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Yankee Doodle Went to London Just to Visit France

There’s something incongruous about going to London from Paris to visit France…but, that’s what we did, Yolanda Robins and I. Two-and-a-half short hours from Gare du Nord to Waterloo station, at once transposed from Romantic Paris to Foggy Londontown. Our goal was to attend the annual Vive La France French Property Exhibition which opened Friday morning at the Olympia Exhibition Centre, a massive hall that housed 600 exhibitors and accommodated an expected crowd of almost 40,000 over the three day run of the show.

In another flash, we were transposed again as we entered the hall. Everything French was there…soaps and scents from Provence, sausages and cheeses from Corsica (and of course, elsewhere in France), spices and olives, wines and champagnes, jellies, jams and mustards, baskets, linens, onions and garlic, breads and croissants…a cornucopia of French products getting scarfed up by ‘deprived’ British at Sterling prices (they don’t care!). We came home with a few French goodies, too, ridiculous as that may seem, but it all looked and smelled so appealing!

On the other side of the hall were the French property exhibitors for the seriously-interested prospective property purchasers. Real estate agencies from all over France posted photos of their latest and best properties. Lenders and money brokerage services were well-represented — we visited with our friends at Banque Patrimoine et Immobilier, Abbey National France and HiFX. Property attorneys, such as John Howell & Co., and the Chambre de Notaires were there doling out advice. We gathered up materials, brochures, booklets and business cards. We learned we already had lots of friends there, and made lots of new ones, too.

Striking is the contrast of the British interest in France vs the American one…as Paris is virtually non-existent for the British. Almost all of the agencies promoted properties OUTSIDE Paris. The Eiffel Tower was hardly visible, evidently NOT the symbol of France for the British, as we think it is. They aren’t dreaming of a
“pied-à-terre” in “Le Marais” like we are. Instead, they long for a stone cottage in Languedoc-Roussillon, or a half-timbered home in Normandy they can renovate and call their own.

The British speak English that resembles ours (or is it the other way round?), but they clearly aren’t like us, and they aren’t like the French, either. No offense to my British friends, but I found myself getting annoyed with the poor transportation system (the Underground is no comparison for Le Métro), indifferent customer service (have I become spoiled by the “Bonjour, Madame” I receive every time I enter a shop?) and of course, the outrageous price of everything (even against the Euro, it’s about 150% more expensive).

On route home, Yolanda remarked, “You really missed Paris, didn’t you?” And I realized, that in only three days, I had, terribly.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Special Notice: You still have a chance to register for the Living and Investing in France Conference at a savings of up to $600. Last week’s technical problems on the site interfered in the online registration process for many of our registrants — so to allow everyone the opportunity to register at a discount, we’re extending the deadline to January 31, 2005. Visit /frenchproperty/conference/LIF_NOLA/LIF_NOLA_home.html for more information.

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