A couple weeks ago was my first trip to Paris – the city that has inspired to so many artists, writers, and creative thinkers. I thought the best way to experience a city as inspiring as Paris is to “live” in an apartment – just like those artists and writers did. And who knows, maybe be inspired in the process? I had very little time to plan this trip, and I was not very familiar with the geography or neighborhoods of Paris. I took to Airbnb and did some quick research. With 2 days left there were very limited choices and limited time to make a decision (Please see The Long Awaited Journey for more on this last minute trip). As I learned, having a apartment with a real bed as opposed to a sofa was a premium and a loft with a bunk bed type of situation was common. With a leap of faith, I booked a studio in the 2nd district close to a few Metro stations (which was important) and a real bed.
The owners of the apartment were on vacation when I got there, so their French speaking maid met me at the Metro and brought me to an old building in the Passage du Caire, a 13th century area with a deep history for which I’ll do another post. She helped me carry my American size suitcase up 2 flights of a very narrow spiral staircase and handed me a big bundle of keys to get through the many levels of locks. She pointed out that this was an old building and the plumbing was a little lacking. While there as a toilet in my bathroom, I should use the “out house” just up the stairs to make sure the flow of water works. After the maid left, I started to get out of the building, and was unable to open the first set of locks with all the keys. A shot of panic set in that I was trapped! Not only would I miss a full day in Paris, but I would spend a day without food. After taking a few deep breaths and searching around the door, I found an old school multiple level lock system that required 2 items to be pushed simultaneously. I left all the doors open behind me to make sure I could get all the way out, before I closed anything. This is an experience I can laugh at now, but was sheer terror for a what seemed like an eternity.
I’m used to staying in nice hotels with modern amenities. This room was smaller than my studio in Manhattan, the building was old, and I had bruised from carrying my suitcase up 2 flight of a narrow spiral staircase. I reminded myself that I wanted to experience the soul of Paris and live like a local – and this was as local as it got. Over the next 4 days so much would unfold. Through this apartment, the neighborhood, and gracious hosts I was not only introduced to Paris, but truly immersed into the culture. For the next 4 days, I most definitely lived in Paris – and all because I happened to pick this apartment. So grateful that life took me exactly where I needed to be to experience this city. Please see French Hospitality to read more about this experience.