By The Sea In Picardy

By The Sea In Picardy

A “Maison de Village” in Le Crotoy, Picardy

French Property Insider
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Paris, France

Bonjour French Property Insider Subscriber,

France offers a lot of seaside for summer living. The Cte d’Azur is the most well known, followed by the beaches of Normandy Americans know well from D-Day landings during World War II. Instead, we take you to lesser known coastlines of the regions of Picardy and Pas-du-Calais, beach resorts on the English Channel. Each has different beginnings, different architectural styles, different inhabitants, different lifestyles.

I had the fortune of visiting the region last weekend with friends. We stayed in a “maison de village” in the beautiful village of Le Crotoy, famous for many events and noteworthy folk, Jeanne d’Arc among them. I share with you information about the area and many of the photos taken during a weekend of exploration, along with listings of some beautiful and charming homes currently for sale at what are unusually reasonable prices, given their seaside locations.

We also have new Leaseback properties to ad to our portfolio — one in Paris, the other in Grenoble. Scroll down for all the details or visit our site for all the Leaseback properties we currently have available at

On a contentious note, I am disputing the latest cost of living report out declaring Paris to be the most expensive city in Europe. Au contraire! I beg to differ — and offer a contradictory report to consider, showing London to have the number one slot. I can vouch for this truth after spending a weekend in London only a few weeks ago.

On a very positive note, we have added Barclays Bank to our roster of lenders providing you with even more resources for viable mortgages. So, read on and take the time to dream about your feet in the sand and the sun on your face, where life is tranquil and rich on the shores of France.

A bientt,

Adrian Leeds
Editor, French Property Insider
Email: [email protected]

P.S. Speaking of “Au Contraire!” — co-author Ruth Mastron of “Au Contraire! Figuring Out the French” is joining us in Washington, DC at the Living and Investing in France Conference September 10 -12 to speak about “Crossing the Cultural Divide”  (there are still a few places left — Ruth is no stranger to small town living and will be talking all about it for those who question Paris vs. the countryside.



Volume II, Issue 34, August 19, 2004

In this issue:

* What City is the Most Expensive in Europe?
* More Banks, More Options, Barclays Jumps on the Lending Bandwagon
* Discover Three Seaside Resorts, Find Three Different Lifestyles
* How Time in D.C. Will Help You Live in France
* Currency Exchange Update
* Hot Property: A Villa in Le Touquet Paris Plage
* For Sale: Leasebacks in Hot Rental Spots and Seaside Havens in Picardy and Pas-de-Calais
* Classified Advertising: Short Term Rental Apartments


FPI Subscribers: To read the issue in its entirety go to

To access this password protected page: username: fpiuser and the password: paris1802.



By Adrian Leeds

Rank Spring 2004 (Spring 2003) City Country Cost of Living Index*
1 (1) Tokyo Japan 143
2 (2) Osaka Kobe Japan 137
3 (7) Paris France 130
3 (3) Oslo Norway 130
5 (6) Co


Denmark 129
6 (4) Zurich Switzerland 125
6 (10) London UK 125
8 (9) Reykjavik Iceland 120
9 (7) Geneva Switzerland 118
10 (11) Vienna Austria 116

I was shocked by the report this past week that Paris shot up to third place in the worldwide cost-of-living league table — citing the strong euro as making Paris the most expensive European city to live in — especially after recently traveling to both New York and London, where everything seemed drastically more expensive.

According the to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s biannual Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, Paris had moved up from seventh place, pushing it above non-euro zone cities like Copenhagen and Zurich and within 10% of Tokyo, which remains the world’s most expensive destination. The report claims that although actual prices have not changed, the weak US dollar and strong European currencies have given Europe 20 of the top 25 slots in the table.

The data used New York as a base index of 100 for comparisons. This gave Tokyo an index of 143, Paris 130, London 125, Amsterdam 111, Munich 110, Frankfurt 107, Berlin 106, Lyon 105 and Brussels 104, Hamburg 100, and Madrid and Barcelona an index of 96.

A little investigating reveals what I believe is closer to the truth.

The Mercer Worldwide 2004 Cost of Living Survey City ranked Paris much lower — at 17th place. Tokyo remained the worlds most expensive city and London moved up five places in the rankings to take second position, followed by Moscow which moved down a place this year.

Mercer give the same reason for the changes: “There have been some dramatic movements in the rankings this year which are largely due to currency fluctuations, particularly of the US dollar and the Euro.” New York was also the base city scoring 100 points, Tokyo scored 130.7.

According to Mercer, London ranked second with a score of 119 points and is the most expensive city in Europe. I can attest to this: a light lunch at the Tate Modern in the caf was $34, taxi rides varied from $18 to $37, a ride on a city bus was $1.85 and a night in a B and B was $110.

I urge you to review both surveys before believing one over the other. As a resident of Paris, where life seems like a bargain, I’m skeptical either one is on the mark!

Fin Facts publishes both surveys on their site:

Economist —

Mercer —



By Adrian Leeds

More French banks are getting on the bandwagon to increase business with non-resident customers. BNP Paribas recently announced its purchase of Abbey National France, the French branch of the British residential mortgage provider, helping British and other Anglophone Expatriates buy and rent property in France.

As the value of property soars in the UK, the British have flocked over the English Channel to snap up property at relatively cheap prices. Banks are discovering a number of American, Australian and New Zealand clients emerging as well.

We do not have any news how the purchase of Abbey National by BNP Paribas will affect you as a customer, but do not expect it to decline the service in any way.

French Property Insider readers who have always had the advantage of loan applications with Abbey National and its competitor, BPI (Banque Patrimoine et Immobilier), will now have Barclays’ ears too. Barclays big advantage over the other lenders is their ability to provide a complete range of services, including a checking account, international bank card (Visa and MasterCard) and withdrawal of cash from Euro-zone ATM’s free of charge.

Barclays provides similar products as Abbey National and BPI — mortgages can be repaid over fixed periods between 5 and 20 years with variable or fixed rates. The minimum loan is 46,000 Euros with no maximum and they can provide up to 80% of the purchase price or valuation, whichever is lower.

There is an arrangement fee of 1% added to the loan (negotiable when it exceeds 840 Euros) and all loans require a life insurance policy arranged with their own major French insurer. To apply for a mortgage, you must be aged 18 to 65 and under 72 at the end of the loan period.

For more information on mortgages, visit our site at To contact Barclays for more information, email Ian Jefferies at [email protected]



By Adrian Leeds

Neither Picardy (in French — Picardie) nor Pas-ce-Calais are regions of France many Americans are familiar with — certainly not as “on-the-beaten-track” as Provence or Normandy. I wouldn’t have known
much about them myself if it weren’t for a street in my neighborhood named “rue de Picardie” or the “maison de village” a friend owns in the pretty little village of 2500 habitants — Le Crotoy on the Baie de la Somme. It’s about two hours from Paris by car (180 km) along the A16 first to Abbeville Nord and then in the direction of Saint-Valery sur Somme.

From Paris you travel along small rolling hills through farmland heavily planted with corn and wheat. At this time of year the round bales of hay have been freshly rolled and sit symmetrically placed like checkers on a checkerboard awaiting their next move.

As you exit the Autoroute onto the two-lane roads, the scene is almost surrealistically pristine — colorful pots of flowers line the roads, manicured lawns and trees dress the eclectic style homes, bike paths parallel the motorway, no neon or billboards…just man-made landscaping “extraordinaire.”

The village is made up of small two-story houses attached one to the other, sitting directly on narrow sidewalks, filling the knob of land that makes up Le Crotoy. Our friend’s house was once a corner caf and couldn’t be more centrally located as it’s directly across the street from the Town Hall. A few steps away is the main shopping street. Within moments you’re at the port,where you can buy fresh seafood just brought in that morning from “poissoneries” and roadside stands. anThere is inevitably lots of activity at the outdoor cafs and restaurants.

Le Crotoy’s history was born at the same time as the sand on which it sits. During the Middle Ages it was an active commercial port with routes between Abbeville, Amiens and Corbie. The Hundred Years War ended that prosperity. Jeanne d’Arc was imprisoned there by the British in 1430 before crossing the bay toward Rouen. The castle where she was held was destroyed in 1674 by Louis XIV.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the largest battles of the First World War. With more than one million casualties, it was one of the first steps towards an eventual Allied victory in 1918.

Jules Verne left Paris to set up a house in Le Crotoy, bought his first boat in Crotoy in 1867 (the “Saint-Michel”), and there wrote “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” Other French celebrities connected with Crotoy are Guerlain, the perfumer, Toulouse Lautrec, Colette, Anatole France…not to mention my friend.

Just north of Le Crotoy on the Channel are other towns of interest, Berck-su-Mer and Le Touquet Paris-Plagejust, across the border into the region known as Pas-de-Calais.


Berck has a wide flat sandy beach and the largest amusement park (Bagatelle — just outside the town) in the area. In the 19th-century it was a fishing village. Many artists came here, inspired by the special quality of the light along the Cte d’Opale.”

When Cholera epidemics afflicted the cities of Europe mid 19th-century, Berck gained a reputation for the healthy benefits of its sea air and sea bathing on its wide sandy beaches, facing the bracing Channel breezes. Soon other invalids were being sent to benefit from the sea air and sea bathing as a cure. In 1869, Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugnie, opened the big Maritime Hospital. With iron balconies, it still overlooks the sea like a huge barracks. Other “medical” institutes followed. It followed suit that we saw dozens of people in wheelchairs, many motorized, scooting quickly along the specially made paths, just in tune with the traffic. The flat landscape also makes it ideal for biking.

After the First World War, when poor miners began to have holidays, many came to Berck. They poured in by train (for a day-trip or a week’s stay) from the black mining towns of the north, and stayed in cheap accommodation near the sand dunes. Berck became a fun resort for working families, very different to posh Le Touquet just up the coast.


Le Touquet has a reputation as the most elegant holiday resort of northern France — the playground of rich Parisians, with many luxury hotels. It claims to have been the first “Paris Plage,”  in existence for more than a century. A beautiful, clean city with a vast white sandy beaches, Touquet has a number of cobbled streets with a variety of shops and expensive boutiques. Inland from the beach, the hotels, casino, bars, restaurants and expensive villas are spaced out amid acres of woodland. It also has a casino (actually the first one in France) and superb golf courses: “La Mer,” “La Fret”and “Le Manoir.”
The resort was created in 1876 by the owner of the Paris newspaper “Le Figaro,” Hippolyte de Villemessant. At the time, it was an area of wild sand dunes and forest — part of a hunting estate that later became known as “Paris by the sea.” Strict building regulations encouraged the most talented architects to create imaginative and innovative developments.

In 1903, a British syndicate bought the land and sold properties to the rich from across the Channel. In the 1920′s Noel Coward and the “smart set” from England spent weekends here. They commissioned more outstanding villa designs echoing traditional and ultra-modern domestic styles.

All three coastal towns offer completely different architectural styles, people and lifestyles. Any one you choose, however, makes a delightful vacation spot for a weekend or a summer, and an inexpensive way to have a second home on the sea not far from Paris.


Mark your calendar for the exciting upcoming conferences sponsored by the Paris Office! 


Living and Investing in France
September 10 – 12, 2004
Washington, D.C.

LIF_DC Details

Dinner and Virtual Tour of Paris with Thirza Vallois
LIF_DC Dinner/Tour

Walking Tour of French-Speaking DC
LIF_DC Walking Tour

Single in the City of Light
(And Loving It!) with Adrian Leeds and Ruth Mastron          The Westin Grand – Conference Site
LIF_DC Single in the City

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