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Trip Report Consider the 18th

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Last month I took a friend for her first trip out of the US, a week in Paris and a weekend in London. I admit to a bit of sticker shock when I started to look for accommodations in Paris. I’ve been there a dozen times or so and usually stay in the 5th, 6th or 7th. My usual 3 star hotel in the 7th was quoting 268 Euro a night. It’s a nice place but come on… it’s a 3 star! I started looking at apartments and apartment rental websites.

Since my last trip to Paris, I’ve developed a curiosity about the 18th. I had taken a taxi ride to Sacre Coeur which went through what I thought looked like a really interesting area. I’ve spent a lot of time on Google maps street view, “wandering around” streets and alleys. So when I came across Feels Like Home in Paris I was intrigued. The apartments looked really nice; bright, cheery, friendly. The street view strolls around the neighborhoods looked so charming. This week Le Figaro did an intriguing article about the 18th http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2011/06/06/03013-20110606ARTFIG00879-le-xviiie-arrondissement-un-grand-village-cosmopolite.php

I picked a two bedroom and made my query. Available! Perfect! But then I dawdled, struggling with whether or not I really wanted to stay in the 18th…. And it was gone. However they offered me a one bedroom on Rue de Courlaincourt. It seemed like it had everything and it seemed like it was on the perfect street.

Bottom line, it WAS perfect. So much so that I can’t wait for an opportunity to rent it for 3 months and “live” in that neighborhood. The apartment itself had everything you could want. Big windows provide lots of light, and while it can be noisy when they are open, the double panes make it very quiet when they are closed. The apartment is owned by a woman who loves to cook so the kitchen is stocked with everything you could possibly ask for, including a cabinet full of spices. There is a regular size washer and dryer (not one of those combo things many Euro domiciles often have that take forever to do a load), a bookcase that invites you to spend months reading, a computer equipped with internet, wireless, free long distance (international) calls, Cable TV, a stereo, literally anything one might need. The chairs were comfortable, the bed was comfortable and the bathroom very nice.

Downstairs is a Thai restaurant. Across the street is a beautifully colorful produce market. Two doors from that is the wine cave. Two doors up from us a bouchon, next to that a patisserie, and then my new favorite bistro. Also within a block are a chocolatier, a Spanish restaurant, a Japanese restaurant and another bakery. The number 80 bus stops right outside, with stops at the Champs E’lysee and the Eiffel Tower.

Yetunde, from Feels Like Home in Paris, met us upon arrival and walked us through all the details of the apartment, the neighborhood and anything we might want to know about Paris. There were laminated maps with recommended walks in the area, bus schedules, and a 50 plus page PDF on the computer with anything we might want to know, links to restaurants, bus schedules, phone numbers, contact info… They provided us with a welcome basket with coffee, biscuits, crackers and a lovely bottle of champagne. They also invited us to a wine and cheese tasting the following evening at a local cooking school.

One of the things I loved about living in the 18th was that once we paid our visit to Sacre Coeur, and Place de Tertre, we never saw tourists. The restaurants were comfortably full and we seemed to be the only tourists. Shopping at the produce market, the patisserie and the bouchon, we lined up with locals. We sat on the bus with folks from the neighborhood. It really allowed us to play to our fantasy of being Parisians for the week.

Of course we did the touristy things during the week; visited the Louvre, went to the Eiffel Tower (we had lunch at Jules Verne on a special birthday), went on a Seine Cruise, sat in the Tuilleries, took a train to Geverney. But it was always so pleasant to come “home” at night and get away from all the crowded tourist areas. We spoke French (or attempted to) in the shops and restaurants and felt truly immersed.

I think you can pick a bad neighborhood in the 18th, and in fact we were glad we didn’t get the two bedroom apartment when we saw the block it was on. But don’t let that deter you from trying this really charming and historic part of Paris.

www.feelslikehomeinparis.com For those of you on Facebook, follow them for interesting daily blog postings about cooking classes, fun things to see in Paris, great restaurants, and interesting goings on.

At the end of the week I asked my (somewhat travel phobic) friend what she like best about the trip. Number one was lunch at Jules Verne. Number two was that she wandered out alone on the last morning and went to the patisserie to buy, in French, croissants and pastries for our breakfast and train journey to London. That was progress!

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