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.
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.
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……the “old” door that leads to the lobby of the building…but we usually entered through the newer entrance…
The “newer” courtyard, in the summer, the greenery and flowers were spectacular..but the stone path way was really slippery!
Flowering plants and..
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.
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.
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….
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.
The table in the alcove is set for The Three Musketeers! Bonaparte, Daniele, and me!
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!)
And there’s the dome in the background from the view from another window!
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.
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 that we bought at our favorite florist on Rue de Buci were always in bloom in the living room.
The “salon” as everyone called the living room but me, was comfy, full of books, orchids, paintings..and just really cool stuff!
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!
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.
A fireplace that never worked was turned into a display case of sorts!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 on her First Holy Communion day and…
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 the table!
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.
Another view of the courtyard. Over the years, I became friendly with one of the neighbors!
Another Orchid pic..
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.
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!!!