Where to stay while traveling is always a sticky wicket.
When my husband told me I was going to Paris, I was flabbergasted at the hotel prices in Paris. The numbers were steep, so I decided to consider my options and seriously considered renting an apartment.
Although I don’t have a ton of experience renting apartments or houses in far flung locations, I did rent a home when we traveled to Bristol Bay, Alaska a few years ago and when I traveled to London with my children more than five years ago, we rented an apartment. Both experiences were perfect so I sensed that an apartment rental in Paris had potential.
After poking randomly through Homeaway.com and VRBO.com, I called in a pro…my “big sister.” Alison has rented homes overseas while traveling with her family so I felt that if we put our collective heads together we could find something nice and far more affordable. Conferencing live over the phone, we went to the websites and poked through our options together, sharing property numbers, nixing ugly spots or bad locations, hitting the “save” button, declaring YUCK to dark cluttered abodes, and saying maybe to some.
Because this was all happening on relatively short notice and with only a few weeks to spare, we had to work quickly. We sent inquiries noting our dates and waited for responses. Many places were already booked. There was one lovely small apartment in the Marais, or the 4th arrondissement, that kept coming back to us. A mere 366 square feet and located in an 18th century building, the one bedroom apartment was admittedly small by American standards but it was fully renovated with custom cabinets, a new fully equipped kitchen, gorgeous large windows with luxurious drapes, hardwood floors, colorful tile, and tons of charm. Rather than wait for an email response, my sister started calling the owner directly. Much to our delight, the owner called back promptly and informed us that the apartment was available for our dates. She even offered us a slight discount. We didn't hesitate, hem, or haw. We booked it.
Now, of course, booking something unknown and from a stranger has its inherent risks. You are essentially forking over dough before you’ve even set eyes on the product. Thankfully, the risk was worth it because the apartment was beautiful and suited our needs perfectly. The owner lives in New York now, but she purchased the apartment, which she calls “Les Miroirs du Marais,” while living in Paris and fully renovated it to suit her style. It’s a winner and we couldn’t have been more comfortable.
The fully equipped kitchen ran along one wall and was fitted with custom cabinets, a deep farmhouse sink, a pot rack, a large refrigerator with freezer, a compact dishwasher, a lovely stove and a washer/dryer combo. Miraculously, all of this ran along one wall and at the end of the wall there was a huge floor to ceiling window that let in tons of light and fresh air. The rest of the room featured a tall table with four chairs, a large comfortable convertible couch, a fireplace and fitted cabinets with television and an additional window. Hardwood floors and ceiling beams added warmth and simplicity. A large ornate mirror over the fireplace added space to the room. The one bedroom featured a large comfortable bed, luxurious linens and a lovely bathroom with gorgeous tiles.
Overall, our stay at "Les Miroirs du Marais” was perfect. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat and for those who are thinking of renting a home on their next vacation, here are few general pros and cons based on our experience:
Substantial Savings on accommodations with no additional fees, surcharges, or taxes
Fully equipped kitchen allowed for healthier and far more affordable eating. It also allowed us to buy local and shop at the weekly neighborhood market, purchasing French cherries and berries, lettuces, farmhouse cheeses, rotisserie chicken, and beautiful beans and potatoes
Free WiFi and free phone calls home offered additional savings
Washer and dryer available
Great location in a charming residential neighborhood yet centrally located near buses, metro and landmarks
I see very few cons. One con is that some people might worry over the risk of booking from a stranger. Indeed it’s a risk and leap of faith, but overall, my sisters and I have had good luck doing this.
The only other con, for us, was that we didn’t have a front desk or a concierge who could map out our plans for the day and point us in the exact most efficient direction for starting our day.
Stay tuned for Three Sisters in Paris, Part Three, Maps, Apps, and Compasses!!