Le Dernier Mot: Mishap at le Crillon

Le Dernier Mot: Mishap at le Crillon

Kristin suffers a case of Imposter Syndrome at the famously upscale Paris hotel bar

Last fall my 25-year-old bought a one-way ticket to the States to visit family and to check out job opportunities là-bas. When I learned Jackie was flying out of Paris, I offered to train up to the capital with her to make some good memories together before she departed. For this mother-daughter time to be unforgettable, I suggested we indulge in an evening at a fancy hotel and the most economical way to do that would be snacks at the bar.

Imposter Syndrom

“Le Crillon is the Ritz on steroids!” my sister exclaimed, making me even more nervous about the upcoming 5-star moment. Imposter syndrome was creeping in again, and to fight it I told myself Jackie and I were here to conduct research. After all, my daughter, who’d worked at Baccarat (at their elegant crystal bar), might be interested in working at Bar Les Ambassadeurs.

Armed with a purpose (and a careful budget) I was almost comfortable with the plan – until I discovered my best dress was wrinkled beyond repair. “I can fix it,” my daughter offered, brandishing the hairdryer in our cramped Left Bank hotel room. Anyone would be lucky to have Jackie as an employee: she’s a problem-solver, she’s calm, and she cleans up well (gone were the running pants and baskets; she now sported leather slacks and a silk blouse). “Our cab is arriving,” Jackie said, and we were off to Place de la Concorde.

The moment the hotel valet opened our cab door, I stepped into a new persona… and it lasted all of 10 strides before la semelle of my right shoe began falling off, flap, flap, flapping, against Le Crillon’s marble floor. “It’s OK, Mom. Keep walking!”

The Hotel de Crillon in Paris © Claus

A daughter to be proud of

“Cheap shoes!” the diable on my shoulder scoffed, as the Maître D arrived. “I’m sorry. The bar is full,” he frowned. “But we have reservations,” my daughter insisted. “One moment, Mademoiselle…”

There in the gilded salon, with its fresco ceilings and chandeliers, a baby grand gleamed. Atop the piano, a Baccarat jar dazzled me. I was just reaching for the crystal lid when Jackie motioned non. “But I think there’s candy for the guests,” I explained.

Our starched butler suddenly returned with good news. “I have seats at the bar.” We followed (one of us dragging her heel) and sat at the comptoir. “Let me see your shoe,” Jackie whispered. With a tug, she removed the errant sole, wrapped it discreetly in a monogrammed napkin, and slipped it into her purse.
Next, she ordered me a Marie Antoinette, sans alcool, and a kir royal for herself. “Cheers!” my daughter smiled when the drinks arrived. There in my smoothed-out dress and “new” shoes, I raised a toast to one amazing daughter who makes me feel at home anywhere we go. Now that’s true luxury.

Place de la Concorde, Paris © PHGCOM

là-bas = over there
la basket = sneaker, trainer, sports shoe
la semelle = shoe sole
le diable = devil
le comptoir = bar
le kir royale = crème de cassis topped with champagne

Lead photo credit : Drinks at Le Crillon © Kristin Espinasse

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  •  Samantha
    2023-06-25 05:41:39
    Lovely story... reminded me of my mom and I traveling (as imposters) in Nice when I was only 14 (now 54). Merci beaucoup!


  •  Robert Bullock
    2023-04-13 10:33:13
    Robert Bullock
    Dear Ms. Espinasse, Thank you for this story - a good read and bravo to your daughter. She sounds as if she's just the right kind of person to have with you in a crisis situation ! The main reason for my writing to you is that I'm trying to find an old photograph of a former farmhouse between Bandol and Saint-Cyr which in the 1920s was called the Château Brun - it's for a book I'm writing about D.H. Lawrence's last two years (1928-30). I think it was your husband I spoke to a few years ago (summer of 2017), explaining that Lawrence had helped an American couple - good friends of his called Earl and Achsah Brewster - to find a house to rent near Bandol where he was living during the autumn/winter of 1929-30 and that I was trying to find a photo of the house in question.. According to research I've done, the house later became Le Mas Brun where I believe you and your husband had a vineyard producing some of Bandol's famous wines. In one of your articles in France Today a few years back, there was an old black-and- white photo of what I assume was the farmhouse as it must have looked back in the early part of the 20th Century. I was wondering where I might be able to obtain a copy of the photo - or any others you may know of circa 1910 to 1935 - to illustrate the relevant chapter of my book (Lawrence visited the Brewsters there a few times between October and December 1929 before his health deteriorated over Christmas, resulting in his death from tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Vence in March 1930). My very grateful thanks to you for any help or advice you may be able to give me with this quest. Best wishes, Robert Bullock.


    • Kristin Espinasse
      2023-06-24 08:11:51
      Kristin Espinasse
      Hello Robert, P,lease excuse this delayed reply but I have just now discovered your message. I am surprised to learn about the connection between Château Brun and D.H. Lawrence. I will contact the previous owner and let you know if this is the place you are referring to. In fact, there is an historic chateau above our former farmhouse (which at one time was part of the same property). Best wishes with your book, Kristin


  •  Jewel Turner
    2023-04-13 08:22:03
    Jewel Turner
    Please keep me posted on your work. I am visiting the South of France during the Cannes film festival. Any suggestions for dining, cocktails, etc. would be appreciated, if you have any.


  • Linda Manley
    2023-04-13 03:54:50
    Linda Manley
    Happy story! Reminded me of my sister & myself!! Very Chic🍾


  • Karen Whitcome
    2023-04-12 04:55:12
    Karen Whitcome
    She's the real gem - as are you!