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“Inside and Outside the Proverbial “”Cuisine”” (Kitchen)”

Saturday morning instead of the usual routine of walking over to Parler Parlor, the French-English Conversation Group, which has been my regimen for more than 11 years, I boarded Métro line 8, exited at “Invalides” and walked over to one of the facilities of the American University of Paris (AUP) on rue du Colonel Combes. This is where the “Money Matters for Women” Conference was held and where I was scheduled to speak later that day on “Property Investment in France.”

On the way, crossing the Esplanade des Invalides still misty with dew, there were two football games going strong: one with a soccer ball being kicked around (to be expected), but the other a football game one doesn’t see often in France, tossing an American “pigskin.” The games must be their every Saturday regimen, too — something I had missed seeing while attending to my own.

It struck me how much there is to MISS in Paris when you just can’t be EVERYWHERE at the same time and being in this “quartier” on a Saturday morning was particularly unusual…”pour moi.” The rest of the day and well into the evening, Paris stayed outside the realm of the 50-plus women who had come to hear other women (and one man) speak on financial topics designed “for today’s global woman who wants to understand her current financial situation, plan intelligently and take proactive steps in managing her money” sponsored by WICE and AUP.

Keynote speaker Pattie Simone (who by coincidence has the same last name as my daughter, Erica, but is no relation), set the appropriate tone for the entire day of sessions, with a motivational speech about how she was told she ‘couldn’t do it’ so often she began to believe it herself…until one day she woke up from this ‘nightmare’ and began to take the risks that changed her life.

Pattie is president of “WomenCentric,” a firm that places talented, capable, seasoned and ‘sassy’ women experts in speaking engagements all over the world to enlighten others with their knowledge and expertise. She was quite enlightening herself(!), commanding perfect silence while she told her tale of a ‘beaten-down’ woman who couldn’t do anything right to the woman she is today in charge of her business, her family and an exciting life.

This set the tone for the next eight hours of 10 independent sessions on everything from “Starting Your Own Business in France” (Samina Arnoult) to “Conversations with a Millionaire Next Door” (Al Herter) to “Get Rich Slow vs Get Rich Quick” (Justine Trueman) and of course, my own presentation about “Property Investment in France.”

I learned a lot myself from the sessions, but most importantly, that women are at a disadvantage in the financial and economic arena simply because we weren’t programmed to think about our financial well-being in the same way men were as they hold the traditional role of ‘breadwinner’ while the women were ‘in the kitchen’ baking it. The Conference has been held every other year since 2005, and let’s hope for women’s sake they will do it again in 2011. Stay tuned. For more information, visit their Web site at Money Matters for Women

Early Sunday morning, with marketing cart in tow, I met up with old friend and colleague to whom I have affectionately referred as “My Gay Neighbor,” to make a trek outside Paris to IKEA to purchase…guess what?…a “cuisine” (kitchen), for the studio apartment currently under renovation, “Le Saint-Tropez.” (I doubt renters will be baking bread during their vacations there, but still, the kitchen is all important and IKEA is THE place to acquire one.

IKEA has several stores on the outskirts of Paris. To reach the one known as “Paris Nord 2” near the airport, one must take the RER B line to “Parc des Expositions” and then a “navette” (shuttle bus #640 or #23) to the “Centre Commercial.” Sunday is the worst day to go there as it’s normally the busiest day, but considering the work week, it was the only opportunity for both of us and we allowed the full day there to accomplish our goals.

In all the years of making occasional trips to this particular store, I’d never seen it busier. The wait to order the kitchen components was over an hour and once served, the process was less than 10 minutes. All the other tasks went smoothly — purchasing a “click-clack” convertible sofabed for “La Brigitte,” the “studette,” twin beds for the studio apartment (that combined make one large bed) and various accessories.

I have watched with amazement over the last 15 years how IKEA single handedly changed the French culture with their complete kitchen designs. Its first store here was opened as long ago as 1981 (Bobigny), but it took a while before the concept began to manifest itself in the kitchens of Paris, now referred to as “une cuisine Americaine.”

Before IKEA, all components in a kitchen were modular and easily removable, so when a renter or owner vacated the apartment, all the appliances and fixtures went with them, down to the light bulbs, leaving only the sink. New renters would have to scramble to equip the kitchen fully, which was a nightmare for foreigners who didn’t have a clue where to go to purchase them, how to operate them and certainly weren’t planning on spending a fortune on appliances they would only have to sell upon their own vacating of the apartment. It was almost a joke among Expats and thanks to classified publications such as the “FUSAC,” they were able to buy used appliances from other Expats.

Now, all that has changed and the French have happily accepted the complete “cuisine belle et intelligente.” And not only do they show it off by no longer closing it up in a separate room (hence the open kitchen concept), but they leave it in tact when they vacate! Yeah!

No wonder the wait to order the kitchen was so long, but so worth it. Thirty-nine components plus the handles, knobs and drawer inserts to equip the kitchen with six elements, not including the sink itself, the appliances or the counter top, was only a little over 1000€. Where else can one create such an efficient kitchen for so little that looks so handsome?

At 4:30 p.m. we paid for our purchases, packed our carts and headed back to the RER laden with goods. The RER and local buses were SRO, so we regretted not taking a taxi back to the city, but by 7 p.m. I was on the phone with those who had registered for the free Conference Call sponsored by French Property Insider, “Your Pied-à-Terre in Paris: Own It All or Just a Fraction.”

So there was a weekend spent: one full day inside Paris, one full day outside Paris, one full day thinking ‘outside’ the kitchen, one full day thinking ‘inside the kitchen’…and still no bread having been baked. Time to make a trip to the “boulangerie!”


Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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