Thursday, 20 December 2012

Encore France: Day 14 - Back to Paris

 
A slightly warmer morning in Amiens, which goes to figure as it is time to return to Paris. After our usual wander around town we headed off to the railway station for our train back to the beautiful City of Light. 
On arrival we grabbed a taxi and went first to the Hotel Agora Saint-Germain to collect the luggage which we had left there before heading to the 7th arrondissement and the apartment we had booked on rue de l’Université. We had arranged to meet the apartment manager at the hotel at 14.30 and had confirmed this to her by email, giving her our train details etc. However, on arriving at the apartment block we discovered - surprise, surprise – that she wasn’t waiting, despite the fact that she had assured us that she would be there. I telephoned her and she expressed her own surprise, claiming that she wasn’t expecting us until later. She then said that she lived in the 14th and so it would take her some time to get to the apartment. She suggested that in the interim we should walk down to rue St-Dominique to check out the shops and said she would meet us outside the complex in an hour.  
Unfortunately, we now, of course, had all our luggage with us, but we had no choice and so we walked down rue Malar to rue St-Dominique. We noticed two supermarkets just literally around the corner, so fantastically convenient but the nearest place we could spot to sit down and have a coffee was a Starbucks. Now, not being American, we are not fans of Starbucks, finding their coffee pretty ordinary and not being enamoured of the whole way the place works, but at least we could sit down with our suitcases and while some time away in comfort and so we decided to go for it with one of their watery offerings. 
In due course we made our way back to the apartment, and within a few minutes the delightful young woman who managed the apartment came rushing along the street, ushered us into the building and up in the elevator to the apartment which would be our home for the next week.  
I had found and booked the apartment through VRBO, and realise that photographs on such sites – as with professional photographs of hotels – are often not that reflective of the reality. What looked quite stylish on the website looked rather tired and in need of renovating in reality. However, it was a fairly modern apartment, in a lovely quiet complex with a really attractive courtyard garden, and with fantastic double glazing (and the weather was cccold, shiveringly cold) and window shutters.  
The décor was, shall we say, different. The bathroom really gave us cause to pause. It was all gold and marble and – well, basically, gaudy, and also in dire need of some work as there were tiles which were chipped or loose, a mirror which was cracked, a cupboard door which didn’t quite close, and a toilet that needed three or four goes to flush each time. The bedroom was so OTT it was amazing. There were heaps of cupboards, which was great, and the bed was very comfortable. However, there was a bamboo-like wallpaper behind the bed, wallpaper that had the texture and look of one of those thatch fences which seem so popular amongst people wanting to create the Bali look in suburban homes. But then we noticed the wallpaper on the ceiling. My mind tries to forget, but I think I remember it as being very ornate and with lots of gold flecks. Eeee!  The kitchen was functional, as long as you kept a dish sponge in the sink to absorb the sound of the drip, drip, dripping of the tap which was probably in need of a new washer. There were plenty of glasses and dinnerware, and a great waste chute which we made good use of, not being used to such things. There was a second toilet, in a small room which also housed the washing machine, and at least this one seemed to have no issues regarding flushing, but it did have one of those wooden seats, which I always think are very suss hygiene-wise. The living area looked fine, containing a couple of settees and a dining suit. The dining suit was great, but the two settees were well past retirement age, sloping dangerously towards the floor at one end and just offering a selection of different sized lumps and bumps in other places. We found it far more comfortable to just sit on the floor. The carpet was pretty grotty, being quite badly stained and also quite worn in places. 
Nevertheless, this was our first apartment in Paris and most of these things just seemed quirky. Besides, the place was beautifully warm, the bed huge and comfortable, the location fantastic, and we simply looked forward to living there, in a complex with locals and being able to get a feel of living in Paris. So, happily accepting the keys and signing the contract, we promised the manager that we would call her if we had any issues but assured her that we had no doubt all would be just wonderful, we walked back to the entrance hall to see her out. Oops, where had that front door gone? Hang on a moment. We came in through a door here somewhere, we know we did, but there was now no door leading off that entrance hall other than the doors to the bedroom, kitchen and laundry. Where was the front door? As we chatted to her I looked all around the room – yes, door, door, door, curtain. Curtain? Why hadn’t I noticed that heavy floor to ceiling curtain when we came in? And why would there be a window there, on an internal wall? And then she moved toward the curtain, pulled it to one side, and – voila – there was the front door. This was the first time we came across that (to us) crazy concept of hiding the entrance with a curtain. I’ve heard various theories on why it’s done, from thermal insulation to hiding possessions from tax assessors (yes, seriously). Whatever the reason, it does strike us as passing strange. We sometimes closed that curtain just to confuse ourselves. Weird. 
I unpacked our luggage, checked out all the nooks and crannies in the apartment, and then we headed off to the famous rue Cler, that favourite street of American tourists but which is almost a cliché, to fill our basket with delicious cheeses, pates, olives, hams and tomatoes. We found a wonderful patisserie on rue St-Dominique just before rue Cler and bought some delicious bread and a couple of delicious Opera cakes 
After depositing our goodies back in “our” apartment we wandered – of course – through to the river, strolling arm in arm down to the Eiffel Tower, and then back the other way as far as the National Assembly building. We then turned again, took a walk around les Invalides and then back along rue St-Dominique where we passed people dining at tiny little Parisienne tables outside charming looking bistros, enjoying the wonderful aromas issuing forth from inside, and pausing to admire the lovely wares on offer in the shop windows along the way. 
Ah, and we knew that we were back in Paris when we saw this classic piece of Paris parking. 
How do they get out in the morning?
(Actually, how do they get in?)
Tomorrow I’ll be offering more photographs as we visit Tour Montparnasse for the best views in Paris, drop in to the Madeleine to listen to angelic voices united in song, and have our eyes glazed over again by the opulence of the Garnier Opera House. I hope to see you then.

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