made his critique of Paris Fashion Week.