Underground Parking

By Alan Tillier
A recent comment by a leading American lawyer in Paris that British laws firms had gained "a certain ascendancy" in the French M&A market seemed confirmed by the switch of senior partner Jacques Buhart, who has spent several decades at Coudert Freres, the oldest US law firm in Paris, to British firm Herbert Smith as partner in charge of the corporate and competition department, ie dealing with EU competition commissioner Mario Monti in Brussels. Smith is now a force in M&A in Paris and Europe and works closely with  Gleiss Lutz in Germany and Stibbe in both Belgium and the Netherlands. Buhart says the "ruling" Coudert Freres partners in New York frowned on international expansion. He will be taken around five M&A lawyers with him from Coudert on the Champs Elysees to nearby Herbert Smith on Rue Quentin Buhart.

News from the South:  Nice says it expects two million visitors between July and October. So the Visitors Bureau (
www.nicetourism.com) is introducing  new services, called NiceCom.  It will be possible to transmit information and images from a single location and at the same time to plasma screens, cells phones and PDAs in various tourist spots: airport terminals, hotels organisations, the Riviera Tourist and Convention Board and visitor bureau's six reception offices--and later other tourist centers in France including Paris Disneyland and Futuroscope. There are many other idea for extending the service. Visit the site or contact Cote d'Azur Developpement:

More Riviera notes: California property tycoon David Stein who has taken a liking to Europe in recent years(Blakes Hotel in Amsterdam, Grand Hotel Miramar in Barcelona and  and the Grand Hotel Son Net in Majorca) also has the Chateau Eza, Eze Village(www.chateza.com) The castle-like property clings to the walls of Eze. Each of the ten rooms and suites can be reached via roofed stone passageways and most rooms have great views. Chateau Eza. In addition: indoor glass dining room and several outdoor terraces.

The glamorous Meurice, the "palace" hotel on the Rue de Rivoli owned by the Sultan of Brunei, is offering guests a tour of artists ateliers in the 6th with the possibility of lunch with the artists at nearby Laduree Rive Gauche or the Mediterranee restaurants. Also in the package, called "Just Between Us", is a shopping trip that takes in  Baumer, the jewellers on Place Vendome, the young couturier Alexandra de Gastines,  Muriel Grateau for tableware and Eric Bergere, another rising couturier. Lunch can be taken at Chez Georges just off Place de la Victoire or Le Caveau du Palais, Place Dauphine. Cost: including two nights (double basis) 1,365 euros or triple room with two tours for 1,890 euros.

Paris underground parking lots have launched a charm campaign--sweet music, smiles and, down in the multi-level parking lot under the Champs Elysees, a machine called the "Segway", an electric scooter type contraption that enables motorists to move around--looking for their vehicle--at 20kph. The reason for all this sudden niceness is that many concessions will be up for renewal and  big groups such as Vinci Park, Epolis Parcs, Sceta Parc (French Railways) and the Dutch Q Park, which dominate the sector, are anxious to win the favor of the authorities handing out new licenses. Vinci has already called on sculptor Daniel Buren and architect Ricardo Bofill to humanize these underground caverns. Other services  being offered here and there are car wash and mending of punctures. And some garages will be scented. All these moves point to the parking lots becoming one day underground commercial centers.

A Paris landmark, the Village Voice book shop in Rue Princesse, 6e, has closed--but just for August. It's the first time the doors have not been open for 20 years and the store will be badly missed, even for this short break, by locals and visitors such as  writers Richard Ford, A.S.Byatt, Susan Sontag and many others.

Official: although the next America Cup yacht race is a long away off, namely 2007, Marseilles has put in a bid to the Swiss  holders. A decision should be reached by the end of the year thus enabling Marseilles, if successful, to go after government money and sponsors.

The Economist claims Paris is the most expensive in the euro-zone, but does not include houses and flat prices. Paris came joint 7th in the world cost-of-living survey--more expensive now because of the strong euro. Paris is usually in the top ten but had dropped when the euro fell. Oslo is Europe's most expensive city, ranked 3rd overall.  The Economist admitted if housing were included, it would have a "big effect" and London would probably be higher than Paris.

Mickey Mouse may be hovering uneasily on the horizon East of Paris--Disneyland attendance and turnover are down while the shares have practically gone through the floor--but Disney executives claim they are not overly worried and deny any plans to close the theme park which is rescheduling its debts. Admittedly, the new film studios section has not taken off--maybe it's the 37 euros entry price--while the older park has few new attractions. But, as one executive said:"The French government, the Walt Disney Company and the Saudi Prince Al Waleed each own a third and they are not going to throw in the towel. Anyway, we are transforming the area surrounding Euro Disney into a version of American suburbia'". Disney has signed big property deals which will see thousands of homes with gardens, clean offices and US style malls. Building is well underway. Said the Disney man:" French visitors, unlike the British, Italians or the Americans at home don't spend on gift items when they are inside the park. But offer them US style malls and things could well change".

Alan Tillier is the main contributor to DK's
Eyewitness Travel Guide To Paris.




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