“Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only the moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.”
Marie Beyon Ray
“We should have travelled when we had our health…”
“When we could easily walk around…”
“We’d love to, but…”
Illness, elderly parents, bum knees, money issues have a knack for waylaying plans.
Last summer, after a several years long hiatus, we went back to Europe, to Venice and Tuscany. This bucket list adventure made me long for more. But how many more trips could we manage? First, there’s the expense of travelling abroad, but there are also other sticking points. Right now, we can navigate the internet to plan a trip, figure out the challenges of finding our way, walk around for hours, and, yes, savor the adventure. But our stamina and wherewithal may be diminished in five years, or ten, or fifteen.
Sipping prosecco on a Tuscan terrace, we hatched a plan. Living for a time in Europe and not just passing through has always been a “wouldn’t that be great?” for us. Could we make this fantasy a reality? What if we rented an apartment in Paris and immersed ourselves in its way of life for a couple of weeks? How about three weeks? What about four?
No sooner were we back from our Italian trip, still gobsmacked by the wonder of all we’d seen and done, that we began to explore our options. September 2014, a year away, could be our month in Paris. Did I dare entertain such a vision? I wanted to act fast, to get this trip on the books, before life got in the way.
The research began. Where in Paris could or should we stay? And, good Lord, how much would it be? Websites of Paris apartments are all over the place, each promising the best accommodations in the City of Light. Rick Steves, the folksy guidebook author, steered us in a couple of directions, but the prices weren’t so folksy. I sniffed around on Trip Advisor just enough to find out about some must-be-avoided-at-all-costs rental agencies, and to soak up some paranoia about what could go wrong. My cousin gave me the name of an agency they’d used, and I studied the options, gave myself a quick course in Paris arrondissements, and zeroed in.
One studio looked darling… freshly updated albeit tiny kitchen and bath, clean, comfy-looking furniture, and cute curtains on the floor-length windows. Then I read about the street it was on, its sex shops and madames of the evening hanging out on the corner. Merci, non.
With “location, location, location” as our mantra, we settled on the Latin Quarter, oozing old Paris charm, and walking distance to most of the touristy stuff.
Some apartments in our price range were quickly dismissed, like sixth floor pied-a-terres in no-elevator buildings. Others featured sleeping lofts. With a charming timber-beamed ceiling a couple feet over the mattress, our heads would become nests of goose eggs. And a ladder to get up there? I pictured navigating rickety steps around three a.m. for our nightly visit to la toilette, and tossed loft-style into the reject pile. One place’s photos looked promising, but the zoom- in feature on my iPad helped me spot some black mold in the shower tile. Ugh. Another had molded plastic chairs as living room furniture, hardly where I’d like to plop after a long day of sightseeing.
After weeks of narrowing the search and vetting the agency, we were ready to choose. The Geneviev, as it’s named on the website, is a tidy second floor studio on Rue de la Montagne Ste. Genevieve, near the church of St. Etienne du Mond and the Pantheon. The shower stall and the kitchen sink are mold-and-dirt-free, as far as I can tell, and the furniture, including a Murphy bed, is simple and serviceable. Big windows open onto a winding little street, and there’s a cozy little restaurant across the way. We crossed our fingers, and with some taps on the keyboard, forked over a deposit on our dream.