Our Paris Apartment, May-July, 2014
Though Mark and I loved living in our RoadTrek RV for 33 months out of 5 years in Europe, we did find that visiting large cities could be difficult. In Paris we stayed at the Bois de Boulogne campground just outside the city on the west side. Visiting the historical center involved a camp bus ride and then the metro into Paris, a total of about 40 minutes to an hour and too complicated to do more than once a day. We really wanted the experience of living in Paris, so once we sold the camper, we decided to rent an apartment before we purchased our US camper.
For those of you looking for free RV parking the Bois de Bologne is a possibility. Signs say no tents, no caravans but nothing about RVs. Of course finding parking on a weekend would be difficult. On weekends you could park near the Metro stations, especially like the low key one Port Dauphine. Meters there are free on weekends, holidays, and all of the month of August. We also saw possible parking on the street between the Hippodrome and the Peripherique. The Bois can be unsavory at night so I would only park near the perimeter and with careful attention to surroundings. We also found this website for parking in a parking lot on the southern side of Paris, but still well with the city: Parkingsdeparis.com
The cost for camping in high season at the campground on the west side of the Bois is 36E for two plus 6E electric along with a 22E on line booking fee per stay. You must book ahead for high season. Basically, $57 a day with an exchange rate of $1.36. Add two more people and the price jumps to $79. In comparison, our two bedroom apartment with washer, dishwasher, etc. costs about $118. a day. It actually would have been much less except that the British pound has appreciated about 17% since last summer when we made our deposit.
We found the apartment through Home Away or some such site. However, we were somewhat reluctant to send thousands of dollars off to an unknown person. Luckily, the apartment we settled on was owned by a British man who worked for the BBC. Since we were in London last summer, we were able to meet with him at his office, sign the contract, give him the deposit and left feeling good that everything was on the up and up. The rest of money we sent using Paypal, which was easy and much cheaper than doing a wire transfer through the bank.
Our apartment is in the 11th arrondissemont on the east side of the city. It is not a touristy area but we are able to easily walk to the Bastille area—which has become tres chic. It is two miles to Notre Dame at the heart of the city. For most outings, we simply use the metro, and we have two lines with stations about 3 blocks away. We haven't felt the need to buy weekly or monthly transportation passes as we are only using about 6 round trips a week. We are doing a lot of walking—which is what we wanted to do, what with 6 pastry shops within two blocks of the apartment.
We love that within three blocks are several butchers, 4-5 produce markets, two cheese shops, two Italian markets, several small and medium sized groceries, and numerous take-outs and restaurants. Typical for a real Paris neighborhood but so foreign to life in America outside of the largest and oldest cities. We also love the twice a week street markets. We have an excellent one two blocks to the east and then another 6 blocks west. The famous Bastille market is less than a mile and the wild and very ethnic North African Belleville market less than a mile northeast. We have no chance of going hungry!
No matter which direction our walks take us, we are always discovering something new. One week after attending the Belleville market, we ran into a large Chinese grocery with lovely Peking ducks hanging in the window. There are also two Kosher butchers and deli's just down the avenue as there is an orthodox synagogue not far away. And our corner is shared by a couscous restaurant, a Sushi bar, and Italian pizza take-out.
Our apartment, because of its modest cost, doesn't have a balcony, high ceilings, or some of the grandiose furniture that one might find at a higher price point. Instead it is typical of how a lower middle class family might live. We are on the sixth floor of a seven floor building with one of those really small 3 thin persons elevator. Our windows are nearly ceiling to floor and are equipped with the metal rolling shutters found all over Europe. The building is perhaps 100 years old, and we are quite sure the well worn hardwood floors are original. It has been quiet since all of our windows face tiny courtyards instead of the street. In hot weather though there is a lot more noise as everyone has their windows open. It is located on Rue de Nice, which is not at all a main thoroughfare. The water boiler based heating system works quite well, but there is no air conditioning. The windows face east for the most part so it was bearable when it gets hot if we close the shutters during the day like the rest of Parisians and take to the cafes in the evening. Though the day it hit 97 was miserable even with the two fans. We have a full oven, a small but adequate dishwasher and clothes washer, and the typical counter height refrigerator. We don't have a clothes dryer but each load fits the clothes drying rack and so far we haven't made use of the laundromat in the next block for a dryer. When looking for an apartment in any European city avoid the top floor and west facing windows in the warm season.
In short, living in Paris has been everything we had hoped it would be. We have, as we planned, had lots of family and friends visiting plus some time for just us. We have done many of the touristy things we have done in the past but also added visiting lots of parks, modern areas, smaller museums and neighborhoods we never had time for before. Paris is a truly amazing city. And by the way, we do not speak French—it truly isn't necessary even in a non tourist neighborhood. You may occasionally buy the wrong thing at the supermarket, or the butcher may gave you twice the amount of veal you thought you had asked for, but beyond that, most shopkeepers go out of their way to accommodate your lack of the language.
We have also felt very safe even on the few after midnight excursions we have been on. Ours is definitely a mixed neighborhood including many immigrants and every few blocks a street beggar-- very typical for Paris or any big city. Paris has about nine violent crimes per day.
Our costs have been pretty reasonable. Our utilities are included in the rent including excellent wireless internet. We are paying about $45 a month for a Sim card for our unlocked Iphone with 2 gigs of data. We are spending about $45 each a month for metro/bus tickets. We haven't eaten out as much as we thought we would. Groceries are running about 10-15% more than in the States, but we are eating very well. Entertainment costs are extremely variable. We have made good use of the two free museums Sundays we've had. Plus I did have a Museum Pass for a couple of days to accompany my sister-in-law to various sites. We took our granddaughter to Disney Paris. There were long lines but we found much cheaper tickets by going in through the French website and buying a day in advance and printing out the tickets at our local Office Depot. All in all, we are under our budget, which is always a plus.
If you are interested in more details about the apartment we rented, just send me an email. There is also a smaller rental across the hall owned by an Australian man. It is a studio and a half and sleeps 4. I have his contact information. We hope in the future to rent places in London, Edinburgh, Rome and Vienna. If you know of rental opportunities in any of these cities, please email me. And I am certain we will also come back to Paris.
Oh. Mark blogged extensively during our three months in Paris, all of it at roadeveron.blogpsot.com, May-July, 2014. Pictures of our apartment are at http://roadeveron.blogspot.com/2014/08/notre-appartement-et-notre-voisinage.html.