Monthly Archives: April 2011

Joyeux anniversaire, Chanel No. 5

Joyeux anniversaire, Chanel No. 5

This story was originally published in 2011. It has been updated.
 
Next week, Chanel No. 5, one of the most iconic fragrances in the world, turns 90. A superstitious person, Coco Chanel planned for the new fragrance to be released on 5.5.1921. She believed “5” was her lucky number and she was proven right. It has been said that a bottle of Chanel No. 5 is sold every thirty seconds somewhere in the world. 
 
You may remember I am a huge fan of “Mademoiselle” and her remarkable career. Last December, while in Paris, I wrote a story about her.
 
This week, I had to work on an assignment for a travel writing class I am taking. Students were required to write a 250-word description of a location, an object, or a person. They were instructed to “avoid mundane adjectives, and [to] favor hyphenated adjectives, metaphors, analogies and anecdotes.” In addition, the piece was to include “plenty of sense information (not just visual).” 
 
Well, mes amis, this is easier said than done. 
 
Two days ago, as I was going through my desk drawer looking for a paper clip, I found an old picture of Coco Chanel.  As soon as I looked at it, I knew I was going to write about “Mademoiselle.” For over two hours, I struggled over the short description, fine-tuning every word. When I was finished, I emailed it to my instructor. She replied that afternoon.   I looked for her editorial comments in the margin where she often writes liberally. This time, I did not find corrections or suggestions. Instead, I read this paragraph, typed at the end of the story: 
 
“Veronique —  
Beautifully done.
Nice choice of details to share and nice use of some authorial analysis of things like her pose in the photo. Great photo too, of course. This could easily be the placard to go with this photo in a museum.”
 
I confess this student felt very proud.  If the piece was good enough for my demanding writing instructor, it will make a fitting tribute to Chanel No. 5. I hope you enjoy reading it. Madame Chanel, merci, once again, for inspiring another good story. 
 
Joyeux Anniversaire, Chanel No 5!
 
 
In this old sepia picture taken by Richard Avedon at the end of her life, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) stands next to one of her models. Mademoiselle is well into her seventies, and in the later years of her impressive career, but she appears as elegant, determined and daring as ever.  Defiant, the dark-haired, slender woman looks straight into the camera lens, the ubiquitous cigarette dangling from the corner of her thin mouth. In a casual pose, her left hand is perched on the young model’s shoulder, while her right hand is nonchalantly tucked into her skirt pocket. This is a manly pose, a sharp contrast with her chic and feminine outfit. She is wearing Chanel garb:  Monochromatic palette, signature tweed suit, hat, pearls, and a few carefully selected accessories.  Unusual and exceptional, as always, she carries herself with aplomb. This is Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, French icon, designer, business woman, rebel, trend-setter and survivor doing what she does best: Impersonating a tough cookie. She is savoring the moment. Is this a smile peeking on her perfectly made up lips? While looking at the faded picture, one can almost detect a whiff of Chanel No. 5, her eponymous best selling fragrance. The legend says she had instructed her associates to spray the perfume around her Paris office every morning before she arrived. What Mademoiselle wanted, Mademoiselle got. She once said: “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” Mission accomplished, Madame Chanel.
 
— French Girl in Seattle.
 
 

6 Responses to Joyeux anniversaire, Chanel No. 5

  1. i just adored this post…your “homework assognment” is perfection!!! every word weighted and carefully- expertly -chosen, bravo!! i too am a big fan of MISS COCO…no expert -but well read because i simply find her fascinating. i sometimes wear NO.5, but my favorites fall elsewhere…NO. 19, NO. 22-used to wear Mademoiselle, mais it began to bring on headaches. as said before, so enjoy your posts….merci and KEEP THEM COMING!!-g

  2. g— Merci beaucoup! I like to think Chanel’s fragrances are like her, very spirited, and hard to ignore, so they are not always easy to wear. Good thing you do not live in Seattle. Coco Mademoiselle is my current “chi-chi” fragrance (a Christmas gift from a dear friend), and I would hate giving you headaches if we met. 😉 A bientôt on the blog. – Veronique

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A quick trip to the ice-cream store

A quick trip to the ice-cream store

Has spring finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest? For those of you who do not know the Washington coast, this is the time of year when even locals start complaining about the weather [a lot.] No more of that “Ah, rain! It is liquid sunshine, you know!” Everyone is just desperate for sun and natural…

12 Responses to A quick trip to the ice-cream store

  1. a very beautiful post, desole about the water in the front cabin…something i am sure jr. wil remember his whole life….really enjoy your blog!!-g

  2. Vero, another great blog! Love the hatch story, taking a wave on a clear calm day (just to remind you it is sailing) Suzi Puckett

  3. Margie– Agreed! I am going to start working for the Seattle Visitors bureau this spring.
    G– Welcome back. It was wonderful to hear from you. Junior does enjoy his most excellent sailing adventures.
    Mr. Capoeira S.– Thank you. Come back and visit me. I post every week.
    Suzi– Thank you for all the encouragement, as always. You know you will hear many more sailing stories before the end of summer!
    Kim — Absolument. Excellente idée.

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3 Responses to The many pleasures of the Central California coast… (California ’11 – #6)

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3 Responses to Bienvenue chez Petit Soleil… (California ’11 – #5)

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One Response to Carmel– suite (sequel). (California ’11 – #4)

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The City by the Bay. (California ’11 – #1)

The City by the Bay. (California ’11 – #1)

San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Maritime National Historical Park Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Lombard street, Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Chinatown, cable cars… In San Francisco, famous landmarks abound. It’s a good thing our family has been visiting this iconic city on a regular basis over the last twenty years. It certainly took that long…

One Response to The City by the Bay. (California ’11 – #1)

  1. Well said!! I have to say i also took some incredible pix this week of SF simply walking around the top of Nob Hill and Chinatown on a perfectly sunny and hot day. I too was in heaven! Enjoy day 2! Can’t wait to read the next post from your California Adventure.

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Californie!

Californie!

Finally, spring break is here! Junior, Le Husband and I are off to California for a week. We have had enough rain and wind in Seattle this winter to last us a lifetime. Something tells me there will be a lot more waiting for us when we return… Time to go and look for some…

One Response to Californie!

  1. I’ve LOVED your posts on California!! EXCELLENT job!. I’ve been a Californian my entire life…and have lived in San Francisco, Santa Barbara/Montecito, and Carmel…so much FUN seeing them from your POV. And a friend lives in Shell Beach near San Luis Obispo….love that too!

    Thank you!!

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