After arriving in Paris, my first priority is to find somewhere to live. I have a friend from London visiting on my first week; however, I try not to let him slow me down too much.
A quick note on the websites – Fusac is a magazine that has English and French classifieds for rooms, jobs, etc. in Paris. The appeal of this is that I might get a landlord who speaks English, which will mean we’ll both know what I’m signing.
Appartager is a site I came across when I was searching for rooms. It has a large range; however you either need to pay for a premium membership to contact all of the members, or you can only contact other members with premium memberships. There are virtually no ads in English. I tried emailing in French before I came over here but, after trying to speak to someone in French on a payphone, I gave up and started spamming people in English to see who would reply in my language.
ClickFlatShare – this is another one I came across when Googling. It doesn’t have many ads, but they are in English.
Room 1 – 17/06/10, Boulogne-Billancourt, €410 a month, source: Fusac
As the landlady is in Russia, she gives me the current tenant’s details and I have her show me around. The tenant is Manuela, a lovely Bulgarian girl who has been in Paris for five years, and who has also studied in the UK and has very good English. The area seems decent, and there is a small but beautiful park right outside the building. The room is 11m2 and has a desk against a window overlooking the park. The only disadvantages are:
a) The bed is a single one. Maybe I’m spoilt, but I’m a grownup now and would like a big bed.
b) We don’t have access to the living room. Because the landlady isn’t in Paris very often, she uses the living room when she is here. That means it is locked the rest of the time, which makes socialising difficult. Socialising with housemates was the main way I made friends in London, so it’s very important to me.
I decide this room is a good backup option, and tell Manuela that I’ll think about it.
Room 2 – 18/06/10, Montrouge, €470 a month, source: Appartager
Again this building seemed to be in a decent area, and again it was a room in a two bedroom flat. Although slightly messy, the flat is beautifully decorated with a brand new white couch/futon, a new TV, a bar/kitchen area, and colourful material draped over the coffee tables. The room is awesome – yellow wallpaper with two red-roses on one of the walls, and a double bed!
The people also seem nice – a girl who mutters that France losing one of its World Cup matches is a ‘catastrophe!’, and a young guy who does most of the translating.
I confirm that the price is €470 (it was advertised at €430 + €40 in charges). No, they tell me. The room is €600 a month, but it’s not going to be available for another three months. They are currently advertising the couch in the living room at €500 a month.
Scratched off the list.
Room 3 – 19/06/10, Marie de Clichy, €450 a month, source: ClickFlatShare
This one I’m a little bit wary of from the beginning, as the girl I’ve been emailing says the current tenants are herself, a German student, and her mother. I don’t really want a mother-figure during my year in Paris, but I decide to give this one a shot because this mother is about the same age as mine, and my mum’s pretty awesome.
As I’m running late, the mother ends up showing me around the flat. Within the first few seconds I realise that the communal areas aren’t actually communal – they are mother’s domain. She isn’t unwelcoming (quite the opposite), but most of the share houses I’ve seen either have a neutral decor in the shared areas, or the shared areas are a mess of pieces from everyone’s cultures. In this flat, the kitchen, bathroom and living area of this flat are filled with Vietnamese calendars, family photos and plastic flowers. Mother’s domain.
As for the room, it’s slightly smaller than the first one I saw, but otherwise similar.
I tell mother that I’ll email her daughter and expect to leave, but mother has more she wants to show me. She takes me to the bathroom cabinets and points out which shelf will be mine if I choose to live here. The takes me to the fridge and shows me my future shelf. She shows me which keys go into which locks, and also takes me down to the basement to show me where the rubbish goes.
We finally get to the foyer and I think I’ve made my escape, but she tells me that I don’t need to walk to the station. Apparently there’s a free bus, and she insists on walking me to the bus-stop. At the bus-stop she tells me about all of the buses that stop here and goes through each of their timetables with me. When she’s done there’s still a seven minute wait for the bus, and I think she’ll leave me to wait. Of course not – she waits with me.
After nine minutes the bus still hasn’t come and I tell her that I’ll just walk. She insists that I wait another couple of minutes, because the bus is more crowded on a weekend and often runs late. After another couple of minutes, I volunteer to walk again, thinking this might be my escape.
She walks with me. How on Earth do I get rid of this woman?! This is beyond hospitable. She walks with me until I reach the final turn before the station, and we say our final goodbyes.
I don’t take this room.
Room 4 – 19/06/10, 11th arrondissement, €350 a month, source: Appartager
Of the four rooms, this is the only one in the centre of Paris, near the metro stop Nation. As soon as I come out of the metro, I’m delighted. I’m at a large round-a-bout with a small park and statues in the centre, surrounded by a boulangerie, supermarket, pub, patisserie and more. As I walk down the main road towards the house, I pass more bakeries, a fromagerie and numerous other specialty shops.
This house is about five minutes from the station, down a beautiful, cobblestoned little laneway and next to a Japanese museum. Inside, the main living area is warmly lit – there is a large kitchen area and hardwood floors, and a number of desks with large Apple monitors are set up. The owner explains to me that this is used as an office during the day (this is slightly distressing – I don’t have any work yet, so will I be kicked out every day?).
The room is smaller than the others, but given the price, the flat and the location, I only remember this in hindsight. The room also has a door leading directly to the bathroom, which has a huge tub, as well as two basins set in a brown marble bench top in front of a wall-length mirror. This is awesome!
I tell the owner that I need to think about it, and go away to deliberate. I try to establish a catch, but my friend and I can’t think of any, so I resolve to email the owner back once I return to my hotel and laptop.
I email back saying that I loved the place and would like to move in the next day, if that’s possible.
He emails me back within five minutes. ‘No sorry, I’m not interested.’
I frantically call up the first room – my ‘backup’ option to see if it’s still available. Mon Dieu – it has been rented out by a girl who will be moving in on July 10th! I panic – this is supposed to be my last night in my hotel room and I have nowhere to sleep tomorrow but she says I can stay there until the 9th.
On my first day in the room I am kicking myself – why didn’t I say yes immediately? It’s a great little place, I love my desk under the window, and it even has a good shopping area. By the next day I settle down. I feel like a giant climbing into the single bed, the lack of a living room means that Manuela and I don’t really hang out, even though she’s lovely, and there’s a really bad internet connection that keeps dropping out. However it’s safe and dry, and I now have two and a half weeks before I need to worry about sleeping on the streets.