Tuesday, May 3, 2011

True Stories from Paris

Originally posted on La Vie En Fifi in two parts, 27 January and 5 February 2009

My Great-Aunt has some amazing stories about her years of living and working overseas as a nurse. She was telling me the other day that she was a private nurse for Elizabeth Arden's sister in the late 1960s in Paris. This lady was the behind-the-scenes person for the beauty company. My Great-Aunt would stay with her overnight in her Paris apartment and her household staff would be there during the day.

Miss Arden had to go to hospital for some reason, and couldn't decide whether to book into the American Hospital in Paris, or be privately nursed in either her home in Chantilly just outside of Paris, or in a suite at the Hotel Ritz. She finally decided not to stay at the Ritz as her dog didn't like the food there. Yes, really.

My Great-Aunt said you would see people sitting in the hotel restaurant, dog on a chair next to them, eating from their own plate at the table. Incredible.

My Great-Aunt also told me that when she worked in the American Hospital in Paris in 1969, she nursed Coco Chanel (the real deal). One evening Mademoiselle Chanel did not feel like having a bath or a shower, so had my Great-Aunt empty bottles of Chanel No. 5 into a basin for a sponge bath. When she was finished, my Great Aunt was instructed to pour the fragrance down the sink.

During the same hospital stay, a very young Karl Lagerfeld came in to see Mme. Chanel, among other visitors. When I asked her if Coco spoke much, she said she never stopped talking, however it was in very fast French and my Great-Aunt was still learning to speak the language at that stage so didn't catch much at all. Such a shame! Imagine having a conversation with Coco Chanel and the questions you could ask her.

The image above is of the L’espadon restaurant at the Ritz Paris from paris-best-restaurants.com. Just dreamy.


  1. Oh,I would love to meet your Great Aunt...what fabulous experiences to be able to share. I just paused to think about my favorite Great Aunt stories...then realized I have never known my Great Aunts. That is kind of sad. xxBliss

  2. What an interesting story...
    your great aunt must have been a great source of information.
    I think she must have led a very rich life caring for those colorful personalities.
    You must have many wonderful memories of her Fiona.

  3. Wow....what incredible experiences it must have been for her to meet such iconic people. Thank you for sharing them with us. I particularly like the Chanel no. 5 story.

  4. Hostess, she is still alive and lives next door to us! I have been meaning to pick her brains for further details.

  5. What an amazing life your Great Aunt has led! She should be thrilled I am not her niece...I would be pestering her with questions about Coco every...single...day. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful stories. I am curious - what does your Aunt think of how Karl Lagerfeld looks today?

  6. Oh my goodness, what fabulous stories she was able to live! I think we're all secretly wishing we could fly there and sit next to her and have her just tell us more stories! What a lucky great-niece you are! Thank you for sharing, Fiona.

  7. A spongebath with Chanel 5...
    Just flush it away s'il vous plait hahaha
    What a great story...

  8. My Dad told me stories when I was younger (not as exciting as your Great Aunt's) and I have forgotten a lot of what he told me. He's gone now and I can't ever get those stories again.

    It sounds like your Aunt has led such a remarkable life. I think you should take a tape recorder over to her house and have her tell you all about her experiences. She likely has some life lessons amongst her stories as well.

    My Uncle, who had the memory to recall much of when he and my Mum were children, started writing stories on his computer. His computer crashed and then he passed away and those stories are now lost forever. Don't take the chance of losing your Aunt's stories.



Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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