especially in €€€€ Paris.
The challenge is daunting but after years of hits and misses,
I think I've figured out a few words of advice:
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK UPFRONT.
2. NARROW THE LIST DOWN TO A SPECIFIC CRITERIA.
Let me explain.
1. Do Your Homework. Check out every available option, including location and preferred
type of accommodation. Ask yourself three main questions:
(1) Do I want to be in the center of the action or on the fringe where it's quiet?
(2) Transportation issues count -- when in Paris, make sure you're near a Metro stop. If you're staying in a countryside village, consider ease of road access and parking.
(3) Stick to your budget and read reviews (not always reliable but at least helpful)
to avoid any big surprises.
2. Many people ooh and aah over deluxe accommodations and make it the focus of their trip. Personally, I'd rather spend the extra cash on food, drink and fun.
You can choose a fancy schmancy hotel. But let's face it, Paris is Paris
and you're twice as likely to feel fulfilled by absorbing the most beautiful and interesting city in the world than by the sound system in your room.
Do you really need to stay at a 5-star hotel to be happy?
It's better to consider whether you'd prefer an apartment in the Marais
or a B&B near Montparnasse. Location, location, location
counts more than the number of stars associated with a property.
Are you bold enough to try a new neighborhood?
It's fun to return to a place you know but then again, it's amazing to find a new favorite.
If you've haven't traveled much, this is your opportunity to learn as you go.
I love apartments with extras like a washing machine and a small kitchen
so I feel more like a local.
3. Once you've arrived at your new Paris digs, make the best of it. Even the quirks. That's part of what makes travel an adventure. You're not moving in for life, you're crafting your memoir. Your hotel/B&B/apartment isn't even worth a chapter in the adventure you're writing. Maybe a paragraph. You hope for the best but if it's not, it shouldn't ruin the whole narrative. Save room ($$) for a sequel.
With years of travel in Europe under our belt, we've laughed ourselves
silly over some of the situations we've encountered.
1. The beautiful house in the picture you see here is located near Narbonne, a gorgeous city in the Languedoc region of France. We loved everything about it --- except that the door to our room wouldn't lock.
Who wants to leave their room wide open to just anyone, right? The proprietors just shrugged and said "Oh, we got rid of all the locks. People would lose their keys, it was a hassle so we decided not to worry about it."
The first night, I placed a heavy chair in front of the door so I could sleep in peace but after that we, too, realized it was no big deal. I felt right at home as people casually wandered down to breakfast in their dressing gowns and the proprietor
washed and dried my undies on a line for all to see.
2. Another time, we stayed in a hotel where the owner, a typically reserved (quiet and aloof) French woman, screamed to high heaven at her husband in the kitchen while everyone ate breakfast in the dining room. Other than her high pitched melodrama, you could hear a pin drop in the room.
No one (French clientele only) raised an eyebrow.
Disturbing at the time but a fun story to tell when we returned home.
3. Early in our travels, we "winged it" from time to time and made hotel reservations only after we arrived in a city. We learned our lesson as
we tried to book a room at the last minute in Senlis, a charming,
historical, medieval (translation = popular) town just north of Paris.
There was no room at the inn. Finally, we found a little place,
well located but slightly shabby, and booked for one night only.
The room decoration was interesting.
Portraits of Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor
were framed just above our bed.
My man was happy.
4. Staying in a wonderfully located apartment in Paris for a whole month, our landlord was mortified that he had to send a plumber over one morning
to fix a leak dripping from our bathroom into the apartment below.
It was no big deal to us. He showed up on time and we all enjoyed a very pleasant conversation as he plied his trade.
Our landlord apologized with a dozen macaroons from Ladurée and
a top notch bottle of champagne for our trouble.
Landlord 0; Gary & Michelle 10.
5. We stayed in a lovely B&B in Honfleur (Normandy). The proprietor explained we'd have to let ourselves in if we stayed out after midnight. We arrived late and spent twenty whole minutes figuring out that you had to turn the key TWICE to open the door. We've never forgotten that lesson and have encountered the same type of lock several times through the years.
6. Our hotels in Paris have varied from small to smaller. My husband still talks about the time the bathroom was so snug, you had to stick your butt out the door to wash your face and turn your whole body sideways to sit on the toilet.
I believe it was called a Hotel of Charm in the guidebook. ;)
7. Speaking of toilets, we once enjoyed a hotel stay in the Dordogne, where there was a skylight right above the commode. The view of the village's 14th century castle was pure perfection, seeming to hang over our heads and we fought over who got to enjoy the view,
especially at night when it lit up the sky.
If you watch and enjoy House Hunters International and you especially enjoy the Paris episodes with Adrian Leeds, the transplated American with an attitude (love it!), listen to her carefully. She never promises perfection. Her basic attitude is hey, this is Paris for crying out loud.
And that's exactly how I feel. I'll take the stairs. I'll suffer with a curtainless, hand-held shower head. I'll live with paper thin walls. Whatever it takes, it doesn't matter in the long run.
I get to "live" in the city of my dreams.
The same city where Napoleon and Josephine probably endured
too many stairs and very little hot water.
The same city where Josephine Baker, Jim Morrison and Ernest Hemingway
may have encountered a tiny bathroom or two.
It's still Paris, the same city where Audrey Hepburn once remarked,
"Paris is always a good idea."
More advice from Ms. Hepburn (as Sabrina):
"More isn't always better, Linus. Sometimes it's just more."
She gets it. Accommodations are just part of the trip. The magic is outside your door.
Welcome to Paris.