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New Year Notes from Nice and Paris


I spent New Year’s Eve in Nice, around freshly marinated artichokes and a beautiful dinner at the home of old friends…but, hundreds of thousands of people spent their count-down to 2019 on the Champs Elysées surrounded by lots of security, good cheer and fabulous fireworks accompanied by a light show on the Arc de Triomphe. If you missed it, here’s your chance to see it for yourself.


Nice is nicer than ever with beautiful blue skies and warm air starting off the New Year with sun on our faces. Like just about every other Niçois and tourist, we spent our January 1st afternoon strolling to take in the sites from the Carré d’Or, along the Promenade de Paillon, to the Old Port, around the Château de Nice, and along the water’s edge on the Promenade des Anglais before arriving home again. The beauty of the Baie des Anges never ceases to amaze and thrill me. I’m not the only one…obviously!


The new year starts off with a story that shocks my world: it turns out that history’s oldest living woman, 122-year-old Jeanne Calment, may have actually been a 99 year-old fraud. What makes this particularly fascinating is that she is also famous for having sold her Arles house in 1965 (as a “viager”), at the (supposed) age of 90 and without an heir, to her notary, André-François Raffray. At the age of 47 he agreed to pay her 2,500 francs a month until her death (thinking this a safe bet), but he died in 1995 at the age of 77. Then, his wife continued to pay her until her death, too in on August 4th, 1997. In total, the Raffrays paid more than twice the price of the house to Jeanne Calment, without being able to occupy it, according to the rules of a “viager.”

What makes this particularly interesting for me is that I am currently writing a memoir, with a “viager” as the center core of the story about a property I once owned…also a viager. A viager is a kind of life annuity property, or reverse mortgage, where an elderly person sells his house in return for a life annuity, normally (but, not always) retaining the right to live there until his death. The seller benefits from a right of usufruct — the right to use it (and sometimes the right to collect the rents).

The change in Jeanne’s story doesn’t change much about my own story, but it’s certainly a burst of the old bubble to find out that 21 year-old story may have all been a clever hoax to dodge an inheritance tax bill. French officials have discounted the claim, one official saying, “We never found anything to suggest a slightest doubt on her age.”

That being said, if the hoax is true, then it seems some people will do just about anything to avoid paying taxes!


Our slam poet friend, James Navé, sent me a special New Year’s Day message (he sends me off-the-cuff poems from time to time) — a poem for a bright and productive 2019 I thought you might also enjoy.

Recipe for an afternoon off:

4 cups of spring water
1 dozen walnuts
6 pieces of velvet
1 dash of mist
6 guitar strings
17 lines of poetry
1 redwood tree
1 upright piano
2 streets in Paris
3 river stones  Whip vigorously ’til fluffy
Pour in a pan
Bake on low heat for 4 hours
Remove from oven
Invite 3 friends
Walk to the edge of a lake
Serve warm.


Now’s your chance. Saturday, January 12th, at 12 noon at the Carreau du Temple, Pierre Aidenbaum, Mayor of the 3rd Arrondissement, and his team will be welcoming Madame Le Maire Anne Hidalgo. Be prepared for the entire space to be dedicated to the children with various “animations,” a kind of brunch and other surprises…as well as meeting the mayor.

For more information, visit:

Happy New Year!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor of Parler Nice


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P.S. See you Tuesday, January 8th at Après Midi  when Liz Alderman, Business Editor of International Herald Tribune S.A.S. talks to us about what it’s like to be in her shoes! Ms. Alderman is a specialist in monetary policy (Federal Reserve and ECB) and macroeconomics. She joined the IHT from the financial news agency BridgeNews, where she served as Paris bureau chief overseeing coverage of the French and eurozone economies and French corporate and political news. She was the Federal Reserve correspondent from 1995 to 1999 in Washington D.C., covering the American economy. As a Greenspan-watcher, she made television appearances on CNBC and Public Television’s “Nightly Business Report” programs. She also covered banking issues in the early 1990’s, including U.S. bank regulatory reform and the Whitewater hearings. Her Broadcast experience includes: CNBC and Public Television’s “Nightly Business Report.” Ms. Alderman graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. degree in English Literature and Language.It’s free and it’s always fun. Visit our Après Midi page for more information.


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