The backstory on this trip:
A few months ago, Jodie, who I know from Atlanta but is now living in London, asked if I could host her Parisian friend, Lina, while she was in NYC for two months over the summer. A multilingual jazz/pop singer-songwriter, Lina was coming to New York to study music and performance. I said no, of course, as I can’t comfortably host even my good friends for more than a few days, let alone a stranger. My place is too small.
HOWEVER, I said, in a flash of brilliance, Lina could have the whole apartment if I could go to her empty place in Paris! I was also thinking about how my mother and I have been idly talking for a few years about taking a trip to Europe together “someday.” When I proposed a summer trip to France, she was up for it – her last visit was 45 years ago — so Lina and I worked out the dates and all was set for the first 10 days of August.
Yes, Mom and I knew there are some downsides to an August visit, mostly that many shops are closed; but there are upsides too, like terrific weather and a calmer overall pace. So we were excited!
Because Lina arrived in NYC a month before I departed, she and I were able to meet several times and talk about our respective homes/neighborhoods before I left NYC, which was a great advantage.
That said, we obviously couldn’t be sure exactly what we were getting into until we arrived.
First, the neighborhood: Nation, near the huge roundabout/plaza known as Place de Nation, near the famous historic cemetery Pere Lachaise. It’s a working-class neighborhood, mostly, very culturally diverse, including a lot of observant Jews (who were all gone for vacation) as far as we could tell from the numerous kosher restaurants and Judaica shops. It’s the kind of area where people live, but tourists don’t usually go and certainly don’t stay there for a week. But that was OK because it was “real Paris” and I’m very accustomed to a 20-30 minute subway ride whenever I go out into the city from my home.
Lina’s apartment is a 5th-floor walkup in a relatively modern(ized) courtyard building. It’s a stereotypical Parisian artist’s garret: studio, small closet, tiny bathroom with separate toilet, and a “kitchen” that’s really just a mini-fridge and a 2-burner hot plate. Which was OK for us – we would have preferred an actual kitchen without the quotation marks, but all that wasn’t too bad.
I was very pleased to note that the relatively chilly nights helped keep the attic room from being uncomfortably hot as we slept. Open windows and a fan were more than adequate for climate control. And having the hot-water heater right in the unit meant instant and ample hot water. There was hardly any neighbor noise there on the top floor.
But there was this onnnne thing, and this is where I go off on a rant for a minute. The shower situation was UNACCEPTABLE. Look, I live happily in NYC. I understand tight spaces. I get that sometimes the toilet has to be separate. I can and often do stoop over a washroom sink the size of a salad bowl. I can work with a minifridge. But that shower was bullshit. (Sorry Lina, if you are reading, this isn’t personal!!) But that was OMG the smallest shower ever, with its accordion door, a slanted back wall (forced by the architecture) and a handheld showerhead. Plus one has to step up into it/down out of it, so I feared for my own safety, and also my mother’s. I’m a narrower person than Mom and a shorter person than Lina and I don’t know how anyone could be expected to work with that on a long-term basis. Uggghh. I’m just grateful that there were no falls or concussions.
OK, thank you, I feel better now.
I’m sure Lina had her complaints about my sweaty non-bedroom space (there’s only one AC and you know I’m putting it in the bedroom) and my next-door neighbor’s unpleasantly audible bathroom habits. But I feel very good generally about what I offered in the trade, and I think she agrees overall.
Now back to our travelogue.