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It may be grey and rainy, but it’s Paris…trip report/May 8 to May 15

It may be grey and rainy, but it’s Paris…trip report/May 8 to May 15

Old May 26th, 2009, 06:32 PM
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It may be grey and rainy, but it’s Paris…trip report/May 8 to May 15

May 8
Michael and I left NYC in grey, cool and overcast weather, flying American Airlines out of JFK. The lines going through security took forever. Arrived in Paris and it was…grey, cool and overcast. Those April showers bring May showers.

Scheduled arrival was 7:25 AM, and we were off the plane an hour early. After making our way through security, I called the owner of our apartment to let her know we’ve arrived. She quickly woke up and ran over to the apartment to meet us. We had an easy trip on the RER, which we took to Chatelet-Les Halles (no changes!) and had a few minutes easy walk to the apartment.

May 8
This was our 4th trip to Paris, but our first time renting an apartment. Since we stayed for one week, it made sense to rent – and I really loved having my own place to come home to and unwind in. I spent a lot of time trying to find a place within my budget (650 Euros for 7 nights) that was in the Marais neighborhood and looked comfortable for the 2 of us.
We stayed in VRBO # 133080, and overall, we were very pleased with the apartment.

http://www.vrbo.com/133080

The owner, an American woman living in Paris, was an architect, and her skills were definitely on display in the apartment. Although it’s a studio apartment, its layout really makes good use of the space, and it is truly a comfortable and quiet space. The work that was done gives the apartment warmth and style. The bathroom is attractive, nicely designed and spacious by European standards!

One thing that appealed to me was that there were lights on both sides of the bed – something that you don’t find in all rental apartments. With 2 of us going, I wanted to make sure that we both had our nighttime reading light.

The patio isn’t especially appealing. This really didn't affect us much, since neither was the weather especially appealing! But even if the weather was more cooperative, the patio was not inviting – it’s a private space that’s exposed to an open air hallway/space between the building, and not a place I’d feel comfortable sitting in. More like large air shaft than private patio.

Another quibble with the apartment is that it was a bit on the dark side. I did anticipate this, since I noticed from the photos that the patio was the main source of outdoor light, and there were no windows looking onto the street. But there were many lamps and lights in the apartment, and on the plus side, it really was a quiet apartment.

As it turned out, we were in a very busy part of town. The apartment is located on Rue Quincampoix, in one of a series of old buildings that have been recognized for their historical appeal, just off rue Rambuteau – and is smack between the Pompidou and Les Halles. NOW I know just what the area is like – HOPPING! We arrived on May 8 (VE day) and it was like being in the middle of a constant street fair. Michael said it was just like living on Bleecker Street (NYC).

This was definitely living in the middle of tourist Paris, not really a neighborhood – but slowly, we began to discover what makes this part of the town fun to be in. The bakery around the corner was a good start! And rue Quincampoix has a great character – it’s a quirky little street, with a number of small bistros and lots of small galleries. And we were only a few minutes walk to rue Montorgueil, a fabulous street, filled with food shops and restaurants.

The owner, too, was really gracious. We were able to stay in the apartment as soon as we arrived, and we were fortunate that she didn’t have anyone coming in the day we left, so we were able to use it till we left for the airport. So as I said, the apartment worked out really well, and I would definitely recommend it as a good place to stay.

to be continued....
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Old May 26th, 2009, 07:06 PM
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Parisian Style

The big question - how does one look like a Parisian, or how do I avoid looking like the cliche 'American in Paris'?

I was impressed that there really is a sense of style that most women (and men, but I'm noting the women, mostly) have. Really, it's not what's worn, but HOW things are put together that really evokes style. But for those who want the specifics:

1) SHOES - the big question. And here,my unofficial studies note that women wore the following:

-Keds & Keds-like sneakers. I thought it was cute and amusing the first time I saw this phenomena; after noticing many (mostly) young women wearing them, I figured it was the style.

-Camper/Diesel-style shoes -- Everyone, everyone, everyone wore them. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, babies. Even men.

-Boots, of course. Any style.

2) BIG Scarves. Everyone wore a big scarf. I mean everyone. See above description for Camper/Diesel shoes. Now this surprised me. I expected all kinds of scarves, like pretty and dainty silk scarves in all sizes, but no, I didn't notice people wearing small, delicate scarves at all. Only the wide, long scarf, double-wrapped around the neck or folded and pulled through the loop was just about the only way to wear a scarf.

3) Big bags. Leather, nylon, cotton. Whatever.
------------
I will never manage to have that casual, thrown-together Parisian style no matter what I do!

I obsessed for months before my trip about comfortable & stylish walking shoes. In the end, I gave up and stuck with the most comfortable shoes I had, my clunky-looking New Balance sneakers. My feet did not look Parisian.

I brought several of my favorite scarves - pretty, silk scarves. They look nice! But they don't have -- or rather, I don't have, that certain 'je ne sais quoi' no matter what I wear!

So, do I really care? No, I was comfortable, and really, with all the walking we did, that's what counted. But I dream that one day, I will find the quintessential comfy AND sexy shoe!

More to come...but not for a day or two

Paule
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Old May 26th, 2009, 07:12 PM
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Wonderful, Paule. And the insights about the way Parisians dress, priceless. It does take decades to figure it out and emulate it. IF you even care. It takes decades of studying Parisians' wearing of stuff to even come close to being able to emulate it, and even then, you're usually a season or two behind. Not to worry. But interesting that you sort of documented it, because I've been taking photos and thinking about the same thing for the past few years because there seems to be such an ISSUE about it for Americans.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 07:41 PM
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From my experience, your report could be titled: It's grey and rainy; it must be Paris! Looking forward to hearing about your trip.
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Old May 26th, 2009, 07:55 PM
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We were in Paris May 8 -17th.
Stayed in 11eme at the border with Le Marais. We did some walking in the 11eme and even ventured much further North-East.
Once one moves further away from the famous parts of the city the perception shifts :
yes, there are slim, elegant, very stylish women in Paris, but they are hardly in the majority. Most people look rather ordinary. I have not seen baseball hats or ugly white running shoes on the natives, but almost any style found in any big city was on display .
I was asked for directions (twice )- maybe because I wore all black , a purple scarf, and purple Arche shoes.!
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Old May 27th, 2009, 03:27 AM
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I'm glad you found my musings amusing!

StCirq & danon, with all the comments on the board over dress I really was curious about the Parisian look. It's really hard to quantify,since it isn't just the young, slim and elegant.

In fact, I think it's the very easy and sexy casualness that so many people have that is so unique. I live in NYC, and believe me, many women also have that casual stylishness. But I do believe that there is a pervasive sense of style in Paris that exists.

Nikki - I believe the sun does exist in Paris! I have seen it! There are photos from previous trips that show blue in the sky. They just weren't taken during this trip. After I returned, I discovered that May (not April) had the highest average for days of rain out of the year.

Paule
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Old May 27th, 2009, 04:04 AM
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We were there around the same time as you! I have bunches of those scarves, but bought more to add to my collection after seeing the way they were worn in Paris - even the men! Were you impressed by the politeness and gentility of the French? I was. When I got home I accidentally said, in a high squeaky voice, "Boujour" when I walked into the bank. I got some blank stares in return. Next time, I'm convinced we will rent an apartment. Thanks for posting!
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Old May 27th, 2009, 07:18 AM
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I am enjoying your report! I just returned from Paris this past weekend - we were there the 18th-23rd. Fortunately for us, it was beautifully sunny 95% of the time. We started our trip in Amsterdam and it was grey & rainy there.

I completely agree on the fashion in Paris. Everyone was so casually stylish but it was also about the way they carried themselves - they all walked with a purpose. At least the people I saw never seemed to be just strolling down the street like us tourists! My favorite was seeing the older men & women dressed to the nines on their way to the market, their little rolling carts behind them. You could tell this was how they dressed every day, and it always made me smile.

Looking forward to more of your report!
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Old May 27th, 2009, 07:42 AM
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Enjoying your report.
It's not what the women are wearing(lots of retro fashion too)
but how casual they wear their hair ("Bed Hair"),
How they are so confident in their skin, hence that walk.
As an American woman living in Paris said, she was so embarrassed when she ran down her stairs in her sweats because she heard the bell of the knife sharpener, knowing her neighbors would not even take out the garbage in them.
I love the way some of the little girls I met looking so chic.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 07:43 AM
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Really enjoying your report - both content and style. Looking forward to the next post!
V
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Old May 27th, 2009, 05:50 PM
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I promise a trip report soon. Dh is back home after a 10-day trip today, so no computer time this evening for me.
Paule
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Old May 28th, 2009, 03:47 PM
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Hi Paule,
I'm enjoying your report--can't wait to hear more about your trip. I too was fascinated by the fashion sensibility and was constantly looking at women's shoes. The interesting thing was, I often found Parisian's looking at my shoes, too--especially when we would come into a restaurant or shop. I couldn't decide if they were trying to decode my nationality or if they were was something strange about them--black Stonehill maryjanes, super comfy.

This was our first apartment in Paris also, and definitely the way to go. Some friends of ours were in Paris when we were there, and we had them over for dinner the last night. As I had all four burners going on the stove I kept having this giddy thought-- "I'm having dinner guests in Paris!!". I was almost too happy to eat.

Somewhat off of the thread-- I'll be upstate NY for a few days mid-June for a meeting, and John's going to meet me the city afterward for a short get-away. We enjoyed meeting you and Michael in Paris and wonder if you'd like to have a meal together sometime while we're in NYC? Here's my business email: [email protected]. It would be fun to see you again.
Trish
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Old May 28th, 2009, 04:38 PM
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Trish - I will definitely email you! Would love to see you in NYC!

How great that you were able to have dinner guests in Paris! Very cool!
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Old May 28th, 2009, 04:49 PM
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Day 1/May 8

After crashing for a few hours, we finally ventured out of the apartment. The grey skies cleared, and we were treated to a bright and pleasant afternoon. The crowds were out in force! From our apartment, we wandered along Rambuteau into the heart of the Marais, window-shopped along rue des Rosiers and rue des Francs Bourgeois—many charming, chic and tres cher shops. Michael patiently waited as I’d stop and admire each shop. I don’t buy, of course, just pretend like I’m in an outdoor museum, and view these shops as beautiful displays of chic and stylish clothes for the chic, rich and stylish.

I was on the lookout for the infamous felafel on rue des Rosiers. We passed folks carrying huge stuffed pitas, and I knew we had to be close. At last – we see people on one long line, and I knew we arrived at our destination – but no, this was the line for Chez Hannah. It really did look good, too, but I was keen on trying L’As du Felafel, having heard so much about it. The line was not nearly as long as I expected; after having our money collected, we waited about 3 minutes before we were served. Excellent! As a NYer, I believe we’ve cornered the market on felafel joints, and I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this one. Small felafel balls stuffed in a large pita filled with a range of vegetables. Yum! It seemed a bit pricey for 5 euros, but tasty and worth it.

After much wandering through the streets of the Marais, we headed back on rue Rambuteau, through Les Halles to rue Montorgueil. A word about Les Halles: blech! It is ugly, ugly, ugly. Nothing elegant or classy about this place. I know that there is a plan to renovate this area, and I hope that something is built that is more appealing. The 60s architecture and cheap shops are just dreary. My initial concern was safety, but fortunately, that’s not a concern – just staying near a large, outdoor mall wasn't my ideal. Fortunately, we’re mostly able to avoid it as our apartment is across the large Boulevard Sebastopol. After we realized that Rambuteau was our nearest metro, we minimized walking around Les Halles.

Ahh, but rue Montorgueil is fabulous! Oh, I love this street. We are there late Friday afternoon on VE day, and it’s just oozing energy! People crowd the cafes, spilling out onto the streets; the food shops are filled with beautiful & delicious things—cheeses, meats, sweets – it is a terrific market street, a genuine market street that draws all kinds of folks. We stroll the street, enjoy the character of the area.

After picking up a few items for the apartment, we do our basic shopping for things like milk and coffee in G-20, a good supermarche, on rue St. Martin. I happen to love shopping in supermarkets – there’s something very satisfying about picking up basics in different countries. I also feel very at home by doing this.

Dinner that evening was at Le Hangar – only a short walk from us! This was a Fodors recommendation, and it was a very pleasurable experience. Small, intimate place, excellent service, overall, an A- experience. The entrée (appetizer) was excellent – we had cream of lentil soup with foie gras. Michael said, “We can go now”, since it was perfection. Our plats (main entrees) were very good, but not as terrific – I had fettucine with crevettes, and Michael had chicken with honey and something else. Both were very tasty, though a little overcooked. Dessert was yummy (flourless chocolate cake). Still, I really liked the restaurant a lot, and would recommend it.

A wonderful evening walk – it was a beautiful evening, and we walked across the Seine, around St. Louis, and back again, through a very old part of Paris, walking through the Place St-Gervais and passing the St. Gervais et St. Protais Church. It was now dark, and we could just imagine ourselves being transported to the Middle Ages.

Finally, back to our little home. End of a great first day.

Paule
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Old May 28th, 2009, 08:06 PM
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I'm enjoying your report and learning more about that part of Paris. We rented our first apt. in Paris in April but chose the 6th b/c we know that area better. Next time maybe rue Montorgueil area!
We had no rain until our last night there; wonder if April is turning out to be a better month, weather-wise, than May?
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Old May 28th, 2009, 08:09 PM
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you can eat inside L’As du Felafel, and order wine.
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Old May 28th, 2009, 08:33 PM
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bookmarking!!
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Old May 28th, 2009, 09:40 PM
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Thanks for an evocative trip report. We have rented apartments in different parts of Paris: Montmartre, near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th, Ile St. Louis, Batignolles...your description of your experience with the apartment and the neighborhood are spot on. I'm looking forward to your next posts. It's true, we have to appreciate whatever weather the gods give us when we travel.
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Old May 29th, 2009, 03:12 AM
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This was the first time I rented an apartment, and it really allowed us to feel like we "belonged" here.

I could see where it's not for everyone, though - the biggest downside is not having the regular interaction with people! After a few days, Michael and I realized, it was "just us"! No one that we chatted with at a desk. It was not about having someone who could arrange things for us, but just those daily moments of greeting someone that we really didn't have in the apartment. For us, the overall experience was terrific, though.

Grandmere, after our trip, I discovered that May had a higher average of rain than April! At least, this was in one of my travel books.

I'll try to write some more this evening.

Paule

Glad you are enjoying this!

Paule
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Old May 29th, 2009, 04:19 AM
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I enjoy both the "highlights and observations" and "daily activity details" styles of trip reports. Paule - I really enjoyed your first part, which I thought then meant this was a "hightlights and observations" type TR, but then was delighted now that it is going to be a "daily activity details" one! I am really enjoying both your writing style and your observational style.
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