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Trains, Planes, Parades and Complaints


IDTGV train tickets - Fance

IDTGV seat 111Seat 111

The TGV is rocking side to side as it speeds past the green fields headed toward Avignon before turning east toward Nice. The 7:19 a.m. train has become my “trajet” of choice, even though the early wake-up can be a bit painful, for a variety of reasons: the other passengers are mostly asleep and therefore quiet (although snoring lightly as I write), the dawn breaks affording beautiful vistas, the arrival in Nice is just in time for lunch.

Flying to Nice costs about the same as taking the train, except for the cost of the transport to and from both airports. The flight is only one hour 15 minutes, and both Air France and easyJet service the route well, but the time it takes to get to the airport, go through security, plus the effort of it all means that little can be accomplished. Therefore I prefer the train, where a 10-minute bus ride gets me to the station, being there 20 minutes ahead of the train departure is plenty, I can plug in my computer/phone, have WiFi thanks to a “personal hotspot,” relax, sleep, read, work or whatever and enjoy the scenery as it rocks along at a breakneck speed (about 295 km/hr).

Book your tickets on IDTGV instead of SNCF and notice the vast difference in price, even though it’s the same train and is a wholly owned subsidiary of the French state-owned train company SNCF. The restrictions must be what makes the difference — there are fewer destinations (although more than 50, to the larger cities such as Nice, Marseille, Rennes, Bordeaux, etc. —, tickets can only be purchased online and must be printed prior to arriving at the station. Booking for each train opens up six months before departure, with prices starting at €19 per person on all routes.

I always book the same seat — #111 on the upper level, usually in either car #11, 12 or 13 (13 is closest to the food service car) in the iDzap zone where it’s not as forbidden to make a bit of noise as in the iDzen zone. Seat 111 faces 112 with a table in the middle, one large unobstructed picture window and just behind it is a rack for luggage. It’s perfect when traveling with a friend. I also like the upper level better for the height of the ceiling and the views from a higher perspective. When you book first class, which is only a bit more expensive, a food cart is wheeled in to serve you at your seat. Seats are wider, with more legroom and there is an electrical plug for non-stop connectivity.

This may sound like a promo for IDTGV, as it is, unpaid of course, and purely because it’s a pleasure to pass on valuable information.


Carnaval in Nice - France

This is the last week of Carnaval in Nice and I hope to make the most of it. An old and dear friend from New Orleans is meeting me there to take advantage of the activities — parades, entertainment and other festivities. It’s not the first time to have enjoyed the Carnaval, but it won’t be the last — it’s a great time of year to soak in the sun, the blue skies and the intense colors of the festival. My apartment, Le Matisse, is located in the heart of it all and rue Masséna is sure to be hoppin’ with revelry — it may even feel a bit of a reminder of Bourbon Street in New Orleans on Mardi Gras! Stay tuned for a report on Wednesday after the evening parade Tuesday night.


We wrapped up the filming of our 22nd House Hunters International episode Saturday evening with a celebration among friends at the chosen apartment — what’s referred to as “the reveal.” This is the part of the show after the decision between the three properties is made, the new owner has moved in and celebrates the victory.

For three 12-hour days, battling the cold and rain through most of it, we visited the three properties while the cameras were rolling, the director was directing, all wired for sound. No, it is not scripted. When the “contributors” (the property purchasers or renters) are visiting the properties, they do not see the two comparables in advance and therefore have a true and real reaction. Of course, a scene must be filmed multiple times from varying angles to compensate for not having lots of cameras, but it doesn’t matter — the words and reactions are real.

When it will air is yet to be determined. It takes a few months to go through post production and scheduling process. We have absolutely no influence on this whatsoever, but have no worries that we will surely let you know when to expect it!

We will be filming another episode in Villefranche-sur-Mer in April. We are seeking comparable properties in which to film: studio or one bedroom in Villefranche or the immediate vicinity with great views. If you have an apartment like this or know of anyone who does and would like to volunteer it for the show, please email me at [email protected].


Métro Rome

Métro Alexandre Dumas

Photographer Janol Apin has a sense of humor as he takes us underground to the Métro stations around Paris from Abbesses to Wagram making puns and riddles. If you don’t get them all, then it may be your cultural divide that’s getting in the way.

In a recent issue of The Local, Katie Warren and Ben McPartland pose the question Foreigners should adapt to France: How well have you? How well have you adapted to life in France?

Laurent Wauquiez, the second in command of France’s Les Republicains party thinks we should adapt to France, not the other way ’round. Assimilation is the key phrase for foreigners in order to come to terms with “la vie française.” According to the article, if you can tick off “yes” to 45 of the 50 on the list, then you can pass the test. And if you can pass the test, then you will likely get Apin’s Métro puns, but keep in mind that the 50 on the list are from the point of view of the British and not Americans, who would see things differently again.

For example:

“17. You are completely at one with French bureaucracy and have a huge filing cabinet at home full of pieces of paper you are too scared to throw away.”

An American will never be ‘at one’ with French bureaucracy, but as is the case Stateside, we will never throw away all those pieces of paper…for at least seven years!

“19. You no longer tip a euro every time you order a drink at a bar. In fact, you no longer tip at all. And you don’t feel guilty.”

Americans still tip and will tip forever and feel guilty if they don’t.

“22. That sunny smile, once aimed at anyone from your boss to your waitress, is now reserved only for close friends and family and when you’re actually happy.”

Americans never stop smiling. It’s been permanently etched into our faces, happy or not.

“35. You’ve given up Marmite, Vegemite, or peanut butter for Nutella.”


Americans have never eaten Marmite or Vegemite (thank goodness) and will never give up peanut butter, but added Nutella to our diet.

“38. You complain about the policies of the French government rather than the one in your home country.”

We will always continue to complain more about the policies in the U.S. than we do about the ones in France, although we do a lot more complaining, period!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - HHI filming

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

(Taping House Hunters International)

Respond to Adrian




P.S. To all our friends in the San Francisco and L.A. areas — for Black History Month, Linda Hervieux will be speaking about her latest book, “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.” It’s about the journey of the men of D-Day’s only African-American combat unit through Jim Crow America to unexpected freedom in Europe to war. Those who have heard her speak here in Paris know it will be enlightening and memorable! For more information and a short video trailer, visit and mark these dates:

Friday, February 26, 12:30 p.m.
UC Berkeley, French Dept. Library
RSVP: [email protected]

Saturday, February 27, 4:30 p.m.
San Francisco, Alliance Française
Wine and jazz reception at 5:30 p.m.
For more information and tickets, visit:

Sunday, February 28
San Francisco
KPIX-TV/CBS 5 morning show. Exact air time TBA

Tuesday, March 1, 1:30 p.m.
L.A. Review of Books Radio Hour
Listen live:

Thursday, March 3, 4:30 p.m.
L.A., Whittier College
RSVP: [email protected]

Friday, March 4, 7 p.m.
L.A., Chevalier’s Books, 126 North Larchmont Blvd.
Please help support independent booksellers!
More information here:


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