I can say with complete conviction that I am living the dream right now. In order to not sound like a complete princess, I do want to make a note early on that this ‘dream scenario’ is not just one that has fallen into my lap. It has been a year of very hard work, very intense studies and very big loan applications. But when you decide to turn your life upside-down (i.e. quit your job/the country you live in/life as you know it), you might as well make the most of it and really stick to your guns.
So here I am in Paris. I can already tell you that I never want to leave. It has been a series of brilliant circumstances and luck beyond words that has made this voyage everything I could have asked for. It has to be said that after ten days of living out of a massive and awkwardly packed suitcase, moving from couch to couch in London, I was overjoyed to finally make it to Paris and to the apartment I was waiting to get to for months. The entire experience with where I have been living here in the Marais has been so above and beyond expectation that I want to not only share it with you but also shout it from these Parisian rooftops.
It can be seriously daunting when renting not only abroad but longer term, especially when you know you’ll be on your own. Safety and comfort mean so much in these situations but it is nearly impossible to not walk in blind. So I not only wanted to share my experience with this particular apartment because I would recommend it to anyone I know but also maybe give some tips on how to search for a place wherever it is you’re looking to visit.
Air BNB. That’s my jam. And by ‘jam’, I mean the brilliant website and service that brought me this delightful accommodation. It’s hard for me to remember how I even came across this website but it seems as soon as I did, it became clear I was late to the party. Air BNB is a brilliant, easy-to-use website that can help you find a place to stay wherever it is your heart desires. A pied de terre in Paris? A treehouse in Vermont? A cube in the German countryside? Wherever you want to go, you’ll find it on this website. Owners and/or managers of the properties list their apartments or rooms on the website and complete their ‘profiles’ with all the information you could need to help you make an informed decision. All amenities, location, images (some actually taken by official Air BNB photographers) are listed, as well as contact information for each of the ‘landlords’.
The best part, however, is the ‘review’ section to these profiles. Previous tenants are able to write reviews visible for all. What is so great about this is that you get a real view of what it is like to stay in these places. Does the sleeping loft get too hot in the summer months? Is there a loud bar downstairs? Was the experience brilliant or a shambles? You’ll find out here.
My tips would be:
1. Stick with places that have hired in the official photographers. It is just a bit more security in what you’ll be finding when you arrive and also proof that the ‘landlord’ takes this job seriously.
2. Read all the reviews and take into consideration all the smaller comments. I found a place that I thought would be perfect until I read that the sleeping area got so unbearably hot in the summer months, the tenant had to sleep on the couch. Not great for someone looking for a place during the month of July.
3. If there is ever a negative review, don’t dismiss the listing right away. ’Landlords’ are able to comment as well. If there is an issue mentioned, there is a good chance it will have been sorted and a comment left addressing this.
4. Make sure you have a conversation with your ‘landlord’ before committing to your stay. It’s a two-way street. A friend of mine has not only had trouble with her apartment but trouble with her landlord as well. Double whammy.
So this brings me to my specific situation. From the word ‘go’, Paolo and Xavier (my ‘landlords’) have not only made this trip easier for me but they have even made it better! Contact with me prior to my booking and arrival was always so friendly and very transparent. If I had a question, I got an answer almost immediately. When explaining that I arrived at 6pm on Sunday evening and started class at 9am the next morning, I opened my email one morning to find all the information I needed about getting a monthly metro pass and even directions on how to get to my school from the apartment, just to ease some of my worries. How sweet!
When I arrived at the apartment (I was sent brilliant directions prior to my arrival, including a document and map outlining exactly how to get to the apartment down to how much a cab would cost me from my location), Xavier was waiting for me to show me around and give me not only a key for myself but one for my mother whom he knew would be visiting later in the month. He very kindly offered any help I needed, including making reservations for me or getting any information if I was worried about my French. He was even more delightful when I had to call him about an hour later to come help me with the key I had jammed in the door. Though he does just live down the street, he seemed happy to be there for me in just a few minutes and even used the opportunity to bring me more towels!
Everything since I arrived has been easy and lovely. The apartment is the perfect size for me and would be great for a couple. It has internet so I can work. It has brilliant windows to sit in and watch the world go by, which is perfect on this street in the Marais. It is a modern apartment with very French touches. A bit of a fairy tale really. The neighborhood is perfect. Shopping, cafes, brilliant strolls…I can walk just about anywhere and it is close enough to public transport I can be there in 5 minutes but far enough away that you feel the real sense of a little community. Xavier and Paolo have both made a really lovely effort to get to know me and understand what I am doing on my visit here to Paris which has meant so much. Questions about where I could find a dry cleaners has been met with not only the name, location and hours but also a map and photo of the front, just in case :) And questions asking permission for writing about my experience at the apartment have been met with support not just for this post but for all the inspiration I am finding in my time here.
Is it any wonder that I never want to leave?
(Images by AirBNB.)