It is always a pleasure to return home after even a wonderful trip – there is just something about familiar comforts – about a place to put your stuff and appliances that work the way you think they will and your books. There is a reason international hotels serve pickles and fish for breakfast as well as bagels and ham and eggs; everyone likes to feel at home and feels slightly askew when traveling far from it.
And so our trick in being Parisians for a summer is to find a place where we can feel the comforts of home while enjoying the special charms of Paris. We have rented places for years — at the beach when Zach and Kate were young and a variety of places in Europe for the past 20.
Sometimes it works out better than others. We spent two wonderful months in Florence in 2003 – but ‘feeling at home’ – not so much. Every few nights at 2 am you would find us with the lights on jumping up and down on our bed inside the giant moquito net trying to clap and smash the elusive buzz bomber that had made it in. And the kitchen was literally a closet; Ed turned out great meals – but it was hot, difficult work. Zach just about roasted in the heat of the mezzanine ‘guest room’.
But – the terrace – the terrace overlooking the formal gardens of an old palazzo next door made it worthwhile.
Every morning we had breakfast on that terrace and every evening we watched the sun go down and tiny though it was we managed to have guests for dinner to enjoy it with us.
Sometimes we have been unexpectedly surprised by a place. One of our happiest surprises was a houseboat in Amsterdam. We feared it would be moldy and creepy but we couldn’t resist giving it a try; it was romantic and delightful and nary a mushroom in the shower.
Our very best find was an apartment across from Pere Lachaise where we were lucky to have the balcony garden apartment of a traditional old Paris residential building.
Over the years we have gotten better at ‘seeing’ a place in an on-line website and knowing what it will really be like (hint for renters – if there is no photo of a feature, it will be grim. If the site says there is a terrace and you don’t see the terrace, it will be overlooking a hotel dumpster. If the bathroom isn’t shown, you better be really skinny if you want to take a shower.
This time for our home for two months we have lucked out. French charm and quirks (and bakeries) but with the comforts we most care about. We wanted to be in the Batignolles area and that has proven a great choice; the area is beautiful. Our building is the second one in.
And we wanted space to sprawl a bit. Our place on Boulevard Malesherbes has 3 ‘pieces’ i.e. rooms plus entry kitchen and bath. You might think having an entry hall in such a small place (70 sq meters) would be wasted space, it actually makes the place more livable. It is nice to have a spot to get organized and a hall closet for luggage, vacuum cleaner and to hang coats. And our shopping caddy has a spot by the door.
Here is the living room – where I am sprawled on the couch as I write this. The flat screen TV is full of wonderful commercials, intriguing movies in foreign languages we don’t speak, and the endless tedium of CNN and CNBC international. We smugly assumed we could stream whatever TV we might want to watch online like we do at home; alas streaming of US TV shows is blocked by the network if you are out of the country due to local licensing agreements so no Castle for us.
If we need serious reclining, we have this chair.
The den/dining room/ guest room is also spacious with a queen futon, closet for linen and books and a desk with Ethernet for those without wifi. The owners have also thoughtfully provided speakers which we can plug into the computer to have music. Pandora doesn’t work — same issue as network TV — but itunes works fine.
The bedroom has the two things you need to make a bedroom feel like home – great clothing storage and bedside tables with good reading lamps – oh, and a comfortable queen size bed.
The kitchen is definitely a one person operation – but it has 4 gas burners, a convection oven, a microwave, refrigerator and freezer and dishwasher.
Ed has been busy turning out good stuff.
And like most European homes we have continuous hot water rather than a hot water tank. I haven’t seen this before but our central heat is run off the hot water system. We just flick a switch and it routes hot water into the radiators in all the rooms and almost instantly warms the place up. We hadn’t hoped to use such a feature, but our first week here was very cold – in the low 40s – and having the ability to heat the apartment and have it under our control was a pleasure.
I love having a tub: here we have a sort of half tub, it is nice and deep and makes for a pleasant soak – and we love having a washer and separate dryer. They do take a very very very long time to function. It took us hours to dry a load of towels, but they are far superior to the traditional French combined washer/dryer that relentless dries wrinkles into the clothes.
These old French apartment buildings have lots of charm – marble fireplaces, plaster detail on the ceilings which are 9.5 to 10 feet high, and squeaky but beautiful wood plank floors.
We are on the 5th floor and can see the Eiffel Tower at night twinkly through the trees.
The tiny elevator makes the run up to the 5th floor a breeze, except when it is out – like today – I figure that the extra climb or two allows us to go for pain chocolat in the morning.