Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The European Tour, Bouvier-Style

There was a time when young women of certain breeding would be sent abroad to become, shall we say, "cultured".

I was not so fortunate.  Of course I was not of such good breeding and by the time I came of age it was the 70s, the ultimate hangover decade. 

So what made me think of such trips abroad?

Well, it began with reading an interview with Lee Bouvier Radziwell in this past weekend's New York Times.

Lee Radziwill in the living room of her apartment in Paris, which she designed herself.

There are some that will remember Lee best for the 70s and her high profile relationships and friendships.  But not me.  Married to a Prince.  Friends with Warhol, lover of famous photographer Peter Beard.

When I was 16 years old, and working for Zellers (the Canadian equivalent of Walmart for my American and European friends, bought and soon to be replaced by Target stores this year), I came across the following title in the bargain bin of books:

One Special Summer by Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier.  Dani, who has a famous quote by their father on her blog, is well familiar with this book I think!

Written about their 1951 trip to Europe, this book, which was originally published in 1974 and is really an illustrated journal of their travels written for their mother, seemed absolutely exotic and inspiring to me. The book is currently out of print, but you can track it down used (and pay MUCH more than I did!).  There were two copies in the bin; the other stayed there for months once I had snatched this one up!

Of course I knew Jackie.  In 1979, I knew her best as Jackie Onassis.  Oh, I knew she had been the tragic first lady.  But what I saw in the daily news and on TV growing up was this Jackie:


But this other Jackie, a Jackie with a younger sister named Lee, having adventures in Europe in the early 1950s?  This Jackie, riveted me!  And her sister?  Swoon-worthy! Could there have ever been two more glamourous tourists than the Bouvier sisters?  They make the Kardashians look like tarts out for a sunday stroll (sincere apologies for all Kardashian fans who may read this post and yes, I do know that Jackie and Lee were, well, ahem, not always good girls either, but I think you know what I mean.  I am quite sure they were not all, "what up bitches?" upon meeting someone new..)

I know I have mentioned this book a bit in the past, but I had to revisit it after reading the Lee Radziwell interview (which is quite interesting by the way) as it reminded me of just how much I loved this book!

The dustcover is long gone:



I have dragged this book from one end of Canada to another, and it has lived in 8 different places.

Ah 1979: a bargain could still be gotten!



Isn't the inside cover charming:



According to the preface (written by Lee at the time of publication), Jackie did most of the illustrations and Lee did most of the writing.  The book is witty and sweet.  I imagine Mrs. Bouvier, who took some convincing to allow her daughters, aged 18 and 22 years respectively, to travel abroad together receiving these missives and being tickled pink.

The illustration of going to a soiree in Paris is priceless


And the sisters are nothing short of glamorous:



FFM - I think Jackie is wearing your Jack Rogers!

It hit me while I was reading the interview with Lee: That was 62 years ago,

In this age of emails and yellow stickies and digital cameras, we forget that someday, our children and our grandchildren may want a record of our time here on earth.  It is worth it now and then to jot down a remembrance while things are happening.  One special summer, the Bouvier sisters, before tragedy and excess and life overtook them, did just that.  I am glad they did.  Tonight, I will reread this lovely book and go back in time to 1951 and to 1979, when I was a wee bit of a thing putting price tags on cosmetics and toiletries in a canadian department store that will cease to exist this year.  Well time marches on.  Lee has not stayed still and appears to me to be as elegant now as in those long ago days.  Oh I love my Uggs.  But truly, I look at those lovely pictures of those lovely young girls and I miss a more genteel time, even if it was partially (or largely?) ficticious!

So Happy Tuesday everyone! 

Me?  I am off to start writing my own little illustrated memoir!  Stay safe out there!

47 comments:

  1. My mum was packed off to aSwiss finishing school to learn the ladylike arts, by the time I was of age it was dying out but my friend and I were packed off for two months, I think we were supposed to learn to cook but I can barely boil an egg.
    I had a job putting prices on things , got the sack, sold a £5000 table for £500 pounds!

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    1. ACK!! That is painfully funny! Did they teach you which forks to use and good posture?

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    2. Oh no, we wouldn't have gotten in if we didn't know that by then, we were taught deportment at school - I know it sounds so antiquated now, but you know if I could I'd sign up for those classes, Im a hunchback of the computer age now.

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  2. Their waists are so tiny! I promise, that was not my first thought.

    I like what you said about recording memories. I do not do too much of that, though I do write letters and send postcards regularly.

    I read a suggestion once, probably on Martha Stewart, to send yourself postcards while travelling, as a travelog and easy scrapbook. And, then you get to see the local stamps and post marks. I do love the mail, so maybe I'll do that the next time that I go away.

    Now that I live in Switzerland, I've become so aware of how many things that we traditionally associate with this country are examples of their focus on business and money-making! There is a memorial in Luzern to the Swiss mercenaries who died at les Tuileries in 1792. On the plaque, it says that "in addition to agriculture and town-crafts, the mercenaries' service was an important and gainful trade at the time of the Ancient Confederation." (I have a photo of it in my phone). I recommend visiting that memorial if you're ever over here, it is beautiful.

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    1. It is funny - we forget how critical these merchants were! Our Zellers is about to close and I am going there this week to get my photo taken inside! I have a lot of happy memories of that store and made some godo friendships, working part-time through high school and part of university. Not only that, I actually got drunk that store - we remodeled in 1980 or so, the store manager was exuberant, brought in a case of mateus wine (which I can't even look at in the liquor store without gagging!) expecting only the adults to drink, but of course, all the high school kids drank it! I had a good old bout of vomiting in one of those bathroom stalls!

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    2. Oh, WMM that's a great story, right until the final act anyway and so cool that you are going to snap a pic. On Saturday they were taking down the Zellers lettering and putting up the Target bullseye on a store on the East Mall - near airport - here.

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    3. Well it is the end of an era,but I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited to have a target here in town! :-)

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  3. NEXT CHAPTER WMM, you reminded me, there is a sort of homage sequel to the Bouvier sisters' book (which I have read about but never seen in hand, so thank you.)

    The second is called "Mrs. Kennedy Goes Abroad" and is about FLOTUS Jackie's travels, particularly accompanied by Lee to India.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Kennedy-Abroad-Vibhuti-Patel/dp/1579651232

    The author, a personal friend with that French chic Mrs. K. so admired, was clearly influeunced by the sisters' early work. For various reasons, while she did give Jackie some of the paintings and sketches, they weren't published as a collection until 1998.

    Mailing you my copy as a nice, quick, pretty sabbatical loaner. You can also pick them up inexpensively online (inflation, mine, which was a gift around 2000 cost 30x your Zeller's treasure.)

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    1. Oh I can;t wait to take a look! I am rereading the sisters' travels now and it is much more interesting reading them as a middle-aged woman than as a 16 year old!

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  4. I have that interview in the NYT magazine open on my desk right now! Doesn't it make you want to buy a pink sofa and paint your walls pale yellow, that Paris apartment is TDF.
    They really had an interesting childhood and I always thought their father was such a character too, their mother was quite the clawing socialite apparently.
    Times have changed haven't they. I'd love to get my hands on that book, what a treasure, hand on tight to it, it must be a big collectors item.
    I can't believe you worked at Zellers! I would have too if had one in my town, it is so small where I grew up we didn't have McD's or anything.

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    1. Oh we were a booming metropolis - we had one "uptown" and "downtown"...

      I LOVED her paris apartment. I love that pinky hues. It is quite a coup to talk Barry into painting hallway raspberry. I was interested to read how Lee basically loathed her childhood and was not particularly close to Jackie until the trip.

      I wish I still had the dustcover. We moved so much, it must have gotten ripped along the way. The dustcover I had was MUCH different than what I see on amazon.com. I am trying to picture it in my mind! Picking up around the house today and cleaning out makeup case. Honestly, it is such a big job, righting the house.

      I am also going to paint later as the light is fabulous today!

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    2. Wendy I was planning to paint today but the light is hideous, so gray and cold here, I feel like going back to bed! Take advantage of the light!

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    3. Dani - you paint too? I didn't know that.

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  5. I loved her favorite chintz, too. She looks as though she could use a nice big steak, but I guess she has always been tiny. They were an elegant pair of sisters.

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    1. They really were weren't they? I loved her favourite chintz,too!

      Lane - did you and GF ever sort out Blue Castle. DO you still need to me to send to you? I can order it from amazon for you, but need your mailing address - can you let me know offline? thanks!

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    2. Hi Lane, I posted for you to email me but haven't seen a message > getfreshpress at gmail dot com

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    3. Oh, Thanks!!! Have attended to this just now.

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    4. Got it, LMM book will be en route soon as I can manage.

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  6. I used to tag things in a Walmart-ish department store too! Your own illustrated memoir sounds like a perfect and relaxing project for your time off. The book sounds charming and that picture of the sisters makes me wish for that time and place too. I love Abby's idea of sending postcards to one's self, I wish I'd heard that idea 3 decades ago.

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    1. HI Cate! We used to have fun - don't know if anybody tags anything anymore is all bar codes, isn't it? I agree - I think Abby's idea is a good one and I am going to do that, starting with NYC!

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  7. Hi WMM, I read that article the other day and loved the accompanying video by Sophia Coppola - what amazing stories!

    I would love to read that book too - how lucky that you kept it all these years; when I checked on amazon.ca there was a copy available for $927.84!!!

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    1. OOH - that must have been autographed one! I do feel fortunate I kept it, but to be honest, I almost never get rid of books, unless there are duplicates or they have completely fallen apart!

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  8. What an interesting post. I saw the article about Lee Radziwell's apartment,too, but this is so much more charming. Your book looks like an Eloise for grown ups story with its fabulous illustrations and calligraphy. I could see that illustration framed in your house-maybe right next to your newly cleaned closet. I wonder if copies of the art are available? I would have loved it as a teenager too. I am looking forward to seeing your panting- snow scenes perhaps :) .

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    1. I am going to search online! I once desecrated a vintage children's book with these fabulous colour illustrations. The gallery felt hoorrible framing it, but it was so lovely! I must still have the book, with a few more pictures in it, around somewhere. I will take a picture sometime - it is neat!

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  9. Oh Zellers! he he I worked at The Bay for 2 years out of high school. It was actually one of my favorite jobs. I'm not a big pushy salesperson but I got to know the ladies who would come in to shop every week, and I liked the other parts of the job -- the discount, we always got to try out the newest cosmetic samples & perfume samples, I was involved in their fashion shows, etc. It was a good job for me then.

    That article was very interesting - I find both Lee and Jackie very fascinating and I think they were both quite ballsy back then (well, really throughout their entire lives). They didn't always make the best choices but man did they lead interesting lives!

    I have that One Special Summer book - it was reissued a few years ago (maybe 2007-ish? somewhere in there). Great idea to document those memories!

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  10. i think those jobs can be quite fun. always wanted my own shop!

    that version I see online must be the 2007 version - it looked nothing like the cover of the one I have. WOuldn't you love 10 minutes in that apartment? I keep thinking I am supposed to live in Paris for awhile. Need to figure out how to do that!!

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  11. Someday I want to "travel well". Meaning not look like I'm going to exercise in my stretchy pants, sneakers, and long shapeless top that need be I can take my bra off on the long flight and no one would know. Sigh...to be European.

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    1. Oh Blue Booby - I always have to wiggle my bra off on long flights, it's just too much strapping!

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    2. You gels are killing me! We need one of those bra-genies!

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  12. By the way, WMM, I've seen you comment that you miss Paris - here's a short video I came across, a tour through the Louvre:

    http://vimeo.com/57078160

    It's called Path of Beauty.

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    1. Thank you Patricia! Just loverly!

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  13. Oh, and WMM, still not cheap or quite as central for liveable dosh as your last hotel, but if you ever want tips and sources for good Paris apt. rentals, always happy to enable the travel bug.

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  14. Oh Wendy, you are so fortunate to have that book! It is absolutely divine! Both women had such an amazing sense of style, didn't they? Love the photo of Jackie in 'my' Jack Rogers, too. I think either of those outfits could still easily be worn today.

    I was sent the book that GF mentioned-'Mrs. Kennedy Goes Abroad' by one of my lovely readers a couple years ago, and it is absolutely delightful. If you can get one, it will be a great companion to your book.

    Btw, I did get a chance to take a look at the Drew Barrymore makeup line at Walmart this past weekend. They didn't have any samples open to investigate, but from the outer appearance, I would say that the quality looks to be somewhere between Rimmel of London and Maybelline, but more expensive than either one of them.

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    1. The personal "library" copy is now in the mail to WMM so she can check it out. Glad you like it too FFM! And agree her own copy would be a great companion to WMM's wonderful existing volume. The drawings in Mrs. remind me a little of Laura Stoddart's illustrations for the Kate Spade books - do you know them?

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    2. Oh good, GF! I think WMM will really enjoy it. :)

      I have not read any of Kate Spade's books. Are they worth checking out?

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    3. Thanks GF - will treasure the loaner!

      FFM - they did have fabulous style and what a nice gift for you!

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    4. FFM, they aren't really a read, more of a look. More style than substance. Nice to look at and strong colour concepts versus any brand-new style advice. But maybe just the thing for a "quick pretty" on your busy sched. They remind me of KS before it was sold and got all neon and hello kitty. More "her" tone of voice, since Kate was an editor before she became a designer. There are three - Style, Manners and Occasions. I would recommend the first. You can take a peek inside on Amazon, although the parts shown are more "wordy" than the books as a whole which tend toward snippets with illustrations and tips.

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    5. FFM- I have a set of these I could send you. Let me know.

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    6. I would absolutely love to have a set if you have one to spare, Lane. Thank you so much! :)

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    7. That is great! I have never heard of these - how fun!

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    8. FFM-- just dug out the books-- will email you.

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  16. I've never read much about the Bouvier sisters, but I do love reading about the shenanigans that went on during the Kennedy years in the White House.
    But since it's come so highly recommended, I will try to find a copy One Special Summer. I think the postcard idea is brilliant and wish I'd started that 40 years ago.

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    1. I know - me too, re: postcard. It is quite a fun read Kathy and certainly captures the exbuveberance of young women on their own and getting up to society shenanigans!

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