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Life in Paris is Just a Box of Chocolates

Saturday was gloriously blue and sunny for Parler Parlor’s annual Galettes des Rois party. As a kid in New Orleans, every Mardi Gras we delighted in what we called “King Cake Parties.” The cake was a circular coffee cake, decorated with sprinkles in Mardi Gras colors (gold, purple and green) and inside was baked a little porcelain baby. Whoever had the piece with the baby was crowned, and gave the next party. They still have this tradition in New Orleans, but the babies are now plastic and the decorations on the coffee cake even fancier.

When I first came to France, I discovered where the tradition actually originated…as the Galettes des Rois for the tradition of Epiphany, eaten after New Year’s, much like the coffee cake and also baked with a baby inside. At one time, a bean was used so the little baby is still called “la fève.” The person who finds it is crowned during the party, and must then pick a king or queen, and put the toy in a glass. Everyone raises their glasses and applauds. Tradition says that the next party should be at the king’s expense. (Guess that’s why New Orleans took on the tradition so readily–any excuse for a party!)

The best Galette des Rois I have ever eaten came from Laduree, made with almond paste and apricots. For a rich and delicious chocolate garnished galette, try one at La Maison du Chocolate. Picard sells them frozen, (which is less expensive) and they’re very good indeed. If you get very energetic, make one from scratch by buying a “Croustipate” kit at your local supermarché. But don’t get through January without tasting at least one!

We served “Vin Chaud” with the galettes — Elisabeth Crochard’s recipe with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and oranges. My friend visiting from Sante Fe (who’s in France with a group of oenophile friends headed for Burgundy to spend a week tasting wines) couldn’t bear to taste it (!) — too heretic for the purists — but the rest of us allowed the warmth to permeate our winter chilled bodies. To see photos from the day, visit the site at http://www.parlerparlor.com/events.html

Bad news for this coming week is that the SNCF public transport workers have called for a nationwide strike beginning Tuesday, January 18th at 8 p.m. running through Thursday the 20th at 8 a.m. This concerns our ability to get to the Eurostar on time for our excursion to London for the Vive La France French Property Show taking place this weekend January 21 – 23, 2005 at the Olympia Exhibition Centre. Yolanda Robins, FPI’s Property Manager and Tracy James, “Calendar Gal” and I anticipate an enriching experience to be those among the more than 38,000 visitors and over 600 French and British exhibiting companies bringing the delights of France to the heart of London. I’ll be reporting on the sights and sounds in next Monday’s newsletter.

For more information about the strike, telephone 3635 or consult the Web site http://www.sncf.com for the TGV, Corail, TER, Eurostar, Thalys, Elipsos, Artesia and Lyria; telephone 0 805 700 805 or consult the Web site http://www.abcdtrains.com for the trains “Transilien.”

And for a good tip on how to buy your Eurostar tickets at cheaper than either Eurostar London or SNCF France will tell you!…visit http://www.eurostar.com, select country and U.S. and language as English. It will show all prices in U.S. dollars — and lucky for us, they haven’t adjusted for the rate of exchange! I just experimented…our trip, with the same trains/times/days compares at $150 round trip on the U.S. site to 280 Euros on the French site!

On a humorous cultural note, I heard a great story from Al Stewart of Business Mentors, Inc., an owner of an apartment in the Marais, and resident of Florida. Scroll down for an edited/abbreviated version and hope it makes you chuckle as it did me…

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. For those of you who had trouble connecting to my article, “How to Pig Out in Paris and Stay a Shrimp,” you’ll now find it successfully at two Web pages: //stayingslim.html and /parlerparis/articles/pigout.html

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Life in Paris is Just a Box of Chocolates

Well, this morning I got up my nerve and went to the “Tresor Public” for the 4th arrondissement, the official office for payment of taxes. It was my first interaction with a “functionnaire” since buying in France.

Since I have written three times over the past two years asking them to change my mailing address from Georgia to Florida for all tax bills and found that nothing was changed, I decided that I had to go and visit in person. I bravely entered the office with my passport, my tax bills, my French check book, a recent utility bill to prove residence and every other thing that I could think of in case they asked for it. A very stern Monsieur Functionnaire was standing there ready to greet me behind layers of glass window.

I approached him and in my best French and told him the situation. He studied my documents and told me that I wou

ld have to resubmit the request again in writing. He assured me that if these letters had been received that the address would have been changed. Of course, I had sent them “return receipt requested,” and I knew they had been received.

I immediately pulled out of my case a small box of Belgium chocolates that I had purchased. I asked if he would like one. I then slid the entire box under the window and insisted that he keep all of them. Eh voila! Suddenly, he found that he could make the changes right then and there on his system. As well, he wanted to know why I didn’t have a prélevement (“direct draft”) already established for the payment of my taxes. He filled out his part of the form for me, and then showed me where to sign.

I thanked him profusely. I told him repeatedly what a gentleman he was, and I assured him that he was a credit to the French government. He came out from behind the glass, shook my hand, and told me that I spoke French like a British person, not an American (the French think the Americans speak French with a “ru-ru-ru;” whereas, they find the British speakers have far better accents when speaking French).

As I walked back out into the bright, sunny 36 degree Fahrenheit morning, I could only think of one thing. Maybe Forrest Gump’s Mother was right: “Life is just a box of chocolates.”

Al Stewart

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FURTHER RESOURCES

* Change your life…live in the City of Light…Paris. In just three days you can have all the tools you need to totally transform your regular life…into la vie française.
Living and Investing in France, February 11 -13, 2004, New Orleans, Louisiana

* Everything you need to know about Paris and France…Insider Paris Guides are a series of electronically published guides written by Paris-based American journalists and writers…Click here to learn more.

* Getting a mortgage in France is easier than you think. Let us help.

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