Berlin’s high toned places.

On a very cold winter morning, an icy cold one, one might say, as minus six degrees Celsius is rather frosty, almost Siberian a temperature, I decided to go to town. As Brandenburg Gate is near to Friedrichstrasse and Dussmann’s, my CD supplier de choix, I later went for a touristic stroll, I hadn’t been there in months, and when some very stylish people with a lot of Louis Vuitton luggage left the Hotel Adlon right in front of it and took a taxi, presumably to the one airport that works in this town of non-working airports, I saw some people take photos of them. They must have been famous, although I have no idea who they were. Not a clue. As I was nicely dressed in my Dsquared jacket with that giant black fur collar that gives me a somewhat Russian nobility expression, a modern version of Prince Bolkonsky, at least that’s what I like to tell myself, I decided to linger around in front of the famous hotel, as if I would wait for my personal assistant with my luggage, imaginary huge black Goyard trunks, and to give people the oppurtunity to take pictures of me. But nobody did. I would rather have been arrested for loitering with intent…

The Comedians and I.

In the summer of 1980, after having visited friends of my parents in New York and San Francisco, my mother and I sent my father back off to Europe and continued our journey to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where we stayed at the Grand Hotel Oloffson, a 19th-century Gothic gingerbread mansion, set in a lush tropical garden, a place once described as the darling of the theatre people, the literary set and newspaper men. And a literary place it was indeed. The moment we sat down on the Hotel’s beautiful porch to have a cold drink, we were directly transported into a novel, all of a sudden we were part of the set of Graham Greene’s The Comedians. None other than Petit Pierre approached us, ever so elegantly, just like in the book, wearing a fine double-breasted suit despite the Caribbean summer heat, his perfectly knotted tie seemed to be mocking the indolent temperatures, a walking cane with a silver knob gave him even more grandezza, as he strutted from table to table, looking for some material for his columns. Of course it was not Petit Pierre, but Aubelin Jolicœur, so my mother explained to me, as I at the age of 12 was not that familiar with Graham Greene’s work, the Haitian journalist and columnist that was the inspiration for Graham Greene’s character who then took a place at our table, started chatting with my mother, even flirting a little bit, totally ignoring me, leaving me to sip my icy lemonades for ever and ever. And so, before he took us to his gallery with Haitian naive paintings, in a black limousine steered by one of his sons, I started to write one of the hotel postcards to my best friend Daniel in Luxembourg. For some reasons, I never sent it off but took it home with me, as a souvenir maybe, just like my mother took one of the ashtrays. Looking at it now, it makes me smile that while somebody taken out of a famous novel was sitting at my very table, I had no other things to tell him about than the beautiful hotel pool and its cool water. But I can somehow get my 12-year-old me – the pool situation was gorgeous indeed. I must return soon, this time with the book…

A different kind of shopping experience.

The Galaries Lafayette in Paris are worth a visit even when you’re not interested in their goods as the mere architecture of this holy grail of shopping is amazing, Belle Époque splendour of the finest sort—the cupola alone is a sight and made into a very bad movie with Romy Schneider and Michel Ronet which I implore you to never watch, but I digress. The Galeries Lafayette in Berlin, however, are not, not even when you’re interested in any of their goods. And if I hadn’t needed Choderlos de Laclos’ Liaisons Dangereuses La Pléiade edition from its French book section so very badly, I never would have made into that area of Berlin. On my way back home, waiting for traffic to give me a slight chance to cross the street, I glanced to the right, up Behrenstraße, a street of no particular interest, not like Französische Straße, the street I had crossed just before with Berlin’s most prestigious restaurant, the Borchardt, you find yourself dining with Angela Merkel there, but I digress again, anyway, at the end of Behrenstraße, you see a wonderful cathedral from 1773 that looks like a giant pudding, at least to me, a German pudding, some kind of vanilla flavoured panna cotta, not to be confused with anything English like black pudding, can’t stand that one, however traditional, anyway, St. Hedwig’s Cathedral is a gorgeous church, beautifully restored, and once you stand in front of it, and the Hotel de Rome just next to it, every bit as prestigious as Borchardt’s, you suddenly are surrounded by historic grandeur, Berlin’s great palaces of wisdom and entertainment, Humboldt University, its Faculty of Law, and the Staatsoper, the oldest of Berlin’s three opera houses. And truth be told, in the end, I was quite happy with my trip to the Galeries Lafayette.

Berlin’s grey, Berlin’s green.

Berlin’s façades fascinate me, the old ones, I mean, the ones talking of a great past, like the one above near Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden, right in the middle of Berlin. As the third floor lettering suggests, it was once a great hotel – the Splendid Hotel. But some research showed that period lasted only for fourteen years, however splendid it might have been, it got shut down in 1918, possibly due to a lack of customers, who would want to visit Berlin shortly after World War I? So its rooms were rented to small businesses, tiny offices instead of vast suites. The building survived even WW II and the GDR’s neglect of anything remotely elegant, and as it stands now in one of Berlin’s most cared for areas, it’s in perfect shape and wouldn’t have lost any of its appeal if it weren’t for spring — I can’t pay much attention to anything grey these days. And although this building as well as mine are under monumental protection, mine was not a hotel but it used to house female students in the good old days of the Kaiser, I tend to just look at the wonderful green of the trees from the very moment I open my door or a window…

Nuit blanche.

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In 2002, my friend Julia and I went to Berlin, we strolled around, went to museums, to all those architectural gems on Museumsinsel, had lots of fun, met a colleague of Julia’s when we had tea at the Adlon, the city’s most distinguished hotel at the time, he was staying there during a film production for a TV commercial, the client apparently being very generous, imagine his surprise when he saw us there, comforted by all this utter luxury, having tea and cake, served with dozens of splendid silver tea and hot water pots, silver milkers and a multitude of silver etageres for petits fours, sugar diversities and other stuff, with a strange vacuous expression on our faces after walking and talking for hours, we must have seemed liked bored habitués on their honeymoon, with nothing particular to do on an afternoon, and so we told him about some sort of necessary sudden marriage, leaving him so covered with confusion that he bumped into one of the Adlon waiters. Later in the day, our spirits high again, we sat for hours at the Literaturhaus Café on Fasanenstrasse, dining and drinking, until not only were we sat on the streets after closing hours but our last train to Hamburg had left, too. We were stranded. Stranded in Berlin. We walked up and down Kurfürstendamm, and all of the side streets, void of people at this time of night, discussing every single item of the displayed clothing, jewellery and shoes in extenso, with an air of hoboes, some tramps into style, desperate with no place to go, at least until the first train to Hamburg would take us back. In the middle of the night, Jil Sander’s windows offered some light at least, her flagship store was bright as hell, and Milan Vukmirovic, the designer in charge at the time, obviously had a thing for lovers that summer collection of 2002, the lettering came on t-shirts and in even larger lettering in the flagship store’s window. Julia put me just next to it and took a shot with her camera, quite appropriately so, as I was wearing my beloved ice blue Jil Sander jacket, I wore it to death, and I still miss it, I couldn’t even throw it away when it was no longer wearable, damaged by being way too often in the washing machine’s wool wash cycle, I hate dry cleaning just as much as Paul Smith, but its ice blue colour was prone to smudging, it’s been buried for years in my parents’ attic, in some suitcase, anyway, at the time it was still new and it suited me well enough to make me feel like just the sort of lover Milan Vukmirovic had in mind when designing the collection. At least that’s what I firmly believed. Julia never contradicted me. And women, as we all know, know it all.