RadioTMI - April 20, 2014

The RADIO-TMI team just got back from a trip to Paris! Unlike previous trips we decided to rent an apartment, or appartement as they put it. Why? Well, for one we were staying longer than a week. Secondly, there was in our minds the plan to one day spent up to a year in Paris and before committing to such a long-term and presumably not easy to reverse decision I thought it a wise idea to go for a limited period, doing over a short-term many of the things that would be done if we stayed longer. Ie: Buy food, do laundry, cook, clean, etc.

Problem 1 is that I'm rather fussy about where I stay. It had to have a queen sized bed. The toilet had to be in the unit, same with the shower. It had to be quiet, convenient, secure, clean, the list goes on. What I was willing to accept was:
1)     It would probably be old and creaky.
2)     Elevators would be a luxury
3)     Forget air conditioning
4)     It wouldn't be cheap.

Turns out the old and creaky wasn't a problem, except in the middle of the night but then only because the warping in the 300 year old wooden floor made walking to the toilet in the dark a bit like crossing the deck of a sailing ship during swells. The place was air tight so it wasn't drafty and it wasn't loud, just the sort of groaning old steps do. Moreover the noise was rather oddly isolated to only one portion of the unit with the rest being both relatively flat and quiet.

The lack of elevator was only a minor inconvenience, and considering the issue we had on the final night in Paris while staying at a hotel whose conveyance decided to break down, it was a bit of a blessing that we knew long before we got “home” that we'd have to walk up two flights of stairs. That's the other nice thing. The appartement was on the European 2nd floor (3rd floor American). Besides, most broom closets are larger than Paris elevators which resemble tall dumbwaters more than anything for people.

We went in April. I actually expected it would be pouring most of the time. Drizzling. Rainy. Paris in April. Paris in Springtime. You know. They write songs about it. Instead we experienced the sort of weather one doesn't normally find in Canada until late May. Gorgeous, sunny, full bloom spring. Wonderful. And not hot enough that the lack of air conditioning was an issue. In fact, we didn't even bother with the fan.

The appartement wasn't cheap. Ten days, since that's all that was available when we finally decided to commit, cost over $2,000. That was about the same as the air conditioned, elevator, full service hotel in the Latin Quarter that we'd last stayed at. But the unit had all the amenities and as I said it was a dry run for staying longer. Also, there was three of us so all things considered a pretty sweet deal.

I'm going to give you the address of the appartement. For one because that information is available on-line at the website you'd book it from. Two, because before we actually arrived at the place and were shown in I wasn't entirely convinced it wasn't an internet scam and we'd be scrambling at the last minute to find a place to stay in Paris. I'm hoping that by putting this information here I'm giving some future renter comfort and confidence.

The address is: 21 rue Jean Beausire, Paris, 75004.

Again, I don't worry about revealing this because as I said the entrance is fully secured to an interior courtyard as are most places in Paris. In fact it's double secured because there's another access code inside the foyer you need just to get into the courtyard. Rest assured, I want to report that the place is almost exactly as advertised.

Where it differs is thus:
-   The appartement is smaller than it seems in the photos. In fact, it looks like a realtor took the pics because it's not a very big unit at all.
-   The bedroom is huge. But the wardrobe door hyperextends so the knob almost always bashes into the wall. It's spring loaded so no matter how hard you try you won't catch it all the time.
-   The sofa bed in the living for extra guests is very comfortable, but because the uneven flooring it right there CLEAR OFF ALL BREAKABLES FROM THE TWO SIDE TABLES BEFORE DOING ANYTHING. We didn't and at the slightest nudge a half glass heart shaped decoration skitter off the side table and smashed into a hundred pieces.

-   The pics of the appartement on-line do not include the toilet. I say toilet because that's what they do over there in France. The washroom has a vanity, sink, tub and shower, but where a North American washroom would have the toilet they have a super compact washer/dryer combination. The room has everything you'd need to wash just about everything you could want to wash, although the dishwasher is in the tiny galley kitchen. But the toilet has its own room, with its own sink and the broom closet and that's over by the sofa.
-   The doors. Oy, the doors! The front door is in a very narrow hall to begin with, so why they put a small bookcase right behind it is anyone's guess because you almost never remember that when you open the door, until it bounces back and hits you in the head. The same is true of the toilet room. The angle and placement of the room is such that every time you open the door to the toilet it will not go as far as you'd expect and you'll be dodging it too. Unfortunately these are not uncommon placements for places in Paris so you'll either learn to hold the door as you're opening it to control its swing and avoid bounceback or get hit.

The owner or coordinator for the place is based in Toronto and his proximity is one major reason we went with this rental. There's some comfort knowing the person you're dealing with is near enough that you can sue them through your courts if it comes to that. It didn't, and aside from the fact that Mr. David Toto is often slow to respond, or in the case of my post-rental email, completely unresponsive, the fact is all the details were exactly as he explained. The person you meet on the other end is one half of a very nice retired couple and if you call them from the airport do so with your credit card in the phone because trying it with coins will make you want to hop back on the plane immediately.

As for the rest of it. The place is right near the Bastille (AKA July Column), on a side street off Rue Beaumarche, a hundred metres north of the Beaumarche subway exit by the Flag Café. It has a nice little convenience store right at the end of the little street which sells snacks and beverages (including wine) at reasonable prices, and dozens of places to eat and shop nearby. Best of all is the Place de Vosges park which will truly fill you with the wonders and joys of Paris (don't delay – go there first!). And if you're looking for souvenirs, the south exit from Place de Vosges has a side street shop with some of the best gifts you can imagine, including mini-Parisian street name signs with my name on it (my name hasn't been in fashion in over 20 years so this was a big wonderful surprise to me!).