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Movie Travel: Coco Chanel's Paris

May 26, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Paris needs no embellishment, particularly the Paris of Coco Chanel, who rose from rags to the riches of her luxurious suite at the Ritz. The iconic designer is the subject of the new film “Coco Before Chanel.” Learn where Coco slept, strolled and shopped, and create a Paris itinerary recalling her fashionable taste.

Chanel's Life in Paris

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In an interview for The Huffington Post, Christal Smith discusses "Coco Before Chanel" with star Audrey Tautou, who was cast in the mind of director Anne Fontaine before the script was even written. Tautou reveals details from the scene shot in the rue Cambon, Chanel's extravagant apartment, where "boutique stairs and mirrors" designed by Chanel remain in place. Despite the wealth and glamorous lifestyle Chanel obtained later in life, "she was self made." According to the article, she lost her mother at a young age, and her father placed her in an orphanage. "These things are completely universal—it's so human—everyone understands," Tautou told Smith.

The glamour of Chanel's everyday life, however, is not completely accessible to the public. Her Chanel suite at the Paris Ritz costs more than $8,000 per night, boasting two bedrooms and views of the towering Vendôme column, according to Lynn Yaeger in an article for Travel + Leisure. Yaeger describes other favorite Chanel haunts, including the Palais Royal gardens and the noted Galeries Lafayette department store. She also describes Chanel's apartment above her store at 31 Rue Cambon in further detail: it was located in "an 18th-century building on a narrow street across from the back entrance of the Ritz," writes Yaeger.

Tracing Chanel's Childhood and First Paris Boutique

France Guide provides inspiration for a Coco Chanel-themed tour of France, including jaunts to her birthplace (her birth name is Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) in Saumur in the Western part of the country; Aubazine en Corrèze, in the region of Limousin, site of the orphanage where Coco's father left her after her mother's passing; and Auvergne, where Coco fled at age 18 to study sewing. France Guide also includes Paris locales specific to Coco Chanel, including "her first boutique on the Boulevard Malesherbes."

The rue Cambon Apartment

Julia of the homes and design blog Hooked on Houses devotes an intriguing post with several photos to Coco Chanel's apartment at 31 rue Cambon. The designer had her Chanel store on the first level, with "haute couture dressing rooms" on the next floor up, followed by her apartment and workshop on the third and fourth floors. According to Julia, the building's rooftop "is said to have some of the best views in Paris," and stairways were always sprayed with Chanel No. 5 before Coco arrived at home. The rue Cambon apartment was mostly for entertaining purposes, and Chanel spent most of her time living in a separate apartment at the Ritz. The Ritz suite has been restored and recreated by art historians with decor echoing "pure Coco panache," according to a Forbes Traveler article cited by Julia. Unfortunately, neither apartment is open to the public.

More photos of the interior of Chanel's rue Cambon apartment are available at the LiveYourStyle blog. A video tour of Chanel's apartment, which remains "exactly as it was in 1971 after her death," was granted to VogueTV and can be viewed on YouTube.

The Ritz Paris Chanel Suite

Paris visitors who can't afford to stay at the Ritz can stroll past the city's iconic hotel and get a glimpse of the glamorous interior, which features the Hemingway Bar and fine dining restaurant L'Espadon, according to Concierge.com. The Ritz also has an indoor pool that is a replica of "ancient Roman baths."

The Ritz Web site provides further details about the impeccably furnished and scented Coco Chanel suite.

Palais Royal Gardens

Chanel was known to have enjoyed walks in the gardens of Paris' Palais Royal, which includes "the palace itself and the galleries" surrounding it, according to Paris Tourisme. Constructed in 1629, the palace was home to Anne d'Autriche and her three sons after the death of Louis XIII. Shops and cafes freckle the outer galleries, and locals and visitors flock to the "simple, calm gardens" located mere minutes from the Place de l'Opera. In the evening, the gardens light up with "[l]ampposts and hanging lanterns."

Shoppers eager to snatch up the latest Parisian fashions are presented with a rundown of shopping opportunities in the galleries of the gardens, referred to as Jardin du Palais Royal, from Fodor's. Learn where to find vintage clothing and "artisanal perfumes," plus a quiet place to sit beneath the "neat rows of chestnut trees."

Paris Travel Tips

New York-based Jauntsetter caters to female travelers from the Big Apple, but with insider advice for many destinations, the site is suitable for anyone craving a satisfying journey. You'll find extensive Paris travel coverage, with several blog posts offering suggested full-day itineraries. Jauntsetter also recommends flea markets and farmer's markets, the chicest boutiques and neighborhoods, and offers tips for where to dine or pick up a perfect baguette or pastry.

Don't miss "A Perfect Parisian Morning" and "An Afternoon Pick-Me-Up: Paris, Part Deux" for a seasoned Paris traveler's picks on how to spend a day in the City of Lights.
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