Who hasn’t dreamed of renting an apartment in Paris and living like a local, even if it’s just for a fortnight? The good news is that it’s entirely do-able, it just takes a bit of planning.
Paris has 20 arrondissements or districts so question one is where do you want to reside? For Charles Williams, it’s a no-brainer. “The first,” he declares emphatically quoting that real estate mantra – location, location, location.
“Avoid the First’s western part that’s awash with tourists. A 15 minute walk to the eastern part and you’re in a living, breathing neighbourhood with its street market, local cafes and hangouts, all within strolling distance of the Left Bank, the Seine and Tuileries,” said Williams.
Another friend opts for the 6th arrondissement. “I love the boho chic atmosphere around Saint-Germain-des-Pres and la Sorbonne,” she said.
For us, it’s always the Marais, the 4th, close to the city’s historic heart. It has bounced back from 18th century abandonment to personify 21st century chic, its atmospheric medieval streets pulsating to cutting-edge fashion and cafes by day, bars and clubs by night. Hauling our bags up three flights of stairs, we open the door of our quiet one bedroom apartment to fresh flowers, romantic black and white prints and the tantalising aroma of freshly baked patisseries emanating from the shop below. Our agent walks us through the facilities that include a well-equipped kitchen, laundry, free internet and a good range of guide books to help plan itineraries.
We quickly get re-acquainted with bustling rue Rambuteau just beyond our green front door. A line snakes out of artisan baker Au Noisetier where we scoop up crunchy country baguettes and dazzling fruit tarts for lunch.
Home cooking becomes exhilarating rather than routine and we buy Atlantic salmon from Comptoirs Oceaniques and good cuts of duck and pork at Boucherie Provins, all neatly wrapped in brown paper.
Fresh vegetable stalls open early morning until late stocking mountains of seasonal produce and supermarkets are close by.
Late night dessert is a fan-shaped crepe au citron purchased from a street vendor, slid into a paper cone and nibbled as we stroll the Marais’ romantic cobblestone laneways.
Grand monuments are within walking distance of the Marais but a 10 minute stroll, with a spare passport photo in hand, brings us to the Hotel de Ville metro station where we purchase a Carte Orange for 20 Euros plus a 5 Euro card fee. With one week’s unlimited travel across 2 zones, and a copy of Pariscope listing what’s on in English plus helpful hints like visiting the Louvre after 3pm when admission prices drop or going late on Mondays or Wednesdays when it’s open until 9.45pm and we’re ready to roll.
Paris is a seductive city richly embroidered with romantic moments that don’t break the bank. Here are some of our favourite summer experiences.
1. Listening to the crunch of gravel underfoot as we jog around the Tuileries gardens where an early morning queue has already formed at the Louvre. Before us is a vista of perfect symmetry with the gilded tipped obelisk at Place de la Concorde, site of the infamous guillotines aka the French haircut, and a distant Arc de Triomphe.
2. Sitting in Place des Vosges in the Marais, a beautiful park set inside a quadrangle of 36 houses, something Parisians have been doing for 400 years. The cloistered walkway now houses art galleries, fine restaurants and fashionable boutiques but more importantly, it’s where Parisians come to picnic and play.
3. Watching a pink-tinted dawn break over Paris from Sacre Coeur, the city’s highest point, before breakfasting in one of the many cafes throughout Montmatre’s artists’ quarter.
4. Taking a beach holiday along the Seine as Paris Plages comes to the city each August. All along the river, dark blue lounges, sandpits, palm trees, even a swimming pool are installed for the two week summer vacation.
5. Joining local dancers at a riverside square near Pont Sully on the Left Bank to rock ‘n’ roll French style into the night.
6. For a modest entry fee, visiting the Picasso Museum at Hotel Sale, 5 rue de Thorigny and viewing an intimate collection of his extraordinary creativity in one of the Marais’ finest hotel particulars. www.musee-picasso.fr
7. Visiting a cemetery might not be on everyone’s list but Pere-Lachaise on the aptly named rue du Repos is a revelation. A mini village of silent headstones, this is where Chopin and Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are just some of the famous residents while the monuments honouring Holocaust victims are truly moving. Just be out by 7pm! You can take a virtual tour at www.pere-lachaise.com
8. Hearing Mozart’s Requiem on a warm June night in Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris’s oldest church consecrated in 1163, and just one of many churches holding classical concerts over summer.
9. Occupying two Renaissance mansions, Carnavalet Museum, 23 rue de Sevigne, traces the history of Paris from pre-history to modern times. Open daily except Monday, entry is free. www.carnavalet.paris.fr
10. From the terrace at Trocadero, marvelling at the Eiffel Tower as it straddles the road before us like a giant Meccano toy and witnessing its sumptuous nightly light show.
And if you were wondering where to French kiss in Paris try
– Standing on Pont Neuf, the oldest and most beautiful bridge in Paris.
– Embracing in front of the Hotel de Ville like the couple in Robert Doisneau’s famous black and white photograph.
– Lying on the grass in the Champ-de-Mars as the Eiffel Tower twinkles overhead.
– Strolling along the river Seine, arms entwined.
– Sitting in any Parisian café!
One of the best ways to ease into la vie Parisian is to take the Eurostar from London’s sexily refurbished St Pancras International train station enjoying a glass of bubbles at their Champagne Bar, Europe’s longest, before boarding. www.eurostar.com
To rent an apartment, check out www.rentparis.com or try www.paris-expat.com and www.yourparisaddress.com.au Small studio apartments start from around 100 Euros a night but it’s worth up-scaling to a one bedroom for around 150 Euros a night.
If staying in the Marais, always check that the apartment isn’t above a bar!
Before you go, read ‘Paris’, a fascinating historical novel by Edward Rutherford
Live in Melbourne and want to learn conversational French before you go? Contact Laura at www.frenchladyevents.com.au
For tourist information on Paris – www.en.parisinfo.com
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Tags: Dream holiday in Paris, Holidaying in Paris, Honeymooning in Paris, Live like a Parisian, Living in Paris, Paris 1eme, Paris 6eme, Paris for lovers, Renting a Paris apartment, the Marais, travelling around Paris