Waiting for Sunday Night Football to come on, Sandy and I turned the channel to watch the beginning of the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffanys, starring Audrey Hepburn. Ms. Hepburn is one of my all-time favorite actresses and as I watched the opening scene with her standing in front of Tiffanys, I was reminded about her childhood growing up in Holland during World War II.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve never had to personally experience war. I’ve never felt hunger or had to worry where my or my children’s next meal was going to come from. I’ve never lived in a country occupied by a foreign enemy. I’ve never had to show documentation to move about in my own country. I’ve never had to worry about the possibility of being deported each time someone knocked on my door in the evening.
Several weeks after the liberation of Paris, Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel was arrested by members of the FFI (French Forces of the Interior—resistance fighters during latter stages of the war) and taken to the Free French Purge Committee headquarters. After two hours of questioning, Chanel was released. She would later tell her maid that she was released under the personal orders of Winston Churchill. Within hours of arriving back at 31, rue Cambon, Chanel left in her Cadillac for Lausanne, Switzerland where she would live in exile until her return to Paris in the mid-1950s (she would come back to Paris from time to time—once as a witness in a trial of her friend and collaborator, Baron Louis de Vaufreland—the judge would declare, “The answers Mademoiselle Chanel gave to the court were deceptive”).
Chanel had been put on the French Resistance black list since 1942 as a German collaborationnistes (specifically as a horizontal collaborator—get the euphemism?). She was well known as being anti-Communist, pro-German, and virulently anti-Semitic (her verbal diatribes at dinner parties are legendary). Chanel was extremely adept at spinning any story to suit her needs or objectives. Her life story included a broken family childhood (i.e., insecurity—she was a very complex individual), prostitution, homosexuality, drug addiction, creativity, business acumen, betrayals, treason, promiscuous activities, a well-known spy mission, cover-ups, bribes, extreme poverty, extreme wealth, dance halls, lovers—men and women, intellectual friends, loyalty to her friends, and a passion for fashion and fragrances that remain legendary. Wow, how many of us have that resume?Read More Coco Chanel: Nazi Collaborator or Spy?
Stew takes you on a walking tour of buildings, places, and sites significant to the theme of each of his books. But most importantly, you will learn the intricate stories of the people and places that many other tours do not.
Stewart Ross’ book is full of interesting documents and research, it put you well on the tracks of Marie Antoinette, Danton, Robespierre and many more, whether in Paris or in Versailles, extremely interesting and easy to read!
Raphaelle Crevet | Certified Tour Guide, Paris, France
Mr. Ross brings the streets of Paris to life, making it possible for you to stand on the very spots where the grand and tragic events of the French Revolution took place. If you are looking for more than just the typical tourist experience in Paris, then this book is must reading!