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A New Decade of Parisian Decadence

A Decade of Decadence Part I

For a little more than ten years of living in the Marais apartment, the living room has been on the ‘to-be-renovated’ list…with dread. This is the room where most of life takes place — where we dine, commune and most importantly, work. So it was no easy task to organize a proper time knowing the entire apartment would be uninhabitable throughout the renovation period — about four to six weeks.

The planets aligned themselves and dropped winter 2008 into my renovation lap, providing a place to stay (Le Provençal), someone to project manage the renovation (Interior Architect Martine di Matteo), a reason to be absent (the Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference in Miami and a New York co-op board application submission) and cool weather (no need for air conditioning).

The work had been conceived, pondered over and dreaded for years — literally. Countless sleepless nights were spent making lists of all the things to do to prepare for it, organize and re-organize the logistics of living and working out of a small studio apartment, traveling with too much luggage to stay in a hotel, then a condo, then my daughter’s box-inside-of-a-box loft Chelsea apartment.

All the while, Martine was in charge and ‘sweating bullets’ over having the work completed prior to my return at the end of February. No such luck. The renovation ‘chez Leeds’ was two weeks late in completion — about 50% more time than expected, which is not bad considering it usually takes ‘twice the time.’ ‘Twice the price’ is the other half of the expectation, but in this instance, the overspending equated to about the same percentage as the time it took to complete the renovation — 50%. When you consider the cost of the work on a per-square-meter-basis, it sits better psychologically to know that it cost 50% LESS than the average renovation.

If renovation is ‘in your cards,’ as it would inevitably be should you ever purchase an apartment in Paris, expect to make decisions that cost you more money for which you planned, but make you happier in the end…and hopefully, improve the property. There were several splurges to own up to, but one important one was a new “chaudière” (hot water heater) to increase the power and pressure and the addition of a new “ballon” (hot water tank), so there would be lots of hot water flowing to that “fabulous(!)” bathtub of mine. (You remember the story, right?)

Last week, the carpenter, painter and electrician all came to finish a few details and help hang the art. On Friday, they said “au revoir” thinking all had been done. Of course, as they say, “the devil is in the details,” and all the details are not yet finalized. With each step, I discover some “autre petite chose” not to my standard. I’m starting to worry that it may never be(!), but I know better. “OCD” (obsessive-compulsive disorder) will take care of that problem as sleep does not come easily until every book is on the shelf, every file is in the drawer and every piece of art is hung in place.

From that moment on Friday until this moment as I write, with the exception of stopping to celebrate Parler Parlor’s 10th Anniversary (more about that below), I’ve been unpacking, cleaning, organizing, placing, hanging, rearranging. You know — all the things it takes to make your abode really livable. By 7 p.m. Sunday evening it was 99.9% done. and presentable enough to take these photos. By the time a friend arrives tomorrow from the States to visit for a couple of weeks, hopefully the pain will have completely resided. It’s almost like having gotten pregnant, lived through the justation and given birth…to an apartment in Paris.

Special Note: To learn more about finding a “pied-à-terre” of your own, visit /frenchproperty/consultation or contact French Property Consultation at [email protected]. If you’re more an armchair investor and would like to read and learn more about Paris property, subscribe to our weekly ezine, French Property Insider.

Decadence Part II

It’s really hard to believe that exactly ten years ago today, Elisabeth Crochard and I welcomed our first 60 or so Anglophones and Francophones to the first evening of Parler Parlor. At the time, she was the Director of the Berlitz Language School on the Champs Elysées and upon hearing of my idea to start a French-English conversation group, quickly offered her facility as an “après vente” (after the sale) service.

It was successful from that very first evening. I can remember it so distinctly, as if it were just yesterday. Seventeen people took one-year memberships, just after having experienced one one-and-one-half-hour session. It grew quite naturally and in the last ten years, the conversation group has hosted thousands of people, of every age, of every profession, of more than 50 different nationalities.

Over the years, we’ve moved to various locations for a variety of reasons, outlasting language schools and their directors who have gone by the wayside. The premise remains the same: groups of six are formed balancing Anglophone-Francophone as well as possible. Then the groups speak for 45 minutes in one language, then 45 minutes in the other language. There is no instructor in the room to intimidate and they can start with whatever language they want with whatever topic they want. Participants correct each other. The conversation is natural — about real things, just as if you were at a party or a meeting — as real a situation might be.

Everyone is there for the same reason, so the idea is to feel comfortable with your level, whatever level that is. I have found that yes, of course my level of French has greatly improved, but that the mistakes I make, or lack of vocabulary, do not hinder my ability to communicate — thanks to the confidence it has given me to feel good ‘in my own skin’ and in a language that is truly so foreign to me.

Saturday, after the conversation group, about half of us gathered together to celebrate ten years of communication and friendship over lunch at Au P’tit Boulevard, 23, boulevard de Sebastopol, just downstairs from Lutèce Langues, where the group is held every Saturday. We realized then how many friends we had made over the years — how many people are loyal and regular members and others who come in and out of our lives.

Elisabeth and I have never waivered in our friendship and agreed many years ago that as long as running the group didn’t cost us money, we’d continue it for the sheer pleasure of it. And that’s what it is…sheer pleasure. How decadent!

Special Note: Parler Parlo

r is free the first time you come. Just come a few minutes ahead — no need to make a reservation. For more information about Parler Parlor, visit

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Keep your eyes out for new rental apartments to be announced on the Parler Paris Apartments roster — all of which are apartments purchased by our property search clients and renovated to perfection at the capable hands of Martine de Matteo to make perfect vacation accommodations. Coming soon: “La Bonne Nobel” in Montmartre and “Le Déco” in the “Lucky Eleven.” Bookmark this page for your next stay in Paris: /parlerparis/apartments/



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