2013 / Countdown to European Summer / opinions & musings / travel guides / travellin' feet

Paris Apartments, the Finale & Series: Countdown to Summer 2013

I am so excited about my family’s Paris trip this year! I’ve been checking David Lebovitz’s site  on the daily and making long, obsessive lists of restaurants…(I know, I know, I’ll tone it down!)

He even has a Paris boulangerie/bakery app for the iPhone! Now if there were only an app that would magically make Parisians less rude…(stereotype, stereotype, I know, but I have stories about it! Another time…) 

So I finally nailed down the top, final two choices of lodging for our family trip to Paris this summer. I’ve had so much success using Airbnb, and again, I highly recommend it to you if you’re travelling abroad. You’ll find spaces more unique and ‘authentic’ than any hotel, and often at better rates as well. July is a busy tourism time for Paris, and hotel prices were sky-high: the cheapest rates we found were at the Best Western Paris (everyone say it with me–“ew”) for $200 a night, and the hotel room was far away from the center, and horrifically tiny. 

Though it’s often intimidating to sort through all the airbnb listings available (especially for such a popular city like Paris), having an approximation of what you require, what you would want, (and what you don’t want) is always a start. They also have these amazing city guides (Paris included, check it out here; they don’t have all the major cities yet, but my guess is that they’ll get there) that give you advice on different neighborhoods, as well as listing of who lives in each one.

My requirements for my family’s Paris apartment were purely aesthetic: I wanted a “traditional” Paris apartment, which meant parquet flooring  (geometrical wooden flooring) & French windows (aka, window-doors). These were absolute non-negotiables; I rejected any apartment that didn’t have them immediately.

My requests (not necessary, but would be nice) were as such: 1) Under $220 USD/night & 2) An spacious and well-stocked kitchen (wouldn’t it be so dreamy–and cost-cutting!–to pick things up in the markets to make your own breakfasts at home?)

My dislikes: first floor apartments, neighborhoods with tons of nightlife/bars, and pull-out couches that serve as the “second bed” for 4 occupants (it is so common in Paris, and I was not about to pay over $200USD a night to sleep on a sofa!)

Both apartments I found fit all my requirements and most of my requests, and I would be happy to stay at either of them; but I wanted your opinion before I made the final choice (my mom and I puzzled over it at dinner and still couldn’t decide, we liked both of them so much!)

So are we ready to play Paris apartment one last time? Let’s go!

#1. “Typical Parisian Flat with View in Paris” (Peres-Lachaise Menilmontant), $203/night, 70 sq. m.

Pros: This apartment took my breath away, especially the view (see the last few pictures in this set)! Can you imagine sitting up there to enjoy the sunset through the open window? Breathtaking & it’ll be amazing to live so high up! It’s on the 5th floor of a beautiful old building in a “real”, “non-touristy” Parisian neighborhood, with tons of sidewalk cafes and little shops; it has not one, not two, but three beds (two doubles and one single)–so Grace and I can get some space apart if we want to. Plus, look at those bookshelves, and the retro furniture is unique & classy! The kitchen is spacious & airy, and has an amazing view of some Paris rooftops as well!

Cons: Parisians apparently don’t use air-conditioning, and Paris in July will be hot, and since heat rises, we might have to make good use of those French windows. While I love the decor, is it too uncomfortable to hang out in (it certainly is a different style of couch than the norm…)? Pere-Lachaise is an “authentic” neighborhood, but would it be better to stay somewhere more touristy for our first time in Paris? And Pere-Lachaise (and this apartment) is famous for its prime location next to a….cemetery. Albeit it’s where legends like Edith Piaf are married, but how spooky would it be at night? 

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#2. “Great apartment close to Montmartre” (Pigalle-St. Georges), $202/night, 85 sq. m.

Pros: The SEVEN large French windows throughout the house! French window heaven–two windows in the master bedroom! The decor is beautiful & the living room looks cozy. The apartment is bigger (only by 15 sq. meter, but still) and it has little bit of balcony! And how great is the dining room? Imagine eating breakfast surrounded by three open French windows! The master bed seems larger, and it’s located near Montmartre and the Rue des Martyrs, a famous foodie street. The surrounding area looks so Parisian!

Cons: Montmartre isn’t always the safest neighborhood, especially if you wander too close to Barbes-Rouchechart metro stop; the area goes from “over-the-top touristy” suddenly to “way ghetto”. It’s easy to get lost and end up in the latter area; which I had the misfortune of doing on my last trip to Paris (bad memories!). The kitchen looks super cramped, and the second bed is awkwardly wedged behind a bookcase.

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Wanting your own airbnb experience? I’ll share some of my experience & tips: 

One. As I mentioned above, make a list of your requirements (things that cannot be negotiated), wants, and dislikes. Airbnb also does a great job of helping you filter through apartments right away; besides searching by date and # of people, you can search by neighborhood, price, amenities, and much more.

Two. The most fun part: browse, browse, browse! Try to choose places that have airbnb verified photos (that have been taken by a airbnb hired photographer) and already have at least 1-2 reviews. 

Three. After you’ve found a good handful (5-7) options, type out a quick message to the hosts, something along the lines of “Hey, I’m (name) from (location), I’m coming to (city) for (purpose of travel) along with my (friends, family, boyfriend, etc), loved your apartment and was wondering if it’s available for the dates specified (airbnb will attach the date along with the request). Then sit back & link airbnb to your text messaging so you get alerts whenever a new message hits your inbox. 

Four. Something keep in mind: It’d be wise to message a ton of hosts. I probably messaged over 20 before I found my dream apartments. I always had a few top choices; ones that kept changing as I found sifted through new apartments. I saw many beautiful places listed as “available”; but upon messaging the host, I often found that they had simply forgotten to update the airbnb ‘calendar’ and the apartment wasn’t actually going to be available for the dates you want. 

In addition, don’t just always take the listed price at face value. Many apartments are listed as accommodating 4, but will charge extra $$ per person over 2 guests. (For example, the Montmartre apartment charges $20/per person/per day for above guests). Make sure you factor things like that into the budget!

Five. Don’t be shy in communicating with hosts. I asked each of these two hosts a ton of questions: and it’s not only their replies that will help you; it’s the manner in which they respond. If a host gives a long, detailed answer, you know they’re dedicated and willing to help. In addition, if you’re still unsure whether they’re telling the truth about their area (the area around the apartment), use Google Maps: just type in the address listed, pick up the floating yellow Google Map man and take a virtual tour around the apartment to see what kind of cafes, stores, etc are around. This is super helpful, as we had been looking at a beautiful Bastille apartment; but when we typed in the address on Maps, we found out the flat is located on an entire street of bars. 

Six. Lastly, before you book, take note of the airbnb fee (it ranges from host to host) as well as their security deposit (this is usually well above $500USD and is the amount that airbnb will withhold from your account if any incident happens).

Hope this advice helps, especially for those planning their summer adventures!

And don’t forget the most important question: So what do you think? Which apartment should the Hsu family decide to book for our week in Paris? 

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4 thoughts on “Paris Apartments, the Finale & Series: Countdown to Summer 2013

  1. Hello Stephanie

    This is just my point of view…
    If I had to spend a week in Paris with my family, I think I will choose to stay around St Georges rather than Pere Lachaise and 15 square meter more can make the difference..

    I am sure you will love rue des Martyrs for the café, restaurants shops and grocerys and if you go up the street around Abbesses you will find also nices shops and cafés.

    There is a small and lovely museum close from St georges
    Le musée de la Vie Romantique, you will find a small garden where you can have the and cakes….

    From Place Pigalle you have a bus n°67 which go down to The Louvre, Chatelet, Le marais, and Jardin des plantes
    It is a good way to go to the center by the river and see the city also

    Barbes is not so close and if you look on the map you can easily avoid it
    (not so dangerous by daytime by the way…but remember, you will have to be careful of your belonging when you are a tourist in Paris… )

    I am less familiar with the area around Pere Lachaise
    It is a very big and famous cemetery, not spooky at all … well may be at midnight…. 😉
    A lot of tourists and parisians like to take a walk there ( a very green place )
    Since a few years ( because this aera was cheaper )a lot of young people came to live there
    There is many café, and affordable restaurants and shops
    May be other people can give you better advice
    But for me it is a little bit far from all other places

    Weather in July in Paris can be hot…or not… if you have windows and no noisy restaurant downstairs or big and busy avenue don’t worry too much about it

    Hope this will be helpfull

    PS : don’t forget to go one day have lunch in the Marche des Enfants Rouges
    Small restaurants inside the market
    The entrance is Rue de Bretagne 75003

  2. The first flat is right down my street, walk by it everyday to the metro!
    But yeah, there’s more stuff to do around St Georges, such a shame you never asked me anything about Paris Steph, you know i live here! X

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