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road rage

Today, the French government is expected to announce yet another measure to generate additional revenues from drivers.  This administration is setting itself up for a violet backlash, as a large majority of the populace opposes, as do many legislators and citizen groups, and they’re organizing.  If The speed limit is dropped from 90 km an hour to 80 km an hour on the départemental (meaning, the greatest network of roads in the country) it will be seen purely as another way to draw more tax money from the populace without doing anything to improve our security.

As exposed in chapter 15 of French License, the revenues from repression have increased exponentially since the introduction of the radar cameras while the mortality on the roads have barely budged and even increased the last four years.

The automobile is already the #1 revenue generator for the French government.  More than income taxes, and way more than corporate taxes, which are even lower following the €10B shortfall in December from the corporate dividend tax fiasco that happened on Macron’s watch as finance minister.

This may be the last straw.  I’ve never heard people so fed up.  If this government persists in its course, this could be the start of the wave of public opinion against Macron’s administration.  He cannot afford to take that chance, with a dozen major reforms scheduled for this year.

Watch this space for developments.


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Happy Chanukah from Bleu!  Yamika, shmamika.  Bleu knows that any old head covering will do.  And that’s the way Bleu likes to roll, any old way that suits him!

Here’s one tune which always gets him rolling, from Klezmer to funK to Kountry and rocK and back again.  You Kan’t sit still!


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Saint Lucia day

A couple years ago, I’m in Stockholm for a business meeting.  I think my presentation’s going pretty well when someone opens the door, says something in Swedish, and my audience gets up and leaves.

My befuddled look meets the smile of my colleague Urban, who explains it’s Saint Lucy’s day.  “What’s that?” I ask, and he just says to come and see.  This is what I saw:

Here’s wishing you a serendipitous moment of unexpected pleasure this holiday season!

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2017


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now at Foyles

Sure, there are many great places to see in London, but I always return to Charing Cross road.  That area of the city has everything I want.  No matter if I’m in the mood for adventure, fantasy, investigation, a food fetish or planning my next excursion, they have it.  There are at least a dozen specialised book shops.  And then there’s Foyles, the granddaddy of independent bookstores in London.

Friends who live in the big black smoke ask where should we meet, and when I tell them Foyles, they say, “What?  Again?”  Of course.  “Haven’t you already got all the books they sell?”  They keep making more, you see.  And now I’ve contributed to this inexhaustible supply, by writing my own book.  Wouldn’t you know it, Foyles has that, too!

Did that Californian expat ever finally get his French License after 10 years?  Wander down a half-flight of stairs to the travel writing section and find out at the bookstore!

113-119​ ​Charing​ ​Cross​ ​Road,​ ​London​ ​WC2H​ ​0EB

Monday – Saturday 9.30am – 9.00pm
Sunday noon – 6.00pm

+44-20-7437​ ​5660

Foyles welcomes French License

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2017


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now at Stanfords

What’s the first thing you must have before going abroad?  Your passport, of course.  That magical document opens border fences and invites you to delight your senses on the other side!  Here’s a picture of mine:

Stanfords book store in London calls their loyalty card the ‘passport,’ which is completely appropriate.  Travel books and maps are their raison d’être.  That’s what they do exclusively.  All six floors of an historic Covent Garden building are cheek by jowl with everything travel-related.  Every destination is covered, and all means of transportation.  The basement maritime section and charts are phenomenal.  A couple times I’ve been so absorbed, staff have had to ask me to leave.  “Closing?  Now?  But I’m in the middle of the South Pacific!”

Can you think of a more appropriate place for my travel memoir French License ?  Sure, my adventure isn’t quite as harrowing as that of fellow Stanford patron Ernest Shakelton, but it sure felt like it!  We both got out alive, and now my grind is your guffaw.  Check out French License, and while you’re at it, pick up a map and a guidebook.  Those pesky travel destinations keep building new roads and restaurants!


tube Covent Garden or Leicester Square

12-14 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LP

open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. nearly every day

+44 20 7836 1321


© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2017


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Parler Paris cracked up by permit boy

I seem to cause trouble wherever I go, even when I’m not there…

This time, veteran expat blogger and Parisian property expert Adrian Leeds “laughed out loud” in her stylish nail salon while reading my book French License.  No doubt this caused a ruckus in that refined setting, a splattering of glitter and perhaps dremel damage.  I’m dreadfully sorry.

The incident has hit the front page of her Parler Paris newsletter today.  Now the whole town knows.

Look for Adrian on House Hunters International episodes on HGTV.  She’s the one with nail polish spills up to her elbow.  It’s all my fault.

Perhaps she’ll forgive me if I speak at one of her upcoming gatherings. Stay tuned for details in the new year…

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2017


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Although Bleu didn’t come over on the Mayflower, he snuck in under a pilgrim chapeau on a subsequent trip.  He was fleeing persecution for his beliefs, which are “I get whatever I want, whenever I want.”  Thanksgivingly, his new home has enabled Bleu to live his lifestyle choice to the fullest.

For your reading pleasure, here’s an article which appeared this week in the USA Today with a picture from fellow author and expat Jeff Steiner:

Thanksgiving in Europe: Good luck finding a turkey and all the trimmings


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French License how-to

My book French License isn’t a how-to. It’s a humorous memoir about an expat trying to cope abroad. Half the book is about other funny things that happened along the way.
However, going through the experience the hard way has made me a bit more knowledgeable than the average California bear.  So, I’ve been asked to give presentations to fellow expats who are just as stuck as I was, and looking desperately for solutions.  Do I exaggerate ?  A few stats about the process:

‘Code’ written test has a lower pass rate than the NY bar exam

Costs more than 2 new iPhones

Takes longer than the Voyager 1 trip to Saturn

A good dozen people attended my presentation « Getting your French Driver’s License » last night at the American Library in Paris.  There were horror stories, and a glimpse of hope from some who were approaching the grail.
I’m happy to share the PDF of the presentation for those who couldn’t make it.  Simply add your e-mail below, and let me know you’d like a copy.

© Copyright Joe Start. All rights reserved. © 2017


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