A Travellerspoint blog

A Month in Paris in Winter

P.S.: Renters Beware

A few after-the-fact words on my experience with renting an apartment in Paris. I have rented apartments in Europe and elsewhere and had excellent results. One company in particular stands out: Parker Villas who rents apartments throughout Italy. I was met by the owner who handed me the keys and a list of suggested restaurants, taxis, emergency numbers, etc. But I have also had a bad experience with JavaVillas where the owner was actually on the premises and hung out with us for a few days, poolside. That was never the plan. There, I had contracted a cook who disappeared and I was never given a refund by the owner or the company. See my previous post: Jamaica: JAVAVILLAS The Bad and the Beautiful.

So when I set out to rent an apartment in Paris, I knew I had to do my homework. Long story short, I used VRBO thinking I was going to be eliminating an agency and renting direct (isn't that what Vacation Rental by Owner suggests?). Well, no. I ended up dealing with a rental agent. The photos and description of the apartment were sort of true. But not really. The apartment was run down and somewhat shabby. The curtains were stained and the floors were in sad need of repair. And there were lies by omission. WHY would I ever think to ask if there was central heating? Well, now I know. You need to ask. Believe it or not, there wasn't. There were three space heaters and numerous power strips plugged in to several outlets. How do you say "fire hazard" in French? 4C6668F0D5A2600886CC0CA8AA2F53C2.jpg4C65496E0449D860317229E0FA1ABAA9.jpg

Almost as disturbing was the lack of cooperation on the part of the rental agency responsible for the apartment (ask me in the comments section and I will tell you their name!). I was arriving on an early flight, so I asked if I could pick up the keys early. The apartment was empty the previous week, but I was told there would be a fee for early arrival. Wow. But that was nothing. The key pick-up was an elaborate, complicated mess. The keys were locked in a safe about 1/4 mile away and up four flights of stairs. When you are traveling with luggage, this is no small problem. Factor in the hilly, cobbled streets of Montmartre and the detail that the apartment was on a steep, stone staircase, and this becomes a true ordeal. For fifty euros, the agency offered to deliver the keys. The return of keys was the same situation in reverse. By the way, it was never made clear that the apartment was in the middle of seven flights of stone steps.
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The next lack of cooperation I encountered was when I asked for sheets and extra towels for the sofa bed. The apartment was advertised as sleeping four--which it did, comfortably. The agency informed me I would be charged for "additional guests." This was not mentioned in my lease or on the contract I signed.

Finally, I received my deposit back minus a charge for heat. What heat? Seriously? I did challenge this fee and the deposit was returned, in full.

I did some research when I got home and saw that VRBO is now part of Home Away and there are some pretty bad reviews out there about both. But I'm still seeing recommendations for both sites in places like the NY Times this month. I would advise differently. I guess there is no foolproof way of renting sight unseen. But personally, I would avoid VRBO going forward. I would also suggest asking to contact previous renters directly instead of relying on site-specific reviews.

I certainly didn't let any of this affect my trip. I'm home a little over a week and I miss nearly everything about Paris. I miss the view from my terrace, the crowds on the Metro, the food, my Sunday chicken place, Paris by day, Paris at night, my favorite wine store, the café down the steps, baguettes and croissants. I don't miss my broken toilet and my one-person, claustrophobic elevator. But I even miss the daily challenge of those damn steps. Did I really just say that?
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Posted by teethetrav 06:13 Archived in France Tagged paris france montmartre renting javavillas vrbo home_away apartment_rentals parker_villas Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 30: Au Revoir Paris

Au revoir Paris. Revoir means to see again, so it is appropriate for me to say since I will be back, next time for a longer stay. Here are some of my favorite moments. And, oh yes. Meet Louis.
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Posted by teethetrav 06:26 Archived in France Tagged paris sacre_coeur france louis_vuitton Comments (3)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 29: Food Crisis

I am fully aware that hunger is a true crisis world-wide. I have seen it and know there are plenty of people for whom one meal a day is a luxury. This post is not intended to be taken seriously.

A food crisis in the USA is a snowstorm that prevents you from getting milk for 24 hours. At the mere threat of bad weather, supermarket lines are impossible.

A food crisis in Paris means I just realized it's Sunday and I can't buy my favorite wine from my favorite cave, my favorite baguette from my favorite boulangerie, or my favorite cheese from my favorite fromagerie. What's worse is that these places are also closed on Mondays too, and these are my last few days here. I will have to do without my reblochon fermier until Tuesday. YIKES.

I am eating my favorite foods and drinking my favorite wine from now until I go home. Back in the US I will dream about the almond croissants, the crunchy baguettes, the crisp, salty French fries, the petite baguette sandwiches, the surprises on the chalk board menus, and the hours spent lingering over meals in tiny spaces, or put together in my well-equipped kitchen.

I think I will miss my chicken place most of all; Les Rotisseurs du Roy. The one with the line. I never tire of the rotisserie chicken, the chicken sausages, the haricots verts, the pommes terres, and the champignons. The owner was a bit like the soup nazi from Seinfeld, at first. But my French has improved and I order quickly now, in French, and I bring my own sack to carry home my chicken and fixings. She even smiled at me yesterday and gave me a bit of sauce (gravy). A first, for me.

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Although I will always hate the stone steps and all the hills, I have walked off all that I have eaten and I still fit easily into my jeans. No need for a gym work-out, here. If I ate at home what I've eaten here, I'd be in big trouble.

Posted by teethetrav 09:12 Archived in France Tagged paris france wine chicken foodie baguettes almond_croissants Comments (1)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 28: Amelie, the Film

Amelie is a beloved French film made in 2001 about a sheltered, young woman who lives her life vicariously by manipulating the lives of people she is surrounded by in order to help them find happiness. If you know the film you know its close association with Montmartre. Many of the scenes in the film were shot in the neighborhood. There are scenes of the carousel at the Abbesses, the vegetable market Au Marche de la Butte ,and in the Cafe des 2 Moulins on Rue Lepic where Amelie worked and her co-worker famously had sex in the bathroom. The actor who plays the character she had sex with, Dominiqu e Pinon lives in Montmartre and we saw him on the streets.
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It's a sweet, unique film, if you've never seen it. Even if you hate subtitles, even if you never come to Paris or Montmartre ( Heaven forbid!), it's a great movie for a winter evening. I promise it will make you warm inside.
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Posted by teethetrav 07:23 Archived in France Tagged paris montmartre amélie dominiqu_e_pinon abbesses cafe_des_2_moulins french_films Comments (1)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 27: Saint Genevieve/My Jenevieve

I named my daughter Jenevieve long before I knew that Saint Genevieve was the patron saint of Paris. I changed the G to J to keep the initials of my three children the same. I agonized over what to name her, but the fact was that I had two boys already. There had not been a girl on my then-husband's side of the family for fifty years. My chances for a daughter were slim. I heard the name on the radio one day in my car and I loved it. I knew if I was fortunate enough to have a girl she would be my only daughter, so her name had to be perfect. Jenevieve hated her name when she was young. I think she was eight before she could spell it. The name was so long, it didn't fit on computer forms with those tiny squares that you had fill in all through school. She grew into it and now uses her full name professionally.
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Saint Genevieve is credited with protecting Paris from barbarians in the 500s AD. The national Pantheon in the Latin Quarter in Paris was built as a dedication by Louis XV after he prayed to Saint Genevieve for recovery from a serious illness. For a while, the Pantheon was a religious monument, but then it became a civic building. I didn't realize until I visited, the Pantheon houses Foucault's pendulum which demonstrates the rotation of the earth. The inside is adorned with murals depicting the life of Genevieve, from her childhood through her miracles.
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Standing on the steps, the view across the city is a straight shot to the Eiffel Tower.
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The Pantheon is surrounded by a beautiful square with the Saint Genevieve library to your right, the intricate St. Etienne du Mont church to the rear, where there is a shrine to Saint Genevieve. You are also directly across from the Mayor's and other municipal offices, and opposite the University of Paris.

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The Pantheon, Saint Genevieve Place, and the surrounding buildings are an enjoyable part of the Latin Quarter to visit, even if you don't have a personal connection to Genevieve as I do. Little did I know when I chose my daughter's name, I was naming her after this impressive woman; a woman who would be sainted after performing miracles. I adore all my children. But my Jenevieve, my only girl, is my personal miracle.
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Posted by teethetrav 02:23 Archived in France Tagged paris france pantheon latin_quarter saint_genevieve louis_xv patron_saint_of_paris foucault's_pendulum Comments (0)

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