Affirmations of Being in the Right Place (Paris) at the Right Time (Now)
The weekend took me to a host of interesting spots all over the city — an affirmation that Paris (and France) is still one of the most fascinating places to live, that every moment of every day can be filled with something thrilling to explore and do. The next tidbits of discovery are just a few of what transpired over the last few days in the City of Light…
MILLE-FEUILLE UNE FOIS! (A Thousand Leaves, One Time)
It started with a multi-course meal at a Michelin-Starred restaurant at the invitation of one of clients, to thank me for encouraging her to move to Paris one year ago — the Relais Louis XIII. Located in the 6th arrondissement on Rue des Grands Augustins, already teeming with restaurants of note, it’s in a building that was once the remains of the convent of the Grand Augustins, where Louis XIII was proclaimed King of France, receiving his sacrament just one hour after the assassination of his father, Henri IV. Known to have been a regular haunt of Picasso, it became Le Relais Louis XII in 1961. Yes, the meal was exceptional as one might expect, and the service impeccable and not at all stuffy. Unfortunately “thanks” to my own strict diet (The Whole 30), I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) indulge on some of its finest offerings — such as the “mille-feuille extraordinaire!” (Shame on me, I know!) But, don’t do what I did — go and indulge on every morsel!
BOOKS OR BUST
If you haven’t yet patronized Paris’ newest English-language bookstore, The Red Wheelbarrow, then it’s about time you did. Bookstores aren’t opening every day of the week in today’s world, but proprietor Penelope Fletcher, bravely re-opened her shop this time on the other side of the river from where it once was (on rue Saint-Paul in the 4th) to 9, rue de Médicis in the 6th arrondissement, just “en face” of the Luxembourg Gardens.
Sunday morning, well-heeled author David Downie, celebrated the publishing of his 15th novel, The Gardener of Eden, “a haunting and luminous novel of suspense,” at the newly-opened bookstore, among a host of other authors who came to show their support…Tatiana de Rosnay (“Sarah’s Key”), Harriet Welty Rochefort (“French Toast”), Michael Ondaatje (“The English Patient”), Daniel Young (“The Paris Cafe Cookbook”), not to mention Hilary Kaiser (“French War Brides”), Lisa Anselmo (“My (Part-Time) Paris Life”), John Pearce (“Treasure of Saint-Lazare”) and Catherine O’Connell (“Well Read and Dead”), among others…plus lots of the admiring American and other Expat community members. Past bookstore owner, Odile Hellier (The Village Voice) was there as well! Where else can one have as much fun hobnobbing with the cream of the Paris literary community?
Special note: David will be speaking at Après Midi this coming December 10th, 2019. See our site with more details, coming soon.
THE GARDENER OF LUXEMBOURG
In addition, just cross the street from the Red Wheelbarrow is the Garden of Eden of Paris: the Jardin du Luxembourg. With tulips in full bloom and the chestnut trees bright green with leaves, it’s about as heavenly as it gets for reading repose. Thanks to Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henri IV, it was created as a new residence in the early 17th-century. In today’s world, it serves as the French Senate, covering 23 hectares and known for the lawns, the tree-lined lanes, the beautiful flower beds, its fountains filled with model sailboats and the picturesque Fontaine de Medicis. For me, it is truly the Garden of Eden and perhaps David Downie’s gardener resides there?
From the garden, I took a left turn by taking the RER to land on the other side of La Défense to pay a visit to a friend just home from surgery. His apartment, in a high-rise in Nanterre, has a breathtaking view of La Défense and the new stadium, which sits like a spaceship to one side, with the tree-lined Puteaux Cemetery at the base (now in full bloom). During a pleasant visit with my friend, who is having a quick recovery, he showed us his new lounging couch — a double recliner, in effect, whereas each side of the sofa is controlled by the press of a button to convert the upright couch into two reclining chairs, side-by-side. In front of the couch is a huge flat-screen TV that turns the living room into a home cinema for the best of viewing possibilities. Clearly, he’s happy at home recuperating.
While I’ve visited my friend on several occasions in this suburban spot, and had usually taken the RER whose entrance is quite close to his apartment, I headed out with my companion toward the La Défense Métro, taking the path all the way from Nanterre to the Grande Arche de la Défense and beyond to the Esplanade and the Métro station…for the first time ever. This is a Paris I do not know, and have a feeling most Parisians don’t, either. Like being on the moon, it’s a face of the City of Light that confuses me for being somewhere else…completely. Chicago? New York? Shanghai? Thousands of Parisians spend their working life there, and clearly their personal lives as well, now that so many residences have popped up, not only around La Défense, but in it, too. The pathway that leads to the Grande Arche was busy with strollers, bikers, skateboarders and the like, whiling away their Sunday afternoons. The steps leading up the the Arche were dotted with loungers, much like the Jardin du Luxembourg was, but with a very different view of life in Paris.
LARRY AND LISA, KING AND QUEEN, LIVE IN LE CANNET
Every Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., musician and vocalist Larry King plays piano and sings his heart out (from Cole Porter to Michel Legrand) at the SET, a piano bar in Le Vieux Cannet on the Côte d’Azur (163 rue Saint-Sauveur, Le Vieux Cannet, 06110). This coming April 25th, Lisa Anselmo (AKA, Queen of Many Talents), will be joining him in song. Lisa, a woman who has worn many hats, most recently as creative director, author, blogger, coach, etc., had a singing career before moving to Paris part-time. Larry invited her to sing at this one special occasion, so we’re coming along for the very enjoyable ride to hear them both.
To all of you in the vicinity of the Côte d’Azur, mark your calendars now and be there! I’ll be there, too, with our Niçois gang in full force! Entry is 5€ plus add 10€ for elaborate hors d’oeuvres/tapas. Wine and beer, etc., are available at the bar at the usual prices.
NO BUSINESS BANKING
Just this week, I went to an ATM to extract euro cash from my U.S. bank account using a debit card. It’s one of the best and easiest ways to get money, especially when all you need is a bit of cash, not a large sum intended for paying the rent, your mortgage or plying your French bank account with what you might need to live on for a month or two. The rate of exchange I get from my U.S. bank is usually about 1% above the daily market rate. This time, it happened to be a BNP Paribas bank, as there’s one on a corner I pass daily. For the first time, the ATM screen asked me if I would accept the dollar exchange rate of more than $1.17 to the euro, a good four points higher than the $1.13 I’ve been getting from my own U.S. bank. What BNP Paribas seems to be “sneakily” (or blatantly) doing, unlike any of the others, is imposing the exchange on their side in order to make the extra money, rather than allowing the debiting bank to make the exchange and the fees as part of what is called “the spread” — the difference between the buy and sell rate. I was fortunate enough to notice and cancel the transaction. I stopped at another bank nearby, performed the same transaction and got a rate of $1.13 to the euro as I expected. BNP Parisbas S.A. is the world’s eighth largest bank by total assets, and currently operates in 77 countries, but my recommendation is not to bank with them if you can help it. Their most recent policies, particularly toward American clients (thanks to FATCA regulations), and because of bad personal experiences with some of our clients, it leads me to recommend other banking outlets.
Opening a French bank account is a service we offer with a bank that enjoys and respects their American customers. If you wish to know more about it, email us at [email protected].
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(lounging in Nanterre, Photo by Brenda P)
And speaking of Après Midi, don’t miss April’s edition TOMORROW, with ME! I’ll be talking about my experiences taping House Hunters International shows for HGTV. I’ll also show some of my favorite episodes and hosting questions and discussion after. Details on our Après Midi page. I hope to see you there!