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The Meeting of the Gallant Gentlemen of the Sister Cities

San Francisco and Paris have a very special relationship. The cities first bonded in 1996 with a Friendship and Cooperation Agreement and then ten years later signed the Digital Sister Cities Memorandum of Understanding…”conscious of the necessity of sharing experiences and convinced that such relationships between citizens give rise to mutual enrichment”… or so their press materials claim.

What the mayors of each of the cities may not know is that San Francisco and the Bay Area is the single largest Francophile community in the United States!

While no one knows why that is for sure, my bet the reason for this stems back long before any agreements between the two cities — as far back as 1889 when the first Alliance Française was established there, only six years after its creation in Paris by scientist Louis Pasteur, the diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, the writers Jules Verne and Ernest Renan, and the publisher Armand Colin. The French have always flocked their spreading their language, their culture and their “joie de vivre.”

We’ve held numerous Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conferences there at the Alliance Française at 1345 Bush Street and therefore have had a special relationship between the cities, too. So, when I was able to witness the Monday signing of the Cooperation Memorandum for the years 2009 to 2011 with the 42nd Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom present, I jumped at the chance!

Newsom was made famous by a bold move to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples only 36 days after taking office. Perhaps this further solidifies a friendly relationship with Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë who openly announced his gay status during a 1998 television interview before being elected mayor.

The signing itself took on the ‘usual’ agenda in the “Salon Jean Paul Laurens” in the Paris City Hall at a small table near the southern window overlooking the river. City officials from both cities stood nearby as first, the Mayor of Paris spoke, then turned over the podium to tall, young (41 — the youngest San Francisco mayor in over a century) and I might add, quite handsome, Gavin Newsom.

Each expressed their warm sentiments and wishes for cooperative ties in the usual fashion — cooperation in the form of information exchange, sharing of tools and networks, promotion of cultural exchange and reciprocation. What was a bit different at Monday’s signing was the reference made to newly installed President Barack Obama.

First, Gavin Newsom signed the Memorandum and as he did, Bertrand Delanoë pointed out that he signed with his left hand, just like Obama! Then, Delanoë took his position at the desk and the pen was handed over to him…but for some reason, the pen wouldn’t write.

Quickly a pen was handed over to replace it and he signed, noting that the new pen wrote very nicely indeed. When both signatures were on the documents, it was Delanoë who noticed that now it was even more beautiful by virtue of the two colors of ink on the ivory-toned paper!I thought this very French, to have such an esthetic viewpoint on the detail of the day and perhaps was the only witness to have noticed the cultural difference.

After the signing, the participants were wisked by car to “La Cantine,” a center inaugurated just one year ago supported by “Silicon Sentier” — an association made up of 120 technological enterprises designed to help create new businesses and provide more jobs in the Région Ile-de-France. La Cantine is in the heart of the Sentier district, in one of the many “passages” of the 2nd arrondissement.

First the mayors met on the sidewalk greeting Green Party Mayor of the 2nd Arrondissement, Jacques Boutault, before entering La Cantine. There, again Delanoë said a few words, then the principle players of the association spoke to a large group of officials and press with Newsom and his wife on the front row.

I snuck out before the ceremonies ended, but left with a warm spot in my heart once again, for the cities of Paris and San Francisco, and the gallant gentlemen at their helms.

Special Note: Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of “French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French” and “French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris” says in her site, http://www.understandfrance.org, that “The ‘Sentier,’ formerly the area of Paris known as the garment district, is now called ‘Silicon Sentier’ because this is where many e-business start-ups are located.” So, you see, their purpose has already made quite an impression on the district!

  • For more information on Newsom’s visit to the City of Light, visit http://paris.fr/ and for more information on everything noted in today’s “nouvellettre,” see:

Adrian Leeds at the Paris City HallA la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

P.S. Don’t miss the Chinese New Year Parade of the Dragon Saturday, January 31st starting at 2:30 p.m. at the Hôtel de Ville. Visit http://www.paris.fr for more information.P.P.S. This is your last chance to sign up for the Free One-Hour Conference Call “Forecasting French Property for 2009″…scroll down for more information or visit /frenchproperty/insider to subscribe and participate FREE!

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