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Wining and Dining Franco-Californian Style

Most of the conference attendees this past weekend at the Living and Investing in France Real Estate Conference were residents of California with a small smattering from the heart of the U.S. Californians, we have noticed since beginning the conferences in 2002, are a delightful breed, always entering with broad smiles, open and willing to learn whatever they can. They just soak up the information and emote lots of appreciation. We love them.

This conference was a bit different than most. There was a lot of focus on Fractional Ownership, since the topic is HOT, HOT, HOT, now that the rate of exchange makes owning a fraction more affordable than taking on the total expense of a property. Steve Navaro of Paris Home Shares showed off his newest project, “Le Petit Trésor” and promoted a “special promotional deal” on the few remaining shares of “Chez Latour” to conference attendees.

Several past attendees who had realized their dreams, either with their own rental apartments (“Le Pinot Noir“) or as a a fractional owner (of “Chez Latour“) or happy retired owners of a home in the south of France, stopped in to share their experiences with all of us.

When all was said and done, we went our separate ways on Monday morning, me to a short excursion to Sonoma Valley to see what all the “wining” is about. The California “vignobles” have turned the valleys of vineyards into quite an industry for tourists and wine connoisseurs of every level.

We chose Sonoma Valley, described by a Francophile in comparison to Napa Valley as the “Café de Flore” (insiders) as opposed to “Les Deux Magots” (outsiders). Whether that’s true or not, we found the town of Sonoma quite charming and thoroughly enjoyed an elegant lunch at “The Girl and the Fig” (110 West Spain Street, (707) 938-3634), with its Franco-Californian cuisine and poorly written French dishes: “pastis scented steamed mussels,” “omelette du jour,” “croques monsieur” (spelled incorrectly) and “petites gâteaux” (spelled incorrectly). (I will never understand how the word “entrée” in French became “main course” in English, but ‘c’est la vie.’)

Down the street is the last and northernmost California mission, Mission San Francisco Solano, at Spain and 1st Street. It was the only mission founded after Mexico’s independence from Spain and was also the only mission founded without the prior approval of the Church, built in 1824, about 75 years after my own apartment building in Le Marais. The building across the street held even more interest — The Blue Wing Inn, a long, low adobe building that is allegedly the first hotel north of San Francisco.

Northward we trekked slowly, stopping at the Valley of the Moon winery where we tasted both a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay before landing at our overnight “Secret Cottage” at the Glen Ellen Inn. The restaurant there has serious overtones of a French nature — with art on the walls relating to France and signage in French. My favorites were “Oui-Oui” with an arrow pointing to the toilette and “Ooh La La” above the wine glass rack. The “Dirty Dozen” oysters on the half shell from Washington State were reported (by the waiter) to be the best in the world.

As the platter of the translucent delicacies was set before me, I thought of France’s pride for its own oysters and all the signs of France surrounding us. The camaraderie of California wine country and France’s, almost all of which could be considered “wine country,” is quite evident at every turn…at least in Sonoma (where ‘insiders’ savor wines).

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. The Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group is open all summer long! Tell your French friends and join us now! Visit http://www.parlerparlor.com for more information.

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