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Written and photographed by Jennifer Harlow.

Trains, Machine Guns, and Alexander McQueen

Leaving Paris is always a difficult thing to do. Particularly when you are cutting your trip short by one day and even worse than that, leaving early on the day that you were supposed to attend Figaro at the Paris National Opera House. C’est dommage, I know, but after a short phone conversation with my husband, who was holding down the fort back home in Washington DC, I decided it was best to get my fashion avatar ass back on American turf.

Breaking the news to my ten year old daughter about leaving Paris early was not as bad as I had anticipated. After all, we were flying first class home with Lisa Klein (after three inseparable days with Sarah, she was now known as Aunt Lisa). And even though we were slightly disappointed that we would not get the opportunity to wear our opera attire to the actual Opera National de Paris, I agreed with my daughter that at least we could wear our dresses on our way home — trains, planes and all.

So while walking around during our last two hours in Paris collecting souvenirs and visiting our favorite neighborhood haunts, I was dressed in a gorgeous Elise Gug wrap that I found at Ella Rue, Vince Camuto lace black boots, and Chanel drop pearls. Likewise Sarah was looking very chic and opera-ish in a Sak’s black lace poplin dress with a silk pink bow wrapped around her waist and black flats.

After one last loop around our chic Bourgeois Bohemian neighborhood, we bid W.G. (Walter Grio) “au revoir” while standing in front of the red door of our apartment. Grabbing our suitcases, we walked down Rue de Rivoli for the last time and descended down the steps to the St. Paul metro stop.

Without any major mishaps, we managed to transfer trains with all of our luggage and shopping bags, overflowing with hand-made macarons and artisan milk chocolate. Even though the handle to my suitcase would not pull up and my Vince Camuto boots were already creating major blisters on my heels, I was still on a Paris high while people watching on the RER.

At times, I gazed out the window trying to get a few more snapshots of Parisian architecture and the overall “je ne sais quoi” of the city, but mainly my eyes kept diverting to Lisa, who was sitting directly across from me, legs crossed and wearing the wildest pair of Alexander McQueen lycra leggings with engineered painted flowers all over them. I have to admit, I have never seen lycra look so good and staring at the pattern created sudden flashbacks of me visiting the Sully Gallery at Le Louvre while viewing Monet’s Water Lilies.

With about an hour to spare before our flight departed to JFK, we arrived at the train station where we then needed to take a shuttle to the airport. Time wise, we were cutting it a bit short, but once again, leaving Paris is not an easy task. We dragged our suitcases up the steps only to find out that our tickets would not allow us to exit the train station. After inserting our ticket many times (about 100) and looking like complete idiots, we finally realized we had purchased the wrong train tickets back at the St. Paul Metro and there was no ticket machine or attendant that could help us out on this side of the turnstile.

Needless to say, I was feeling a bit pressed for time (and stressed), when thankfully, a French speaking woman decided that she could help us. She headed out of the turnstile to look for a solution, only to return back two minutes later with a man fully clothed in camouflage with combat boots and holding a machine gun. WTF? Are you kidding me? Seriously, all we did was accidentally get the wrong tickets. Apparently, with only 50 minutes to spare before our flight was about to depart, some guy dropped an unidentified package in the main terminal and was now running loose as a “suspect” in the train station. In his broken English, the camouflaged machine gun guy told us that the terminal was shut down due to a terrorist alert and we could not leave the other side of the gate. Seriously? We waited about ten minutes and by this time, another group of passengers had gotten off the train. It appeared as though everyone was walking through and that train terminal had reopened.

Looking over my shoulder at an empty train stop and with no real viable solution to our ticket situation, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Without saying a word, I threw my suitcase over the turnstile and squeezed my fashionista self between the metal bars. Motioning to my daughter to move fast, she handed me her suitcase and scooted below the bars. I glanced at Lisa, who was looking mortified with my “suspect-like” behavior, and I told her to get moving before we missed our flight and certainly before Jean-Claude Van Damme’s look alike showed up with his big machine gun.

In effortless motion, she tossed her suitcase over the turnstile and gracefully slid her Alexander McQueen ass between the two metal bars. All I can say is that if you ever find yourself in a peculiar situation warranting a “bust out” move from a Paris train station, McQueen lycra leggings definitely help out. Regrouping and pulling ourselves together, all three of us successfully made it to the airport with 30 minutes to spare. Now we just had to navigate through customs and security, which besides Lisa’s forgotten water bottle in the suitcase situation, we managed without delay. Despite the fact that my blisters had gotten worse and my suitcase was still not cooperating, we all managed to bolt to the furthest wing at Charles de Gaulle and check in on time. While we were waiting “praying” to get First Class seats, I even managed to spend more money buying last minute duty free gifts for everyone. At least I had a bunch of goodies and new bottle of Giorgio Armani cologne for my husband — a sure way to thank him for adjusting his schedule in order for me to attend Paris Fashion Week.

With an eight hour flight a head of us and champagne waiting for me on the plane, I boarded the flight with a smile on my face. Paris Fashion Week had been everything I thought it would be and then some — the fashion, the runway shows, the food, the conversations, and the city. Au revoir Paris, until January, I will be missing you and I certainly hope the train incident was not caught on tape.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Elie Saab was the first designer to invite Fashiontographer to Paris Fashion Week, which was the invitation that pretty much cemented the decision to go to Paris.  After hearing about this train adventure to the airport, I decided to take a cab when it was time to leave.






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