When I searched for an apartment in Paris, I had a handful of requirements: affordable (which, in Paris, is a relative term); close to shopping and “locals” restaurants; and walking distance to the more famous sites of the city center. Given Pat and I can hoof it pretty far, that last one was vague. But I wanted a place that felt like Paris.
Yesterday, we moved in. Today, we spent all our time shopping, setting up our apartment, and exploring the nearby neighborhood. So far, I believe we may have managed to achieve all our goals.
Our place is roughly 300 square feet – in American terms, a closet, but to most of our European friends, perfectly adequate. A sleeping loft, three tall windows that let in light and and allow us to peek out from our sixth floor vantage point across the rooftops, and a clothes washer locked into a closet out on the landing gives an illusion that this really is – if not expansive – simply perfect.
The neighborhood, just off Rue Oberkampf, turns out to be a foodie shoppers paradise. We wanted a home exactly like we had in Budapest; tiny stores in a row – a chocolate shop, florist, cheese maker, and strudel shop. A place where we know everyone, and everyone knows us. Somewhere that when I walk home each evening, I would wave to the shop owners or stop to talk for a bit.
Our first stop today was at a Sicilian specialty store less than a minute from our flat. We just browsed, chatted for a while, and learned from the proprietor that this street is well known in Paris for its small specialty shops. But our priority was to swing into Carrefour where we needed to stock up on the essentials: toilet paper, soap, and laundry detergent. After carting that home and packing it away, I returned to Rue Oberkampf for the less essential essentials. (I refuse to consider wine a non-essential).
I bought olive oil at the Greek shop, two bottles of wine from, of course, the wine shop, and coffee at a tiny place which sells only coffee – the aroma wafting from a stack of burlap sacks piled to the ceiling was the best advertisement. Oh, and I stopped at one of several boulangeries for a baguette and an apricot tart. (I bought the bread, and somehow the tart tagged along.) Then I returned to the Sicilian store for olives, artichokes, tapenade, and cheese. As I gathered up my packages to leave, the man we spoke to this morning called after me, “And make sure you say hello to your husband from me.”
Pat and I discussed how we will possibly stay in shape surrounded by so much wonderful food. We concluded we either need to eat less or walk more. (This discussion took place over a lunch of roasted chicken, french fries and wine in a neighborhood brasserie.) After coming home from the shopping spree, and as I put away the chocolates, wine, cheese, bread, butter, yogurts (full fat in those adorable, little, glass pots), I told Pat, “I think we need to commit to walking more.”
Our last purchase before leaving home was our iphones. The health application measures the number of steps, distance, and flights of stairs we walk each day (seriously, what will they invent next that I never heard of yet now can’t live without?). Our apartment is on the sixth floor. Each trip today, we eschewed the elevator for the climb. Checking our phone this afternoon, we logged 15,715 steps, 6.69 miles and 24 flights of stairs. Right after I wrote that, I ate the tart.
And as we ran our errands, we stopped at each real estate office we passed; checking out every, single listing; dreaming we purchased the flat with the enormous windows and overflowing bookcase; and pretending this Parisian life will last forever. The French call this “leche-vitrine” which translates to “window licking”. That pretty much describes exactly what we did.
But I have decided I will worry about forever another day. For now, I am happy to call this home for the next three months.