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City of Angels, Criminal Owners and Gypsy Kings

 Marché de Noël - Paris, FranceAbsolument Absinthe parfume - Paris, FranceAbsolument Absinthe parfumeTsigan - by Cecilia WolochTzigane (French version) -By Cecilia WolochCecilia Woloch  with Joanne Furlan and Anastassia Politi - Paris, FranceCecilia Woloch with Joanne Furlan and Anastassia PolitiSerge GuichardSerge GuichardSlide show by Erge GuichardSlide show by Serge Guichard

The cold and rain didn’t stop much from happening on Saturday, as holiday shoppers hit the streets under their umbrellas, bundled to protect themselves from the damp as they visited the Christmas market along the Champs-Elysées looking for stocking stuffers.

I was among them only for a short while as I was headed to ferret out a particular perfume a friend asked me to bring to her in Los Angeles as I am headed there tomorrow for eight days. The perfume, Absolument Absinthe is so exclusive an item that it is sold in only three locations in Paris, one of which I discovered to my wet dismay was closed. Not to be deterred, I trekked to location number two to discover that rather than a “parfumerie” as one might expect, it was a very exclusive jeweler with double security doors to enter — Arije — nothing of which I could afford…except for the perfume…and barely at that.

My friend in Los Angeles deserves it. She’s going to put up with me as a guest in her humble Santa Monica apartment, while I take care of U.S. business, visit with friends and take in some California sunshine. This is the time of year when traffic is greatly reduced in Los Angeles making getting around a whole lot less frustrating — a perfect time to visit the ‘City of Angels’ as I discovered a few years ago. That one Christmas day, we actually drove from her apartment in Santa Monica to friends’ home in Los Feliz for their annual party taking Sunset Boulevard the entire way…in just 20 minutes! Unheard of!

Anyone living in Los Angeles knows that a drive of that kind could easily take three hours, much less 20 minutes and I vowed then to make our visits to what I affectionately call “La La Land” (having lived there prior to Paris) only during the holidays when so many of its residents escape it.

Special note: During my time there, I will be meeting with a few people interested in learning more about investing in France for private consultations. I am offering a special rate in U.S. dollars for the session and I am taking bookings between December 18th and 23rd. Consultations are typically two hours, so if you are interested, email me to make your appointment: [email protected].

With the perfume wrapped and bagged, pretty as a picture, juggling it along with other packages, the umbrella, the gloves, the computer bag, etc., etc, I headed back to Le Marais for an on-camera interview by Hugh Schofield, Paris correspondent for the BBC. He’s doing some investigative reporting on the story about the Paris short-term rental dilemma and wanted my take on the situation.

Being highly opinionated and not afraid to voice it (as you must already know!), Hugh and the BBC got an ear and eyeful of what I think makes no sense whatsoever from any perspective — the current laws which remove the right to housing for anyone needing accommodations for less than one year (or nine months for students), that ultimately benefit no one and only do damage to many aspects of the quality of life in Paris, as well as contribute to poor economics at a time when France is economically suffering.

It’s a media campaign that needs to happen to expose the absurdity of the laws and to open the city officials’ eyes to better ways of finding housing for its residents without turning 30,000 property owners into criminals (the city’s estimate of the number of short-term rental apartments) and destroying the incentive to invest in property in the city. As one might imagine, there is much to be said, and which should be said on the subject, from all angles, not just the city’s side which is solely focused on finding this housing, and doesn’t seem to realize how many the regulations hurt.

The BBC report will be out sometime over the holidays and as soon as I know, you’ll be among the first to learn when it airs or is launched on the BBC Web site. Stay tuned.

The rain didn’t let up, but again, we were not deterred from heading to the AMESC (Association Méditerranéenne pour l’échange Scientifique et Culturel) on the other side of the city’s border in Ivry-sur-Seine for a “Lecture Bilingue” (bilingual reading) of “Tzigane: le Poème Gitan” (“Tsigan, the Gypsy Poem“) by American poet Cecilia Woloch, followed by a discussion.

Woloch led the reading in English from her acclaimed book along with Joanne Furlan and Anastassia Politi assisting, who read the French version of the poems and sang Gypsy-origin songs. The book’s French translator, Jennifer Bocquentin, was present, as well as was Serge Guichard who has taken the plight of the “Roms” (Gypsies) under his wings and photographed them in their shanty towns in France. He presented a slide show of his prophetic and intimate images of the impoverished life of the Gypsies in France.

France initiated a program to repatriate the 400,000 thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian Gypsies living in illegal camps. They have the right to enter France without a visa as part of the E.U., but must have residency permits in order to stay longer than three months. Many thousands have been expelled from France and the policy has remained controversial. E.U. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding threatened to take legal action against France for the forced expulsions.

My personal experience with the Gypsies would support their reputation as thieves, having once absconded with my iPhone off the table of a restaurant after four young children swarmed the establishment. calls them the “Kings of Con.” The widely used term “gypped” describes “when one has received less than they paid for. Most people do not realize it’s a racist term that stems from nomadic ‘gypsies’ who are stereotyped as thieving criminals.” (

This does not justify their treatment, however, as a people, and the fact remains that in “2009, the European Committee of Social Rights found France had violated the European Social Charter (rights to housing, right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, right of the family to protection) in respect to its Romani population.” (

One thing for sure, living in today’s French world is as challenging as ever, for those who have as well as for those who have not. Considering that the grass always looks greener when looking at it from the other side, it will be fascinating if Los Angeles will look as sunny as it seems, not only from the point of view of weather, but from lifestyle as well.

I doubt it.

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group - Adrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

(Twin Sisters of Different Mothers and Bookend Sisters of Same Mother (circa 1986): from left to right Marcia Mazria (L.A. friend), Lee Miller (oldest sister), Adrian Leeds (you know who))

Respond to Adrian

I want to thank all of you who wrote in concern about last week’s fire in my building and loss of my friend, Hat Sternstein. Your loving comments were overwhelming and heartfelt. Again, my deepest appreciation.

P.P.S. For those of you in the Los Angeles area, and would like to know more about investing in France, I will be available for private consultations between December 18th and 23rd. Consultations are typically two hours, and I will be offering a special rate in U.S. dollars. Email me to make your appointment: [email protected]


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