Monthly Archives: December 2011

L’Abbé Pierre: The reluctant French icon

L’Abbé Pierre: The reluctant French icon


Heureuses Fêtes / Happy Holidays to all my friends, old and new, near and far. 
May you enjoy a peaceful Holiday season with your loved ones.
Voilà a special story for you. I hope you like it.
I will return in a few days…
A bientôt!
— Véronique “French Girl in Seattle”




‘Tis the season of giving…
(photo from www.11magnolialane.com)



Last week, when friends old and new came to celebrate Le Blog‘s first birthday, many kindly mentioned they have been enjoying my series on French icons. It seems le béret, la baguette, la marinière, les cafés parisiens, la Seine, la Tour Eiffel and even the venerable Deux-Chevaux (2CV) have struck a cord with my readers. The story on la Maison Hermès and the Birkin [bag] drew enthusiastic comments. I felt quite proud of myself. After all, gift-giving is on everyone’s mind during the Holiday season, and what could be more enjoyable than shopping chez Hermès


Buried knee-deep in wrapping paper; shoved over by frustrated crowds at the local mall; defeated by piles of greeting cards that had to be sent yesterday; many might forget that the Holiday season is not just about shopping, wrapping or ticking things off an endless to-do list. For when they say “”Tis the season of giving,” surely, they mean more than: “You-have-to-snatch-the-iPhone4s-and-don’t-miss-Macy’s-umpteenth-One-Day-Sale.” Not to  worry: Americans are a generous bunch, and this year, many will take time out of their frenzied schedule to help out at a local charity; volunteering at their kids’ schools; making donations to causes dear to their heart. They will also remember to be grateful for their relatives and friends and will celebrate the Holidays in style, as they should. 


Today, I would like to tell you the story of a man who embodied Giving. France knows him as “l’Abbé Pierre.” His face (the grey hair and beard, the big glasses, the béret,) and silhouette (the long, black cape, the heavy shoes, the cane,) are so familiar to my countrymen that a picture of l’Abbé Pierre hardly needs a caption. During his long life, he remained one of France’s most unlikely, and yet most beloved public figures, topping popularity polls year after year, until his death, in January 2007.

La Fresque des Lyonnais (the famous Lyonnais fresco)
 Lyon,  France



L’Abbé Pierre (1912-2007) was born Henri Marie Joseph Grouès, in Lyon, to a well-heeled bourgeois family of eight children. His father had a strong social conscience and introduced Henri to charity work at a very young age. A devout catholic, Henri was determined to become a missionary. He attended a Jesuit school, and later renounced his inheritance to join a Franciscan monastery. He was ordained priest in 1938. Strict monastic life did not agree with him (he was plagued with health issues,) and he eventually left the monastery.


World War II broke out in 1939. He was mobilised as an NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) but contracted pleurisy while training in Alsace. When France fell, he became vicar of the Grenoble cathedral. Throughout the war, he would take enormous risks to help others; enabling Jews and other politically persecuted to escape to Switzerland; joining the French Résistance where he operated under several code names including the now-famous “Abbé Pierre;” founding a clandestine newspaper; stealing clothing from warehouses for the poor and the Résistance. He was arrested in 1944 but managed to escape and joined General Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Forces in Algiers. He continued fighting and received top French military honors at the end of the war.

A young Abbé Pierre listens to a speech by General de Gaulle in 1946



The war experience would mark him for life: From then on, he engaged himself to protect fundamental human rights and to fight for the causes he believed in. If legal means were not an option, then civil disobedience was all right too. 


He also knew how to use his reputation and growing fame, and his connections to politicians to further his cause, lecturing formidable French leader General de Gaulle, in January 1945 on the need for milk to feed babies!


Impatient, stubborn, unruly and outspoken, l’Abbé Pierre was soon to become a major influence in French society, an indefatigable fighter who led a life-long crusade against poverty and homelessness. His tactical weapons: Prayer, provocation, charity work and political action. 



After the war, L’Abbé Pierre was convinced to join the French Parliament where he worked as a député (representative,) from 1945 to 1951, but he quickly understood that he would be most efficient fighting misery in the street.


In 1949, using his lawmaker’s indemnities after he had left the Parliament, he started a community outside of Paris to help the neediest members of society. He named the center “Emmaus,” a town mentioned in the Gospel. His early “companions” were a motley crew of down-on-their-luck individuals. With them, he came up with the idea of a working community; organizing rag-picking and recycling of household goods to finance the construction of shelters for the homeless, often without construction permits. This was a far cry from traditional charity, as it encouraged the poor to fend for themselves. To those who had nothing, he brought not merely relief, but also purpose and hope. When money ran out, l’Abbé Pierre did not hesitate to take part in a TV game show to raise funds. Celebrities like Charlie Chaplin started supporting the movement as Emmaus grew steadily, first in France (where it is today one the largest NGOs,) then internationally after 1971 with the creation of Emmaus International.

People are needed to take up the challenge, strong people, who proclaim the truth, throw it in people’s faces, and do what they can with their own two hands.
L’Abbé Pierre.

1954: Laying the first stone of a new Emmaus-sponsored shelter
L’Abbé Pierre and the first Emmaus companions



But it is during the exceptionally cold winter of 1954 that L’Abbé Pierre became a living legend. An indignant Abbé issued a radio appeal on behalf of 5 million homeless people after a baby froze to death, and after a woman died on a Paris boulevard clutching her eviction notice in her frozen hand. In his famous speech, he challenged the French to heed their moral duty. The opening words caught everyone’s attention: “My friends, come help… A woman froze to death tonight at 3:00am…” The French – no doubt remembering the privations endured during the war – listened, and donations poured in: Money, blankets, clothing, even jewelry and fur coats! My mother-in-law, who was a young girl at the time, remembers listening to the radio address with her family and walking down to the nearest temporary shelter with clothing and blankets. 

Throughout his life, l’Abbé Pierre used the power of the media
 to further his cause



The following morning, the press wrote of an “uprising of kindness” (insurrection de la bonté.) Over the next few weeks, donations were sorted out and distributed all over France, often through the emerging network of Emmaus communities where the homeless were given food and shelter. Emmaus volunteers were former homeless people who had learned to depend for survival on their own efforts, reselling refurbished furniture, books and scraps. L’Abbé Pierre was everywhere, delivering rousing speeches; visiting politicians to push for new legislation to forbid landlords from evicting tenants during winter months; holding the hands of women and children while visiting shelters. As a result of his tireless campaigning, the French government finally undertook a large program of housing reconstruction. 

Leaving the Elysée Palace after meeting with the French President (1954)



Years went by. L’Abbé Pierre did not slow down, always prompt to denounce injustice, not only in France but in the rest of the world where he was often seen with international leaders. Even when he turned down the Legion of Honor and other prestigious awards to protest the lack of official efforts towards the poor, he also understood the need to rub shoulders with politicians to get results. 


Always frank and often controversial, he wrote books about various topics, publicly disagreeing with Pope John Paul II on the issues of priest celibacy, the union of gay couples, the use of contraception, or the ordination of women as priests. 


There was controversy. There was media lynching when l’Abbé made unpopular choices, but the French public [a notoriously tough crowd] remained faithful to him. Then came old age, and failing health, and l’Abbé progressively retired out of the public eye. But there was always one more injustice, one more cause worth fighting for. So he would call the media; meet with officials; show up at the French Parliament, where the frail man would speak up from his wheelchair, his voice weak, but his commitment undiminished. At the end of his life, he accepted a few honors -reluctantly- and respectful crowds came to see him.

Finally accepting the prestigious Legion of Honor
awarded by President Chirac in 2001
L’Abbé Pierre meets l’Abbé Pierre in 2005



It was finally time for the man President Chirac called: “A great figure, a conscience, an incarnation of goodness,” to take his final bow. He died after a long illness, at the age of 94. Statesmen, celebrities, companions of Emmaus and the French public attended his funeral celebrated at Notre-Dame cathedral, on January 26, 2007. L’Abbé‘s companions were placed at the front of the congregation, according to his last wishes. His iconic béret, cape and cane lay on top of the coffin during the funeral service.

A big funeral for a man who aspired to a simple, monastic life



Henri Grouès – l’Abbé Pierre – rests in a small cemetery in Esteville, a small village North of Rouen, in Normandy. At peace at last, (one would hope,) he is in good company, surrounded by several of his early companions and friends. At his request, his grave is anonymous, but it is easy to find, thanks to all the flowers left by visitors. 


L’Abbé Pierre (1912-2007): French patriot, human being. Led a life of action and service and knew a thing or two about giving.  


Adieu, l’Abbé. On t’aimait bien.
So long, l’Abbé. We liked you.

A bientôt.


Afterword: 


To learn more about l’Abbé Pierre’s inspiring life, watch this excellent documentary (2 video clips, about 18 minutes.) It is utterly frustrating, however, as the second part stops around 1949 when Emmaus, the organization founded by l’Abbe Pierre, was taking off. Still, a great look at his early years and his rise to fame.

You may also rent the 1989 movie “Hiver 1954: L’Abbé Pierre” [“Winter 1954: L’Abbe Pierre”] with Lambert Wilson. 

Finally, a full English translation of the 1954 speech can be found here  +=+=+ On another note, the names of our first Christmas Giveaway winners were published on Monday. Look them up here. +=+=+

29 Responses to L’Abbé Pierre: The reluctant French icon

  1. well just checking in and what to my wondering eyes should appear….but another excellent post…very interesting as well as INSPIRING.i respect this man’s vision and am awed at his tirelessness in execution of this mission. a life well spent! merry christmas v to you and all whom you love and my most sincere wishes for a happy healthy joyous new year!! hopeyour mil ejoys her time here.-g

  2. Dearest Véronique,

    A belated Happy 1st anniversary of your EXCELLENT blog. Always so educational, even though it is quite familiar to me already. But it is such a pleasure for finding reassurance in the New World about our past and history.
    Love to you and wishing you a Merry Christmas!

    Mariette

  3. I guess this is my all-time favorite post of Christmas 2011 of all I’ve read anywhere.

    While I love all the pretty images sailing around the Internet, the music clips, and the recipes I read but won’t make as am a eater of salads not of cakes. I am an American…but that is not synonymous with ‘shopper, materialism, gluttony, greed’ although by the looks of the landscape it would seem to be. My favorite people are the Saints like Joan of Arc, Bernadette, Terese, Francis de Sales and Francis of Assisi. Am sure l’Abbé Pierre will be on that list–as he should be.

    Thanks for a wonderful, true Christmas story.

  4. I’m ashamed to say this is the first I have ever heard of l’Abbé Pierre. He seems like not only a very influential part of French history, but also the world. It is people like him who change the world, in fact.

    His story is incredibly inspiring and perfect to read about during this holiday season. Sometimes with all the stress associated with this time of year (tight work deadlines and Christmas shopping and holiday plans) it is very easy to forget Christmas should be a time of year to celebrate love and kindness and generosity. 🙂

  5. — g — Welcome back, chère amie. I am happy you enjoyed hearing about l’Abbé Pierre. He was a very special man. Sending warm Holiday wishes to you and your family. I have enjoyed “chatting” with you in 2011 and will be looking forward to doing more of the same in 2012!
    — Katelyn — You’re welcome. I was hoping a lot of my readers would appreciate this story. I am glad you were one of them.
    — Mariette– Merci beaucoup! Happy Holidays to you too!
    — French Heart — Thank you for your heartfelt comment. Did you know that l’Abbé Pierre credited St Francis of Assisi for changing his life when he was a young man? Joyeux Noël.
    — Jennifer Fabulous — What a thoughtful comment. Thank you, my friend. Your Birkin book is on its way. Hope you get it before Christmas!
    — Olga — Exactly! Happy Holidays to you, my friend.
    — Veronique —–

  6. Un choix parfait pour la semaine de Noel!J’ai toujours admiré son coté bouillonnant, chien fou,atypique, toujours au combat quelle que soit la cause à defendre. Un vrai travail de fond , sans le coté “people” si derangeant aujourd’hui. Il n’y a plus de gens comme lui me semble-t-il.Tu lui rends un tres bel hommage!
    Comme tu ne postes qu’une fois par semaine, je crois qu’il est temps de te souhaiter, ainsi qu’à ta famille, un tres joyeux noel!

  7. Un personnage merveilleux et rempli de bonté qu’il était, tout comme soeur Thérésa ou soeur Emmanuelle…
    Une publication qui me touche beaucoup en cette période particulière de l’année…
    Que cette nuit de noël soit douce pour tous…
    Gros bisous

  8. I am so glad that I didn’t miss this! I would have had you not mentioned this beautiful post in passing chez moi (my dashboard has been having hiccups). I have tears in my eyes. Such a wonderful tribute to an incredible man. Merci, Veronique!

  9. — Malyss — Je pensais bien que tu apprécierais! 😉
    — Cherie — Je vous en prie. Thank you for stopping by.
    — Martine Alison — Merci de votre visite. Un homme remarquable, imparfait, mais si humain. Un homme, tout simplement.
    — Heather — Thank you for your visit. I knew you would like this story. did you ask Remi about l’Abbé Pierre?
    — The Fly in the Web– Very true. Many people tried to silence or imprison l’Abbé Pierre but he never let it happen. A good man.
    — Anni — A man who became an Association, a concept, a symbol. Not bad for a humble priest!

    Veronique

  10. A beautiful Hommage a Abbé Pierre! When he left us in 2007 it was heart breaking. He was one in a million!

    Joyeux Noël and warmest greetings
    from the Périgord, South West of France,
    karin

  11. I had heard of his passing in 2007 and believe that NPR broadcast a special on his life’s work. Your details are wonderful and the altruistic dedication has made an impact on so many lives.

    Again, you share such a rich story, le patrimoine de France.

    Merci, ma chère amie,
    Genie

  12. Bonsoir ma belle,

    Quelle histoire formidable, d’un homme, un veritable saint. Voilà, ce qu’il croyait, il faisait. Ce qu’il faisait a changé le monde autour de lui. Oh, que nos vies fassent pareil….et ma chère, merci pour tes mots de tendresse aujourd’hui….ma mère savait qu’un jour je voudrais écrire.

    Je te souhaite un Noël fabuleux et une année remplie de BONHEUR!!!!!!! BISES, Anita

  13. Brilliant post, and such an important message all year round but particularly relevant at this time of the year! I had heard of Abbe Pierre, but had not read his full story, thank you so much, he was certainly an man among men, hopefully many more young men and women will be inspired by his convictions. btw I wanted to say many congratulations on the one year anniversary of your blog, but I felt a little shy at the time as it was the first time to comment, but a great achievement.

  14. I first learned about L’Abbé Pierre just this past fall, in my AF French class. I had never known about him! I am so happy that you wrote about him here. It was such a joy learning about him. It makes me miss France, and it makes me want to move out there all the more, but I also want to be a part of something like this when I eventually DO get to move out there.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post!

    Amber

  15. — Karin, Genie, Splendid Market, Miss b., Richard, Anita, Helen, Peter, Virginia, Amber — Merci beaucoup, to all of you. Phew. This has been a busy week and I have not had a chance to sit down in front of the keyboard yet. I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Christmas! My mother in law leaves tomorrow. She has had a great visit and I will blog about it next. A bientôt. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  16. What an absolutely wonderful tribute to l’Abbé Pierre. I knew about him and Emmaus but you have filled in so much more detail. Fantastic and thanks.

  17. Dear Veronique, thanks for this very timely reminder of what caring and sharing is about – the spirit of Christmas as it were. L’abbé Pierre lives in the heart of the French people but the story shouldn’t stop there. Beautiful, beautiful post.

    May there be more caring and sharing in this world in 2012 – I think we’ll need it.

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38 Responses to Hermès, Kelly and Birkin: Three symbols of French savoir-faire

  1. Well another WONDERFULLY delicious post…the bags are beautiful and the craftsman aren’t half bad either…miss your commentary on the various comments(as a side not) hope all is well as the preparations for the christmas season are underway…are you returning to your other home this holiday season? have a most enjoyable week!

  2. — g — Welcome back mon amie. Thank you for your comment, as always. Things have been hectic this fall (there was even some unplanned excitement as you may recall 😉 and I probably was not as diligent as I should have been replying to all comments. I also thank visitors directly on their blogs on occasion. Point noted. Will do better. 😉 To answer your question, we will be having a Pacific Northwest Christmas this year. MIL is visiting. What about you? Will it be the East Coast or an exotic locale? Veronique

  3. Hola Veronique,

    I’m so pleased that you enjoyed my book. Even more pleased that you took all the time and effort to create such a great blog post about it. You truly made my day!
    Wishing you and yours the best of this holiday season-
    Be well,
    michael~

  4. What a great post, Veronique! I love learning about these luxurious, quintessentially French items! I too do not know what I would do with a Birkin or Kelly bag…I’d be too afraid to get it dirty to ever use it! Still, it’s fun just to look! 🙂

  5. well -well- well SO VERY HAPPY FOR YOU that the author commented….i knew you’d be making the big time…. each day new followers…soon you will not be able to comment(too many); personally i dread that day— love your responses to us your readers, followers, posse, whatever our title. East coast christmas.new year’s eve at the shore house, where on a clear night you can see any fireworks in atlantic city although we are a good 45 minutes to an hour south…and spain for some sun and warmth in feb., Happy that mutti is coming for a visit…still a family christmas indeed!!Right after i read/commented i headed to amazon to purchase a copy of the book…did you read HOW LUXARY LOST IT’S LUSTER…very interesting about status brands craftsmanship-manufacture.Thanks v for all the time and effort with every post SURELY IT SHOWS.-g for a 2nd time!!!

  6. Je n’ai pas les moyens de m’offrir quoi que ce soit de luxueux, mais j’aime rever, et là, je suis servie. Moi, si je pouvais , je m’inspirerais de Jackie Kennedy. J’adore son style, sa classe..Mais j’adore aussi son epoque, c’est peut-être pour ça. Je trouve genial que M. Tonello t’ait écrit!
    Sais-tu que maintenant, j’attends les lundis avec impatience, pour voir de quoi tu vas nous parler?! addict, moi? nooon! :o)

  7. How much did I love this post? Let me count the ways! Like you, I truly appreciate the world of Hermes. Yes, it is for the 1% but as you mention, those that work there mainly do for life, so…that does balance things more than a bit. I am grateful that they are actively fighting off the LVMH achat. My dear friend Sonny wore an Hermes scarf when we got together the other day. She told me that she had bought it 40 years ago and I promise you I never would have known. Things that are handmade, that last, with quality and thoughts behind them…perfect!

    Merci pour cette poste splendide!
    Heather

  8. Merci for another interesting post. The closest I will probably ever get to something by Hermes are the soap,shampoo and hair conditioner samples from D’Aubusson in Paris that made their way across the ocean to my bathroom! I love the scent of L’eau d’orange verte! Although, maybe on my next trip to Paris I could spluge and buy a Hermes scarf!

  9. Despite the fact that I don’t have a single item from this fashion house, I really respect them, because they have turned craftsmanship into art.

  10. — Georgio — Your verb conjugation in English is a bit iffy, petit frère, but you do know your cars! Do not despair: You will find photos of the fabulous Hermès-clad 2 CV in this post:
    http://frenchgirlinseattle.blogspot.com/2011/09/la-deux-chevaux-2-cv-french-legend.html
    — Katelyn — Thanks for stopping by. Fun to look at indeed. Even better to t.o.u.c.h.!
    — g– You came back! Merci for your undying support. Love that you got the book. Let me know what you think!
    — Malyss — Tu es accro à mon billet du lundi et moi je suis accro à tes superbes photos quotidiennes de ma chère Nice. Nous faisons la paire!
    — Heather — Thank you so much for your message. I enjoyed researching this story and I am so happy you got a kick out of it. Your friend Sonny is lucky. I am getting a Hermès scarf (from the Faubourg St Honoré boutique bien sûr,) for my 50th birthday!
    — Cherie — Thank you for your comment. Hermès samples are good, Cherie, and probably better than most products out there in their regular size 😉 Hôtel d’Aubusson is not too shabby either!
    — Olga — … and that is really saying something, for an artist like you! Thank you for stopping by!

  11. Now what we need is a Hermes bag, made out of their scarves…

    I remember that SATC episode! Poor Samantha. And, I also remember the movie Le Divorce. I loved that movie. Oh and that bag..oh. It was so perfect. So red, so lovely, and such a better deal in itself than the guy! haha

    Amber
    Ambersmouthwash

  12. Did you know the Hermes family has a domain in Chantilly, actually Vineuil St Firmin, just across from the Chateau de Chantilly, where they keep some of their horses, which they exercise on the world famous polo grounds of Apremont ? Silk scarves and leather bags, to line the lap of luxury.

  13. what a fascinating case study – fantastic – what about boules and petanque as another icon for the series. I also spent a huge amount of time in Powells when I visited Portland last Easter….

  14. WEll that does it. I’m heading to Hermès my next trip. I’ve always been a bit intimidated to even walk in but I feel empowered now. I want to touch one of those wonderful scarves (Will they allow it?) and maybe fondle a Birkin! 🙂
    V

  15. — Miss B. — Thanks for stopping by. Let me know what you thought about Michael’s book!
    — Amber — Creative as always, and what daring fashion sense: A Hermès handbag made out of Hermès scarves. I liiiiiikkkkeeee it!
    — Owen — Excellent information. I have always loved visiting Chantilly. Another reason to return. Merci, mon ami.
    — Martinealison — Merci, et tu reviens quand tu veux!
    — Catherine — Great to hear from you. Pétanque… what an excellent idea. Hmmm… I think I could have fun writing this one! Merci!
    — Virginia — Just check out that blog post I mentioned at the beginning of the story and you will know what to expect when you arrive at the Faubourg St Honoré boutique. Less intimidating that way. By the way, you don’t have to splurge on a “carré” Hermès. Le “Twilly” is also a great accessory and it is a lot cheaper. Same patterns and colors as the scarves I believe. I love mine, a gift from my mother-in-law 😉 — Veronique

  16. I’ll go for an orange Birkin and risk the tendinitis. I’m most likely to get one too given the amount of stuff I can get into a bag.
    Ca m’a fait super plaisir d’avoir ton commentaire Véronique et je suis ravie de pouvoir suivre ton blog aussi.
    A bientôt

    Angela

  17. Thank you, Veronique, for the intoxicating post.

    I’d written an oath in blood, after crossing my eyes & kissing my elbow (I think is how Audrey Hepburn said it)–that I would NOT order even ONE more book from Amazon. And just ordered this one in the MIDDLE of reading your post!! (Is there a 12-Step program for Francophiles?!)

    This made me want to march into the Paris boutique, throw down a credit card, and say, ‘Hermes me!’

    Cheers!

  18. On my first trip to Paris, I walked right in to that flagship store, spent an hours nosing around and bought my husband a tie. I have since bought several but never a “Carré Hermès” pour moi. Their silks are to be coveted and I am going to stay away from the Kelly and Birkin – yikes!

    Lovely article and I had already decided to get the book. Now, Michael has so kindly commented on your excellent post. Parfait!

    Bises,
    Genie

  19. visiting your blog, i can’t help but reading this post and put a smile on it. ^0^
    like you, as much as i want to have a Birkin bag or any Hermes bag for that matter, i think it’s just too much for me.^0^
    i don’t even think i have that “momentous” occasion to use it. ^0^
    regardless though, it’s these talented designers that inspires us and let us dream.
    informative post btw.

  20. — Ange — Merci de m’avoir rendu visite. I see you were inspired by Renée Z. and Jane B.’s use of the Birkin. I guess if you are going to spend that kind of money, you might as well make the most of your handbag, eh? 😉
    — DesignChic– Congratulations for being the ONLY person who mentioned a Hermès accessory other than a handbag or a scarf! You’re right, we should not forget the other lines of products– They are gorgeous!
    — French Heart — Welcome, and thank you for becoming a Follower! Michael Tonello will be very pleased by the number of readers who have decided to read his book. You won’t regret getting it! “Hermes me!” – Love it!
    — Richard — C’est ce qu’on dit, c’est ce qu’on dit…
    — Genie — You are fearless that way! 😉 As I mentioned to your “twin” Virginia, did you ever look at the Hermès Twilly? It’s a fun little item!
    — Arabesque — Absolutely. I do not need to own a Birkin or a Kelly (well…) Knowing that they are out there and being able to see one here and there makes me happy enough 😉 — Veronique

  21. WOW. Quel billet plein d’histoire et la mode française!!! J’aime bien voir les MAÎTRES de cette entreprise planifier, travailler et créer ces sacs si élegants! Oh, Veronique, merci pour tes commentaires chez moi! Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec toi; les photos que je préfère sont celles de la Tour Eiffel…Ahhhh, Paris en hiver, c’est génial!

    GROSSES BISES MON AMIE! Anita

  22. Greetings,

    I so enjoyed reading this, and I look forward to reading your past and future posts. I laughed thinking of my trip to a market in Shanghai, where I was offered an orange “Barking” bag.

    Cheers,
    Marjorie

    P.S. Thank you for stopping by my blog, and leaving such lovely comments.

  23. It’s official. I have to read that book!!!

    This is an awesome post! I love it. 🙂 I knew bits and pieces of the Hermes story, particularly the Grace and Jane aspects. I was a little shocked to see Jane’s iconic bag as it is today. I mean, it’s in great condition and all but it looks like a bag I would see for $5 at a garage sale! Lol.

    I’m not sure I could justify spending that kind of money on a Hermes bag, even if I had the money, to be honest. I would actually prefer to spend the money on one of their gorgeous scarves. 🙂

  24. During the reign of Eugenia de Montijo, what today is called the Birkin bag was a common, very popular briefcase, business bag for men…

  25. — Altadenahiker — Thank you for stopping by. How did the cocktail party go?
    — Peter — Master, coming from you, this is a BIG compliment!
    — Anita — Merci de ta visite!
    — Marjorie — I am happy I have found your blog. Who knows, maybe that “Barkin Bag” in Shanghai was the real thing?
    — Jenny — Hint, hint: Wait until tomorrow morning’s giveaway before you buy the book 😉 Yes, Jane certainly personalized the heck out of her Birkin, but she was still conservative compared to La Gaga!
    — Maria O. Russel. Merci for this interesting comment. I have always admired Eugenia (or as the French called her, “l’Imperatrice Eugenie”,) as she did so much for France as Napoleon III’s wife. I have no doubt the Hermes designers found their inspiration in the street when they launched their handbag line. What they did brilliantly, though, was to make bags easy for women to transport during car or train travel… and Grace Kelly and others noticed 😉 — Veronique

  26. Bonjour! Thanks for dropping by and leaving me a sweet comment. I LOVE your blog and have added myself as your newest follower. I’m excited to go through….I’m already loving all the information about Birkin and Hermes.

    Merry Christmas from Houston,TX

  27. How fun! I loved all the pictures and learned a lot! My daughter went to an Hermès atelier with her school once and said it really gave her an appreciation of the bags. Unfortunately I want one now…. maybe some day!

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