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Paris Between the Palms

Christmas Eve will be spent on a long flight back to “Gay Gray Paree” after a week of relative sunshine in the City of Angels. I have learned much since being on the other side of the western hemisphere as I have explored the possibility of repatriation…at least part of the year.

Expats make it a regular part of their thought process to think about repatriation and what it would be like to ‘go in reverse’ — to go back to a life once lived. It’s easier said than done.

There is the question of ‘to where’ one would repatriate, which is the first dilemma. New York City is just about the only U.S. city that offers a similar urban lifestyle to Paris where one lives well without a car and can have most of everything in walking distance…but is that what we want?…just to ‘replace’ what we already have in a different way? And let’s face it, New York City is not Paris. No offense to New Yorkers who think the Big Apple is the only apple on the tree, but New York can be quite a shock to a quasi-Parisian’s system.

 Palm trees in Nice, FrancePalm trees in Nice, FranceAbbot Kinney Blvd - Los Angeles CaliforniaAbbot Kinney BlvdMore Nice Palms - Nice, FranceMore Nice PalmsAlong the Riviera - FranceAlong the RivieraMalibu Beach sunset - photo by Ken Kistler www.publicdomainpictures.netMalibu Beach sunset – photo by Ken Kistler

Los Angeles is quite the opposite of Paris in just about every way, so at least it doesn’t attempt to replicate the City of Light. Instead, it offers another alternative that can create a balance between the two worlds.

As the sun pours in the window on my back as I write, I am reminded that L.A. has as many sunny days as Paris has of cloudy days — a reason why Angelenos are so friendly and Parisians can be so surly. Everyone has a smile on their faces and can’t wait to spread their good cheer. One sales person in a small clothing shop on the newly gentrified Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach liked my outfit so much that she insisted on having a photo taken of the two of us together and asked me to send it her on her cell phone…which she quickly wrote down for me. She thought nothing of being so friendly and open — something that would NEVER have happened in a Paris boutique.

Then again, my friend with whom I am staying was mugged — threatened with a big metal object if she didn’t give up her money, and it happened on her very street in Santa Monica one night walking home from just a few blocks away…presumably a very safe neighborhood. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live with that kind of paranoia. As a single woman in Paris I can go anywhere I like any time of day or night without that kind of fear. Would I want to live that way again?

The contrast between the friendly atmosphere and the threatening one is as acute as the difference between the rich and poor. While the homeless are everywhere rolling along their grocery carts filled with their worldly possessions, so are the very wealthy living in their multi-million dollar homes driving their gas-guzzler cars thinking nothing of using the earth’s resources for their own hedonistic pleasures.

The irony of it all makes one think more seriously about the socialist ideas of the French, but which don’t work to instill incentive to go beyond the mediocre nor improve their standard of living on the whole. Isn’t there something in between the extreme capitalistic ideas of America and the extreme socialist ideas of the current French administration which is more balanced, where everyone can be happier and more prosperous? I yearn for this in order to feel less like a ‘fish out of water’ in either socioeconomic system.

All in all, Angelenos seem to have a pretty good life, in spite of the traffic woes, occasional earthquakes and high cost of property. Sunday we took a ride up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) through Malibu and ogled the beach estates, one after the other, each worth many millions of dollars just for a bit of sand under their toes. I fantasized about a tramway built down the center of the PCH to service all the Malibu towns, thereby reduce the traffic along the highway and the noise that goes along with it as well as the chance of accidents. Something like that is likely never to happen — while they build more and bigger roads to accommodate more cars, unlike in Paris where they have reduced the roads and parking spaces to discourage the use of cars.

Even in the south of France, where the rich and famous play in their big homes like they do in Malibu, the public transportation is to be revered. One public bus glides along the coastal road from Nice to Menton for just 1.50€ and the train about every 30 minutes stops in all the little towns along the coast to drop you at any one of the beaches. Sorry to admit, too, but the California coastline is not nearly as beautiful as the French Riviera. That’s okay — it has its virtues and fortunately, we still have the Riviera.

I’ll be THERE on Saturday. Christmas Day I land back in Paris just in time for a movie and Chinese food, then just a day to repack before boarding the early train to Nice on Saturday morning…from the palm trees of Santa Monica to the palm trees of the Côte d’Azur…with a little Paris in between. Not bad, not bad at all.

Merry Christmas to all…

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group - with Sonya the SalespersonAdrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

(with Sonya, the Salesperson)

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