As a child, my family piled into the car for a summer beachfront vacation on the shores of Cape Cod. The drive from Chicago was as you might expect when two children and a dog are in the back seat.  The dog often stood between us looking out of the windshield while my brother and I took turns pushing the dog’s butt into the other’s face.  Ahh … youth before the iPad.

Our destination was a grouping of small weathered beachfront cottages in East Sandwich, Mass. Imagine my surprise when I saw that a few of those cottages were for sale.  At two bedrooms and one bath, these 400-square-foot retreats only lasted until teenagerdom made them uninhabitable for four adult-size people. At that point we moved on up to the deee-luxe 700-square-foot model.

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Marathon - View 1

There’s nothing seemingly historic about this duplex penthouse on the 13th and 14th floors of Marathon House, a modern-ish high-rise in London (Map).  Thankfully for someone who loves big views, modern buildings are not the issue in London that it can be in Paris where old almost always beats new.

For those not familiar with Marylebone (pronounced Marla-bone), it’s just north of Mayfair and borders the 410-acre Regent’s Park.  It’s highly residential and lighter on tourists. But as you can see, it’s still quite close to the action. The tall light slightly left is the Shard while slightly right you can see the arc of the London Eye Ferris wheel.  Truly, London is at your feet.

This 4,079-square-foot apartment has four bedrooms and four bathrooms. It’s listed with Simon Tollit and Hannah McDougall of Sotheby’s International Realty for £7,950 million ($9,857 million) which works out to $2,417 per square foot.

I say you’re Sherlock’s neighbor because the closest underground station is Baker Street, which, as fans will recall, is the street Mr. Holmes fictionally lived on … number 221B to be exact. It’s also just down the road from Euston Station, the home of Eurostar where Sharon Quist of Dave Perry-Miller and I alighted from a train to see this beauty (Brits don’t “hop off”).

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Sienna - Exterior Glamor 1

Often we feature homes and apartments intended as getaways, but what about a destination that challenges how we live our lives?  Sure, some fabulously wealthy person could purchase a property like this and simply add it to their portfolio, but the real tug for the rest of us comes from utilizing a property like this as a springboard to alter your life.  You’d still need some serious money or a willing bank, but this property offers a vastly different lifestyle.

Let me explain.  This 12th century fortress compound encompasses 154,139 square feet of interior living space that includes 110 bedrooms, 100 bathrooms, four swimming pools, a chapel, and two fishing lakes (feel free to re-read that). Along with the castle, there are 1,594 acres of rolling farmland of which only a speck is being used for wine grapes and olives.

See what I mean?  This property could change your life in many ways.

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It saddens my heart to report that Charles Freeman, co-founder of the Briggs-Freeman Sotheby’s brokerage firm, has died after losing a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Charles died peacefully Sunday.

Not only was Charles one of the most influential real estate leaders in the city, he was an amazing human being. A fourth generation Dallasite, Charles Freeman watched Dallas grow exponentially during his 46-plus year real estate career and placed his caring hands on that growth.

After Freeman graduated from the University of Oklahoma, he worked for and eventually purchased Claire Gillon Realtors, which then became Charles Freeman Realtors, primarily selling real estate in Park Cities and North Dallas.

In 1993, he merged with Ben R. Briggs Real Estate and formed Briggs Freeman Real Estate Brokerage, where he was president.

Loved by virtually everyone in and out of real estate, his peers elected him a director of the Greater Dallas Association of Realtors Board, a position he held for three years.  In addition, he served as chairman of the Multiple Listing Service, and served for many years on the Standards of Practice Committee. Charles was President Emeritus of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, which has over 125 associates and far reaching global resources.

Charles was also a member of many local charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Dallas where he served on the Advisory board for over 18 years.  He was also an active communicant of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, where he was a member of the Acolyte Corps. Most vitally, Charles was the proud father of four wonderful children, and two step-children from his married to Sarah Freeman: Troy and Jennifer Freeman, Preston Freeman,  Herbie Deer, and Traci Deer Harrell, and stepchildren Clayton Smith and Erin and Stuart Smith.

Charles loved and lived life as abundantly as he sold real estate. A voracious gourmet, he was a member of several local Dallas gourmet groups including the Dallas Knife and Fork Club, as well as a tremendous adventurer: dove hunting, fly fishing, wind surfing, aviation, flying, aerobic planes. Charles also learned to rollerblade in his 60′s!

In an early morning message from his partner, Robbie Briggs said “our dear, sweet Charles has gone to be with the Lord. He will leave us with a huge hole that cannot be filled. We will miss his humor, his friendship, his love, his loyalty, his dignity, his wisdom, his irreverence, his integrity, and his presence.”

To quote long time Briggs-Freeman agent (and friend) Len Bourland:

“In my house are many mansions, now there is one with a Charles Freeman open house sign, and that’s where the fun people are!”

Texas ranger third baseman Adrian Beltre and his wife are real-estate heavy. They have listed for sale a seven-bedroom, 14.25-bath home at 340 Old Ranch Road in Bradbury, northeast of LA, near Pasadena and at the foot of Bliss Mountains.  Don’t gulp: the home is listed for $19.8 million.

The 16,600-square-foot house was built in 2010 in the Rancho Azusa subdivision. Lynwen Hughes-Boatman of Sotheby’s International Realty is the listing agent for the home, and Sotheby’s, of course, is associated with our very own Briggs-Freeman here in Dallas.

It’s a modern, Mediterranean-style number you see way too much of a lot of in LA:  the circular driveway, Corinthian columns for that palatial feel,  35′ custom painted ceiling in the entry, inlaid marble fleurs, over-sized, dripping crystal chandelier after dripping crystal chandelier, & dual sweeping “Gone With The Wind” staircase. There is a  2500 sq-ft guest house (perfect to accommodate a Middle East security force) with 3 beds & 2 baths, and my oh my to be a servant in this home: even the Cabana has a full kitchen with Viking appliances. (To clean all those bathrooms? Maybe I’ll take GE instead.) Besides all the bedrooms and formals and soaring high to the sky ceilings, there is a rec room/batting cage with bathroom, infinity pool, golf greens,  both tennis & basketball courts.

I would seriously market this lickety split to some of the wealthy Egyptians who are escaping right now. Maybe even Hosni Mubarak himself?

Adrian Beltre is currently the third baseman for the Texas Rangers. Previously, he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Seattle Mariners, and the Boston Red Sox. He has won several awards including the Silver Slugger Award in 2004 and the same year was voted second in the National League MVP voting, just behind Barry Bonds. He also received the Fielding Bible Award for being the top MLB defensive third baseman in 2006 and 2008 and the Gold Glove award in 2007. Playing for the Red Sox in 2010, he had 28 home runs, 84 runs scored, and he led the Majors with 49 doubles. No word yet on where he is leasing in north Texas, but I’m sure searching.

And I’ll say he has a home run with this mansion. Cannot help but wonder if he’ll fetch anywhere near $19 million in this market, however. Especially with that furniture…

I caught up with charged-up Briggs Freeman CEO Robbie Briggs for the low down on his new deal with Sothebys. After all, that was all any of us talked about last night at Duxiana. Did Robbie sell out? Is he retiring? What’s the story– inquiring real estate minds want to know all. Well, here’s the deal: last week Robbie and some BF agents were showing homes to 25 very wealthy Chinese citizens along with Mayor Leppert. They want to buy homes, In Dallas. Then there were the New Zealanders who came in to Big D on a private jet, looking at real estate. The point is Robbie Briggs gets it: real estate is going global, and he wants to position Briggs Freeman to be ready for it. So he just invested in more exposure for Briggs Freeman by relinquishing the firm’s Christies Great Estates affiliation and buying into Sotheby’s International Realty.

Did I say buy in? Yes, Robbie made an investment in his company’s future. From now on there will be a fee to Sotheby’s on every BF transaction so that BF can basically “have a guerilla for a partner,” says Robbie. What he means is that Sotheby’s takes those hefty fees BF pays on each transaction and puts them to work developing state of the art technology, computer systems and websites designed to keep BF competitive not just in Dallas, but everywhere, and to bring in those referrals from folks who recognize the quality of the name. BF will have access to a 9000 member company. And here’s how BF listings have already changed: Any home $1.5 million or over goes into an E Gallery shown in every single Sotheby’s office IN EVERY COUNTRY.And get this: all of BF’s graphics have been translated into 15 languages with sales prices posted in 15 languages. And as for language, does anyone speak Mandarin?

“I’ll soon be looking for agents who speak different languages,” says Briggs.

(To be continued)