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House Talk

No. 22 - October, 2005

"Thinking of Scaling Down? Why Not Move to Paris?"
A talk with Virginia Barnes

Very often in their real estate practice, Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine meet sellers who make a classic statement followed by a classic question – “Sure, I’d like to sell my large home and move to a smaller place – but where would I go?” One adventuresome friend of theirs recently answered this question in a most creative and cosmopolitan way – she decided to retire and move to Paris! Virginia Barnes is an artist who had lived in the Bay Area for over 40 years. In 1962, she had attended the Sorbonne and began an ongoing love affair with the City of Light. She returned to Paris several times on vacation, and finally decided to take the big leap and make a permanent move.

She set up base camp in a small rented apartment in the Montmartre district and spent three months searching on her own. For Californians who are used to our real estate system with the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and full disclosure of every detail of every house, the French system is definitely a challenge. There is no such thing as a multiple listing service; the real estate agents only show potential buyers one or two of their own listings – so buyers cannot get an accurate sense of the available inventory. She finally met two Parisian women, Sophie and Michelle, who operate a business helping English-speaking people find and purchase permanent residences. The search began in earnest as they zeroed in on the popular 3rd Arrondissement, referred to as “Le Marais.” From here it is an easy walk to the Seine, the Picasso Museum of Modern Art, the Beaubourg Museum, historic buildings, trendy restaurants, cafes and bookstores. With the help of Sophie, who wore jeans and rode her bicycle through the area to look at apartments, Virginia located a charming pied-a-terre on a quiet street filled with light, high ceilings, wonderful moldings, a charming interior courtyard, and full-time cheerful concierge.

It is customary in Paris for previous owners to remove all light fixtures, cabinets, and kitchen appliances; in other words, the interior is essentially stripped bare. Sophie and Michelle, following Virginia’s detailed instructions, took over the task of replacing the kitchen appliances & cabinetry and the painting and general renovation of the interior. The appliances and fixtures were chosen by shopping in stores and on the internet and Virginia was delighted with the results. She loves watching the light patterns move throughout the rooms during the day. She takes time listening to nearby church bells or watching her neighbors stroll with their cute dogs. She admits that her place is compact but like many other Parisians who live in small spaces, most socializing is done in cafes or wonderful city parks.

Virginia spends her days doing art projects and ikebana arrangements, exploring not only her own but the many other fascinating neighborhoods of Pairs and visiting the latest exhibitions. In addition to the more famous museums, there are over twenty that do not charge admission. Also, every few months the movie theaters have a “special” where one pays the normal price for a movie, then the next three days movies cost just three euros (roughly $4) each. She talks about her amazing social life in Paris where there are exciting things to do on a daily basis. She belongs to an on-going conversation group of half French-speaking women and half English-speaking women. They have a lot to talk about - travel, the latest exhibitions, new restaurants and the most avant-garde trends.

Virginia is happy with her decision to retire and simplify her life. She is not burdened by enormous household responsibilities but rather, she can spend time doing what matters to her the most. She realizes that she is living in a city whose artistic and cultural heritage is rich and whose people value highly beauty and artistic expression of all kinds. She has begun a new entrepreneurial adventure where she leads English-speaking visitors on walks to visit the various contemporary galleries and unique shops found throughout “Le Marais”. If you are interested in obtaining more information, you may email Virginia directly at treedahlia@att.net. To learn more about how to move from your larger home to something smaller (preferably right here at home!) you can contact Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine.

To learn more about how you may visit La Gue de la Roche, go their website at www.domaineduGuedelaRoche.net or contact Sheila Sabine directly to view an extensive photo album of this fabulous paradise.

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please contact Glass/Sabine by email:  Sheila@GlassSabine.com
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