Apartment searching has been a fascinating glimpse into Parisian life. My shoes are pretty worn out from all the walking I've been doing.
Lucky for us, Bryan's employers paid for and found us a good realator. This is a luxury that I wouldn't normally splurge for no matter what the circumstances. I mean, really. This is what the Internet is for, right? We did our homework as far as price and what to expect using seLoger and Paris Attitude, which both list furnished apartments.
But I must confess, as much looking we did on our own, they found us the real winners. After an hour in a consultation meeting where we let them know our expectations and our favorite neighborhoods, they compiled a list of back-to-back appointments, mapped out nicely by neighborhood. We spent a day dashing around with real urgency and saw 10 places in one afternoon. I don't think I could have done that on my own.
Paris is a city of old buildings. A couple of the ones we saw were from the 1700's. You really have to check to make sure the landlord is on top of the renovations as we saw only one modern unit in all of our visits. Elevators are a rarity, so you have lots of stair climbing to do. A quirk in the numbering system means that the French start with the ground floor, and then above that is considered the first floor. So a 5th floor walk up is actually on the 6th. Something to keep in mind while hauling groceries.
The high floors do mean you have a nice sunny space. We had specified a need for quiet, so the realtor found us a lot of courtyard facing and garden apartments.
Alas, not all landlords have chic Paresian style. The Ikea and the cobbled together look was not a concern to us at all, but the overly ambitious was.
There was one place that was amazing, but the decor was the deal breaker. It was all pillars and gold and glass and chintz. It was like a pied de terre from the movie Goodfellas, or maybe Casino.
The view and the balcony was enormous.
I could have at a sweet 400 sq foot garden, a place to picnic and settle with a bottle of wine. All good things.
(I told Bryan that was a foot bath. The realtor couldn't tell if I was joking or not, but before Bryan had a chance to investigate, he said, "no no no, it's to wash your bottom.")
We saw a great fancy place with lots of ornate molding and 3 marble fireplaces, but they were doing huge amounts of construction out in the courtyard, as they were installing a lift. It was hard to look past dust and noise and burly men hanging outside the window.
There was an adorable carriage house that was perfectly acceptable.
But the neighborhood was dullsville, with lots of magistrate and official buildings with police stationed out front.
Very few places we saw (even though it was requested as a must-have feature) had full kitchens. Most had a tiny fridge (like for the dorm room beers to keep medium-cold) and a microwave, and several had a clothes washing machine in place of where I wanted an oven to be. When I asked the realtor about this lack of features, she would think about it for a second and say, "Ah. There's a very good place to get roast chickens just down the street." So, I guess like New Yorkers in Manhattan, they have the Chinese place and the Mexican place and the Pizza place on speed dial and then they go out for the rest of the week. Still. I had to explain in a few different languages that I liked to cook and I'd really love to have an oven. "Probably not possible, but microwaves can make your food taste good".
There was also some contention about a little place in Montmartre. I love parts of that neighborhood and I was willing to look around in it for a quiet street.
Montmartre is a steep and winding walk up to the top, and some of the pedestrian streets are staircases. This building was right ON the staircase lead up to the church.
The bedroom window faced the courtyard.
The livingroom window faced the stairs, and the funicular train that brings tourist to the top zipped by every couple of minutes. If you crained your neck around, you could see Sacre Coeur in all it's bleached white glory, very close to your window. It was a little alarming how lovely and how close it was.
But the apartment was done up very tastefully and freshly painted with beautiful pieces of asian furniture. It was just so cozy, I forgot it didn't have an oven or a stove top at all. Microwave Cooking and ME! would be the title of my first published cookbook. Yeah, I'm ok with that.
That would get to be my street. A stair street!
And I could lord above everyone else on all their boring streets that cars go down.
It will be like Amelie and I skip around all day, solving mysteries and secretly helping people and maybe meeting my soul mate in the process or uhhh.
Reality check. This neighborhood is one of the most touristed on earth. I will have to put black-out blinds on my windows to keep people from watching me watch TV and write my microwave cookery book from the stairs all day. Chances are, by the end of my reign here, I will have installed sharp blades onto my shoes to kick tourist out of my way. Did I mention that I can't stand it when people stop suddenly in front of me? Yes, we all hate that. Sure, I'm fine the first 3 or 4 times a day it happens, but after that, I get really angry. Going to a tourist site and have this happen wouldn't really bother me, but dealing with this happening over and over again every day would make me insane, especially if I wouldn't be able to bake cookies to make myself feel better.
So there. I said no to my sort of dream apartment. It would have turned me into a monster.
I blame Jesus to some extent. Nice church, Jesus. Enjoy all the tourst. You can have them.
In the end, we decided to go for the place that I actually liked the most and trusted my gut on. It's in a good, quiet neighborhood with lots of markets and shops but no major attraction to draw busloads of people in. It has a full proper kitchen, with a real stove and a real oven. Cookies can be made. Life is good. The wheels are in motion.
Wish us luck.