When I was 20 going on 21, I lived in Paris for a year (well, ten months). I got to know Paris very well, partly because I kept on moving. Without counting the times when I crashed on my friend S’s futon or floor in between accomodations, here are the places I lived …
1) October: Rue de Babylone, 7th arrondissement, for two weeks, as an au pair girl. The apartment was palatial and the kids were quite sweet but I was a terrible au pair girl. One night I used the home phone to call my friend (local call, she was in Paris too!) and tell her at length what a bad time I was having. This was back in the days of answering machines and it recorded our entire conversation. I left pretty soon afterwards.
2) November: College des Irlandais, 5th arrondissement. An Irish cultural centre with accommodation attached, in the middle of the Latin Quarter. It used to be a seminary for priests and the rooms were still rather monastic, but it was cheap, breakfast was provided and I could walk to my French classes through the Luxembourg gardens. Sadly, just before Christmas they told me I had to leave as the room was wanted. The next day at breakfast I met a charming young man from Galway who had just arrived and been delighted to find a spare room going. It turned out he knew the priest-in-residence. J’accuse!
3) December to March: rue de Commerce, 15th arrondissement. Now earning money working for an art foundation, I was able to move into a proper flat, with Sylvie. This is a pseudonym because I ended not friends with Sylvie. She taught me a great recipe where you simmer chicken in a pot with thyme and rice and end up with a delicious stew. She also used the same pots to boil-wash her underwear. And she was sort of cheating me over the rent in a way I no longer 100% remember but involved a fictional landlord. What with that and the underwear, enough was enough.
4) April to August: 5, rue de Conde, 6th arrondissment. Ahh. My happy place. A tiny chambre de bonne on the top floor of a 17th-century building, five minutes from the Luxembourg Gardens. The shower was in the middle of the bedroom, and there was a ‘mini-oven’ rather than an actual kitchen, and if there had been a fire I would have been dead in minutes, but I didn’t care. I was very happy here and my landlady was a sweetheart who had me over to dinner every month to pay rent. Every time I go to Paris I have to make a pilgrimage to the door of the building and remember my time there. Which is great fun for whoever I’m with.
It’s no coincidence that this area is the one where Charlie and Poppy stay in POPPY DOES PARIS although I could never have afforded their hotel – the Hotel du Globe, nearby, is a good budget alternative.
Anyone else have a favourite part of Paris? I’d love to know!