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The Petrus III, a small yacht in Paris owned by Patrick Esquerre, founder of La Madeleine. Petrus III is docked in the Seine's Bassin de l'Arsenal, right by the Bastille monument, and available for rent. Photograph by Joyce Harris/special to "FD Luxe" magazine.

Polished woods, star treatment and sweet dreams: One writer may never sleep on land again

written and photographed by JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS

PARIS — It all began when I realized that the last time I saw Paris, Ronald Reagan had been president. This time, I wanted to feel that we were not just visiting Paris, but living there. “Let’s see if we can stay on Patrick’s boat on the Seine,” I said to my husband. “You mean Patrick’syacht,” he said, correcting me. Our friend Patrick Esquerré, the courtly founder of Dallas-based La Madeleine Country French Café, is a co-owner of Petrus III, which, indeed, at 71 feet can accurately be called a gentleman’s yacht.

Paris, France

We arrived in Paris on a sunny June day. Patrick’s brother, Gérard, met us at his beautiful Left Bank apartment in the 6th arrondissement’s Saint-Germain-des-Prés. From there, he drove us to the marina and got us settled into Petrus III. The 60-year-old, Dutch-built vessel charmed us with its vintage, understated teak elegance. Petrus III has three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths, a fully equipped galley and a dining salon that seats eight. It came complete with a skipper and a berth at the Right Bank’s Bassin de l’Arsenal, the marina just below the Place de la Bastille’s landmark gold-topped obelisk. The pleasure port links the Canal Saint-Martin to the Seine and divides the 4th arrondissement from the 12th. Cathédrale Notre Dame, the heart of ancient Paris on Île de la Cité, is just a 20-minute walk away.

Petrus III surrounded us with comfort in a serene, homelike atmosphere. We had plenty of privacy in our pied à mer, with all the space we could possibly want, indoors and out. On the aft deck we could dine en plein air; on the foredeck, steamer chairs invited lounging, napping and people- watching. The master stateroom, a teak-lined snuggery with a private door opening to the aft deck, featured a French queen-size bed and luxury linens as comfortable as any fine hotel’s. But no hotel had ever made me feel so cradled in security, sweetly rocked to sleep by gentle river currents.

We quickly grew accustomed to casually boarding a neighboring yacht in order to reach Petrus III, which was double-parked alongside it in the slip. (We also discovered that if we came home after 11 p.m., the port’s gates would be locked; we would then report to la capitainerieon the Boulevard de la Bastille so the marina’s overnight supervisor could let us in.) On our last day aboard, late in the afternoon, our skipper maneuvered Petrus III through the canal lock and made a starboard turn toward Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, with the majestic bulk of Notre Dame on our port side. For three hours, we sailed by a succession of landmarks — the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais — passing under one magnificent bridge after another, before finally circling back around the tip of Île aux Cygnes, where the Statue of Liberty stood looking downriver. Along the way, in what seemed like scenes from some romantic comedy, we were hailed like movie stars by Parisians promenading on the bridges and along the riverbanks. They waved and called to us, companionably raising Friday-evening bottles of bière. We returned their salutes, calling back and lifting glasses of Saint-Émilion for one passing toast after another. “They probably wonder if we’re somebody famous,” I said to my husband. No, not famous, in fact — just very, very lucky.

The Petrus III, a small yacht in Paris owned by Patrick Esquerre, founder of La Madeleine. Petrus III is docked in the Seine's Bassin de l'Arsenal, right by the Bastille monument, and available for rent. Photograph by Joyce Harris/special to "FD Luxe" magazine.

JOYCE SÁENZ HARRIS is a Dallas freelance writer and former newspaper journalist who has worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe. She is a regular contributor to The News’ Sunday book reviewsHer work also has appeared in Texas Highways andRosewood magazines.

Sleeping on the Seine: Chartering the Petrus III Proceeds from rentals support the Association Petrus III, a not-for-profit benefiting children’s education through vision care. The yacht can be chartered for lunch, brunch, dinner or overnight stays. Three- to four-hour Seine cruises are $1,529, including champagne/aperitif for four to six persons. (Additional passengers are $103 each, up to a total of 15 people aboard.) The master stateroom is $484 nightly; six nights are $2,558. A one-day cruise to the Marne river is $2,488 plus food and wines. A two-day cruise to Giverny and the home of Claude Monet is $4,148 plus food and wines. For reservations, contact Gérard Esquerré via email at, via phone at 011-33-1-6-22-45-33-43, or call Patrick Esquerré in Dallas at 469-688-2165. For more information, see




‘The Pink Suit,’

by Nicole Mary Kelby

Published: 02 May 2014 07:24 PM

Updated: 02 May 2014 07:36 PM

It is the most famous piece of women’s fashion in the world, an elegant garment so marked by tragedy that it has been hidden away forever in the National Archives. It is so burned into the collective memory that any woman’s coat or dress of its type — a particularly vivid shade of rose pink, trimmed with navy blue — brings it instantly to mind, and one cannot help but think of a terrible November day in Dallas.

Novelist Nicole Mary Kelby picks up those threads of memory and weaves them into The Pink Suit, a subtly heartbreaking, completely believable tale inspired by the Irish immigrant dressmaker who made Jacqueline Kennedy’s Chanel knockoff.

As in Kelby’s book, the real-life dressmaker was named Kate; the character otherwise is fiction. But the pink suit’s detailed genesis gives historical weight and substance to Kate’s story, which seems every bit as true as the first lady’s.

Jacqueline Kennedy is a central but remote, rarely glimpsed figure in The Pink Suit. At the Manhattan atelier of Chez Ninon, she is known as “the Wife,” the ne plus ultra of global fashion in the early 1960s. At a moment’s notice, the entire staff leaps to her command, for she is their idol, their queen, and “it was always Christmas when an order came in from Maison Blanche.”

For an American first lady, buying Paris couture — then as now — is considered politically insensitive. So Chez Ninon copies and re-creates French outfits for the Wife. In the case of the pink suit, Chez Ninon goes so far as to pay Coco Chanel for the right to make a line-by-line replica, even using Chanel’s own muslin patterns and fragile wool-bouclé fabric.

Chez Ninon’s stylist cleverly rationalizes this dodge: “The suit is American if we make it. The reporters can’t touch her for that. If we make it, she’s not taking jobs away from anyone. She can wear French without the criticism — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Kate is proud to be not just a “back-room girl” seamstress but a dressmaker. She may be just six years off the boat from County Cork, but she has a refined sense of style and exquisite skills that enable her to create anything she wants. Sewing is “about perfection. Each stitch must be exactly like the one before it; each must be so small that it seems part of the fabric.

“Each tuck and pleat carefully disguises any flaw in the wearing or the wearer — small breasts, uneven hips, thick waists, and, of course, waning youth.” In the case of the first lady, tailoring disguises what Kate always thinks of as “Slight Spinal Sway,” the legacy perhaps of too much horse riding. Kate always builds forgiveness into the Wife’s wardrobe, and she puts loving, heartfelt care into her copy of Chanel’s pink suit.

Fashion is the art of the possible — Kate was quite fond of saying that, but it was true. With a needle and thread in her hand, anything was possible, especially when it came to the first lady, because Kate’s sister, Maggie Quinn, and the Wife were exactly the same size. Kate couldn’t help herself. On a rather regular basis, she turned her own sister into a ‘Little J,’ as everybody in the neighborhood called her.”

Inwood, their neighborhood on the northern tip of the island of Manhattan, at the time was so predominantly Irish that it was like a transplanted slice of Dublin. In Kelby’s hands, Inwood becomes another character in the story, a traditional village filled with its residents’ prejudices as well as their loyalties. Here, Kate has family, makes friends and, eventually, finds love along with heartbreak.

That fatal day in Dallas, “the suit that Kate knew every stitch of, lived every tuck and pleat of, had worried over, and cried over … this pink suit was the last thing the President ever saw. And it had been made by so many hands, so many hearts. Those who were well known and those who were never known, and those whose names would be forgotten, not just Kate: it was a part of them all …

“He died in all of their arms.”

Joyce Sáenz Harris is a Dallas freelance writer.