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Paris Revisited - Our Montmartre Adventure

Paris Revisited - Our Montmartre Adventure

Sep 18th, 2007, 06:57 AM
  #1  
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Paris Revisited - Our Montmartre Adventure

We are presently in Paris and I will try to keep this up to date every couple of days.

Flight
We arrived at the airport our customary 4 hours in advance – (my choice not Sandra’s). I just like to get there, get settled and relax before the trip as we get to go to the BA lounge.
As we checked in we were greeted with the words, “I guess you know that your flight is delayed.”
We didn’t know. I did know that there was an earlier BA flight to Heathrow so I asked if we could get on that. We were placed on stand-by and spent an hour and a half waiting only to find that the flight was full but it was a good try.
So we retired to the BA lounge and waited. As it was an overnight flight, dinner is served in the lounge rather than onboard so this helped pass some of the time. It is a buffet and the selections included a small but appetizing salad bar, halibut cooked with celeric, roast turkey, lasagne plus trifle and a cheese selection. There were a couple of red wines and a couple of white wines.
The rescheduled time of 11:30 pm passed with us finally taking off shortly before midnight, about four hours late.
The pilot quickly announced that he didn’t know what we had been told about the delay but that he would set the record straight. His version was slightly different than the ground saying that that had left Heathrow and were recalled as one of the passengers had invalid travel documents. The whole situation was ridiculous as far as he was concerned and apologized on behalf of British Airways.
The new sleeper seats were a more robust tweaking of the existing model, with improved controls. The entertainment system with movies on demand, worked great however, after a delicious hot chocolate and warm cookies, we wrapped ourselves in the new and improved duvet (fabric akin to a thin quilted horse blanket) and fell asleep quickly. The flight attendants seem to have perfected the system of quick bar service and switching the lights off promptly.
Six hours later we were served juice, fresh fruit, a bacon butty and one cup of coffee <<sigh>>.
On arrival at Heathrow we joined the queue to pass through security for our final leg to CDG. Despite warnings about size of bag, one bag only, weight of bag, no one at the security checkpoint could have cared less. The only interest seemed to be that we remove laptops from our bags and take off our shoes. I guess whatever nefarious devices we might be secreting could only be disguised in the soles of a pair of Bass Weejuns , the hard drive of our Hewlett-Packard or my belt buckle. Thankfully, intelligence seems to have deducted that these terrorists are incapable of innovative thinking. As the bins were lined up to go through the x-ray machine, there was no accounting to whose stuff was whose or how many bins you had used.
We used our time at Heathrow to visit the BA lounge and take advantage of the showers there. What a treat to be able to shave and clean up before the hop over to Charles De Gaulle.
Tea was served during the 45 minute flight. Our ancestors, the Brits, got this right with wonderful smoked salmon sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves. We have streamlined this in Canada to be a Tim Horton’s and a donut.
Our bags were among the first down the chute and, despite BA’s reported dismal record, ours were not sent to Dubai. There was a line for taxis but we were serviced within 10 minutes and at our apartment within an additional 40 minutes – 3 and a half hours later than scheduled.

robjame is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 07:07 AM
  #2  
tod
 
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Thanks for the update and taking the time to give us a little 'appetizer'!
It went down well and I am so looking forward to more. Have a wonderful visit!
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Sep 18th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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Thanks Tod - mentioning food I ahve already started taking pictures to accompany some kind of Paris food report.

Our Apartment
This was our first venture into renting instead of staying in a hotel. The process went easily with this company, www.frenchyrentals.com . It is the Damremont one. Payments were made by PayPal and our contact, Darrin, kept in regular touch, even sending us a Paris Pratique. They did require a €200 down security deposit which irks me. The €800 per week rental fee seemed to fit into our usual range for hotel rental.
I was a little tentative about renting an apartment, even starting a thread on the Fodors forum entitled, “Renting an apartment – Is it worth it?”
The door to the street is non-descript, blending into the anonymity of hundreds just like it. Inside the entrance door, everything was dark as we fumbled around trying to find that switch which illuminates such places for a timed period. We buzzed the apartment and Darrin, who was waiting for us at the apartment as our daughter had alerted him by email of our changed arrival time, came down to welcome us. The hallway in the building foyer was dingy and in need of a good coat of paint – surely someone had done that between 1902, the building’s inception, and now. The high ceilings do nothing to alleviate that feeling. We walked through a little courtyard and up a narrow staircase to the first floor (US second floor) apartment. Darrin fumbled with the key explaining how the lock was a little tricky. I checked behind me to see if Sandra was still here.
Inside the unit the first noticeable feature was the wood floors, dark and worn but really attractive. The entry hall has three rooms and a hallway off it. Each of the rooms is about 10’ x 14’.
One is a bedroom with an extremely comfortable queen size bed, and a mixture of antique armoire, dresser, two night tables, dressing table and chair, a beautiful tapestry rug and a fireplace. You get some of the idea of the size of the room when I tell you that the room is not cluttered. The room is wainscoted and the windows leaded. The 10 foot ceilings are topped by fabulous plaster ceiling moulding.
The second room is a dining room/ internet room with a single bed, large dining table and 4 chairs and marble fireplace. Silk drapes hang from ceiling to floor (Sandra says that they are a little overdone for the place but they keep the light out). Another wonderful rug is on the floor.
The third room is a TV sitting room with a couch (probably folds out to a bed) fireplace, built in cupboard and armoire, satellite TV (with about 6 million channels some in English) and DVD player, tapestry rug and coffee table.
The hallway leads to a galley kitchen with a built in convection stovetop and oven, full sized fridge with freezer on bottom, dishwasher, and washing machine/dryer combo. There are all the utensils, flatware, pans, appliances that you would want.
One little additional room houses the toilet and a wash basin, while another contains the tiled shower and another basin. Hot water on demand, that wonderful European thing, is constant and plentiful.
A family of four or five would be happy here or two couples if you flipped to see who got the good bed.
Once you get over the age of the place and, therefore, the creaking, worn floors, the shabby lobby, the fiddly locks, it is wonderful. If you can appreciate antiques and “old” is not a four letter word, it is quintessential Paris. The fridge housed a bottle of champagne and a personal note from the owner. This apartment is well stocked. Aside from the olive oil, spices, vinegars, there is a plentiful supply of toilet paper, paper towels, detergent, washing powder, hand soap, shampoo, hair dryer, thick towels, superior linens, duvets, cleaning supplies. We had expected to provide many of these things and Darrin laughed when I asked if we were expected to replenish them. There is no air conditioning but windows on two opposite sides and a floor fan should handle it.
There is internet which was not working when we arrived. Darrin phoned the owner and the problem was resolved in a day.
We would use this company again in a heartbeat – Darrin and Paula are a young American couple from Missouri who are doing this as their sole income. All contact has been positive. There is a detailed welcome book and they are available by phone and cell phone.
Would we stay in a hotel again? Not for anything longer than four or five days.


robjame is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:01 AM
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Sounds great. You should know that the Parisians pride themselves on their dingy entrances to hide the fact that a building is full of beautiful apartments. I think it may have something to do with property taxes.

Only in the really expensive neighborhoods (6th, 7th, 16th) where people don't care how much tax they pay is attention sometimes paid to the building entrance.
kerouac is online now  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:14 AM
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Love the details of the apartment. Thanks for taking us along. Looking forward to more . . .
LCBoniti is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:16 AM
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I think it may have something to do with property taxes.

Property taxes are not based on appearances !
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:21 AM
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robjame,

Sorry to hear about the delay on gettig started. And what a nice description of your apartment. I look forward to more of your 'as it happens' report. And of course your photos when you get back. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Tom
TRSW is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:26 AM
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kerouac,

That is an exaggeration. Lots of pre-W.W.I buildings are washed and cleaned on the outside in arrondissements other than the ones you mention.
Michael is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:27 AM
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Glad you liked the apartment; it sounds good to me. Hah, fiddly locks and worn entrances, halls and stairs--you should try renting in Rome. I'm looking forward to hearing about restaurant finds in the vicinity. And further afield.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday!
Leely is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 09:29 AM
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Thank you for the detailed reports ... we will be staying in a Montmartre apartment for eight nights in late October/early November - will be following your adventures until then.
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Sep 18th, 2007, 09:58 AM
  #11  
tod
 
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I know just how you felt in those first minutes getting into your apartment! It brings back so many memories of my friend and I arriving back in Paris after a wonderful week walking from Chateau to Chateau in the Loire and really living it up, to being introduced to our dark little alley and ancient staircase leading up to our room in Rue St.Julien Le Pauvre - the lock took a bit of manly persuasion to give in and we had problems with it all the time.
Unlike yourself robjame, our room was also very disappointing( except the view)!
Looking forward to hearing more.
I know you have done tons of research on restaurants but may I ask you if you have considered Le Vin Sobre near the Val-de-Grace on 25 rue des Feuillantnes?
tod is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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Tod - we hadn't considered going back to the 5th for a meal, but the reports on the web of Le Vin Sober make it tempting. We had not made any reso reservations this time, deciding to wing it from a list of possibles in the 18e (dipping down slightly into the 9e).
We just returned from a wonderful degustation meal at A.Beauvilliers - a restaurant in the Montmartre area newly taken over by Yohan Parran, an absurdly young chef who is doing all the right things. I have plenty of food pictures and can't wait to write it up. It is our new favourite in Paris.
http://www.abeauvilliers.com/
kerouac - I have to believe that there is some merit in what you say about apartments.
I plan to give you some description of my feelings about this (much maligned?)area and, of course, the important part - restaurant, food descriptions and pictures.
robjame is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 02:58 AM
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Montmartre - The 18th Arrondisement

We chose this area for a number of reasons, not the least of which was availability due to the Rugby World Cup and price. As well, we wanted to move out of the familiar fifth and immerse ourselves in an area lesser known to us. Frankly some of the negative comments which appear about the Montmartre area were troublesome and the coup de grace was when I read that there were no good restaurants in the 18e .
Armed with a TimeOut Paris , the new English version of Pudlo, and a subscription to Zagats, we decided to amend our Paris approach and attack this thing head on. We booked no restaurants in advance. I made whimpering noises to Sandra about the fact that we would make up for near starvation in the 18e by some special meals later in the Dordogne. Anselm even tried to soothe me last week but I could see the look of disbelief in his eye.
To really bring out the sweats, the mini Paris GTG group decided to eat lunch in the Montmartre area and let me choose the locale! - More about that after the fact on Thursday.
We arrived on a Sunday and went for our orientation walk about 6 pm. The weather was warm and there were people everywhere – mainly families. Moms and dads with school aged children roamed rue Damremont and Caulaincourt, sat at the numerous cafes and restaurants, and lined up at shops selling “emporters” – those wonderful take-out places that dot Paris.
The areas to the west of rue des Saules seem to be residential while those to the east, including Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre are very, very touristy. To the east of Sacre Coeur things change again. South of Ordener (maybe even farther) down to Clichy is residential. Boulevard de Clichy, around place Blanche and along to place Pigalle is different, but not threatening or scary.
We have walked many of the usual parts of Paris and what stands out to us that this (and probably all the residential areas) is where the people live. That probably sounds trite and redundant but we were unprepared for the change in types of businesses from the typical hotel areas. There are lots of Laundromats, book stores, many cafes, real estate agencies, boulangers (more than you could imagine), green grocers, emporteurs, tabacs, florists, children’s shoe stores, hardware type stores, grocery stores, specialty food shops (fish, cheese, meat, wine). You can’t walk two minutes without hitting another cafe or bakery.
What we don’t find are internet cafes, few hotels, souvenir stores, gift stores, huge restaurants. The cafes are scaled down versions of what we had seen before - several are wine bars.
Our first morning we sat drinking our coffee and eating our tartine, watching the mothers and fathers walk their children to school. A few minutes later they joined us in the cafe and the other cafes nearby. It made sense when we realized that today was Monday – probably a day off for many who work in stores and shops and such.
Tuesday morning we spent a couple of hours visiting Bruliere de Montmartre - a shop where they roast coffees that they sell to the public as well as to hotels and restaurants, Chez Virginie - a cheese shop with some wonderful specialy offerings as well as all the French usuals, and Arnaud Delmontel Boulanger – winner of the best baguette in Paris and supplier to the President for the year. All three of these were within five minutes of our apartment on Damremont. (It was only later that I realized that we had covered all the food groups – coffee, cheese and bread and pastries.)
Lots of jeans but few of the scruffy ones that the kids wear at home. I guess you would say designer jeans and usually fitted. Few of the classic white runners but some coloured ones and throwbacks (PF Flyer types). The shoes tend to be more important than at home. Again we are impressed by how the French seem to take up less space than we do. Yet every baguette being carried home seems to be missing a little chunk from one end.
If you want to visit the sites, other than Sacre Coeur, Place du Tertre and the cemetery, you will find it more inconvenient than the single-digit arrondisements. If living among the Parisians, partaking of daily life, walking and talking appeal to you as the perfect Paris visit, you might enjoy it as much as we are.
I am sure others will have a different take on things and opinions will vary.


robjame is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 03:29 AM
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If you wish to see the pictures along with this, you can visit my travel blog:

http://tinyurl.com/2ke4k2

There are links at the bottom of the journal to pictures accompanying the previous parts. It is the same writing, just with pics - sadly Fodors doesn't allow this yet.
robjame is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 06:42 AM
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Wonderful report so far. I'm planning on renting a flat on my next visit. Until now, I've stayed with a friend who lives in the 11th. I want to try my own place (practice for retirement!) and I'm torn between the 11th, which is familiar to me, and the 18th.

I've only visited the 18th twice so I don't know my way around it at all but I'm drawn to that area for some reason.

Very interested in your impressions.
janeygirl is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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robjame, am waiting for the restauarant reviews! yours are the best and i need to start with my list for next may's paris trip.
plambers is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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I love your pictures of daily life on 'your street'. Looking forward to more as we're staying in our first Parisian apartment next spring.

Wasn't kerouac joking about the taxes?
highflyer is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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Bookmarking, in great hope of things to come. I love Montmartre.
likeswords is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 08:33 AM
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That would be unusual if property taxes were based solely on the appearance of an entrance, but I sure don't know. I thought that it was just because (as is true in many places), the entrance is communal and no one cares that much about its appearance in comparison to their own apartment's interior. Heck, I wouldn't personally renovate the entrance of an apt. building where I rented. Landlords often don't care that much as they don't live there.

Vin Sobre used to have a different name, as it's just a corner small cafe where I used to eat breakfast a lot as a student in the neighborhood (I was attending Schola Cantorum music school across the street). It has working class guys taking coffee at the bar, and a few of US jammed in there. I can't believe it's some chic boite now, and I did go by it as I am around that neighborhood quite a bit when I visit Paris, but it was closed (it was a Sunday or Monday night).
Christina is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 08:35 AM
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Property taxes are based on theoretical rental value. Dismal staircases lower the value. (As for the outside of the building, municipal regulations require that the outside be renovated every 15 years or so -- it used to be every 8 years in coal burning days.) I just received my annual property tax for my apartment in the 18th (75m˛), and it is 195€. Most of my colleagues howled, because they live in the suburbs and are paying 2000-6000€ in property taxes.
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