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A Taste of France in the Heart of London

The winds that caused the cancellations of flights and trains to London on Thursday died down long enough to allow our early morning Eurostar to Waterloo Station to arrive virtually on time. I recognized several colleagues with the same destination — the Vive La France French Property Exhibition that takes place every January or February at the Olympia exhibition space. I shared a taxi with old colleague and friend, Stephane Denner, Manager of the International Branch of BPI (Banque Patrimoine & Immobilier), one of our primary lenders with whom we have worked ever since obtaining my own mortgage in 2000, and hit the ground running.

The Olympia space is vast, accommodating well over 300 exhibitors who showcased gastronomic delights, travel destinations, properties on the market and services related to visiting France or investing in property there. Food lovers come to sample French cuisine as some of France’s celebrity chefs demonstrate cooking techniques and renowned UK-based restaurants serve up their signature dishes. I lunched on Magret de Canard with Stephane Caen, France Account Manager for, who chose Confit de Canard and we both washed it down with a large glass of French red wine.

A bit of time was spent perusing the products from France shipped to London (at premium prices!), such as Provençal soaps, breads, olives and wines, but mostly the day moved quickly meeting with the resources that make the difference: the lenders who specialize in loans to non-residents, the agencies that can offer the best properties, the media with whom we can share information and the extraneous services, such as the HiFX Foreign Exchange experts who can save you money and take the risk out of transferring currency.

Our partner in the Living and Investing in France Conferences, John Howell, had a stand for his company, John Howell & Co, shared with an independent financial advisor. I caught ILP partner Graham Platt being interviewed on camera by, one of the UK-based Web sites specializing in property resources. At our last seminar, Graham won the hearts of the attendees who remarked, “No bull. To the point. Put the fear of God into me!” I wondered how the interview had gone.

London has never been one of my favorite cities, but this trip changed my perspective on it. Being a short stay, only taking another day to enjoy what it has to offer, no moment was wasted. At the last minute, Mary Fort, Director of the International Department of BPI, and I scored top quality tickets to see the Blue Man Group. This is London theater at its best…what the site calls a “euphoric theatrical and musical journey.” I wholeheartedly agree. Do not miss this “enigmatic, endlessly inventive, musically thrilling, fusion of irresistible humor, dynamic rhythms” if you can help it, either in New York or London.

The next day was for my personal pleasure, visiting two of London’s premiere photo galleries: Hamiltons where I drooled over Horst P. Horst platinum prints and Michael Hoppen who opened a box of images of my favorite model, Lisa Fonssagrives Penn, photographed by her first and French-born husband, Fernand Fonssagrives, just for me.

On route by foot from Covent Garden via Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, a few things caught my eye worth noting…a 20-wheeled crane hoisted above ground set on props, for what reason I couldn’t tell and it must have weighed tons (!)…and the letters F-R-A-N-C-E posted on a building at 178 Piccadilly at the corner of Duke Street St. James, which turned out to be the UK office of Maison de la France.

There I was again, with a taste of France in the heart of London.A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. Just this morning, a cancellation at “Le Provençal” has rendered it available March 8th – 27th and April 26th – May 6th. Don’t miss this opportunity to stay in the Le Marais studio that has it all…charm, comfort and location! Visit /parlerparis/apartments/rentals/provencal.html for more information.


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