While spending the summer in Paris as a law student, Mimi Chiang told her daughter she'd one day like to own a piece of this romantic city. But once she arrives with her two kids, property search consultant Adrian Leeds has a message that could threaten 10 years of dreaming. Homes in her $1 million budget are scarce. And most likely, they will need some work, especially if she wants the classic French style. Will she settle for small or spend thousands over her budget to create the vision she's clung to for years? Find out when House Hunters International walks the romantic streets of Paris, France.
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Bonjour French Property Insider Subscriber,
96 year old Gertrude BeermanTujague's barChez Omar in Paris
Tujague's Steven LatterLiving and Investing in France seminar at Tujagues's
Allison Gorlin provides local entertainment for seminar attendeesThe battle to save Tujague'sFamily dinner at Tujague's
As I write this, I am winging my way to "La Nouvelle Orléans," home of jazz, the "po-boy" sandwich and my family. It is here where we are celebrating my mother's 96th birthday (July 13th) -- a vital, healthy woman who still lives alone (in her three-bedroom house), drives her own car (claims to fill it with gas and wash it herself, too) and still volunteers at a nearby hospital as a salesperson in their boutique (her second job of 26 years as a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House just ended).
Growing up with New Orleans' French heritage and my love of France don't really have anything in common, except that French influences were all around me, from the cuisine, to the architecture and to the names of the streets. I grew up on "Fleur de Lis Drive," as a kid played games on the "banquette" (sidewalk) and as a treat with coffee, we ate "beignets" (donuts) topped with powdered sugar. The royal symbol of the "fleur de lis" has since become the symbol of New Orleans and it is impossible to avoid seeing it's lovely shape on everything from earrings to salad forks. There are boutiques in the "Vieux Carré" devoted to selling just such items and most New Orleanians fill their homes with Fleur de Lis this or that.
There is a restaurant in New Orleans that was opened in 1856 by a Breton couple named "Guillaume and Marie Abadie Tujague" that is known to be the second oldest restaurant in the city. Located in the heart of the French Quarter on Decatur Street (number 823) across from Café du Monde (the famous coffee and donuts café), it has a zinc bar that is known by both the locals and tourists as one of the city's finest. The atmosphere at Tujague's is like an old fashioned French lunch room, reminiscent (for me) of Chez Omar on rue de Bretagne in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris that I frequent for its good food, fun atmosphere and great ambiance. When I'm there, I can't help but think of Tujague's.
Over the years, Tujague's had several owners, naturally. The most recent, having owned and operated it now for the last 31 years, was a member of my family -- Steven Latter. I say "was," because Steven died suddenly in his sleep without warning at the young age of 64 just this past February.
Steven's mother, Beaulah Latter, and my mother, Gertrude Beerman, were first cousins and best friends their entire lives. Over the years, the two ladies spent many a good time and meals together at Tujague's. We all did. The Thanksgiving after Hurricane Katrina caused its havoc on the city, Tujague's re-opened its doors as quickly as possible and we gathered in a private room for a family dinner of their famous brisket of beef, shrimp remoulade salad and fried soft shell crabs.
The following May, our company held one of our most successful Living and Investing in France Conferences. I had asked Steven if we could have one of his private rooms in which to hold the event and he responded, "Dahlin', anything you want!"
In one of the large dining rooms on the upper level, our attendees contended with a bit of uncomfort sitting all day on the bentwood chairs, but not complaining because so much else was so perfect. When the coffee breaks came, the waiters would come with fresh-brewed coffee and chicory along with large trays of fresh-fried beignets from Café du Monde coated with mountains of powdered sugar. Steven and his crew of waiters, most of whom had worked at Tujague's many years, made us feel right at home.
Meanwhile, Steven Latter became one of the French Quarter's most well-known characters. A robust guy with a surly look on his face, he would sit on a chair at the back of the bar surveying the scene, smoking a cigar and commenting dryly on the conversation at hand. In later years, his son, Mark began working in the restaurant with him as a co-manager. When he died so suddenly, we all assumed Mark would take over for his father and everything would just go on as normal...until the rumors started flying.
As it turns out, Steven's brother, Stanford, owned the property, leasing it to the restaurant. How the rumors started, I don't know, but within 48 hours of his untimely death, it was thought that the ancient brick building would be sold to another New Orleanian businessman named Mike Motwani, who ran touristy T-shirt shops. And selling fried chicken. This is when the city went wild! Rumors that Tujague's would end up no different than the dozens of junky stores and would no longer be feeding locals and tourists as it had the last 160 years created a huge media event in the newspapers, on radio, on Web sites and even on the evening TV news.
Tujague's was more than just real estate. It was more than just an old building with a zinc bar, a big kitchen and bentwood chairs. This little establishment started by the couple from Bretagne in their new homeland in the 1800's was more than just a place to have a good meal or a drink with friends at the bar. It had, like the Fleur de Lis, become a symbol of the city on which everyone could count and call their own.
For nearly three months, negotiations went on behind closed doors until it was announced that the lease would be renewed and Mark Latter would take over where his father, Steven, had left off. The city rejoiced and so did I. My connection with Tujague's even ran past its threshold to Paris where I came to know a member of the original Tujague family, a close friend of author, Josie Levy Martin ("Never Tell Your Name"), Martine Tujague.
To celebrate Tujague's long life, along with my mother's, my family will be dining there on Bastille Day -- an apropos date, don't you think? And the point to the story is that real estate is more than just a "place" or a "property." Real estate is about life, about home, about who we are and where we come from. It's about something tangible and REAL and something on which we can depend.
When you consider making a real estate investment in France (or anywhere, for that matter), don't just think of it as an "investment." Think of it as a change in your lifestyle, your view point and your future. Do not take this decision lightly as it will surely affect the rest of your life...and others' for that matter!
P.S. There are ONLY three shares left to call your own at fractional property in Paris, Le Palace des Vosges. If you want to own a share at the city's best address and most beautiful place, visit Le Palace des Vosges for more information or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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