Jacqueline Harmon Butler - International award-winning travel writer/author - JacquelineHarmonButler.com Jacqueline Harmon Butler
Jacqueline Harmon Butler - International award-winning travel writer/author - JacquelineHarmonButler.com
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Living in Paris: A Week at a Time (France)

"Your car is waiting Madame," said the chauffeur when I identified myself as the person named on the discrete sign he was holding.

The view from my window"This way please," he said as he took charge of my bags. He led me to a lovely gray Mercedes Benz waiting at the curb just outside the baggage claim area of Charles De Gaulle Airport.

"Ah yes," I sighed, settling into the elegant comfort of the soft leather seat. "This is the way to arrive in Paris."

I always wanted to live in Paris but alas, even though I had been there many times, my visits were never very long and I invariably stayed in hotels. When I began planning another trip to Paris I wanted to do something different, and decided to rent an apartment. That way I could pretend I lived there--if only for a week.

I researched short term rentals on the Internet and found several companies offering the types of accommodations I was looking for. After much deliberation and many hours spent surfing the web, I decided to rent my apartment from PSR, Paris Sejour Reservation. Their Website is easy to negotiate, with photos of the apartments, floor plans, and complete descriptions of the units and their neighborhoods, including the nearest Metro stations. I had fun shopping for my residence among the many listings within my specifications and price range. The PSR personnel were easy to work with and helpfully answered all my questions via e-mail from their Chicago office.

I decided on a two bedroom apartment in the 5th Arrondissement on a tiny street called Rue Laplace. The apartment looked charming in the photos and the description mentioned it had a roof top view of the Pantheon.

My chauffeur drove me directly to PSR's office on the Champs Elysées and then waited with the car and my baggage while I went in to pick up the key to my apartment. The $75.00 I paid for the chauffeur service was a great option and PSR had made all the arrangements. I was greeted in the PSR office by a friendly woman who spoke perfect English. She gave me various papers to sign, then presented me with a small packet of information including the front door entry code of my building, emergency phone numbers, a map and tourist guide of Paris and the key to my apartment. Within 10 minutes I was back in the car and heading toward the Quartier Latin on the Left Bank, and home.

Rue Laplace was one of those charming tiny Parisian streets that you have to know about to find. The apartment house was a nondescript building put together after WW II, with a plain glass entry and somewhat unattractive common area. I was slightly disappointed that the building wasn't very grand and didn't have a flower garden with small tables in front. The apartment however, was lovely and spacious. It consisted of a nice sized living room with a couch, easy chair, coffee table, TV, radio, and a round dining table with four chairs. The furniture throughout the apartment was painted soft blue and accented with a cheerful yellow and blue print fabric. The two bedrooms each contained twin beds and one of them had a sliding door closet and the other a chest of drawers. There was large closet in the hallway containing a clothes drying rack, iron, ironing board, a vacuum cleaner and various other cleaning items. The smallish kitchen had French doors opening onto views of the building roofs nearby and the street below. There was a full size cooking range, a compact refrigerator, a microwave oven, a coffee maker as well as cooking pots, utensils, dishes, glasses, and a table with two chairs. The bathroom, although small, was well lit and had a tub and a hair dryer. There was actually a tiny dishwasher in the kitchen and clothes washer in the bathroom! All the comforts of home.

There were windows everywhere so the apartment was light and airy and I felt like I could live there for a lot longer than just a week. I threw open the French doors in the living room and there, just like in the photos, beyond the typical Parisian style Mansard slate roofs and clay chimney pots, was the Pantheon.

"Bonjour Paris," I sang as I danced around my new home.

Just two blocks away from rue Laplace, near the Maubert-Mutualite Metro stop, was a wonderful market area. I could stop on my way home from the Metro and pick up fresh bread, milk, produce and whatever else I needed quickly and easily. One day I bought some delicious strawberries from the produce stall--then went to the creamery and purchased fresh, thick cream to dip them in. That evening I dined at home on fragrant roast chicken, fried potatoes, asparagus vinaigrette, carrot salad, various cheeses along with a crunchy baguette, and all washed down by a special Provençal rosé wine and finished with the incredibly sweet strawberries.

There were plenty of restaurants and cafés within easy reach of my home, including an excellent restaurant right next door, specializing in cuisine from the Auvergne region of France, and beyond the apartment in another direction was the rue Moufftard, one of the oldest streets in Paris. It leads off the Place de la Contrescarpe, and dates back to the Middle Ages. At that time it was the main Roman road to the southeast, Lyon and Italy. Today it is a delight to food lovers and is filled with restaurants and bustling outdoor markets offering everything from horse meat, wild boar, mangoes and mushrooms to an incredibly smelly selection of marvelous cheeses.

The biggest challenge for me, however, was breakfast. Now, with all those restaurants and little cafes in the neighborhood one would not think getting my morning coffee and toast would be a problem. However, I am not a morning person. I can't even imagine getting dressed and going out in public before at least two cups of strong coffee and a piece of bread at home. Since the average life span of a French baguette is only three hours, I knew I would have to find an alternative for my breakfast. My first try was a croissant. Although light and flaky when bought, overnight it turned into a mushy, tasteless blob. Then I tried a Pain au Chocolate and had a similar result. On the third try I came up with a winner: brioche. Left overnight in the little waxy bag provided by the boulanger, it stayed fresh and tasted divine, especially when slathered with apricot jam. The weather was perfect. The Chestnut trees were in full blossom and the sweet fragrance of flowering roses seemed to follow me everywhere. Most days I had no schedule, no appointments, no commitments and so I wandered the streets of Paris, enjoying the serendipity of not having plans other than to drink in the myriad of sights, sounds and smells.

Though I found a little cyber cafe around the corner from my apartment, I decided not to go inside and check it out. I would have been tempted to get my e-mail and I knew I didn't want the reality of business and a life left behind to burst my dream of living in Paris. Instead, I walked right on by and headed for a restaurant over on the Boulevard St. Germain that is a favorite of mine.

The week seemed to rush by no matter how I tried to slow things down, until finally it was my last day. My flight was very early the next morning so I made arrangements with PSR (for an additional fee of 25 Euros) to leave the key in the apartment rather than return it to their office.

A soft rain fell as I walked down the hill to meet some friends for dinner. We laughed and talked until the restaurant closed, then ventured a little further down the street to a small wine bar. We stayed there philosophizing about love, life and the pursuit of happiness far into the night. Then, all too soon, it was over. The minivan airport shuttle was outside my apartment and within a short period of time I was on an Air France 747 heading back to reality.

"A bientot Paris," cried my heart as I lost sight of the magical city and my home--a week at a time.

Here's how to make YOUR home in Paris, a week at a time....
645 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 638
Chicago, IL 60611
tel: 312-587-7707
fax: 312-587-9887
e-mail: psrusa@aol.com

90, Avenue des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris, France
tel: (33) 01 53 89 10 50
fax: (33) 01 53 89 10 59
e-mail: parispsr@planete.net

PSR offers a selection of over 600 apartments; from small studios to large, luxurious three bedroom apartments, priced from 75 to 350 Euros per night. The apartments are all supplied with direct line telephones, color televisions, fully equipped kitchens, weekly cleaning with change of linen, and access to a 24-hour emergency hotline.

For additional fees there is a concierge service, and VCR, Minitel (a special French computer information network) fax, answering and photocopy machines available. They will also arrange airport transfers or chauffeur service.

Executive Car/Carey Limousine
25/27 rue D'Astorg
75008 Paris, France
Reservations can be made through the PSR office
About $75 Euros

Paris Airport Service
01 49 62 78 78
About 20 Euros for one person or 12 per person for two or more.
Airport Shuttle
01 45 38 55 72
About 22 Euros for one person or 15 per person for two or more

If you wish to travel outide Paris, the train is always a great idea. Contact French National Railways for more details.

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