Au Revoir to Our Little Paris Apartment

I forgot to tell you something.  Saturday evening while Bonaparte and I were enjoying our aperitifs on the deck, he gave me some news.

The news was sad but not devastating. It was about Danièle’s apartment.  The apartment had been sold and Bonaparte wanted to wait until the time was right to tell me about it.

It’s not that I was horrified.  I wasn’t. Because of the French inheritance law, and the taxes on properties being so high, many of the expensive homes and apartments that have been passed onto familes simply cannot be kept. The taxes are astronomical and the dwellings are sold because families just don’t have that kind of cash on hand.

This was the case with Danièle.  My delusions had me thinking that the family was going to keep the apartment and rent it out with first dibs being on out-of-town and out-of-country family members.  Bonaparte told me I was being incredibly naïve. I was being hopeful.

It was, for me, a very sad moment.  And it was sad, not because we wouldn’t be staying at our “Parisian home away from home”, but mostly, it was sad because somebody else would be living in Danièle’s apartment.

From the moment we would exit the cab to the blue doors at 55 Quai des Grands Augustins, I felt the comfort of familiarity.

55 quai des grands augustins

The blue doors that led us into the courtyard. (BTW, the dress shop that is to the left of the doors is no longer there. It’s a kitchen renovation center these days).

And as we walked through the doors and entered the first courtyard, the one that was old and full of history, my comfort turned into a gleeful excitement.

In the courtyard

The doors behind the huge plant, which is in the middle of the old courtyard, is where the concierge lives. To the left of concierge’s apartment is…door to the apartment side view…the “old” door that leads to the lobby of the building…but we usually entered through the newer entrance…

Back courtyard 2

The “newer” courtyard, in the summer, the greenery and flowers were spectacular..but the stone path way was really slippery!

Paris. Daniele's apartment. Flowers in the courtyard

Flowering plants and..

flowers in the courtyard

beautiful roses would welcome us back year after year!

And as we walked through either of the two doors leading into the lobby of the building,  I would be even more excited–like a child at Christmas.  Because we would be spending time with Danièle in her apartment!

She purchased the apartment in 1950.  She transformed what was an old, dark attic full of luggage and odds and ends that belonged to others in the building into a beautiful penthouse overlooking the lush courtyard, the Paris rooftops, and the tip of the Eiffel tower.

Sundial in the courtyard

Also in the courtyard was this sundial–there are only a few of these scattered around Paris!  

The apartment itself wasn’t grandiose nor was it pretentious.  It was rather pragmatic with a great use of space. Over the years, with Danièle’s ailing health, the apartment’s maintenance hadn’t been kept up as well as it could have been.

Twilight little eiffel

One of my favorite views from the apartment was just before the Eiffel Tower turned on her lights in the evening. I loved the lines of the Paris rooftops at dusk….

Paris. Daniele's apt. another view of the eiffel.

Oh what the Hell, I loved that view ANY time!!!  I took most of these pics a few years back, and I regret not taking more!

The kitchen area had a little alcove. In this alcove was a table and chairs. The table and chairs were placed in front of a huge window. The window was a real life picture show. We would dine and glance out the window at the dome of The Institut de France and watch the changes in the dome as the sun went down.

Paris. Daniele's apt. dinner table set.

The table in the alcove is set for The Three Musketeers!  Bonaparte, Daniele, and me!

Well Ill be domed

Well now, I’ll be domed!  We got to see THIS view from the huge window in the alcove. It was fun having dinner to this view! (Naturally, we took this pic with a zoom lens!)

View from one of the windows in the aparatment dusk

And there’s the dome in the background from the view from another window!

Danieles smoked ham 2

Don’t get grossed out. There is a story to this leg.  Daniele used to like to entertain. So she kept a pig’s leg (think home made smoked ham) and a jar of mustard out in a larder that was attached to the bottom of the window outside the apartment. This was one of the funniest things I had ever seen in my life and I would go out and sneak little bits of ham. This thing was so well-preserved that it lasted about two years! 

The walls of the kitchen were painted a bright yellow and I would love to cook dinner in that bright room.  The stove and oven were in front of another window—this one smaller, but the view that I had was lovely and I would even shoo the birds away as I cooked.

kitvchen detail

My apologies for the crappy quality, but the kitchen was a mixture of old antique cabinets among the yellow walls and the bright yellow frigo! I friggin’ loved this room so much! Check out the blue-gray tiles on the floor!

The living room was eclectic.  A mix of objet d’art, from paintings by family and friends and unknown artists, to a statue of Segolène Royal.  A table placed at the far side of the living room was home to at least 15 orchids. All of which seemed to bloom whenever Bonaparte and I were there.  A fireplace that hadn’t been used in years. I honestly don’t even know if it worked.

Roses we got for Daniele

Roses that we bought at our favorite florist on Rue de Buci were always in bloom in the living room.

Orchids on the table far away

The “salon” as everyone called the living room but me, was comfy, full of books, orchids, paintings..and just really cool stuff!

Living room

Here’s another view in different light..and it looks like this is a more recent pic because there aren’t many orchids on the table. But see the mirrors? Opened, they led to Daniele’s bedroom. Closed they made the room appear so much larger.  I LOVED to open the windows and just stare outside!

Paris. Daniele's aartment awards for her and yves.

One of these is a medal of honor that was given to Bonaparte’s grandmother from the French government for surviving the concentration camps during WWII.

Fireplace that is really never used

A fireplace that never worked was turned into a display case of sorts!

Orchids on the table

In healthier days when the Orchids were abundant!

Huge windows from floor to ceiling, allowed the light to enter into the apartment, and brought cool breezes in even on the hottest of days.  And when the light became too bright, the lush drapes could always be drawn.

View from the salon

Huge windows added to the Parisian charm!

My favorite part of the day was when Danièle, Bonaparte and I would have breakfast in her bedroom.  She was always happy to go over the daily plans with us as we enjoyed coffee, tea and croissants before getting ready for whatever adventures laid ahead.

Daniele's bedroom

Her room was more like an office. She conducted a lot of business from here the last year. See that tray?  And this is where we enjoyed our breakfasts. In over ten years we never EVER had breakfast in any other room!  See her ashtray and cigarette lighter? Yeah.

My favorite area of the apartment was the upstairs loft. This was our room.  On one end was a daybed that had been transformed into a sofa of sorts. This is the spot where I would curl up and write.    A good portion of my late afternoons were spent jotting down thoughts and going over the day’s activities.

Another view of the loft

The stairs leading up to the loft. See all the books? All the walls of the loft were lined with shelves full of them. It was a treasure chest!

Paris. Daniele's apartment view of the loft.

Look up to the top right under the skylight. That table is where I put my makeup on. Every day.  And I would love to lay in bed on rainy days and just watch the rain hit that skylight!

And every morning I would sit at the old wooden table to put my makeup up. The lighting was great because of the skylights.

And every night before going to sleep on the bed with the fluffiest mattress, I would grab an old photo album and study the contents. Photos of Danièle with her first husband Daniel Gelin, hanging out in St. Germain with Simone Signoret and Yves Montand.   Jean-Paul Sartre and Juliet Greco also made appearances in some of the photos.  There were the photos of Danièle and Yves Robert enjoying time in their estate outside of Paris. But my favorite photos were the ones of Bonaparte his cousin, Xavier Gelin, both adorable in their little shorts, capes and berets.  I never tired of those photos and I wish I had them at this moment.

Evie and dany

I was lucky to have been given some photos–especially ones taken by Bonaparte’s grandfather, Jacques Henri Lartigue.  This is Bonaparte’s dad, Dany (and my buddy!), with his mom Evie…

Evie communion

Evie on her First Holy Communion day and…

JH Lartigue pic

Another J.H. Lartigue photo of Daniele with Jeanette, Dany’s second wife. Dany is in the background in between the two women.  The family gave new meaning to “Extended” family!!

It’s funny how one thing about a home will make you love it so very much. For me, it was the skylight above our bed.  When it rained, I would lie in bed and just look up at the sky and watch the rain dropping on the glass above. Over the years, that skylight gave me comfort and reassurance that I was in a wonderful place!

You know, when I lost my home during my divorce, I was absolutely devastated.  For years, and I really mean it—for years, I couldn’t even pass my old house because I would break down.  In fact, it was only recently that I “let it go”.

And now, I’m “letting go” of the fact that we won’t be staying in the apartment at 55 Quai des Grands Augustins.  Someone else will be making it their home.  And knowing Danièle, her spirit will welcome the new owner with open arms.  I hope they feel her spirit.

Here’s some random pics I’ve taken over the years of and from the apartment. Enjoy!


Crevettes and a jar of sardines…


Langoustines. I HAD to take a picture because I wanted so badly to eat all of them, but I didn’t want anyone to think I was a gluttonous American–even though I AM!

Still life on table

Still life on the table!

Rooftops at night from the salon window

I have absolutely no idea how I got this photo to be so grainy but I love the way it turned out. This is a view from one of the living room windows.

The back courtyard

Another view of the courtyard. Over the years, I became friendly with one of the neighbors! 

Orchids 3

Another Orchid pic..

MOre roof

And the tip of the Eiffel Tower on a cloudy day!

And I hope that they enjoy her little Paris apartment as much as I did.

Paris. Me and Daniele

I miss her more than the apartment though!

I’m giving you this beautiful song by Michel Delpech. “Chez Laurette”. I know I’ve posted this song in the past, but it just brings back so many Paris memories! XOXOXOXOXOXO!!!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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36 Responses to Au Revoir to Our Little Paris Apartment

  1. Jackie says:

    Ah, Catherine! So many beautiful memories.

  2. Viviane says:

    Catherine – I absolutely love this piece – you sure married into a very interesting family !
    Great story & pictures ! Merci !

  3. Soul Gifts says:

    Endings and beginnings are always bitter sweet.

    • Catherine says:

      Yes! Soul. Yes!!!!! They so are. It’s an ending in one way, but a beginning in another because we’ll be staying in different places in the future..Well, not THAT different. I want to stay in the 6th! XOXOXOXO!!!

  4. This brought a tear to my eye. Now I wish I had taken pictures of the interior of my grandparents home, where I spent so many summers as a child. I could visit that old house again if I had some. An excellent post!

    • Catherine says:

      Dinata. You know what? I feel the same way you do. I only wish I had taken pictures of my own grandparents home–but I was so much younger then. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m happy that you enjoyed this post! XOXOXOXO!!!

  5. Donna says:

    wow…….what a beautiful tribute and story! Daniele seemed like such a lovely lady…….you were truly blessed. Bringing smiles and tears………

  6. calensariel says:

    So quick question… Does every apartment building have a concierge?

  7. vadalia says:

    Your writing has left me feeling sadly nostalgic for an apartment in Paris that I have never experienced. Thank you for sharing with us. xxoo Carolyn

  8. That grainy photo is like a French Impressionist painting – you’ve got some amazing photos. And what a wonderful piece of writing Catherine, I felt as though I was walking through the apartment and looking out of the window. And so sad, but yes the French inheritance laws leave no alternative but to sell – yet you have the most precious thing left to you – your memories of Daniele. xxxxxxxxx

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Penny!! Oh..thank you for the compliments on my less-than-stellar photography skills. Perhaps the ghost of Jacques Henri Lartigue is lurking inside me..LOL!! Actually, I most likely shot that pic after a bottle or more of wine! Yeah–isn’t it weird–here in the States we are pushing for more strict gun laws but in France the inheritees should be asking for more lax inheritance laws! No place is perfect!! But you are right—I have the greatest thing–memories!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  9. julietC says:

    What a beautiful tribute to Daniele – she was obviously an incredible woman to make such a wonderful home full of warmth and spirit and then open it up, and the books! Wow – she had a lot of books so her home is obviously going to be a special place, which makes me think of these house programmes on television where they do up houses – immediately they get rid of the books – I mean seriously, an outrage!!! (what do people DO in houses without books???)

    I am going to keep my fingers crossed on your behalf and hope that however bought this wee gem will be almost unable to believe they have found the most perfect bolt hole in Paris and that they will treasure it very, very much. I also believe that Daniele wouldn’t let just anyone buy it – surely she would only let someone she was prepared to watch over and guide in there? And finally, I don’t know if the person buying it already knows about Daniele – but I am hoping/quite sure they will be absolutely thrilled when they do.

    But big hugs on the loss of that physical link – it is hard – it is almost like letting go again after the loss of Daniele first time isn’t it

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Juliet. It’s funny—but I thought the same thing about the books. OMG–we have tons of books and can’t bring ourselves to get rid of them. I’m hoping the many books in Daniele’s apartment were not trashed. That would break my heart!!
      Thank you my love, for your touching words..I love and appreciate them! XOXOXO!!!

  10. Bernadette says:

    Such beautiful experiences you have had. It will be hard to part with the source of those experiences.

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Bernadette. I was very fortunate to have those experiences–it is is hard to part with them, but I have to remember, I was blessed to have them in the first place! XOXOXOXOXO!!!

  11. Jeanne says:

    So lovely. Such beautiful memories. But you know, you can take a stroll through that home anytime you want…in your mind. You can see everything as it was, see the light passing through the windows, hear the rain on the skylight…run your finger over the book bindings…smell the wonderful meals being prepared…you can experience it all…over and over.

    • Catherine says:

      It’s true, Jeanne. I CAN take a stroll through that home. And I do. In fact, I stroll through the apartment at least once a week…but that skylight in the rain is quite possibly one of the greatest memories anyone can have throughout their lifetime! XOXOXOXO!!!

  12. Leo says:


  13. mareymercy says:

    Oh, how sad for you. Life is always changing on us, isn’t it? It hurts sometimes, terribly. 🙁

  14. Susan B says:

    What a lovely apartment! I’m so sorry you must say goodbye to a place that brings you so much joy, but the wonderful memories will be yours forever.

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Susan! Yeah-it’s just awful to say goodbye, but I’m blessed with a ton of memories. I’m looking forward to returning in the late fall so we can make new memories!! XOXOXO!!!

  15. Yvonne says:

    Wonderful post and you are so very fortunate to have been able to enter those mysterious double blue doors into the courtyard and know you that the apartment was your own for your time in Paris. A very good novel about a concierge in a French apartment block is the translated work The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The film is also excellent.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Yvonne. there you go!!! Now I’m not going to rest until I track this book down. I’m going to B & N online to see if I can order it. I’m also going to tell Bonaparte to get on Netflix to see if the film is available. How the merde did I miss this one????????????????????????????? Oh god, I still have the code to the building in my wallet. How sick is that? I need to keep it, not because I’ll use it, but because every now and then, I just like to pull it out and look at it!!! I was incredibly fortunate and I count my lucky stars about that!! XOXOXOXO!!!

  16. Très belle photo avec une belle histoire merci.

  17. Little Voice says:

    Lovely post about a lovely lady and a lovely space.

  18. Judy says:

    Catherine, I love this! You were so lucky to know Danielle, and of course the whole family. I am sorry that I need to catch up with your blog, which I love … my job has been super stressful! Glad that you are back in your comfort zone of an office. I would not like retail either. I did a few months just before grad school in 1977 at Macy’s and it was horrible! (I also had an office job 9 to 5 regular hours, and I was working at Macy’s Thursday night, Friday night and Saturdays and Sundays, if I recall!–but I was making extra money for grad school!) … I usually go to Paris every year but not this year, I don’t think … not enough money and …

  19. lovelucas says:

    Just stumbled on here….what a treasure. I love Paris and do that stupid thing that Americans with limited French do: dream of a tiny place to live there. This really makes it alive and such a bonus – the people you wrote about. Makes me think they too, are still with you in some fashion or another. Good to hear you will be returning….what a lovely, lovely place to live. The skylight! That view – and the ceiling to floor windows and the loft. And most of all the spirit of someone really magical who made the environment reflect that magic. Thank you so much for sharing this unforgettable memory.

    • Catherine says:

      Lucas. I really have to thank you for your kind words. I opened this comment when Bonaparte and I were having our Sunday evening aperitifs; I read your comment to him and he was incredibly touched. That apartment truly was magical and I was very fortunate to be a part of it for many years. When we return, it’ll be with a different point of view and that’ll be cool too. Paris will be the same but our visits will be different and that’s good. Daniele’s spirit will always be with us!! Thank you again for your lovely comment! XOXOXOXO!!!

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