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From Survival to Success in the City of Light! Part I

Website splashpage for the Adrian Leeds Group's Après-Midi

Note: Today’s Nouvellettre® is Part I of a synopsis of 28 years of life in France…so take your time, or break it into bits to digest it easier! Next week will be Part II!

Tomorrow at our monthly coffee gathering, “Après-Midi,” I’m the speaker. That’s only happened a couple of other times since we began the networking event in 2003. Over the years we’ve provided a venue for a broad range of fascinating and enlightening speakers on a cornucopia of topics. (You can look back at all of them by visiting our site.)

Attendees at a former Après-Midi event

The forum was designed as a way for our readers and clients to meet one another, meet me, offer a venue to promote those in our American community who are doing interesting things, and give something back to the community (it’s free)…but not for me to have a platform. The reason I’m speaking is a way of celebrating my 70th birthday this week and my 28 years in France. They have flown by faster than I ever imagined, yet filled with a rich tapestry of memorable events. As part of the fun, Chez Omar next door has agreed to provide us with a “plateau de desserts”—a platter of Moroccan pastries of which all can partake.

The plan is for me to reflect back on those 28 years of living in France—the topic being “From Survival to Success in the City of Light!”…how I got to where I am today…from moving to France on a whim with my family, through a challenging divorce that left me virtually penniless, to finding my true path helping people create their own new and best lives in France.

It’s been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, with a whole lot more ups than downs. I would never have had the same life, or even close, if I had stayed in Los Angeles—married, working in the advertising and marketing industry with a partner in our own firm. I would never have met so many wonderful people, traveled to so many beautiful and interesting places, learned another language or culture, or realized my own capabilities, strengths or weaknesses. In effect, France made me who I am today, for which I am very grateful.

In order to pull together my presentation, the first thing I did was to create a timeline of events. Even that was quite a task, and am certain a lot has been inadvertently omitted, but it served as a basis so that the memories would flow back easily…but not just the memories of the events themselves, but of the emotions associated with those events and how each event was significant to the next. This is how memoirs are built.

About seven years ago, I started to write the memoir at the request of a literary agent. I wrote a book proposal, worked with editors, submitted it to publishers and unfortunately got rejected. That sent me back to the drawing board, but free time to write it had run out. It’s in the drawer now, waiting to come out of hiding at some point in the future.

When, you ask? Not a clue. Life’s path is like a stream of water flowing downhill. When it hits a rock or something in its path, it veers off in another direction. That how I view life and have never planned too far in advance nor created expectations, allowing that path to take its own natural and organic course.

For those of you who can’t attend Après-Midi, the following is a glimpse of the highlights of my adventure in France and how I went from moving to France to the little “empire” that was built over the last 28 years. This is Part I. Part II will be published in next Monday’s Nouvellettre®, so stay tuned.

Let’s start at the beginning:


The first time I came to France was August of 1979 with my not-yet husband on a two-month tour of Europe. Our plan was to drive all the way into Israel, and we did, but when I arrived in Paris, I immediately felt at home and didn’t want to leave. We did leave, of course, as was the plan, but then began traveling to Paris every year, after having spent about eight months in Tel Aviv, getting married that year and then having a child five years later.


We really got to know Paris over the years with many visits, so when my advertising business was at an all-time low, earning no money anyway, the idea to try living one year in the City of Light grew very bright. We sold our L.A. home (taking a big loss in a down market) and cars, put our belongings in storage, packed our bags, and landed in Paris on September 4, 1994, having rented a furnished three-bedroom apartment in the 17th arrondissement.

That was a shock: moving into a 1,400 square foot run-down apartment with dingy carpets furnished with old family “heirlooms,” having come from a five-year-old five-bedroom 3,000 square foot contemporary home in Los Angeles. It might have been depressing for many, but exhilarating for us as every moment was a new adventure.

Our daughter, Erica, started in a bilingual school across town, kicking off a barrage of culture shock. I could write a tome just about our experience crossing the educational cultural divide, Erica coming from a progressive Los Angeles experience to a rigid, academic one in Paris. My advice to all parents enrolling their American-educated children in French schools is to be sure to give them the American side of the equation so that they don’t end up losing their optimism, resourcefulness, or open-mindedness. (Let’s leave this for another time!) Erica did survive it and amazingly was advanced a full year by her first teacher thanks to her excellent math skills, even without knowing a word of French!

Logo for WICENot long after settling in, we discovered the Anglophone organization WICE and became members. That was the smartest move we could make. We met a lot of people, made lots of friends, and as a result, I took on two important volunteer roles: as coordinator of their French-English conversation group and as their PR Director. As PR Director, I met the “movers and shakers” of the American community—the publishers and authors of various English publications and books and the influencers. That was a major step in the right direction. At the same time, I was learning French the non-classroom way in the conversation group and gaining a foundation that would serve me well in the future. Little did I know that then.


One year went by, and we had no reason to leave and every reason to stay, so we did, fulfilling more of our three-year apartment lease. During those first couple of years in Paris, and thanks to WICE, I met a Web developer who was keen to get WICE a website. This was 1995 to 1996 when the Web was in its infancy and every course was uncharted. She and I proposed and created WICE’s first website.

The cover of the Adrian Leeds guide to Paris restaurantsMy husband and I spent a lot of our time exploring restaurants and became very clued in on how to eat like a king on a pauper’s budget. In 1996, the Web developer and I had an idea to publish a PDF version of a Paris restaurant guide to sell online. That summer, I wrote the Leeds Good Value Guide to Paris Restaurants and we published it online in the fall. It was the first of its kind and took off like a rocket. That was just the beginning as we subsequently created eight more guides like it about Paris, written by other authors, that we published and sold. It was the first time I’d earned any money since moving to France and it was welcome as my savings were dwindling.


Meanwhile, things at home weren’t harmonious. They hadn’t been for a long time, but when having to choose between moving to France or divorcing my husband, I chose France. Living in France didn’t fix our broken relationship as we might have thought, and instead, it imploded. In February of 1997, our third year in France, it all came to a “head” over artichokes (we’ll leave that story for my memoir) and we separated with a bang. For five months we slept in different rooms in the same apartment and barely spoke to one another. While I had to readjust my self-image (Sadie, Sadie is no longer the married lady), I had the love of Paris to thank for keeping me sane.

Our lease was ending at the end of the summer, so I had to decide to either stay in Paris or return to Los Angeles (or move elsewhere in the U.S.). I had a visitor visa without the right to work. After almost three years in Paris with no income, I had spent my entire savings and my only possessions were a collection of fine art photographs on the walls of our Paris apartment, my clothing and personal effects. Erica chose to stick with me. This was a crucial period in our lives—a crossroads that would mean a very important decision for our futures.

At WICE, one of the women volunteers there asked, “Are you leaving or staying?” I answered, “I’d stay if I found an apartment.” Prior to that, I had been looking at rental apartments night and day, coming up empty-handed. She replied, “I have an apartment to rent. Actually, it’s my daughter’s, but she’s getting a divorce and needs to rent it. Yes, it’s two bedrooms and yes, the rent fits your budget.”

“Can I see it?” I asked.

“Sure, tomorrow,” she answered.

That was the first time I climbed the 70 steps to the apartment on rue de Saintonge and immediately it felt like home. “I’ll take it,” I said, and signed a lease to start August 27th, 1997.

The winding stairway to Adrian's apartment on rue de Saintonge

At the same time, the Web developer with whom I had worked earlier offered me a job as an Account Executive to develop a client base for her. I took the job and created a U.S. company from which I could work and get paid. It was a work-around for the time being, considering my visitor status in France.

That summer, Erica and I flew to Los Angeles and spent two months in a friend’s unoccupied apartment generously given us for our time there. We realized while we were there that there was no way for us to realistically move back to the U.S. once we saw metal detectors at the entry to Erica’s potential schools, the lack of courses in foreign languages, the high price of everything (!), the fact that my life would consist primarily of driving her to school and back and the lack of a job. We both agreed we wanted to continue living in France.

Those two months in L.A. were crucial. It was during this time that my husband and I negotiated our divorce. It was stressful, challenging and filled with emotion. With the help of an old friend living in Southern California, we were able to mediate and come to a settlement, saving us both a fortune in legal fees and years of conflict. On August 26th, the divorce papers were signed and Erica and I were on a flight to Paris—awarded first-class seats thanks to Air France upgrading us for no reason whatsoever—like a gift from heaven at the perfect moment. I’ll never forget that glass of champagne I drank before take-off, celebrating with Erica the end of that married life and the beginning of a new one…but again, in Paris.

From the flight, we went straight to rue de Saintonge from Charles de Gaulle Airport, waited for the movers to bring the boxes up those 70 stairs and spent our first night alone together, exhausted but happy. That week, Erica began school in the neighborhood as the only “double American” and I started work with the Web developer. Our new life had begun.


While soliciting new clients for Web development in 1998, I met the director of Berlitz Champs Elysées Language School, who I immediately liked—Elisabeth Crochard. I told her I had an idea to start a French-English conversation group, and explained that I needed a lot of small rooms that could seat six people, which was exactly of which the Berlitz offices consisted. She quickly answered, “You just found it.” Just one month later, our conversation group named “Parler Parlor” kicked off with over a hundred attendees, having sold almost as many one-year memberships! It was a huge success and we were thrilled!

Adrian Leeds with Elisabeth Crochard

Adrian with Elisabeth Crochard at Parler Parlor

When I bought the domain name for the website of the group, “,” I saw that “” was available and bought it, too, thinking a newsletter under that name would make a great way of communicating with our members. That was the beginning of the “Nouvellettres®,” although this “Franglais” word came much later. As you already know, the Nouvellettres® continue to this day—you’re reading one right this moment!

Log for Parler Paris

Parler Parlor ran two or three times a week for twenty years. For the first 12 years, Elisabeth and I shared the sessions, running them first at Berlitz until she retired from the company, then at various other language schools across Paris. She took it over on her own for the last and final years when my business took too much of my time, leaving none for the group. Thousands of people attended over the years; we all made a lot of friends and learned to speak both French and English. Numerous parties were held during that time and we loved every minute of our time with the members…plus I finally learned to speak French…but, the organic way, not in a classroom! (It only took 20 years!)


When I moved into the rental apartment on rue de Saintonge, I knew from the get-go that the owners might have to sell it. In 1999, they gave me the notice and I went into cardiac arrest. After a couple of years of living in the apartment, I couldn’t imagine uprooting and decided if I could, I’d buy it. They gave me their asking price. I didn’t have a clue if it was a fair price or if I should bargain. All I knew was that I wasn’t leaving! I would have done anything to keep it. This was not a rational decision, but an emotional one. Fortunately, they gave me plenty of time to figure out how I could—if I could borrow the money.

I spent the next nine months talking to advisors and banks in the U.S., only to discover that it was impossible to borrow the money from there for a property in France. Elisabeth came to the rescue and suggested speaking with the British banks that were lending money to foreigners. I applied to two banks: Abbey National and Woolwich. Neither of these exists today, but one denied me and the other accepted me—Woolwich. My agent there was a good-looking young Frenchman named Stéphane Denner, and his boss, Mary Fort, was Irish.


To this day I’m not sure why Stéphane and Mary took the chance on me, as I still had no formal employment in France, but they did, and I bought the apartment in the summer of 2000. That started a beautiful relationship with them and what eventually became BPI, a subsidiary of Crédit Immobilier de France Développement (CIFD). That relationship lasted another 12 years, as they granted many loans to our clients, including an additional four to me! Sadly, Stéphane died at a very young age of cancer before the demise of the bank.


A year later, I got caught in a “political” battle between the Web developer and her husband over the business operations. At 8:15 a.m. on a Sunday morning in April 2001, her husband called me in a tizzy and in a nano-second I quit my job of more than three years which had enabled me to live and work in France, as well as obtain the mortgage to buy the apartment. It was a serious upheaval in my life, having just committed to the purchase of the apartment.

Again without thinking, I grabbed at an opportunity to create my own company with a British man living in the South who had a fairly big presence on the France internet scene—a man named Tony T. We called the company “Chez Frog.”

Together we started “French Property Digest,” an online publication about real estate that was selling fairly well. But, Tony turned out to be a shyster, and after doing his part of the work for only a couple of weeks, he found someone to whom he could turn over his work and a large part of the company. I wanted out, but Tony wasn’t going to make it easy. This was a guy who carried the “Art of War” like his bible and secretly loved using it to ruin anyone in his path. After six months of negotiation, every day speaking to an attorney, I was finally able to walk away without the company, but with a few shekels—not even enough to cover the legal fees, but at least I was free at last!

I was a frightened wreck that summer worrying about my financial situation. I had no job, no income, a mortgage to pay and a child to support. My nights were sleepless. I saw doctors, psychologists and friends. I tried anti-depressants. Nothing was working. Then, one day my daughter said to me, “Do you know who you are? Do you not realize what you are capable of?”

That hit me right between the eyes. She was always so wise—so beyond her age in wisdom, and she was right. I took a deep breath and started doing anything I could to create opportunities for work and earning money. That’s when opportunity knocked and the door opened wide.

Michelle Sedita from Opportunity Travel called me from Florida. She and her team were responsible for putting together a conference in Paris in September on behalf of International Living. I was recommended to her by Bob Bishop who published a monthly magazine named Paris Voice because I had written an article for it about the process of buying my Paris apartment. Michelle wanted to know if I could speak at the conference.

Michelle Sedita of Opportunity Travel

Michelle Sedita

“No, Michelle. I don’t really know anything about real estate, but I know people who do.” Carpe diem—seize the day, and I did. I brought in four speakers who talked about immigration, finance, relocating and property. All I had to do was emcee their presentations. It worked brilliantly and went smooth as silk. At the conference, the founder of International Living, Bill Bonner, spoke and then approached me after his talk.

International Living's Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

“I’ve heard about you. I want to open an office here and would like to speak to you about that.”

I thought I was going to pass out from joy. OMG. Could it really be true? And it was. At the very end of 2001, I joined the International Living organization and opened their Paris office. It had been a more than memorable year, including 9-11 which happened just two days after the conference.


Working for International Living was a huge learning curve and the kind of experience and gaining of knowledge one can’t get from taking courses. In March of 2002 I flew to Florida to speak at a conference with about 600 attendees—the first time I’d ever spoken in front of such a large group. I went on so long raving about France that they almost had to get the big hook to take me off the stage. Michelle and her sister, Barbara, were running the whole show. It was exhilarating to be their face for France.

Logo/meme for international living

Wasting no time, we launched our own Living and Investing in France conferences under their umbrella—in Paris and in the U.S. We did a dozen or more over the next few years. Meanwhile, I was writing articles for them daily. They purchased mailing lists to add to my own list, so at one time my newsletters were going to about 80,000 subscribers, still under the name of “Parler Paris,” but the property publication had become “French Property Insider” after I left Tony T. and Chez Frog.

Attendees at a Living and Investing conferenece in New Orleans

As a result of our writing about real estate, our readers asked for help to buy property in Paris. What did I know about it? Nothing, but I found someone who did and hired a young guy who could search for properties for our readers/clients. Jocelyn Carnegie was the spitting image of Hugh Grant, smoked like a chimney and wore out his shoes running around town. His work was the beginning of our success as property finders.

Jocelyn Carnegie speaking at a Living and Investing in France conference

Jocelyn Carnegie

Bill Bonner got wind of it and wanted to test the rental market. On his and the company’s behalf, we found two properties for the company to purchase, renovate and rent short-term—one in the 6th on rue Mazarine and one in the Latin Quarter on rue de la Huchette. I brought in a short-term rental manager to oversee the operations and used my contractor to do the renovation. They were both successful vacation rentals, even long after I left the company.

That year, Erica went to college in New York, leaving my nest very empty. I discovered Eckhart Tolle’s philosophies and The Power of Now. Better than any anti-depressant, learning to live in the present was one of the most valuable lessons I had ever learned in life. It gave me incredible power to remove fear from my psyche and move forward without reserve. On the wall in front of my desk, I posted a photo of the engraving on the National Mall in Washington, DC of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s phrase from his 1933 inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is…fear itself” so that I gazed at it every single day and took it seriously to heart.


Our readers responded to our missives and wanted to meet for a coffee when they came to town. We got so many letters that my assistant, Schuyler Hoffman, and I decided to start a coffee gathering at 3 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month. We called it “Après-Midi.” The perfect venue was an Internet café close by called “The Web Bar.” It went very well as about 20 people showed up. The Web Bar went out of business not long after so we relocated to the Café de la Mairie, where it is held to this day! Since the beginning, I have missed only one event (due to illness) and we added speakers a few years later to enhance our experience. That was the best move we ever made.

Schuyler Hoffman in the window of his apartment in Paris while he worked with Adrian Leeds

Schuyler Hoffman in the window of his apartment in Paris

Special note: Schuyler Hoffman is still working with us after all these years—he produces these Nouvellettres® three times a week from his Washington State home.


The publisher of International Living was a woman who was jealous of our Paris office. She was working from their Waterford, Ireland offices while dreaming of life in Paris. She tried to sabotage us from every angle to move me out and move herself in. After three years of learning the ropes, I realized she needed me more than I needed her and in September of 2004, the day after a conference we ran in Washington, DC, I quit International Living and took all my possessions with me—Parler Paris and French Property Insider along with all the subscribers. Having learned HTML coding from the Web developer, I built my own websites and launched nine sites under different domain names. Leaving International Living was not easy, but getting out from under the oppression of the then-publisher, was liberating. I could finally do what I wanted to do without criticism or reserve.


The property-finding business was doing well and we were finding ways of staying afloat. The idea was to keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually reaching a reasonable plateau. We hosted six conferences that year in Paris, New Orleans, San Francisco and New York. That kept us very busy!


Property in Paris was increasing in value so fast that by 2006, BPI offered me an equity release loan to buy two properties for investment purposes: a small studio on rue Charlot and a “viager” in my own building. The studio was a tiny jewel of 16.5 square meters that needed complete renovation. My contractor who had done a lot of work in my own apartment took on the job as did the mother of my daughter’s dearest friend, who was a mosaic tile artist. Together, the two of them cut the facets of the diamond to perfection. I called it “Le Provençal,” having decorated it in every shade of Provençal colors (yellow, orange, green, lavender) and giving it a “patina” so that it oozed with romantic charm.

The viager apartment before renovations

The viager apartment before renovations

We offered it for rent and that was the beginning of a budding, but lucrative short-term rental business. We called it Parler Paris Apartments and began to represent the apartments our clients purchased for their own limited use. Le Provençal, of the 35 we ended up representing, generated more income per square meter than any other apartment and had an occupancy rate of 80% which is very high by industry standards. Its success can be attributed to its location in the Marais, three big windows. lots of light, great use of space, and charming decor, in spite of it being on the third floor without a lift.

This was the year, too, when Pie Town Productions approached me to tape a House Hunters International episode for the first time. The director was a woman who didn’t love her job and hadn’t spent much time in France. We didn’t get along, especially when she wanted to take 30 minutes in between taping to eat a sandwich and I insisted that instead we behave like humans in France, sit down and have a nice lunch before getting back in front of the camera. Fortunately, I won the battle, the productions were turned over to another producer, Leopard Films, and to date, I’ve taped 51 episodes, more than any other single agent!!

From the first House Hunters International episode with Adrian Leeds

From the first House Hunters International episode


The viager was another story—so big a story that I wrote ten chapters about it and that’s what got the literary agent so excited. A viager is a life annuity property that has benefits for both seller and buyer, with a risk for the buyer, but a potentially large gain. When I discovered the tiny apartment on the fourth floor of Stairwell A in my own building (with a lift), with a 14 square meter terrace, I had a “coup de coeur” and had to have it, viager or not.

The owner had died, but he wasn’t the viager—the viager was still alive, but living where I didn’t know. The relatives of the owner didn’t want to pay the inheritance taxes on it, so it had gone into the hands of the State—the DNID (La Direction Nationale d’Interventions Domaniales). My negotiations were with this government agency and that took time— two years to be exact, but I bought it for a song, even though I didn’t have the rights of usage, and there were many assets tied to it that were impossible to visit. With the 22 square meter apartment came a closet in the hall, a “Chambre de Service” (servants’ quarters) and two cellars. The only thing I had seen was the main apartment, with open beams, skylights, and the glorious terrace. No one had keys and it was illegal for me to break in. But, I knew what I had and the price was a bargain. I had also borrowed the money from BPI, so the investment was small.

According to my records on file, someone introduced me to Martine di Mattéo this year, although she and I are absolutely certain that it was much earlier than 2007 when we met. The someone said, “You need to know each other,” and he was right. Martine had just come out of Interior Design school, but that was after she had been successful in related industries (window display, etc.) working in the United States. When I saw her drawings of classic French interiors, I knew she would get along very well with our clients. We also had an immediate affection for one another. Martine is a big reason for our success over the years because her interior design talents are incomparable to others. She is the best at what she does, and it shows in the beautiful properties she turns out…with a lot of creative talent, sweat and muscle. While our competitors have tried to steal her away from us, we remain loyal to one another.


Fractional ownership became popular in Paris in 2008. A developer of these properties from Denver employed us to find two that would fit this idea. He bought them, renovated them and sold them as 12 shares, with each owner having one month of usage. Then, I came upon a property in the Place des Vosges I couldn’t let go of, like a dog with a bone. It was an 81 square meter two-bedroom apartment on a courtyard that had once been a barn, then a carriage house then a garage and now a residence with 400 years of history. A client of ours wanted to buy it, but not take on the massive renovation. Instead, I found investors willing to develop it as a Fractional Ownership property.

We called it “Le Palace des Vosges.” This was 2008 and the world was in a financial crisis. It was bad timing as so many people lost so much money in the stock markets, that they didn’t have extra money for a fraction of a property in Paris. We almost canned the project, which meant taking the loss of the 10 percent deposit put down on the property. But, we didn’t. Martine and her crew set out to renovate it and prepare it for usage starting in 2010.

Adrian Leeds and Martine di Matteo at the completion of Le Palace des Vosges

Adrian and Martineat the completion of Le Palace des Vosges

the finished Palace des Vosges fractional ownership property

Palace des Vosges

That year, the dollar to the euro was $1.50. Living in France on U.S. dollars was very expensive, but my banker buddies at BPI had some bright ideas. Stéphane and Mary took me to lunch and said, “Now’s the time to take a loan to buy a property in New York for your daughter. Based on the increase value of your three Paris properties, we’re pretty sure we can get you another mortgage.”

They were so right, and so I did. The first apartment we tried to buy was in a co-op building in the West Village in which a friend who had told me about the apartment for sale lived. It suited us and we started the process to get board approval. Six months down the road, the co-op board denied our application. The seller was seriously upset as were we, and we were left empty-handed. The boards aren’t required to disclose why we were denied, but my guess is that first, we were “foreign” buyers being based in France and second, the person living in the apartment would be a 22 year-old. I suppose they just didn’t realize what kind of a mature 22-year-old they had!


We had to start all over again to find a property in New York. Luckily, we found a good agent and I gave her only the four days I was in New York to come up with the perfect property. Our requirements: studio or one bedroom, Soho or West Village, at the price of the mortgage I was able to get based on the dollar value. Maryann worked hard and found the perfect “pied-à-terre” for us—a large studio in a building that dated back to 1897 just a block from the Christopher Street Subway Station in the West Village with a perfect view of the Empire State Building. We walked in, took one look and I said, “I’ll take it.” The board was lenient and we had no trouble getting approval. Erica moved in that fall and thought she had died and gone to heaven.

Adrian Leeds and daughter, Eric, in New York city

Adrian with Erica at her college graduation in New York

View from Adrian and Erica's apartment in New York City

A few shares of Le Palace des Vosges sold in advance of the final inauguration in September 2009, then little by little over the next five years, the shares were sold and the owners took possession. It was the first and last Fractional Ownership property project in our portfolio for many years to come, but ultimately it was worth it, especially the knowledge of how to do it successfully that came with it.

Two years after purchasing the viager, I set out to find the viager himself so that I could buy his rights of usage and create another short-term rental property. With a bit of investigation, I found the elderly gentleman’s nephew living not far from Bordeaux and took a trip to the area on Easter weekend with a friend. We located his house, bearing a bouquet of flowers, but no one was home. A nosy neighbor spied us from her window canvassing the house. When I saw her, I rang her bell and explained that I was a friend of the family wanting to say hello and would she please give them the flowers and a personal note.

That did the trick. The nephew called me, we negotiated a price for the rights and we set the wheels in motion to turn over the property lock, stock and barrel to me. When I finally saw the other assets—the closet, the servants’ quarters (only eight square meters, but with two windows) and the two cellars—I was thrilled to say the least! I couldn’t wait to turn it into an even brighter jewel than Le Provençal.

Le Provencal

Le Provencal

Meanwhile, thanks to the financial crisis, our company spent one full year without a single client purchasing a property. We were fortunate, however, that our clients who had purchased their own “pied-à-terres” in the past years to use part of the year and rent the rest of the year were doing well and we were surviving, now representing about 35 luxury short-term rental apartments, almost all of which had been renovated and decorated by Martine. We had developed quite a good name on the vacation rental scene.

Just when it seemed we would survive the financial crisis, in November of 2009, all hell broke loose when an agency owner issued an APB to the entire world that the “City of Paris was cracking down on short-term rentals.” According to the article, the laws on the books made renting of secondary residences illegal if less than one month. Everyone in the industry was shocked. No one knew about it —not the Notaires, nor the lawyers, nor the agencies. Forty agencies met to discuss the problem and a federation to fight it was created. The city wasn’t yet enforcing the laws, so for the moment, all we had was a level of worry, but we changed nothing about the way we were doing business…not until we were forced to.

Screenshot of the article about the crackdown on vacation rental apartments in Paris


I decided to call the viager “La Paris Plage” and themed the decor as if it were seaside, instead of Saintonge-side. Martine helped me choose the drapery fabrics. My mosaic artist friend, Véronique, was brought in to create Paris by the sea in tile…everywhere! The renovation took one year and three contractors—the first one went belly-up midstream costing me a pretty penny, the second one created more problems than were necessary, so I fired them and the third one, my regular and back-pocket guy, came through to finish it on time for renting. We gutted it and found newspapers from the 1950s used as insulation, then completely reconfigured the space adding a commissioned artist’s painting to the wall behind the bed of the real Paris Plage, changing all the windows and adding air-conditioning. The servants’ quarters became a second bedroom with toilet (“sani-broyeur” macerating toilet) and sink.


The amazing terrace for La Paris Plage

The interior of La Paris Plage in Paris

It was quite the jewel and I imagined myself retiring to it to enjoy the elevator in the building and the large terrace. In my mind, Erica could live in our bigger apartment as an adult while I retreated to the Paris Plage in my old age. Meanwhile, the short-term rentals took off like wildfire and it stayed as well booked up as Le Provençal. On occasion, I would stay there myself like a vacation get-away just to enjoy the open space.

To be continued…in next week’s Nouvellettre®…

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

AdrianAdrian Leeds, photo by Theodore Robinson, photo by Theodore Robinson

P.S. Part II of this one will be published next Monday! This week and next, I will be traveling in Colombia, South America and to New Orleans. Stay tuned for a report on the travels in the following Nouvellettre® on October 24th.



  1. David W Teche on October 10, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    Bonjour, Adrian! I have not missed an issue of your online publications since we first met, when my ex-wife was doing an internship for you. I can’t tell you how pleased I am for your success over these years, and wish you continued success for as long as you can make it last! Best wishes as you celebrate your 70th birthday!

    Dave T.

  2. Ellen Irion on October 20, 2022 at 12:52 am

    Oh how I enjoyed your moxie! Thanks for sharing your life. P.S. that is a lovely picture of you and your daughter!

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