After the repositioning cruise, a month in Ireland, and a short visit to the Bay Area we were finally getting to our exciting summer in Paris. Last year when we discussed where to go this year, Paris was at the top of the list. It is a large cosmopolitan city with an awesome transit system and so many things to do. We decided that three months would be a good amount of time for us to explore the city and study French.
Getting to Paris
I must say we have had some issues with picking up Uber at airports in Europe this summer and Charles de Gaulle Paris Airport was no exception. Although we followed the signs and were told by two locals we were in the right place, we were off by about 150 yards, so we were unable to get to the proper pick-up point when needed. I think the people helping us were taxi drivers who were only too happy to sew confusion.
Eventually, we gave in and got in a taxi line. The door-to-door cost was 62€ for the taxi from CDG. It was a good thing we had some euros left over from our last visit because the driver was unable to connect to her data provider. Unhappily, we had to fork over the cash. It’s always good to have some cash on hand, if we don’t have any, we hit an ATM before leaving the airport.
Paris: Your Next Budget Destination!
Did we come to Paris to save money? Of course not. We came to spend the summer in Paris because it is PARIS, the City Of Lights, one of the great world capitals. We came to experience the culture, the museums, the food, the wine, the joie de vivre (joy of life)… the certain je ne sais quoi (literally, I don’t know what. Really, some intangible, special quality).
We came for three months to experience all these things and to take language and cooking classes. Staying for that long has allowed us to take things at a more leisurely, studied pace.
We are making an effort to slow down our nomad habit a bit. Amongst our peers, folks who typically stay in a location for a month or more are called slomads. After our 3-week cruise and weeks running around Ireland and the Bay Area, the plan was to take a breather in Paris.
But, We Have Saved Money…
Mind you, Paris isn’t exactly cheap, but Diana found a few flats in Paris that cost us the same or less than our month in San Mateo, our 2 months in Phoenix this winter, or a month in Playa Del Carmen in early spring (before the condo). Although our rental didn’t include electricity, which went up 10% due to tax during our stay, our apartment for 3 months has certainly been cheaper per night than all those other places and cheaper than the less-than-special rooms we endured in Ireland.
That’s when it hit me, we can save money staying in Paris?! And it’s not like anybody is clamoring about how special those locations are. I mean, sure, a month by a Caribbean beach doesn’t suck, but similar experiences can be found elsewhere. Paris is incomparable.
Our Parisian Flat
Given we planned to sit here a spell, we needed to find a moderately spacious and decently fitted out flat. We needed one bedroom, a reasonable kitchen and bathroom, and a big enough sitting area. We also needed an elevator. Climbing stairs all summer was not our idea of fun.
Diana scoured rental sites for Paris and was able to hit our checklist and even score a second bedroom and a big bathroom. There is an elevator, even if it only fits 2 people. It has a washer and dryer, which is not a given, and an absolutely awesome view of the Eiffel Tower. There is a small terrace facing the tower with a cute, French breakfast table, but we never use it. It’s not much of an effort to take in the view standing at the balcony door several times a day. It never, ever gets old.
The Location of our Flat
We needed to choose a spot not far from a Metro line so we could get to French class every day and to make it easier to explore the city. The place Diana found is close to three different Metro lines, which come in hand when one line is delayed, as happens periodically. In addition, our flat has a good-sized supermarket, many bistros, a farmer’s market, bakeries and more than one decent gym nearby. Our building has a “super” who delivers packages and mail directly to our door, too.
Despite being in the middle of this busy city, it’s very quiet here. We can leave our windows open all night with little or no disturbance, except when the French Rugby Team is playing in the World Cup. We are on the sixth floor, so bugs aren’t a problem. And, the view never, ever gets old.
Trouble in Paradise
Still, since we didn’t pay top dollar, there are a couple of things that have been less than stellar here (happily, we haven’t had an aunt problem). Sadly, as with everywhere else, the furniture is uncomfortable for us. The bed is too hard and the couch is too soft. Diana in particular has struggled to find refuge.
We considered buying a mattress topper, but we didn’t know if spending the required $200+ for it would even make an impact. Honestly, if we could spend more and know it would be ok, we would. But, even upscale digs are sometimes problematic. A friend suggested traveling with inflatable mattresses. Even though it would require traveling with larger bags, I haven’t ruled it out for future consideration.
Not Exactly an American Kitchen
American (and Canadian) style kitchens are rarely found in Europe. Most of the 50-100-year-old buildings simply don’t have the space to accommodate such huge workspaces. By Euro standards, our 1.5-butt kitchen is relatively large. Although we don’t eat at the eat-in-bar, it does provide a counter away from the cooktop and I use it multiple times a day.
The kitchenware is a hodge-podge of things: only small bowls and glasses, three ladles, three large cooking spoons, a rolling pin, a pizza cutter, but no pitcher, no tongs, no tupperware, no baking sheet, no oven mitts, or measuring cup. It’s like opening your Ikea box only to find too many nuts and not enough bolts. The landlords seemed to have tossed in whatever was required and subsequent tenants have added things ad hoc. We will be leaving a couple of soup bowls, a baking sheet, and a measuring cup for example. The tongs we are taking with us.
Size Matters (especially in kitchens)
The fridge is relatively large. There is no icemaker, so I make some fairly frequently. The sink is pretty small, so I’m constantly cleaning dishes. There is a dishwasher (somewhat rare), but we never use it because we don’t have enough dishes to leave any in there for a period of time.
Where things get weird is the induction stove. Only some of the pots work with it. The burner only stays on if it senses a big enough pot/pan. The mismatched pans that do work don’t fit well for the burner sizes, meaning we can really only use one of the three burners at any given time. We plan on a kitchen remodel this spring in our place in Playa Del Carmen and this whole kitchen/stove top experience will certainly be informing our choices there.
I See Red (everywhere)
Beggars really can’t be choosers when it comes to rental décor. The owners have gone with a mostly burgundy palette, perhaps to hide the wine stains. Even the kitchen cabinets are red.
There is a beautiful, antique dining table. When we arrived, the check-in agent spent an hour dutifully logging the contents and the condition of everything in the apartment. He especially noted the state of the table to us and that we should be careful not to ruin it. At first, Diana rebelled. She removed the ugly tablecloth the caretaker had provided and bought placemats. Eventually, though, she acquiesced and put the tablecloth back on so she wouldn’t have to worry about it. One annoying thing was that the dining room chairs weren’t as pictured and are not comfortable, either. That turned out to be a significant problem for Diana.
Mrs. Kravitz Abroad
We haven’t interacted with our neighbors, save in the first 30 seconds of arrival. I saw a lady in the lobby before we got in the elevator for the first time and said bonjour. Her reply was to guess we were moving into the apartment above her and stated we should keep down the noise since she worked from home. Well, nice to meet you too.
We never heard from her again. In fact, we rarely hear anybody make any noise. Yet, every time I go to the window to enjoy that view that never, ever gets old, there is some distraction from neighbors across the way, cooking, cleaning, and smoking on the window sill. Thankfully, there haven’t been any Rear Window or Only Murders In The Building moments, that I know of.
Weather Or Not
One minus to our place is a lack of AC. In fact, most apartments in Paris don’t have AC. I have a former high school classmate who has lived here for 25+ years and when I complained about our situation. He said he doesn’t have AC and few people he knows do. He just deals with it. Another nomad thought we were crazy for signing up for this. As it happens, we have had maybe 10 nights out of our 90 that have been a problem. We were provided several fans and we had them cranked all night. We survived.
It was much worse in the more southerly parts of Europe this summer—repeated days near 100F, also often without AC. Our worst was a couple of days topping 90F. Global warming will probably change the game in future years, but none of the landlords are likely to make a move until absolutely necessary.
Aside from the short heatwaves we have endured, the weather has been surprisingly cool with occasional rain. News stories in late July questioned whether we would simply go from Spring to Fall this year. August did warm up a bit, but things have definitely cooled off here as I write this in late September.
The current weather is much like I enjoyed during summers living near San Jose, i.e. warm days and cool nights. I don’t think the pattern will last long, however, as the days are rapidly getting shorter. Dusk was around 10 p.m. when we first arrived, so you can imagine we are racing pretty quickly towards short days. Paris is north of Toronto, for example.
The Three-Month Plan for Paris
As noted above, after settling into our flat, we planned to hit a bunch of museums and restaurants, enjoy time milling about town, take French lessons, and a few food-related classes. We even managed to get out for a long day at Euro Disney, the Happiest Place in Europe.
We will be sharing articles about our experiences over the next weeks. Plenty to talk about. We even had some family and friends visit to take in Paris together. I know I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the view from our balcony. After all, it never ever gets old.
What city would you like to explore for three months?