Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.


EDIT: Okay, most embarrassing moment in Paris so far? Actually, ever?

Massive asthma attack in front of the Assemblée Nationale. There’s not much worse then being remembered to Parisiens as the American dork who almost passed out on the steps.

The worst part is, it was totally my fault for being an idiot. The moment I left my building, I could feel the asthma coming on, even though I’d prepped with albuterol. I didn’t have time to run Friday or Saturday though, so I was determined to get in a long one today, and I decided (stupidly) to run anyway, and take some more albuterol when I got home.

Unfortunately, asthma doesn’t work like that. You push it, it pushes back, which is why I found myself unable to draw a breath on the Rive Gauche of the Seine this afternoon. I didn’t really know what to do. All I had was my iPod and a five euro bill. I had no i.d., no money, no metro pass and no emergency phone numbers of my au pair family with me. I ended up sprawled on my back on a low stone wall in front of the building wheezing for half an hour.

It was really really embarrassing. I couldn’t even remember how to say “breathe” in French, all I could come up with was something along the lines of “I have no more wind.” An older French man was really concerned about me, and it took me a while to convince him that I’d be fine. There was nothing he could do for me anyway, short of bringing me to the salle des urgences, and as I hadn’t really envisioned spending my Sunday in the E.R., that was not my top choice.

I ended up just looking like a fool on my back for a while and then slowly walking back home. My lungs are fine, but my dignity is a little battered.

Wheezing is so not chic.


Une “nuit blanche” is the term given by the French to a night when you don’t sleep a wink – a night so crazy that you don’t return home until the sun is coming up in the morning.

For the past five years in Paris, the term has taken on new significance. Still a night with no sleep, the Nuit Blanche is now a city-wide holiday, a night when museums are open for free into the wee hours of the morning, famous endroits around the city are filled with installation art pieces, clubs throw open their doors free of cover charge and thousands of Parisians take to wandering the streets clutching bottles of wine and not coming home until morning.

The city’s mayor since 2001, Bertrand Delanoë, is apparently a rather hip and flamboyant man whose term’s primary focus has been cultural. His two big changes since becoming mayor have been instituting “Paris Plage” and “La Nuit Blanche.”

Parisians generally find this kind of hilarious but are at the same time rather proud. The post of mayor of Paris has included men such as Jules Ferry and Jacques Chirac, both grand political players, so city-dwellers here have a hard time not laughing at the big accomplishments of Delanoë’s career. Even so, these are just two more reasons why the French are culturally original, so two more bragging points are added to the list.

I guess Delanoë was originally supposed to cut down pollution and improve traffic, neither of which have seen grand improvements. Traffic is supposedly worse since he’s been around. People generally like him though, because he’s “fun.” On Nuit Blanche, he spends the night wandering the city and mingling with the crowds, even though he was stabbed on Nuit Blanche in 2002 by a delirious homophobe.

I really hope I’m not in Provence yet during Paris Plage, because stretches of the Seine are covered with imported sand for weeks and Paris centre basically turns into a giant beach party.

Nuit Blanche was adequately fun too, though R and I were a little confused about the point of it all. We went out with a group of native Parisians and basically wandered the city from 21h30 to 3h (we were too pansy to make it all night after already having had one “nuit blanche” this week) looking at weird installation art pieces. Some of it was kind of cool, like part of the national archives building’s courtyard with a band playing middle eastern music and dancers, but some of it I couldn’t believe people were lining up to see.

At Théâtre du Chatâlet we waited in a 15 minute line to sit in the theater and hear a 20 minute recording of someone breathing, while colored lights shone on stage. At Hôtel de Ville, the line was probably 45 minutes to get inside, but while we waited we were serenaded by some seriously scary-sounding haunted house music. It was composed by Sébastien Tellier (apparently quite a famous French singer-songwriter) especially for Nuit Blanche, but no one could stop laughing at the weirdness of the music.

We gave up on the line after 15 minutes, but as we left we snuck around the side of the building and peered inside. There, the same music was playing while giant shiny black balls of various sizes swung around from the ceiling by clear strings. It was really bizarre, but the Frenchies we were with were excited because as we were leaving we actually saw Sébastien Tellier. I wasn’t quite as thrilled, considering I had no clue who he was before last night, but it was still exciting. (The Olsen twins would maybe have been more thrilling still).

After leaving Hôtel de Ville, we wandered around the Marais for a good two hours. Our final stop of the night was this old old courtyard where someone had projected this huge looped film of poi feeding onto one of the walls. When we walked into the courtyard, there was a huge group of absolutely silent people staring at the thrashing fish on the wall. All we could hear was the splashing, and we had to leave pretty quickly for fear of laughing too loudly.

The whole night was really odd. It was cool that a lot of buildings that are usually interdit au public were open, but I will probably never understand why we were willing to wait 20 minutes to watch five minutes of fish swimming on a wall.

We never made it down to Concorde, but apparently the entire place was lit up with a special shade of blue. R and I really wanted to see this, because according to the Parisians we were with, there’s a contemporary French artist named Yves Klein who invented a new shade of blue? Concorde was apparently lit up completely in “International Klein Blue.”
I don’t get it:

All in all it was a pretty fun night – how often do you get to wander the streets of Paris with a bottle of pink wine looking at installation art? But it was cold, and I felt kind of bewildered the whole time. This was not helped by the fact that I kept getting phone calls from a mystery guy named Michel who really really wanted to meet up. Unfortunately for him, I have no clue who is is, or how he got my number – he seemed to know who I was though. I didn’t know how to get him to stop calling, so I told him I was at Concorde (I wasn’t) and stopped answering the phone.

Today is a getting things done day. I’m going to run, grocery shop, vacuum and figure out how to fix my bathroom sink. Maybe this is sick, but I love cleaning in my own apartment. I just spent an hour dusting (ha! I don’t usually do it, but it’s good for my asthma to live in a dust-free apartment), scrubbing and vacuuming and it was surprisingly satisfying. Later tonight R and I are going to see Le Parfum at a cinéma on the Champs Elysées and do some final celebrity stalking on the last night of fashion week. Tomorrow is my first day of real classes and I’m a little bit terrified. I guess there’s nothing to do now but wait and see how they are.

•• I apologize for having no pictures of Nuit Blanche, but my camera is still way out in the 20ème.

••• Two pictures that demonstrate R and my complete inability to aim a camera. This series makes me laugh.

•••• My baby brother turned 18 yesterday! AHHHHHH! When I was interviewing for my current au pair job, I was describing all my child-watching experience to Cassie and I added (as usual), “Plus, I have two little brothers, so…” She then asked me how old they are. Somehow telling someone you have a 16 and an 18 year old brother does not seem like the most obvious way to impress your babysitting skills upon them.

Author: Halley (Griffin) Knigge

Storyteller and adventurer with a focus on new and social media. Ten years of award-winning writing and editing experience, eight years working professionally to share compelling stories through brand journalism, three years as an airline spokesperson, two years as a Tacoma Arts Commissioner and 30+ years of learning something new every day.

7 thoughts on “

  1. Not sure it’s a good idea to take albuterol before running. Your little bro did that before a cross-country meet a few weeks back and he ended up passing out in the middle of the race.

  2. You are such a jerk, I’m going to find the guy who hacked into your blog and get him to teach me how. Vivé la Revenge! Later ButtheadBen

  3. Haha Ben in a dress, I especially like the adorable bow, that’s the best thing I’ve seen in the past five minutes, and apparently I almost died in that race

  4. Look at the trust and adoration in the eyes of that 3-year-old as he gazes up at his big sister. Little did he know …

  5. Aw, but he looks so cute!

  6. Wow, the only poi I’ve seen was in a bowl in Maui and it wasn’t moving at all. Thank goodness. I want to see that art containg moving poi.You have been saving that photo of Ben in a dress just for his birthday, haven’t you. Actually it looks like a toga.

  7. Thanks Grandpa, because we all know I was really on my way to a toga party and not actually playing dress-up….Ben

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