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The New Orleans-French Connection

Volume III, Issue 7

Just back from a wild carnival ride down to New Orleans, we have lots to report on…
After a fun-filled carnival celebration during several days of Mardi Gras parades and partying à la Nouvelle Orléans style, we settled down to business.

The Living and Investing in France Conference was a huge success where we all learned a lot while having lots of fun together in “The Big Easy.” Scroll down for a full report and pick up some of the tidbits of our presenters’ expertise. There are five more conferences of this kind scheduled for 2005 both in Paris and the U.S., so now’s your chance to mark your calendar for the one that best fits your needs and schedule.

Moneycorp currency brokers provides us with a way to hedge our bets against a fluctuating rate of exchange and a new way of calculating the rates at any given moment. Further down, we advise on how to best open a bank account in France — no easy task for foreigners. ParisMarais starts a newsletter specifically for Le Marais you will surely want to subscribe to and Leslie Ellen Ray tells her tales of life in Provence along with her fabulous photos.

Two recent articles worth a reprint will peak your interest — luxury loft living in Paris proves to be profitable and how an effort to alleviate smoke in Paris restaurants goes “up in smoke.”

All this plus a listing of hot Paris loft properties will whet your appetite for more.

A bientôt…

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

P.S. We can easily put you in touch with any of the professionals who present at the conferences or with whom we work and recommend. Write me for more information about our one-on-one consultation services at [email protected]



Reporting on the Living and Investing in France Conference
February 11 -13, 2005, New Orleans
By Adrian Leeds

I caught so many beads thrown from the floats Mardi Gras day that we added them to the “Goodie Bags” at last weekend’s Living and Investing in France Conference in New Orleans. During the opening remarks, I asked the attendees to drape at least one pair around their necks so that while I read their reasons for participating (in 25 words or less), a sense of camaraderie would permeate the room.

It was an easy task — never before have we had such a homogeneous and convivial group, almost all with the same goals in mind — to find a home in France they could enjoy for part of the year, rent out the rest to mostly cover the mortgage and expenses and then later to retire to.

The conference opened with a light-hearted look at the New Orleans/French Connection by actress and comedian Adriana Bate (did you know that the Baroness Pontalba designed her famous apartments adjacent to Jackson Square based upon the Palais Royal and the Place des Vosges of Paris!?) and young Jean Xavier Brager from the French Consulate with his Southern French accent (from Marseille!) charmed them all into thinking learn French would be “du gateau!”

The conversation turned more serious when Laurence Daurignac and John Howell from Europe Law in London took center stage to explain how to have the right to live and work in France, a complicated and tedious subject that often touches on the American value of honesty — how many Americans are in France illegally we wondered? They call it the “golden passport” — we can do no wrong and illegals are overlooked, as long as they pay their taxes!

Cocktails the wrap up the first afternoon were a perfect way to network with the other attendees. By the time all the wine was drunk and the cheese and crackers eaten, we had made lots of new friends.

Saturday was a long and arduous day beginning with minimizing your tax liability with Marcell Felipe, international tax advisor from Miami. John Howell went through what it takes to start a new business in France before he and Laurence attacked the heart of the conference — how to buy and own property in France. In detail were discussions of the advantages of buying property in the name of an “LLC”(U.S. company) or “SCI”(French property company), changing your marital regime to community property (“tontine”) or other structures that would minimize inheritance and capital gains taxes.


After lunch, Property Search Consultant, Yolanda Robins, who had a surprise from more than a dozen American friends who showed up in Paris for her birthday, gave her presentation by audio feed direct from Paris. With me on the PowerPoint keys and Yolanda giving the verbal presentation, she outlined the best ways to find property in Paris and the best neighborhoods to buy in, plus showed a variety of available properties in the key areas of the city. She had us drooling over a few very luxurious apartments we all wish we could afford.

The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing property in France from an investment point of view with John Howell and Laurence Daurignac along with Claude Nédérovique from France For Rent and Paris Luxury Rentals. There is still no doubt that even with a weak dollar, when you minimize the loss in the exchange rate by maximizing your mortgage at today’s low interest rates, taking even interest-only loans, with the current appreciation of property Paris is experiencing of more than 10% annually, and year-round rental potential, an investment in a property in Paris is more sound than most, especially than the stock market (which isn’t nearly as much fun!). Claude professed the importance of purchasing a property in the right locations and furnishing it in luxury and with good taste to maximize the occupancy rate and therefore insuring a better investment.

On that note, we headed down Decatur Street for a five-course New Orleans Creole dinner at Tujague’s, the city’s second oldest restaurant. Several local residents joined us for the festivities and we celebrated our new friends over Shrimp Remoulade, Brisket of Beef, Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffée, Lamb Shank with Red Beans and Rice and Bread Pudding. Yum!

Our final day of conference opened with Ruth Mastron’s (“Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French”) funny and poignant account of why and how the French are so culturally different with pointers on how we can cross the cultural divide more easily. Then, Valerie Guillet, Director of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, stepped in for the President, Damien Regnard, who was called to France suddenly on personal affairs, spoke about how organizations such as ours can assist those wanting to start a business in France.

Moneycorp guys Doug Johnson and Mark Rickard then tied it up together with their program on reducing the risk of currency exchange by “Forward Buying” or “Spot Buying” at a particular rate of exchange — a way of minimizing your loss in the exchange when transferring large sums of money. New to our conference, this topic is now of prime interest.

We concluded the conference with an hour-and-a-half long panel discussion opening the floor to questions about anything directed to any one of the presenters. This was the attendees’ chance to wrap-up all they learned. It was a great way of insuring we had covered every topic.

Attendee evaluations came in loud and clear with ratings of 4’s and 5’s (on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 the lowest, 5 the highest) given to almost all the presenters:

“As a marketing and real estate professional, I am very impressed and look forward to working with professionals of this caliber. Another worthwhile day — well done.”

“Great first day! Very excited about what lies ahead.”

“This was the most valuable conference I have attended. Well organized, delivered and the content above average.”

“All excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Thank you.”
We packed up our projector, computer and headed out for dinner in the Faubourg Marigny knowing we had done our jobs and helped fulfill some dreams, as without a doubt, we’ll be seeing many of these same smiling faces on this side of the Atlantic sometime in the very near future.


Opening a French Bank Account
by Adrian Leeds

In the U.S., you can walk into almost any bank and find a smiling Account Manager behind a desk just waiting for you to plop down in a comfy seat and say “I’d like to open an account, please.” The more money you wish to open the account with, the broader the smile on his or her face. Within about 10 minutes, the appropriate documents are presented, you’ve signed on the dotted lines, an account number and temporary checks are handed over to you. You’re in business.

Such is not the case in France.
>When I first moved to France, by sheer coincidence, a French friend in the U.S. connected us with her friend, an Account Manager at CIC (http://www.cic.fr/ ), who amazingly worked at the branch one block from our new rental apartment. This connection along with our new long-stay visas, opened accounts for us just about as quickly, along with Carte Bleue debit cards and free checks.

I had no idea at the time what privileged folks we were — it all seemed
so standard and normal. Now I realize that without that connection, opening accounts would have been much more difficult…they don’t hand them over to just anyone regardless of how much money you wish to deposit. Remember, everything you do in France is based on an established relationship — so the banks want to know with whom they are doing business, just like any other establishment — and believe it or not, money DOESN’T talk.

If you have are legally residing in France with a Carte de Séjour or Carte de Résident, then you prove your intention to stay in France and will have a much easier time opening an account at a commercial bank. If you are a property owner, but not a legal resident, the challenge is more difficult, but not impossible. If you are not a property owner nor a legal resident, then opening an account in next to impossible.

To open an account in a French commercial bank, I make the following recommendations:

First, it is best to bank with the branch nearest your Paris or France home. It is important to establish a relationship with the staff there to make facilitating your financial needs easier and simpler. If you have a contact person or friend at a bank, this is the best way to get an account. The second best way is if a friend already banking there can introduce you. If neither of these is possible, you’re on your own…

To start, go into the bank and very politely ask if they will grant you a future appointment with an account agent. They will ask the nature of the visit and you will explain your reasons for wanting an account. It is very important to let them know at this point that you will be a new resident of the neighborhood and compliment them on what you’ve heard about their bank and services, plus how you want to do business in your own special “quartier.” Lay on the charm, show them lots of respect and humble yourself. If you don’t get this right, you won’t get the appointment!

Once you have the appointment and you meet your new account agent, don’t forget to lay on the charm all over again. Every drop of relationship-building will make your life easier. You can open an account without one centime to put in it! Remember, it’s not how much money you have, but what kind of person you are and if they will want to do business with you.

Don’t forget to ask for your checks, a Carte Bleue debit card, if the bank has Internet banking capability, if you want a safety deposit box — do they offer this?, if they can give you “cash advances” using your U.S. debit card in the bank for higher amounts than the ATM allows (a great way to draw money from your U.S. accounts) and several “RIB’S” (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire slips) that enable your utilities bills to be automatically debited. The printed checks take about one week to get, and usually they are free. Be sure you provide them with the correct name and address to print on the checks. The Carte Bleue may take a little longer and will be mailed to you with a PIN (personal identification number).

The following is a list of France’s most popular commercial banks. Look for the one nearest you, ask your friends which they recommend and with which they can be of assistance and then you’re on your way to being an account holder in France.

Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP Paribas)

Banque Populaire

Crédit Commercial de France (CCF)

Crédit Industriel et Commercial (CIC)

Caisse Epargne

Credit Agricole
Credit Foncier
Credit Lyonnais
Crédit Municipal de Paris
Credit Mutuel
Société Générale

Special note: One final solution, if all else fails, is to open an account with an international bank such as Barclay’s or Citibank. BNP Paribas owns Bank of the West, which has an international department in its San Francisco branch. Contact Pierre Videau at [email protected] to open an account.


Picture Postcards from Provence
Photos and Story By Leslie Ellen Ray
http://www.leslieellenray.comThe buttery light in the evenings illustrates why the artists have come to this place for years — it is truly exquisite! In the apricot-colored sunset, I have just returned from Aix, where, when I boarded the bus at La Rotonde and looked up to see the magnificent fountain out the window, I had to bite my tongue not to allow the tears in my throat to make it into public view. A little voice made itself known from deepwithin, reminding me:

“You live here now!” Although I do not feel as though I am fooling anyone into thinking I am anything other than a foreigner, I am a foreigner who is making a home in France. It was a good decision…for many reasons…some shared in the following:

Bittersweet was the parting with my sister at the airport in Minneapolis, just as it had been with the friends I was able to see in San Diego. Although both of us are excited for this new adventure (my sister also has her own love affair with France going) the distance will be felt as well as the expense in international calls!

After a short layover in Amsterdam, the flight to Marseilles landed and all passengers (a very international group we were: a French couple who were returning from Africa with a newly adopted baby, a young man returning from three months in Taiwan bringing his Chinese girlfriend home to meet the family, several of middle eastern descent, and several other French along with myself and two other Americans) deplaned onto the tarmac and were bussed to the terminal where we entered a facility that reminded me of the airport in Hawaii in the 50¹s – much smaller operations than we tend to see now – certainly in the major metropolitan areas. No customs, no passport stamping – just straight to baggage and that was it! Whew!

Joann, my new landlady, had offered ahead of time to pick me up and was waiting for me. So with two large carts we rolled my baggage to the car. (I was later to learn that she was very surprised to see the amount of baggage I had! She did not reveal that at all from her welcoming expression!)

She had prepared lunch for me back at her house: a lovely green salad with fresh garden tomatoes and vinaigrette, delicious chicken sautéed with onions, garlic, courgettes (zucchini) tomatoes and herbes de provence, a bit of bread and cheese and a glass of local wine and I was reminded once again why I had made this move!

I slept well and at 5 a.m. had arisen in the darkness to observe my first lavender dawn in Provence. It just felt like the most appropriate way to begin. Each dawn so filled with promise that it seemed a fitting ritual for this auspicious move! Cypress and olive trees were silhouetted against the rapidly changing backdrop of color and the surrounding herbs throughout the garden began releasing their luscious perfumes in the early dew. Yet another welcoming experience to savor. And so I did.
As the days move toward afternoon, it really heats up! What could be better on a hot, sticky end of summer day than a dip in the cool blue of the Mediterranean? And so, to the seashore we went. Joanne (a lovely character, deserving an entry all to herself) is an ocean lover, like myself. Carry le Rouet was the beach we headed to, about 20 or so minutes from the house, through pine-covered granite hills. It was too early to be very crowded on this last weekend before school commences and all ages, shapes and sizes were represented.
(Note to self: Not a facelift, liposuction or breast augmentation among the female population that I could see (and yes, I checked, for as a woman “of a certain age” I look to older women’s bodies to measure myself and try to predict my own anatomical future. Doesn’t every woman do that on some level with other women??!) At any rate, no matter the shape, size, gravitational pull of the earth, these women all appeared to be living in their skins with a confidence I do not see as often among women back in the old “hood” and the sexual energy seemed still strong in a graceful way – go figure. This topic deserves continued observation.)
It felt good to dip into the water: cool, salty and the color of my sisters eyes. My first dip into “the Med” and definitely not my last. Even if not much for bodysurfing, for a relaxed swim in mild repetitive swells, it was lovely.
This particular night would be my first official “candle light supper in Provence” so I stopped into a market for a few things and the boulangerie next door to purchase a baguette. The woman behind the counter dismissed the line-up of breads in the basket (that had been there all day, no doubt) to hand me one right off of the baking rack, still warm. How romantic am I? I even found the way she laid it across the square of paper and twisted the opposing corners together creating a “handhold” of sorts to be quite enchanting! With my fresh baguette tucked into the top of my market basket, (feeling quite “the local” and wondering silently what people ever found offensive about the French) I aimed for the bus stop to catch the bus back to the flat, a trip of less than eight minutes by bus, but a full 40-45 minutes walking, and in the direction to go home, it is mostly uphill. The first bus I boarded was the wrong bus for my stop. The female bus driver kindly dropped me a stop down, told me which bus I was to look for and instructed me about explaining my already stamped ticket to the next driver and assured me that all should go well.
A very familiar insecurity and timidity began to descend upon me, reminding me of feeling paralyzed to step up to the window of a burger stand to order when I was 5 so my 3 year old sister stepped up and ordered for both of us (a dynamic that exists even today.)
A part of what triggered this current paralysis was that although I had checked my own schedule and the schedule posted at the stop, I was not seeing any busses fitting either of them. Indeed, there were plenty of busses passing, but just not the ones I needed! I was later to learn that not all of the busses sport the numbers of the line as listed in the schedule. Some only post thedestination points at either end of the line and passengers must just know what line to take without the number. Being new to this mode of transportation altogether, I had no idea which line was mine as a result of this aforementioned syndrome of paralysis and a lack of information on the bus marquis. I ended up allowing two busses that would have worked to pass me by due to my uncertainty and the lack of knowledge for how one must “hail” a bus to stop as one would a cab in NYC. Drivers do not simply stop if they see a passenger at “their” designated stop – the passenger must somehow signal the driver to stop. Ahhhh, now I know how to do it. But it would be ONE AND A HALF HOURS before I would step onto a bus that would take me the less-than-eight-minutes-down-the-road to my stop. With less bulk collected, I may have made the walk back in spite of the hills and the heat. But, I was taking a different lesson this time, the mastery of which will be tested the next time I take the bus!
A simple dinner on the terrace of split pea soup, a baguette with butter, and a salad with tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette, a bit of cheese and some olives was made quite special by Joanne’s contribution of a small pot of delicious homemade pâté de canard (duck liver pâté), made with fresh duck liver that she couldn’t pass up at the market earlier, wild mushrooms, egg yolks (hard-cooked), a few chives and a bit of salt. Thickly spread on pieces of that fresh baguette ­ incredible!
Savoring the mild evening and the meal, we learned a bit more about one another and although separated by a generation or more, we have some significant things in common. I suspect we are both enjoying this connection as it unfolds.
On a few mornings after arriving, I allowed myself the distinct and very unusual (for me) pleasure of sleeping quite late as I believe it was more than jet lag from which I was recovering. I greeted those days with a pot of French press, a bit of baguette with butter (oh! And let me tell you about the Normandy butter!!) and my favorite confiture, abricôt!
I have even navigated a SUNDAY as it stretched out in front of me like an empty road in the desert. I know from previous trips that Sunday is typically a very quiet day in France (in fact, some of my loneliest times have been on Sundays in France when the streets are empty, busses are barely running, shops are closed and restaurants are on uncertain schedules) I used this particular Sunday to read (a pleasure I have felt quite deprived of while working so hard!) and continue the “nesting” process that was underway. A ham sandwich, on the remainder of that baguette, a few olives and a glass of wine and by the end of the day, this was feeling like a perfect Sunday.
One on occasion recently, Joanne had kindly invited me to accompany her to the Carrefour, a huge supermarket chain in France. There is one in the next village of Le Milles. There is a collection of smaller boutiques on the interior periphery (an enclosed “strip mall” of sorts, including a few clothing boutiques, Dr. Scholl’s, sporting goods, boulangerie, fast food, pharmacy, etc.) Carts can be obtained outside, as with markets in the US, but in order to take a cart out of the line of carts, one must insert a token or one euro in the chain lock on the handle to release it from the line. When returned to the line at the end of shopping, the token or euro is returned. Good idea, huh?
Stepping into the Carrefour was a bit overwhelming for me as it is like any large supermarket chain in the US combined with a Costco-like section carrying everything from small appliances and electronics to auto supplies and garden items. Throw in a large part of the merchandise carried in the Target stores and you get the picture. We agreed to meet at the end of our separate shopping adventures at the front and off we went. Although I had a list, what I really wanted to do was walk up and down each and every aisle just taking note of what was available. I could have happily spent hours there. But because I was on a time schedule, I followed my list as best I could with only a few excursions into the aisles that interested me the most. For example, there is an entire section of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, including a huge pan of fresh paella, presented as one might find at the deli section in Jimbo’s or Ralph’s in California. The cheese section is multiple aisles and cases. The chickens in the butcher case still have their feet! (The pre-packaged variety are also available and as anonymous as ever. Without the feet, it’s easy to forget that life was given for a meal.) The various olive oils, in numerous sizes, take up an entire length of aisle just by themselves! And, although the actual bottled selection of spices is relatively small compared to what one might find in a US supermarket, (the biggest selection of spices is to be found at the open air market!) there is an entire section with a stunning variety of salts that extends from top shelf to floor, just for salt! I am in heaven! For the most part, wines are very inexpensive ranging from under $2 to $5 for some very good wines. Pricier ones are also available, but what’s the point unless you’re an oenophile studying varietals for your master sommelier exams?!
My first laundry in the foreign-looking washing machine in the kitchen was accomplished. I was hanging sweet smelling linens out on the line under the pines and the shimmering olive trees and I was at once taken back to hanging laundry as a child with my mother, fully conscious of the difference in this particular moment: I am in France! (Oh yeah, and my mother is 10,000 miles away!)

Another first run: with the oven this time (stove and oven here are on propane tanks filled as necessary). When I was staying here last, I couldn’t figure out how to get the oven lighted. My success this time resulted in a lovely roasted chicken with crispy herbed and buttered skin (the inside being moist perfection) and roasted new potatoes and garlic. Topped off with steamed haricots verte (yes, with more butter!) and I think it’s clear: I’m a pretty happy camper so far.

I know there are days ahead of me where I’ll probably wonder how I got myself into this mess and what to do to navigate the decision in the moment, but even anticipating the inevitable difficult times that lurk, I am happy. Very few moments go by that I do not look around at the green promises forming on the olive tree outside my garden door, or the hear the unique and persistent wail of a police vehicle in the streets of Aix, or catch the delicious blend of pungent scents at the outdoor market, or look directly into the eyes of one of the lions surrounding that magnificent fountain at La Rotonde that I don’t stop for a second and take it in: I did it! I live in France!.

On another morning, I made my way over to the outdoor market at the Palais de Justice in Aix and collected a few items of fresh produce from the stands offering the best looking specimens (a stock will be made from last night’s chicken bones!), small sachets of aromatic peppercorns, sun dried tomatoes, a basket of strawberries (not the Sequoia type, but the small, French variety – deep red and fragrant), a few courgettes (zucchinis) for a tart I want to make and with a basket filled with items, I had still not spent my budgeted amount for this market trip – yeah me!
I wandered some of the back streets I had explored in previous trips looking for the art store I had stumbled upon quite by accident at one time. The local supplier for all the artists and art students it seems, it is packed with interesting stuff including the sketchbooks that I use as writing journals. I had left mine behind as, in addition to paring down unnecessary weight in my bags, it was time to start a brand new book. As all shops do in France, it had just closed for a two-hour lunch ­ something I am still not used to ­ so it will be something to look forward to one morning in the future. A quick Perrier to quench my thirst (I understand why the French are known to drink so much water ­ they are walking around a lot which works up quite a thirst!) and I headed off to the bus. I’m getting much better at this bus thing!
Some cold roasted chicken and some fresh tomatoes on a bit of baguette will taste good tonight. How lucky am I?!

The appointment at the local bank in the village of Luynes went swimmingly! Entering many of the banks here is a bit different: Bank customers press a button on the outside door to be “buzzed in” to the space between the doors – another button is then pushed by the customer wishing to enter and, once again, after a brief wait, one is buzzed in, the door lock releases and the door is free to be opened, allowing the waiting customer to enter the bank for business. The same process is repeated to exit – lots of button pressing and buzzing going on for bank business. A bit different from the bank-in-a-supermarket one finds in the states! And as result of my appointment, I now possess a checking account at Société Générale – yippppeeeee!

It’s not exactly “la vida loca” but life in France is good!


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