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Celebrating Good News à la Rentrée

“La Rentrée” for me is a time of anniversaries to celebrate, or at least upon which to reflect.

28-8-13byEricaSimone MAIN-2Welcome to Paris – photo by Erica SimoneSixteen years ago to the yesterday, my daughter and I flew to Paris after just having signed divorce papers. That day, we waited for the movers to deliver our belongings to our new apartment in the Marais and began a whole new life for ourselves as ‘single women’ in the City of Light — in our own home, sparsely furnished, but comfy. She just celebrated her 11th year living in New York City and next week we celebrate our initial arrival in Paris just a few days before she was to start school, arriving to a furnished rental apartment on the other side of town in the 17th arrondissement.

I look back in wonder. The years pass too quickly, she grew up too fast, and Paris is a very different place. So much ‘life’ has taken place in that time — much like the water in the Seine flowing past, deep and always changing its texture.

La Rentrée is more the beginning of the year than is January 1st in France. When vacation is over and everyone returns from the beaches and countrysides, it seems that there is an abrupt end to the summer, both emotionally and weather-wise, and an abrupt beginning to the new adventures ahead of us — new schools and classes for some, back to work with new agendas for others, new social and publicly held activities on the horizon for all. There is much in store for us as we begin the new year.

The streets of Paris are beginning to come alive again with La Rentrée. By the end of this week, most businesses will be open once again, parents will have started to purchase school supplies for their kids and Paris will once again become the bustling metropolis we know and love. I remember those first days in Paris vividly as if it were just yesterday as every single thing we did to acclimate to our new home was culturally shocking.

The culture shock is over now that there is a fuller understanding of how and why things are so different compared to what we (as Americans) were brought up to believe or think, but there are still moments when the difference hits you smack in the face. Sometimes, the awakening is wondrous, other times it is harsh. Either way, it makes for a much more intricate tapestry called ‘life’ in France.

28-8-13institut curieYesterday I returned to the Institut Curie to get the results of the tests they performed for the BRCA 2 mutant gene. “A BRCA mutation is a mutation in either of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Harmful mutations in these genes produce a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in affected families.” ( This is the gene that led celebrity Angelina Jolie to have a preventive double mastectomy. My family is riddled with cancer history of this nature, so my daughter suggested I be tested. If I am a carrier of the mutant gene, then she would have a 50% chance of also being a carrier. If not, then she would be free of it, too.

The process was quite simple. After contacting the Institut, I was sent a questionnaire to complete and return to describe the family history. I was then called in for an interview and the tests were performed at that time — a blood test and a saliva test. The results came after the summer vacation, on the date of my anniversary as a single woman.

28-8-13BRCAIt seemed quite poignant that these dates should coincide, like a symbol of having taken life into my own hands, with the consequences equally and potentially frightening. When the doctor, a woman, verbally announced that the test was negative, that there was an absence of the mutation, I burst into tears, surprising even myself — I had no idea it would affect me so emotionally.

The cost of the procedure: 26€, of which I paid 7.80€, the rest covered by my social security. There was that culture shock — the wondrous kind. By comparison, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institut, “the cost for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation testing usually ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Insurance policies vary with regard to whether or not the cost is covered.” (

In my excitement yesterday, I posted this information on Facebook, to which there was a flurry of responses and debates about the cost of healthcare in France compared to the U.S. Those opposed to universal health care are always playing the same tune about the high cost of taxes to support it, while those who benefit from the system continually say it’s worth it:

“A few months ago my wife was so short of breath I took her to the emergency room. They gave her a lot of unnecessary tests because they didn’t read her chart, then sent us home in the morning. The bill for overnight in the ER? $14,500.”

“I had a left ventricle stent operation for $53,000. Medicare paid some and insurance paid 20%. At $193 a month, France was a dream.”

“Universal health care is largely financed by government, government funded agencies, etc. You think the French government is rich? You pay taxes! And how much of your taxes goes to ‘free’ health care?”

“Part of the reason for the high cost of the test in the USA was that a company called Myriad Genetics had patented the genes its test looked for. As a result it held a monopoly on the test. A recent Supreme Court decision (569 U.S. 12-398) invalidated that patent (and effectively all patents on genes themselves) on the reasonable basis that a gene is a product of nature.”

“It’s a matter of where we spend our tax revenues. Into breast cancer tests or missile tests? Blowing people up or pap smearing them? There is absolutely no reason on earth that the richest country on earth in history, as we so proudly proclaim, treats its citizens so shabbily, or in the case of health care, in tens of millions of cases, doesn’t treat them at all. When I have to pay $621 for a prescription in the U.S. and 49€ in France (on the full economy, not through Carte Vitale), something is totally out of whack.”

One commenter wrote: Wow, Adrian. Whoever knew a 7.80€ exam (about ten bucks) would set off such a firestorm of comments? Can you top it next week? (No, please don’t, I don’t even wanna think…!)

I’m sure this will jump-start it all again, but that’s not the point. The idea is not to debate which system or culture is better or worse, but to reflect on how we can all learn from the cultures on both sides of the big pond in order that we can all have more fulfilling and richer lives.

On the anniversaries of these new lives and new beginnings, we must all contemplate how we can improve upon the past, while living very much in the present.

A la prochaine…

Erica AdrianAdrian Leeds

Editor, Parler Paris & Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC

(with daughter Erica, soon after arriving in France)

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P.S. Don’t miss tonight’s (Wednesday) new House Hunters International episode at 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. E/P.: “Planning a Future in Paris, France” – Episode HHINT-5612H: Full details for each episode are available at Adrian Leeds on House Hunters International.

28-8-13miroirs-du-maraisP.P.S. Thanks to “Cote de Texas” blogger Joni Webb for her exposé of the apartment featured on House Hunters International we call “Les Miroirs du Marais”


westvillageapt-adP.P.P.S. Our West Village New York City studio apartment (with a perfect view of the Empire State Building) is available for vacation rental September 18 through October 3 for as little as $1100/week! Located in the heart of the coolest ‘hood’ in the city, super cozy, clean and comfortable. A 50% deposit reserves your stay. See the apartment at West Village Studio. For your reservations or requests, email: [email protected]


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