Levallois-Perret – 31st May

Paris is made up of 20 numbered Arrondissements, each with its own town hall and post office. They are enclosed in the Boulevard Peripherique. Surrounding that are further suburbs, of which Levallois-Perret is to the north-west between the Peripherique and river Seine. We went there to visit my nephew and his wife and baby, who live there, not far from my nephew’s wife’s family.

According to my nephew, Levallois-Perret is the most densely populated town in France. (Wikipedia says that it is one of the most densely populated towns in Europe.) To most people in Harold Wood, that makes it sound like a nightmare, but it’s not like that at all. It was developed quite quickly in the second half of the nineteenth century, on a grid plan like an American city. Even then, buildings of four and five stories were the rule. Many streets have shops on the ground floor and flats above. Land values are high and there is re-development going on in parts of the town, to build even higher, perhaps up to eight stories. New blocks of flats have balconies and roof gardens with plants and the general green impression is enhanced by many parks, which are stocked with more plants and are much more cared for than we are used to in Havering. The sense of community is reinforced by public buildings, such as Catholic and Protestant churches and a spectacular town hall surrounded by gardens. The opulent feel is added to by the presence of dealerships for several luxury car brands

So how can Levallois-Perret afford these things when Havering can not? One factor is that the town has access to property taxes from commercial premises – something that the Thatcher government took away from British towns. Some household names, such as Carrefour and Alstrom have their HQs in Levallois-Perret, which must help.

If those are not enough reasons for you to have heard of Levallois-Perret, there is another – for some decades the Citroen 2CV was made there – so I have a picture of one, taken in the lobby of the Hotel de Ville!

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