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Out on a Christmas Tree Limb

Erica Simone's Creative Christmas TreeErica Simone’s Creative Christmas Tree

Brenda and Hugh's Creative Christmas TreeBrenda and Hugh’s Creative Christmas Tree

Golden Iris of the Lys RiverGolden Iris of the Lys River

The New Orleans Saints Fleur de Lis


I’ve personally never owned and/or decorated a Christmas tree. My mother considered it heresy to even consider such a thing in a Jewish household, hence the tradition to never have one, nor even a “Chanukah Bush,” as some Jews do. My daughter felt deprived as a result of my adamant refusals to succumb to the gentile tradition and one year concocted her own tree, decorated with any household items she could find that was whimsical and fun, even if sacrilegious.

This has never stopped me from admiring other people’s trees, however, and I believe the best one I’ve ever seen was this past Friday night in the home of Brenda P. and her husband Hugh N., who went to great lengths to fashion a tree in the form of a woman — a kind of French “Marianne,” made of a dress form, chicken wire, Christmas garlands, red velvet bows, red lace lingerie and of course, little lights, all topped off with a quasi-red beret/Santa’s hat. This tree topped them all (for me)!


I scheduled a taxi a full half-hour earlier than needed in order to get to the Gare de Lyon on time for my train the Aix-en-Provence in case of Les Gilets Jaunes having the streets of Paris blocked…uselessly since there was no sign of anything and the ride was barely 10 minutes door to door. The station was chock-a-block full of travelers on Saturday morning as one might expect just prior to the holiday.

On route on the train, I read Margo Lestz’s new book, Berets, Baguettes and Beyond, Curious Histories of France and giggled through her sweet sense of humor and marveled at the information I would never have discovered without her. I’d make a bet that 99.99 percent of the French don’t know even 10% of the true history of France about which she has written. For example, I lived most of my youth on a street named Fleur de Lis Drive in New Orleans. I always understood that a Fleur de Lis was not only a symbol in New Orleans, but was a symbol in France and that it meant “lily flower.”

Wrong. First of all, there are two spellings: Fleur de Lis and Fleur de Lys. Both are correct, but it’s not a lily. The word “Lis” or “Lys” comes from the Lys River in Pas de Calais, along which grows yellow irises from which the shape of the Fleur de Lys is taken. The reason it became the symbol of royalty is also explained in the book, so I remind you that the Fleur de Lys is not looked upon kindly in France, while in New Orleans, it is THE symbol and will likely always be, made even more popular by the New Orleans football team “The Saints” which is the 11th most popular sports team and the 32nd most famous in the U.S.!

And guess what? Not everyone in New Orleans thinks highly of it, either. According to the Canal Street Chronicles and other journals, “The black code was a set of regulations adopted in Louisiana in 1724 from other French colonies around the world, meant to govern the state’s slave population,” slave historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck said to WWLTV. “Seck said those rules included branding slaves with the fleur de lis as punishment for running away. ‘He would be taken before a court and the sentence would be being branded on one shoulder and with the fleur de lis, and then they would crop their ears.'”

OMG. I may never look at the symbol again with the same eyes.

(Source of the following information: Democrats Abroad

I imagine you’ve all been watching the news regarding the chaos in the US Capital over the Mexican border wall funding and government shut-down. In the midst of all that, “Republican George Holding (R-NC) introduced the Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad Act HR 7358 on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would enact a switch from our current system of citizenship-based taxation to residency-based taxation, a move that would benefit nearly all Americans living abroad.  

Click here to find a description of the bill, its provisions, as well as a link to the bill’s full text: Tax Fairness for Americans Abroad announcement.

Though the bill is not perfect, it is a milestone in our expat tax advocacy work; we now have a legislative framework for refining and clarifying work in the 116th Congress on a bill implementing residency based taxation that will satisfy our key ambitions, including: accommodating of all Americans abroad, easy to transition into, protected from abuse by tax evaders and bad actors, and revenue-neutral to the federal government.”

Send comments and questions to [email protected]. Thanks to Democrats Abroad for this information.

24 12 18 Cucuron Moon 1Cucuron Under the Full Moon

Curcuron in SummerCurcuron in Summer

The Westfield Home in AnsouisThe Westfield Home in Ansouis

A Good Year

The Port of MarseilleThe Port of Marseille


The full moon was enormous, shining brightly through the wispy clouds as we left a restaurant named Alex on the Place Etang (+33 4 90 09 88 39) in the Provençal town of Cucuron, one of the most beautiful villages in the Vaucluse, mostly thanks to the stunning tree-lined pond in the very center of the village. I’ve had the pleasure of basking in the glow of the beautiful pond  several times and each time, my friend, Barb, reminds us that part of the 2006 movie, “A Good Year,” with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, was filmed in that very spot.

When we got home to Ansouis, following the bright light of the moon the whole way down the narrow roads, and turned on Amazon Prime to see what movie we might watch before going to bed, the one that jumped at us from the beginning of the randam choices was a big surprise: A Good Year! Without further ado, we watched it from beginning to end and relished in the Provençal landscapes, the charming story about how Provence seduces a hard-core stock broker away from the game of making money to making wine instead and glowed that we had just had dinner in that very spot just a short time earlier.

(BTW, our meal at Alex was outstanding!)


I have spent almost no time in Marseille, even after so many years living in France. Frankly, it didn’t interest me, even though its reputation has greatly improved in the last 20 years as a metropolis to be reckoned with. Barb was excited to show us the city she has come to know and love — as she goes to Marseille a few times a week in the summer to boat and take in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. It’s just an hour’s drive away from her Vaucluse town of Ansouis so we spent Sunday exploring it from the Old Port to the top of the hill where sits the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde

There’s too much to say about Marseille –– so you’ll just have to tune in to Wednesday’s Nouvellettre® for more about France’s second largest city and other adventures in the south of France!

Joyeux Noël and Happy Holidays!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds -   in Marseille, France

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(in Marseille)

Respond to Adrian
The Adrian Leeds Group

P.S. Speaking of the South, as always, friends of Parler Paris, Parler Nice and French Property Insider are welcome to stay in Le Matisse — at least when I’m not there. It’s cooler in summer and warmer in winter! Contact us to secure your stay! contact@


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