Spring 2011 – we’re back in Paris

As soon as we were back from our 2010 visit to Paris, we started planning for 2011. This time, it wouldn’t just be the two of us. Our son had graduated university and we decided that we would take him and his girlfriend as his graduation gift. Neither had been to Paris before.

ViewFromEiffelTower

This is what we'd come for....

Given that there would be four of us and we’d be staying for two weeks, we decided to rent an apartment, rather than stay in a hotel. In the end, we figured the cost would work out to be the same, we’d have more flexibility, and we’d feel more like we lived there. It would give us an excuse to go shopping at the markets and be able to have unhurried breakfasts, make our own lunches and just have a more comfortable place to hang out.

IlleStLouisApts

Apartments on Ille St Louis. Years ago they were cheap.... today, owners are likely to be sheiks or Rothchilds. This was right near the end of our street.

A tip if you’re looking for an apartment in Paris: there are dozens of apartment rental agencies and many individuals renting out spaces. There are also lots of scams (disappearing deposits) and horror stories. Pay a little extra for reliability. Go with the professionals. And think about where you want to be located. We knew we wanted to be close to everything – so in the first few arrondisements – and were prepared to pay for it.

6Bievre

The apartment at 6 Rue de Bievre. The entrance is the modern square door on the right. The big window is in the kitchen. It's frosted and has blinds, so light got in but no one could see in. The two windows above are the front bedroom. The arched door in the middle is for the rest of the building.

After some researching, we settled on the Paris Perfect agency and chose their Notre Dame apartment. It’s two bedrooms, two storeys, tiny spiral staircase connecting the floors, a courtyard we could use, dishwasher, washer and dryer, flat screen tv and WiFi. It’s in the 5th arrondisement, the Latin Quarter, on a tiny quiet street, Rue de Bievre, about 50 feet from the Quai de la Tournelle with a direct view of the back of the Notre Dame. It was a “walk to everywhere” location.

Living and dining area

The apartment was the funkiest most eclectic place. Stone walls, beams, with modern furniture and the most interesting lighting. My son agreed, this was just perfect.

Dining room lighting

The details just made this apartment.

AptCourtyard

Looking at our apartment from the courtyard. We sat at this table for breakfast, mid-day wine and cheese, snacks. A real hideaway in the centre of the city.

AptCourtyardIvyWalls

In the courtyard, looking up... Could anything feel more French?

After a few very straight forward emails back and forth, we paid our deposit, booked our airline tickets and counted the days.

Finally it was time to go. The whole trip went flawlessly. The overnight flight seemed short and there are few things as wonderful as landing in Paris on a sunny morning. Another tip if you’re going to Paris: the train from the airport is excellent and far less expensive than a taxi and much easier to deal with than one of the buses. In our case, it was perfect since one of the stops is the St Michel metro station. I knew that from that station (right in the heart of the Latin Quarter across the street from the Notre Dame!), we could walk to our apartment.

NotreDameBievre

A view from the quai at the end of our street...

For me, it was one of those quietly happy moments to be walking with my wife, son and his girlfriend along the Seine on a spectacular spring morning to start two weeks in Paris. We were there about a half hour too early. I found the apartment and the cleaner was just finishing up. She said that our host was on her way to meet us, and if we just waited at the café around the corner, we could be in the apartment soon. Great suggestion. We were ready to start café life and an espresso would be ideal just about now.

LocalCafe

We had our first espresso here. I believe my son's coffee turned out to be a Heineken. The yellow wall on the right is the entrance to Rue de Bievre.

We sat outside in the dappled Paris sunlight. The Seine just across the street. The Notre Dame to the left. Ille St. Louis over to the right. The city was ours. Life was perfect!

BievreToSeine

Looking down Bievre to the Seine...

ViewDownBievre

Looking down Bievre the other way to Blvd St Germain and Place Maubert where they had the fresh markets twice a week.

BievreGlassGallery

There were a few precious shops on Bievre, some design studios, architect's offices, a little park and restaurants at the end of the street.

BievreOldDoor

Near the St Germain end of Bievre. This is a very old part of Paris. The original Sorbonne founded in the 1200's was in this block. Later Place Maubert became notorious as the site of thousands of guillotinings. Heads rolled. As recently as 30 years ago, this was a sleazy area of dive bars and prostitutes. Today, nice apartments start at seven figures.

A note to those who have been reading along. For last year’s trip, I wrote it as a day to day diary. For this one, I’m going to do it by subject matter. I think you’ll like it. We had some very interesting times and saw plenty of Paris. I hope you enjoy the ride.

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Comments: 4

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  • Erika

    Hello, My family and I are thinking of renting the apartment you stayed at in Paris. I was wondering if you could describe the upper level. Looks like a door leads to walkway that is not walled in. We have two small children. Wondering if it is a safe set up. Probably not if I’m seeing the pics correctly.

     
     
     
    • This is a wonderful apartment, but I wouldn’t rent it with small children. Parts of the livingroom are two storeys high and there’s a second floor walkway across the front that does have a railing, but you could easily vault yourself into the livingroom. We rented from Paris Perfect who have lots of apartments right downtown. Not cheap, but very good. Would rent from them again in a heartbeat.

       
  • Erika

    Thanks for the input on the apartment. I was curious about one of your pics. The photo of the chandelier seems to have a doorway above on the upper wall area. Is that a door to a bedroom that is permanently locked. Looks like if it were opened you’d fall out onto the living room?

     
     
     
    • Yes, that is the bedroom in the back. Yes the door was locked, but only with a latch, and yes, you could open it, and indeed you could jump into the livingroom. Despite the wonderful wine, we managed not to do that ;-). Again, if you have small children who might get a little too curious, this probably isn’t the place for them. The other thing is, that spiral staircase which we found charming could be an invitation for a tumble for a youngster.