Monday, April 17, 2017 • Paris, France
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North American Expat Financial Forum – Paris
Sponsored by Dunhill Financial and the Adrian Leeds Group
May 30, 2017
4 to 8 p.m.
Chez Jenny, Paris, France
Seven international speakers are coming together for this very special event in Paris, France!:
• Brian Dunhill, Dunhill Financial
• Christelle Colairo , Moneycorp Exchange Experts
• Michael Larsen, American Citizens Abroad
• Adrian Leeds, Adrian Leeds Group
• Carl Mir, Mir Enterprises US
• Amaury de Monclin, Blue Sky Finance
• Peter Zipper, Caye International Bank
For full detials, visit our North American Expat Financial Forum – Paris page.
Dear Parler Paris Reader,
La Cabane de Laurisette
First stop, oysters in Arcachon
Bayonne Foire au Jambon
The ham and pigs ears salad
The Guggenheim, Bilbao
Inside the Guggenheim in Bilbao
Bilbao Basque Fest
Konstituzio Plaza in San Sebastian
Back in Bordeaux
Ever since I first saw the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, visiting the the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has been on my bucket list. American architect Frank Gehry isn’t just an architect…he’s a master sculptor on a massive scale. Both structures simply boggle my mind, along with other architectural works of his including the new Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris…all buildings that I would call absolute “eye candy” from every angle and perspective.
Bilbao isn’t so far away: it’s just on the other side of the border in Spain on the Atlantic Ocean side — 335 kilometers from Bordeaux, or 208 miles. We set out on a mission to see the Guggenheim by using Bordeaux as a base. It was a complicated plan as our first thought was to drive all the way down from Paris to Bordeaux and beyond (least expensive), but opted on splurging for a TGV (high speed train) to Bordeaux and then picking up a rental car near the train station. Three hours and 21 minutes later from Gare Montparnasse, we pulled up at the Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean and trekked with our luggage over to a temporary structure where all the car rental offices are currently housed until the new ones are built.
The young and pleasant agent at Europcar convinced us to upgrade in order to have a GPS system (good thing) and an automatic. Once on the road in a brand new Toyota C-HR Hybrid, we headed straight out of Bordeaux southbound. First stop: Arcachon…for oysters, what else?.
The oyster region of the Bassin d’Arcachon produces about 15,000, metric tons annually. Attracted by a couple of roadside oyster eateries on route to Arcachon in La Teste-de-Buch, next to a dry port where the boats sat in gray slimy mud, it wasn’t even noon yet when we had the pleasure of tasting a dozen fresh mollusks at La Cabane de Laurinette (Avenue des Pêcheurs, 33260 La Teste-de-Buch) along with boiled shrimp and “bulots” (sea snails.). That’s all they serve, with the exception of bread, butter and drinks — not even coffee. How these babies stack up to the famous Marennes-Oléron oysters, is up to each person’s taste, but for me personally these ranked way up there on the scale of 1 to 10 — say 8. A dozen oysters were a mere 12€.
For lack of more time, we didn’t bother to go further into Arcachon or visit more of the bay, but instead got back on the road heading to our next destination: Bayonne, a town famous for its cured ham. The 3.5-day trip to Basque country didn’t start out to be an eat-a-thon, but it turned out that way, by virtue of what was encountered along the way. The Foire au Jambon was in full force in Bayonne and ran all weekend long. The city was awash with revelers and for some odd reason the revelers seemed to be mostly men, grossly outnumbering the women. We joked that Bayonne would be a great town for single women and while we fit that description, we paid more attention to the plates of local fare set before us than the local “Bayonnais.”
While seated at an outdoor table at Chez l’Ours, a dozen or more men sang in unison as if practicing for a choir. This was before we realized the fair was happening all around us. We sampled several local hams and terrines along with “oreilles de cochon en salade” — pigs’ ears salad. This is a dish I’d never seen on a menu before and quite honestly don’t care if I ever see it again. It tasted better than it looked, if you can stomach eating animal cartilage like that.
We said so-long to Bayonne, passed by Biarritz and headed to where we were to spend the first night: Saint-Jean-de-Luz. I had spent a week there more than 20 years ago and hadn’t been back since, but remembered it as a sweet resort spot with a beautiful old port. The marriage of Louis XIV and the Spanish princess Maria Teresa took place there in 1660 — a major claim to fame for the Basque enclave. Here was our chance to have an evening along with a typical Basquaise dinner.
We had booked the Hôtel de Paris across from the Gare de Saint-Jean-de-Luz-Ciboure. Don’t be fooled by its location across from the train station — it was simple, clean, pleasant, well-appointed and inexpensive…with free parking just next door and a very pleasant staff. They sent us off to Le Bistrot Luzien for that authentic Basque dinner we were seeking…no pigs’ ears, but plenty of “chipirones” — baby squid — one of my favorites.
One evening in Saint-Jean-de-Luz clearly wasn’t enough, as we never went near the beach, and time was of the essence in order to make our 2 p.m. reservations at the Guggenheim in Bilbao the next day. On the road again with no stops in between, as we entered Bilbao crossing the Nervión river, the museum structure hits you in the face like a strong wind. It was tough to keep my eyes on the road as it glistened in the sunlight and I couldn’t wait to get there. First of course, we checked into our hotel splurge for the weekend: The Hotel Carlton. Considering the luxuriousness and location of the hotel, it wasn’t very expensive really, but almost double the price of the Hôtel de Paris.
As we were walking to the museum, it was impossible to avoid the parades of hooded men (and likely women, too) that was frightening to us for their resemblance to members of the KKK. Knowing better than that, we chalked it up to some festival of which we weren’t aware and discovered later that during this holy week in Spain (the Semana Santa), the Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities stemming back to the Middle Ages and Baroque period, perform these processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of lent. The distinctive cloaks and hoods (called “capirotes”) do in fact remind one of the costume of the Ku Klux Klan (sometimes known as the “glory suit” by Klansmen), but this is purely superficial…thankfully.
The Guggenheim was our goal of the entire weekend excursion and there it was in all its glory. It’s about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, having been inaugurated in October of 1997 by former King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Bilbao is a beautiful and elegant city, but the museum put the city “on the map.” Without it, we, like so many others, wouldn’t have ventured there. Considered one of the most important architectural works built since 1980, it has been hailed as a “signal moment in the architectural culture,” because it represents “one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.”
It would be impossible not to agree with that. Inside and out, it’s stunning from every angle, every perspective. The exhibitions on at the moment were not our “cup of tea” — Abstract Expressionism (on February 3, 2017 – June 4, 2017) being the primary temporary exhibit — but who cared? The museum itself outshone the art within in.
Bilbao was in its own midst of festivities over the weekend, celebrating the world of Basque with “El Txoko Gourmet.” That became evident as we crossed the river to the Casco Viejo, or Old Quarter. There was a line-up of events with which we could have participated, and because of the beautiful weather, all of Bilbao was out enjoying the gourmet goodies, but we opted on a shopping spree instead, taking advantage of the best Spanish chain stores such as Desigual, Zara, Mango and Tezenis.
Easter Sunday we got back on the road to return to Bordeaux with two stops along the way: San-Sebastián for breakfast in the center of the old city at the colorful Konstituzio Plaza and to the French resort town of Biarritz for lunch at the beach where we could watch the surfers and “Basque in the sun.” We got back on the road and arrived in Bordeaux in time to settle into an apartment we rented for the night not far from the center of the city and for a copious dinner at Le Petit Mignon, a Corsican restaurant reported with high ratings on La Fourchette. The rest of Bordeaux awaits us today as we explore the beautiful French city before heading back to Paris on the TGV later this afternoon, where we can “Basque” in the adventure of the region.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(at the Guggenheim in Bilbao)
Respond to Adrian
P.S. Mark your calendar for the newest House Hunters International Episode: “Two Bedrooms in Paris” – Kate’s humanitarian work is sending her to Paris for a new job opportunity, and she’s calling in her friend and fellow expat, Jilian, to help her find the perfect apartment. Kate wants a second bedroom, but an extra room in bustling central Paris doesn’t come cheap. Airing: Thursday April 20th at 10:30 p.m. EDT, 9:30 p.m. CDT, Friday April 21st at 1:30 a.m. EDT and 12:30 a.m. CDT.