Been-There-Done-That-Traveler: Paris

Paris. There are over 1600 hotels in Paris, with the average hotel rate for first class properties at about $468 per night.  Deluxe properties charge closer to $560.  And while comfortable, these rooms are smaller than most US hotel rooms, yet are where most visitors stay. Haven’t most visitors to Paris already Been-There-Done-That?

So, en route to taking an AMA Waterways Wine Cruise departing from Paris, I decided to explore some alternatives. And did I say Paris hotel rooms are small and expensive? Yes, I did.

View from my apartment balcony at night; the architechture was quite lovely.

After sorting through several possibilities using several web sites (I found Trip advisor to be very useful), I decided to embark on taking an apartment for a week, and found one in the Central Marais District for $251 per night. It was advertised as a nicely furnished two bedroom, one bath, living room, dining room, and full kitchen with a slight view of Notre Dame. Let’s see, one room for $468 per night vs. a two bedroom apartment for $251 per night. It seemed to me that if you hadn’t already Been-There-Done-That, you should have.

I used one of my favorite web sites, Trip Advisor, to do my search. I especially like this site because they don’t sell anything and therefore have little motive to promote one property over another. The only ratings they publish come from previous occupants, who are often quite candid. The property that I selected had a large number of reviews rating the apartment 4.5 out of 5, and a number of photographs of every room. I avoided all properties with fewer than 5 reviews, as unscrupulous owners have been known to rate their own properties, or were short on photos. No photo of the bedroom? Hmm, I wondered why.

I also did an internet search to see if the property in question actually existed, whether or not it had been involved in any previous scams, or had a real bank account. There are reports of unsuspecting travelers sending payments to fictitious owners only to find out upon arrival that no such property exists, or finding a perplexed homeowner in residence.

Pictured (Top to bottom, left to right) View from the balcony, kitchen, living room, living room (alternate view), outside the apartment, bedroom (one of two in the apartment)

Having done due diligence, I booked my selected property on line and set off for “The City of Light”.  I arrived in Paris early on a cool November morning and set off from CDG to the Marias in search of my accommodations, taking a convenient train to the Hotel de Ville metro station located within one block of the apartment.

The apartment was nicely located on a small street named rue de la Verrerie, surrounded by several brasseries and small restaurants. There are two grocery stores on the same block, and a Metro entrance to the Hotel de Ville one block away. The Pompidou is close by in one direction and Notre Dame the other. The Marias itself is a lively area with many restaurants, stores and residential apartments along narrow cobblestone streets.

The apartment is up a circular wooden and stone staircase on the 4th floor, with no elevator available. We had only carry-on luggage, yet found the climb tiring by the time we got to the 4th floor landing. The building appears to be in good repair and inhabited by local residents.

A few yards down a short hallway brought us to our front door of heavy green metal. Just inside is a short hallway with a small living room on the right that is well lit during the day by several large windows looking out over a busy street scene full of local shops and pedestrians.

The beamed ceilinged Living/Dining Room is nicely furnished with a small couch, leather easy chair, coffee table, book case, a wooden dining table with four chairs, and a shelf containing a large color television and wireless router. The carpeting throughout is of a jute type that was rough on the feet (bring slippers), along with softer rugs next to the beds and in the living room. One difficulty is the lack of reading lights in the living room or over the dining room table. After dark one needs to go to the kitchen or one of the bedrooms to read, or plan your next day’s activities over a map or guide book.

The view from the large living room windows is of the Rue du Renard, and is especially nice at night when the lovely architecture across the avenue is lighted.

The bedrooms are quite comfortable with soft. large beds, night stands with good reading lamps, an easy chair and ample closet space with good hangers. The front bedroom off the living room is large with three French windows offering nice views of street scenes and surrounding buildings. The second bedroom is smaller, but just as comfortable as the first, with one French window and similar furnishings.

The kitchen is small with a two top table, modern appliances, and a window overlooking the street scene below. Dishes, silverware, and cooking utensils are provided, as is a dishwasher. We were disappointed not to find a good serrated bread knife available for the wonderful French breads found nearby. A bottle of local French wine had been left as a welcoming gift.

The unit’s bathroom has about 5 by 6 feet of floor space, a sink, washer and dryer, stool, towel warming rack, and large walk in shower with two showerheads to select from. Water pressure was good and hot water was abundant at all hours. The water closet (emphasize closet) is in a very small separate room on the other side of the apartment and is bare, rough, but functional. It works well, but is not an agreeable space.

Le Petit Marcel 65 rue Rambuteau 75004 Paris Neighborhood: 4ème arr. L’AS du Fallafel 34 rue des Rosiers

The one serious difficulty we experienced was that the apartment is managed by a local service that was not available to let us in upon arrival. We had paid for the night prior to our arrival so that we would not have to drag suitcases around waiting for the normal check in time. Although friendly when they did arrive, we were tired and did not appreciate the lack of timeliness. An additional problem with this service is that they suggest that they are available by telephone to quickly resolve any difficulties that renters may have. Yet although the apartment has a telephone available, it does not reach cell phones and yes, you guessed it, the service has no land line. Should you not have a cell phone with you, it would be necessary to find a public telephone to call them, which is not readily available.

Yet even with the few problems, we found the apartment to be of good value and great convenience. It’s a small, nice apartment in a very good location for visiting Paris.

Paris has thousands of restaurants to choose from, and most of them are good. They can also be quite expensive. The following are two that we found that are reasonably priced (10-15 Euros), within walking distance from the apartment, and that get consistently good ratings.

The Le Petit Marcel is a very small French restaurant near the Pompidou Center. It has very friendly service, good atmosphere, very good food, and is inexpensive. Excellent escargot!

The L’AS du Fallafel has the best Fallafel I have ever eaten, is inexpensive, and in the nearby Jewish quarter.  It seemed to always be busy, but is worth the wait.

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