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Springing Forward With The New Left

The clock sprung forward, the sun was shining brightly indicating that Spring may actually grace our doors and the French went to the polls for the second round of regional elections. With the beginning of Spring, I’m hoping that by next week, my geraniums will be ready to come out of their bubble-wrap cocoons and show their bright little selves.

The discussions were lively yesterday afternoon over a round of drinks at my favorite “cantine,” Au Petit Trou de Bretagne. It’s a tiny neighborhood bar owned and operated by Omar of couscous restaurant “Chez Omar” manned by an Italian (Mario) with a big personality and a Frenchman (Daniel) cooking downstairs in the kitchen (isn’t this the old joke about the best way to run a hospitality service?) on rue de Bretagne between rue Charlot and rue de Saintonge. While some think it’s “disgusting,” (nothing has changed there in more than 50 years), I think it’s loaded with charm, even with the vagrants and scruffily-dressed regulars who have been downing their beer there for decades.

On Sundays, it’s just about the only café open and it’s perfectly situated on the sunny side of the street. The tables spilled out onto the sidewalk in front of the hardware store on its left and the bookstore on its right. Omar doesn’t come around on Sundays, but half the neighborhood does.

As it turns out, Chirac’s government “suffered a new pasting,” as the national vote was censure against painful economic reforms. The left-wing, newly brought to life by taking control of 21 of the 26 total regions, will likely “increase pressure on Chirac to reshuffle his conservative government, and perhaps even ditch his prime minister, the unpopular Jean-Pierre Raffarin.” The anti-immigration National Front took a moderate 13 – 14 percent of the vote and Raffarin was further embarrassed by losing his home region of Poitou-Charentes on the Atlantic coast, where the Socialist Segolene Royal (a woman) took 55 percent of the vote. Two-thirds of France’s 42 million voters went to the polls yesterday afternoon…an impressive turnout.

I had just come from a visit to a client’s “new” 16th century apartment not far away where her architect and crew (Derek Bush) has torn down the old plaster from the living room wall to expose the old stone and rearranged the bath and kitchen to open the living room and allow for a more luxurious bath. When completed, the apartment is sure to be a heavenly pied-à-terre for herself and for the lucky visitors who rent it by the week — she hopes to have it ready for mid June.

Not long after, at the beginning of July, major regeneration will start in the 3rd arrondissement as part of the city planning called “Les Quartiers Verts.” Speed limits will be reduced to 30 km/h, pedestrian walkways will be raised at certain intersections, some streets will become pedestrian, rue de Bretagne will be narrowed while sidewalks will be widened and tree-planted (60 trees) and traffic circulation will be altered. To top it off, Le Carreau du Temple, an iron structure that had been a center for secondhand clothing merchants since 1788, will be renovated to an “espace pour nous” — housing a multi-purpose community center for sports, children’s activities and spectacles.

One thing for sure, our property values will continue to rise with all this progressive city planning (proven time and time again) and with the socialists in power, the general public will hope to benefit even more.

A la prochaine…


Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. The Quartier Verts program is designed to increase the amount of green space in the city to rebalance the public space and improve the quality of life for its inhabitants. An outline of the project can be found at (in French) at


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