Category Archives: Paris, Île-de-France

Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris, Episode 153

Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris, Episode 153


Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris, Phil Goldsmith with Eiffel Tower in the background

Introduction

Renting an apartment in Paris is a great option, especially if you’re planning on staying in Paris one week or longer. It is probably not ideal for first-time Paris visitors who don’t know the area yet, but even for them, it can be a good option if they are coming with children or extended family. In this episode Phil Goldsmith shares the secrets to finding an apartment in Paris and he breaks it down into simple steps that anybody can follow. If you’ve rented apartments in Paris and would like to share your own nuggets of wisdom, call the voice mail line 801-816-1015. Also stay tuned until after the interview with Phil to hear from Inaugural Tour Member Sue Walsh. Enjoy the show!

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

What You Will Learn about in Today’s Episode

40″ On today’s episode, Phil Goldsmith shares his tips and secrets for finding an apartment in Paris.

43″ Our next Paris Tour is scheduled for Oct 1 through Oct 7th 2017; we would love to have you join us in France, not only through the podcast but also in real life.

2’16 Interview with Phil Goldsmith starts

5’11 Why rent an apartment and stay at a hotel? An apartment gives you more of a chance of living like a local. Hotels are a lot more anonymous. Apartments are also more likely to be situated in a residential area rather than a business/commercial area. For instance there are few apartments for rent in the 2nd arrondissement, but there are lots of hotels there. When staying in an apartment you probably won’t get your breakfast at a café, but you may walk to the local bakery and get a chocolatine while observing real life.

7′ It is true that there is nobody living on the Ile de la Cité who is not either a millionaire or someone staying at a hotel.

7’34 Will renting an apartment save me money? We’ll come back to this question later in the episode also, but renting an apartment doesn’t so much save you money as it gets you better value for your money. Renting is cost effective for people who are staying for several weeks.

8’50 If you’re going for just a few days, just get a hotel. Finding the right apartment takes a long time. There is no standard rating system for apartments, each agency does things their own way, you have to spend time looking into the place you are considering renting.

9’54 You get more room in an apartment than in a hotel. Apartments are great for kids or extended families too. Apartments make it easy to accommodate bigger groups.

11′ Gite de France are made for families, they typically have mom and dad and two or three kids. Those are mostly in the countryside.

11’38 Because apartments are a little less expensive, you can leave the apartment for a few days and explore other areas nearby.

12’12 The disadvantages of renting an apartment:

  • You have to do a lot of research to find an apartment.
  • People sometimes wonder if this is a legitimate rental. You’re better off going through a reputable agency than Craig’s List!
  • 2-bedroom apartments are harder to find, but it can be done.
  • The apartment will be quirky or charming depending on how you want to look at this.

13’36 Some of the crazy places Phil has rented in the past: rickety tiny stairs and steep stairs without handrails or bathroom where you have to go out on the terrace to get to the bathroom.

15’30 Be prepared to deal with a security deposit. Different agencies handle this differently: some put a hold on your credit card, some what you to bring cash to give to the owner that you will get back when you check out. For some of the longer rentals there may be charges for cleaning and electrical bills. You know about this ahead of time if you read the website.

18′ What you need to know about rental agencies: there are countless numbers of them. They are either direct rental platforms like AirB&B or managed apartments. You may have heard of VBRO or HomeAway, AirB&B, Home to Go: those are the big ones. There are also a lot of local Paris-based agencies that are in the managed apartment business. They manage the apartments on behalf of the owner. They all seem to have the word Paris in their name: Paris Attitude, Paris Stay, Paris à la carte, Paris Perfect, Vacation in Paris, etc. They know the Paris market better and their websites are designed for the quirkiness of the area. Their apartment descriptions are usually more detailed.

21’`4 Some agencies will take the reservation with a credit card. Some will require an international wire transfer. Sometimes transferring money between the US and France is a pain, it can be done.

22’55 There will be some cancellation policy imposed by the agency. It’s not usually unreasonable, but you need to understand it. With a hotel room you normally only lose the first night, with a rental you may lose the whole thing.

24’30 Where do you want to stay in Paris? If it’s your first time in Paris you need to understand how the city is organized. Look at the map and learn what the arrondissements mean and why it matters. The Latin Quarter is close to everything you want to see. If it’s your first visit to Paris, stay as close as you can to Notre Dame.

28′ If you plan on taking the RER between the CDG Airport and the center of Paris, you have to know that it stops in the 5th arrondissement, so it’s an easy transfer. So long as you don’t have to change lines you should be OK.

29’35 The Ile de la Cité is a business area, in the day-time it is bustling. But at night it empties and you’re left with just tourists. It is the opposite on the Ile Saint Louis.

30’50 You can choose a busy street or a quieter side street. You will also have the choice of facing the courtyard or the busy street. Pay attention to that.

31’43 Ask yourself what goes on at night on that street. You may pick a quiet street next to a night-club and if you’re not used to city life you won’t enjoy it. Make that choice carefully.

32’30 None of these apartments have parking. Take a walk of the neighborhood using Google Street View before you rent.

35′ Once you’ve found an apartment you’re interested in, you need to decipher the listing. It’ll give you the number of square meters (multiply by 9 to get the square feet). A studio apartment might be around 35 square meters. By comparison, the average hotel room in the center of Paris is 8 square meters!

37’25 Most apartments are non-smoking and most do not allow pets. Many are not air conditioned. Some apartments can supply a crib if you wish.

38’15 It is important to Phil to know what sort of building you’re staying in. Is it a Haussmann building? Is it more recent? That makes a lot of difference in terms of ceiling height, decor, and light.

40’25 Some of the buildings will not be lit well because French people are obsessed with saving electricity. There will be timers in the halls. Use your cell phone as a flashlight in some of those older buildings with stingy occupants.

42′ The first floor in France is what Americans call the second floor. There may be some stairs involved even if the building has an elevator. If this matters to you, inquire about that.

43′ Passcode lock: most places nowadays have a passcode lock instead of a key. Some of the listings have floor plans, most only have photos. Look at the photos really carefully. AC is rare in France but WiFi is common these days.

French locks are very different from American locks. If you’re not used to a simple American lock and don’t live in a high security building, you will probably be surprised by what it takes to open a door in France. Most places have security locks.  Some places have locks where if you don’t move the door handle all the way up, it will not lock. You may have to have somebody show you how it’s done if it’s not immediately obvious. Make sure you have a number you can call if you run into a problem.

47′ From the photos, take a good look at the quality of the furnishings. If there are slip covers or a sheet on the sofa, it indicates that it’s not great.

48′ Many rental apartments will not have an oven. Some will not have a microwave. Take a close look at what’s there.

49′ Bed sizes in France. In the description you’ll often read that the bed is King, Queen or Double, but those descriptions are an indication of size, it will not be what you’re used to. Double beds are the most common size you’ll see. French size are 140 (double) or 160 (queen) or 180+ king. French people never have enough pillows in apartments.

51’40 Water closet is separate in France. The bathroom is where you’ll find a shower or bathtub + a sink. The toilet is separate. This is because French people think it’s filthy to go to the bathroom where you brush your teeth.

53’47 Take a look at the reviews, most people will say it was great, what’s even more important is that this place has been rented in the past.

55′ Checking in and out. There is no concierge or front desk, you need to make arrangements to meet someone. Allow enough time to get to the apartment from Charles de Gaulle airport (typically 90 to 120 minutes). Most apartment managers will ask you to call them when you are on your way.

56’44 Deposit in cash can be a problem because you’ll have to carry the cash, but then what do you do with the cash when they give it back to you at the end? Ask if you can pay your cash deposit if dollars, so at least when you get it back you don’t have to convert it back before you can use it.

58′ There is usually a house rules binder in the apartment that will explain how things work in the apartment. Avoid using the small home dryers, they are awful. Just wash and hang dry.

60′ There are very few American food items that you can’t find at French grocery stores. Chili powder is one, coffee creamer is another.

61′ When you checkout, set a time with the apartment manager. Some places will ask you to replace things that you finish. They may ask you to strip the beds and empty the garbage.

63′ In Provence rentals are very expensive April thru November and cheap thru the winter months.

64′ Annie’s arguments against renting an apartment:

  • If you’re going the apartment route, you may be tempted to stay somewhere longer than you need to. Some place won’t rent for less than one week and there are lots of places in France where the only way to make that work is if you rent a car and you use the apartment as a central point to go visit lots of things.
  • For people who already know that they know and like France, it’s good to stay a while, but if it’s all new to you, don’t stay too long in one place or you’ll get bored.

Conclusion

Phil likens the process of renting an apartment in Paris to the fast, good, or cheap paradigm. You need to decide if it’s most important to you to have your apartment with easy access to attractions (fast), how many amenities you want (good) or how much you’re willing to pay (cheap). You can have two of the three, but probably not all three at the same time. With this episode you’re now better equipped to decide which two matter most to you.

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Paris Small Group Tours with Annie and Elyse, Episode 152

Paris small group tours with Annie and Elyse, Episode 152


Paris small group tours

A few months ago Annie and Elyse decided to take the plunge and organize some Paris small group tours. Elyse has extensive experience as a tour leader, but Annie had none up until now. But, what do you know? The tour was lots of fun and we’re ready to do it again!

On today’s episode we reminisce and discuss future plans. Why should you listen even if you have no desire to go on a tour with us? Because we share a lot of travel logistics gems in this episode, listen and learn!

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

What You Will Learn About in this Episode

4’30 While leading the Inaugural Tour we ran into a lot of tour groups where there were so many people that it was just a one-way conversation.  It’s like factory tourism. What we’re doing is totally different because our groups are so small.

5’16 Touring with Annie and Elyse is like touring with family.

5’50 Because group members chose us based on the podcast, they were looking forward to it and knew what they were getting into.

6’20 We had group members from all over the US, we also had various ages, and it all worked out really well.

7’10 Our next Paris Tour is going to be October 1st through Oct 7th 2017 and we hope to announce 4 more Paris tours in 2018 as well.

8’50 Our tour started by going to a wine bar called Chez Nous, followed by a river Cruise on the Seine River. Next time we’ll probably start a little earlier on Sunday and visit the Luxembourg Gardens.

9’45 Two guys who thought the Luxembourg Gardens were ugly. When you look at something with no context, it’s hard to see the beauty or appreciate anything.

11’30 On Monday we didn’t start too early

12′ We lucked out on all the places we went to eat. Annie’s goal was to keep it around 15€-20€ for lunch and 30€-35€ for dinner. We were looking for good value and we found it!

13′ France is not a good place to keep a strict diet. No vacation is good for your diet, really, is it? We eat a lot of meat and dairy in France. Lots of duck and lamb, fish (fish is usually the “diet” choice on a French menu). But we also don’t eat fried food very much in France.

17′ We’ll be looking for a good audio solution to use all the time. We had a whisper system in some of the museums, but even there, they limit you to a specific amount of time. So we’ll be looking for a good solution.

17’50 Monday activities: Conciergerie (where Marie-Antoinette was held before she was beheaded), Sainte-Chapelle, restaurant Saint-Régis.

19′ Annie being recognized by her voice, an eerie experience for sure!

20’41 Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, the Orangerie. “Droit de parole” complications. They give you an appointment at a specific time, which is not always suitable.

22′ Tuesday: Orsay Museum which isn’t very big as far as Paris museums are concerned. Lunch by the big clock. Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées. In future tours we will do a drive by night that will include all the big sights of Paris by night.

25′ Wednesday: Louvre Museum. If you want to have some peace in the Louvre you have to get off the beaten track and choose other pieces that are of interest to you ahead of time. There are lovely sections of decorative arts, music, Egypt, Roman and Greek, Babylonian, Islamic Arts, etc. Next time we do a tour we will spend a little time with each participant to help them decide about a good section for them so they can go explore that part and enjoy the Louvre with some peace and quiet.

29’30 Montmartre: Annie is not in love with the area, it’s too touristy and crass. Elyse will plan a different itinerary where we don’t spend so much time in the middle of the crowds. Wine tasting with a sommelier. Next time we’ll take the time to have dinner right after the wine tasting.

31’20 Thursday: Opéra Garnier, Galleries Lafayettes, Musée Rodin, then we went to Montparnasse, ate at a crêperie, we got soaked that night.

34’20 Friday: Marais walk with Elyse, lunch at l’As du Fallafel, Picasso Museum, dinner at Bouillon Racine on rue Racine.

37’40 Saturday: we split up that day. Annie went to Père Lachaise and Steve from Florida helped greatly because of his surveyor powers. Elyse went to the Pantheon, Sorbonne, Saint-Eitenne-du-Mont church, the Cluny Museum and the Latin Quarter in general. Then we all met together at the Centre Pompidou which was an add-on, and had some free time.

45’30 Next time we will add more shopping time and we’ll give people the choice of two different shopping areas. We’ll also add some time at a flea market or food market and a drive by night Uber ride around Paris. Next time we’ll choose a concert with more approachable music, probably not Notre Dame.

48’40 We will also add some excursions one day before the tour and another after the tour. We’ll do a day at Giverny on the Saturday before the Tour and a whole day at Versaille on the Sunday after the Tour. For 2018 we’ll set some dates for a Tour in April, another for May, then one in September and one in October. We won’t do a Tour in July and August because it’s too hot and June is too busy in Paris.

55′ Annie didn’t grow up wanting to be someone who evangelizes about France and a tour organizer, but Paris small group tours are so much fun, this is something worth investing time into.

56’38 Thank you for your support new Patreon donors Nancy Calkins, Todd Costella, and Stephanie Ellis. Thank you also Sophia Semensky and Paul Goess for tipping your guide.

58’37 Feedback on the previous episode on using Uber in Paris: using Uber between Disneyland and Paris city center. They had a really good experience using Uber in Paris, but it is true that most Uber drivers in Paris do not speak English. They had one bad experience with an Uber driver who never showed up at all and they grabbed a taxi instead. The Uber to get back to the airport to go home went well, but the ride took 1.5 hrs because the traffic was heavy.

Feedback on the Inaugural Tour from Steven Struck, his impressions and experience as a tour member. He also shares about his experiences moving to France.

People who have been to Paris before should not discount this tour because they are going to learn so much, my head got filled every day. And for people who have never been to Paris, what a great way to see Paris for the first time. Steven Struck, Inaugural Tour member.

Conclusion

Paris small group tours are hard to find because most tour operators would rather go for numbers. But we’re not like everyone else: a small group is the only sort of tour worth doing in our opinion. Hanging out in Paris for a week with people you will get to know and enjoy is the best way to make a lovely break from your daily life and recharge your batteries. We loved the 10 people who toured with us on this Inaugural Tour, we are so glad they chose to come see Paris with us and hope to have many wonderful small groups again.

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Tips for Using Uber in Paris, Episode 151


Blair Bell and her husband, Tips for using Uber in Paris

On this short episode of Join Us in France we are discussing tips on using Uber in Paris and those tips apply to a lot of big cites in France also. Blair compares the cost of Uber with taxis and public transportation. This was Blair’s third trip to Paris and because she was 34 weeks pregnant, she and her husband decided to mostly use Uber whereas in previous trips she had mostly used other modes of transportation.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

 Tips for Using Uber in Paris, Episode 151

What You Will Learn in this Episode with Timestamps

2’52 The biggest difference between using Uber in the US and in France is the language barrier.

3’25 Uber Pool vs. Uber Black: If you use the Uber Pool option, because it’s a big city, you will have a lot of people riding with you and it will add on to the time it takes to get where you want to go. Uber Pool is sometimes half the price of Uber Black, so it’s worth it if you’re not in a hurry.

4’05 No Uber Pop in France: Uber Pop is the Uber service with older cars.

4’30 To get an accurate bid you need to set your pin location properly. Sometimes you have to enter the address manually.

6’00 It’s hard to get a good estimate of how long before the driver will pick you up with Uber in Paris because of the traffic conditions.

7’10 Tips on what to do on May 1st in France. Blair suggests taking an organized tour on that day and going away from Paris with a group where everything is organized.

8’33 When using Uber in Paris you will get to use your French, and it’s good to also have the Google Translate App.

9’15 Uber Pool is a better option in the US than in Paris, that could be that it’s because there are fewer Uber drivers in Paris.

9’40 Uber in Paris is cheaper in August than during the rest of the year. That’s probably because it’s mostly tourists calling Uber in August, demand goes down, so prices go down as well.

10’25 Uber is worth it if you have more than two people in your party. To go from one of the Paris airports to either the city center or to Disneyland Paris, it’s definitely worth it. A taxi between CDG Airport and the left bank will run you over 60€, the same ride on Uber is at least 15€ cheaper.

11’35 Comparing the price of metro tickets to Uber in Paris. Blair and her husband took 20 trips with Uber in Paris. Twenty metro tickets for 20 trips for two would cots 60€ if bought in packs of 10 (it would be 76€ if buying single tickets). Those same trips with Uber cost them 185€. So Uber is about 3 times the price of taking the metro.

13′ Install the Uber App before you come to France, you will use the same App with the same credit card.

13’40 French cars also have a license plate on both the front and back of the car, so it’s easier to recognize the car if you don’t know European cars.

15′ Basic French phrases you will need when using Uber in Paris:

  • c’est à gauche = it’s on the left
  • c’est à droite = it’s on the right
  • allumez la climatisation s’il vous plaît = turn on the AC please

16’30 Some things Blair and her husband enjoyed in Paris: Paris Picnic. Blue Bike Tour was great too.

19′ What else did you wish you knew before you went? Uber in August is cheaper, if you go the rest of the year consider mixing things up and maybe using the bus system (see our episode on comparing the Paris Metro with the Paris Bus and details on how to use them both).

19’50 To go back and forth to the airport definitely use Uber. Here is information from the Uber website on where to wait for your Uber at CDG: from terminals 1, 2A, 2C, 2D and 2F, exit on the departure level. From terminals 2E, 2G and 3, exit on the arrivals level. Head outside and wait at the curb. Then enter your terminal and door number so your driver knows where to find you.

21’45 Air France buses between CDG and Paris city center.

Conclusion

Using Uber in Paris is a good option in many situations, even if you’re on a budget. Between the airport (CDG) and the center of Paris Uber turns out to be cheaper than RER tickets for 4 people, it’s also a lot more pleasant. Listen to this episode so you understand the ins and outs of ironing out the pesky details.

If you’ve used Uber in Paris and would like to give voice feedback to be included in an upcoming episode of the podcast, call 801-806-1015.

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