Category Archives: Paris

The Inter-Continental Hotel, Paris

The Westin Paris-Vendome built as the Hotel Continental in 1878 and known to us in the 70s as the Inter-Continental.

My daughter Grace on the same balcony overlooking the Tuileries that Robbie and I shared.

When our fairy ex-stepfather materialized at the Hotel Sydney Opera to rescue us from the horrors of two star accomodations, the Inter-Continental is where he took us.  Opened in April of 1878 as the Hotel Continental it occupied a full block at the intersection of the rue de Rivoli and the rue de Castiglione over looking the Tuileries Gardens.  It was the largest and most luxurious hotel in Paris for decades.  Renamed the Inter-Continental in 1969, It became the Westin Paris in 2005 and the Westin Paris – Vendome in 2010.  It was for Grace and I, as it had been for Robbie and I a wonderful and enchanting place in which to flop on the beds, drink Coca Colas and race across the street to the gardens.


Venus in Fur a la Place de la Concorde

Mother in her mink at the Place de la Concorde
It is hard for many in this post-PETA, animal rights oriented time to understand the meaning of fur, especially mink, to women of my mother’s generation.  More than the couture clothes, fabulous jewelry and furnishings she was able to buy, the apartments in the Dakota, on Park Avenue, in South Kensington she was able to rent or own, a fur coat signaled her arrival to herself.  And of her many fur coats, her mink was the most important–an incredibly warm, impossibly soft piece of fashion armor that was also as intimate as any item of lingerie.  Her mink was for Mother a cocoon she could wear–it signalled her transformation from provincial Kansas City girl to jet-setting socialite even as it comforted her and protected her from doubters, snobs, and inconvenient questions.  And as the money began to run out, the jewels and Mercedes sold, the coat could provide glamourous cover and a blanketing reminder of where she’d been and how far she’d gone.

How much can you fit in a handbag?

For Mother, sadly, possessions were 9/10ths of life.

Meet Louis, Mother’s handbag, and an integral part of our childhood abroad. Purchased at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Louis (named for, well, you know) traveled the world with us and contained important on-the-go items: Rince-doights, Kleenex, Band-aids, cigarettes, passports, maps, guidebooks, and Mother’s movie camera, which once filmed the inside of Louis while we were in Paris. Notre Dame has a cameo at the end when someone’s hand reaches in to fish something out, and the spires of the cathedral are revealed at an interesting angle.


Hotel Sydney Opera in Paris

The Hotel Sydney Opera in Paris!  Now a spiffy Best Western.  

With the much-cleaned air-shaft — location of the infamous Henry VIII chicken bone scene in Chanel Bonfire.

“Despite that our school French hadn’t included so much cursing, we were able to decipher that our window opened onto the air shaft where the hotel dried its clean linen.  We ran to the window and looked down to see white sheets stained with grease and strewn with chicken bones.” — Chanel Bonfire