Tag Archive | Flat-share

Mistress Jolie?

As I only have my current room until the end of the month, I have begun my third room search. Here is one of the responses I received to my ‘Jeune fille australienne cherche une chambre’ ad:

Je suis un homme soumis et je propose colocation gratuite longue durée si vous aimez humilier un homme.
Aucune relation amicale, esclavage total de ma part.
Qu’en pensez vous ?
Merci d’être franche.
Mes respects Mademoiselle.

Translation (not exact):

I am a submissive man and I can offer you a long-stay for free if you would  like to humiliate a man.
No friendly relations, total slavery on my part.
What do you think?
Thank you for being frank.
My respects Mademoiselle.

. . . what’s strange is that I’m considering this :p


Finding a room – take 2

Given that I was only in my first room for 17 days (I’m moving out today), there was a second search for rooms.

This time I looked on Appartager, the bulletin board of the American Church of Paris (this is updated daily and features English as well as French ads) and Kjiji (this is the French equivalent of GumTree – although most of the ads are in French, there are a lot of them).

There were also a number of ads that were clearly scams, but I’ll save them for another post.

Room 1 – 25/06/10, 5th arrondissement, €500 a month, source: Kijiji

As I climb out of the metro I see a market. My heart leaps – in the 5th arrondissement this room is a stone’s throw away from the Notre Dame, the beautiful Latin Quarter, le Jardin des Plantes and the Luxembourg Gardens. And it’s near a market too!

This room was advertised in both French and English – I’d replied to the ad in English, but we’d organised the viewing in French over the phone. I get to the door and Marco – a tall, slim Frenchman in his early 30s with short, sandy hair and glasses – greets me and takes me up to the first floor. He’s very talkative and friendly, but it’s all in French. For the first time I realise what an effort everyday life will be here, and how much of an effort my

Notre Dame from the Seine

non-anglophone housemates in London must have made. I’d expected that my life in the outside world would be a bit trying at first, but I was hoping to be able to relax when I got home at the end of the day. Not likely if I want to improve my French.

As we talk I realise how much I remember – my sentence structure is still okay, though Marco frequently corrects grammatical slip-ups that I never used to make. Although the language is starting to come back, I’m translating in my head whenever I run into trouble, which means I’ve lost the rhythm that I used to have and find myself speaking in a halting manner, punctuated by winces and apologies for my bad French.

As for the apartment – we talk in the living area, which has been set up with Marco’s double bed, a desk next to the window and two upright pianos on opposite walls. A red curtain can be drawn to separate Marco’s area from the tiny kitchenette, which consists of a table against the wall, a sink, a stove and some cupboards above the sink/stove area. The bedroom is small with a single mattress on the floor and an old-fashioned English desk under the window (one of the ones where the table surface folds up and can be locked closed). Access to the bathroom (and the fridge, which is in the bathroom because it doesn’t fit in the kitchen) is through this room.

All of this for the bargain price of €500! Or so I thought – on top of the rent are taxes, utilities and the internet, so it’s likely to be at least €650, which is €150 over my budget. The price, combined with the fact that anyone wanting to use the bathroom would have to come through my room, helps me decide not to take the room – thought its location had me sorely tempted.

Room 2 – 26/06/10, 20th arrondissement, €550 a month, source: Kijiji

At €550 a month, this is slightly more than I want to pay, but the picture online showed a double bed and it’s in the Paris centre, so I take a chance. When I arrive Kim, the landlady takes me up to the apartment. She opens the door, and I’m immediately drawn in by the abundantly stocked bookshelves that fill the wall opposite the door.

To the left is the living area, with a large couch and an office area decked out in stylish red and black furniture. The room is a decent size with a double bed and a balcony that is shared with the girl who rents the other room (there’s not much of a view, but hey, it’s a balcony!).

I’m already picturing living here – Kim and I switch back and forth between English and French, so there shouldn’t be any communication difficulties, the price is a flat €550 (no bills on top), and although the main thing the area has going for it is one of Paris’s main cemeteries, the apartment is only two minutes from the metro, which makes me a 10-20 minute trip from the rest of the city.

I ask when the room’s available. Not until August.

Hmmm – I need a room on July 9th. If I take this, then I have to find another place for three weeks. I tell her I’ll think about it.

Room 3 – 27/06/10, Neuilly sur Seine, €450 a month, source: American Church of Paris bulletin board

La Defense - view from metro Pont de Neuilly

This room is available immediately, and it’s only when I get the metro there that I realise it’s right between Paris and La Defense. If I end up teaching in businesses near La Defense, this will be really convenient.

When I leave the metro at Pont de Neuilly I walk down Boulevard du Chateau, and I start to get excited. Turning off a highway, the Boulevard is one of many with rows of large, leafy trees which shade the streets with their thick canopies. Although they don’t help with the humidity, it’s a relief to be out of the sun. The buildings in this area are lovely – ornate and clean with flowers in their window boxes. On the walk from the station I pass a small shopping area surrounding a round-a-bout adorned with pink, purple and white flowers, and there’s a beautiful boulangerie/patisserie that is selling gelato in the heat. I turn down the street towards the room, and there is a primary school on the corner. At the end of the school day, parents are collecting their children, and the kids who are still waiting are running around and playing ball sports.

I reach the building and call Quiterie, the girl who is showing me around. The room is on the seventh floor, and I follow her into the tiny elevator – I feel like I should know her better before we get this intimate. On the seventh floor I breathe a sigh of relief to get out of the confined space, and wipe the sweat from my forehead (it was 30 degrees and about 90% humidity that day).

She takes me to the room. Having seen pictures online, I know what to expect – there’s a single bed against one wall and a desk under the window. She points out the book cases and the plastic boxes under the bed as storage space, and then reaches for the wardrobe door. I expect her to talk about the storage. I was not expecting the wardrobe to be fitted out with a bar fridge, a microwave and an electric stove on one side, and a sink, mirror and pots and pans on the other. I’m immediately turned off – it’s already roasting in here, I wouldn’t want to cook in here in the summer, and I also wouldn’t want everything to smell like food. Also – where would I put my clothes? I spent so much time trying to pack them at the airport that I’m not sending any back now!

She then shows me the bathroom. Oh, wait a minute – there’s no bathroom. It’s a shower in the wall. The toilet is also in a tiny space behind a door. And this shower and toilet are shared with two other people.

Apparently this is quite common in Paris – back in the days of nobility when people could actually afford entire buildings like this, the maids used to live in these rooms on the top floor. Now, if someone owns a floor or two, they rent these out to students and young expats. I decide not to join their ranks.

I get home and email Kim about Room 2, saying that I’m interested but will have to find another room for July 9-31, and ask whether I can email her in a couple of days.

Room 4 – 29/06/10, 1st arrondissement, €500 a month, source: American Church of Paris bulletin board

The Louvre

Although I’ve pretty much decided on Room 2, I’d already planned to look at this one. The location immediately has me suspicious – it’s only a two minute walk from the Louvre, right in the centre of Paris, and only €500 a month. However, the ad said it was ‘bright and sunny’, and the ad was written in English, so I take a look anyway.

The woman who was advertising the room was away on holidays, so she has her son show me the room. He’s probably in his late 20s, and says that his mother stays in this apartment when she’s in Paris, but is often away and wants to rent out the spare room.

In Paris, a lot of the older buildings have large, heavy doorways at their entrances that lead into private courtyards. This was one of them – when I walk in, I start to get excited. We take the elevator to the top floor (the fifth, in this case) and go inside.

I try to like it. I really do. Although the room is a decent size, the paint on the walls is peeling. The kitchen and bathroom desperately need renovating and there are clothes horses with jackets hanging off them and other clutter littering the formerly spacious rooms. The kitchen is also interesting – although large, for Paris, it has a single bed at one end under the TV (“in case you like to lie down while you eat,” the son tells me) and there is a bird cage with some birds on the other. I have some issues with birds. Nothing too severe, but I do prefer to keep my distance, and I’m not sure the pecking and fluttering sounds against the wall of my bedroom would be conducive to sleep.

I get home and email Kim about Room 2, asking whether it’s still available.

Rooms 5, 6 & 7 – €400 a month, source: Kijiji

I’ve grouped these rooms because these were all rooms that were available over the summer, where I could stay until Room 2 was ready in August.

Room 5 – 29/06/10, 18th arrondissement, available for both July and August

The area looked a little dodgy, but the house reminded me of where I spent most of my time in London – the housemates like to hang out together, sometimes eating and going out together, and have a relaxed attitude to household responsibilities. There were three people living there and they had two guests over, and they invited me to hang out with them for a while. I couldn’t say a lot in French, but they spoke to me in a mix of French and English and I could follow most of the conversation. The place was okay – a bit of a mess, but very large for Paris. The housemates seemed nice and the rooms had double beds, and I only needed it for three weeks. They told me that they’d prefer to find someone who could stay for the whole two months, and I said I’d confirm the next day after I’d heard from Kim in Room 2.

Room 6 – 3/06/10, 14th arrondissement, available for July

There were only two people living here, and the one who was going to be staying over July didn’t seem to speak any English. The rooms were large, but lacked personality, and it was quite difficult to talk to the girl who was showing me around. However, they were okay with me just taking it for three weeks.

Room 7 – 3/06/10, Malakoff, available for July

I’d decided against this room before I got there – the walk from the station was just too long, and I couldn’t do that twice in three weeks in summer with a big backpack and a wheelie suitcase. It was similar to room 6 – the rooms were so large that they had no personality. The room was interesting – a double bed which was basically the top level of a bunk, with floor space underneath. Unfortunately I’d have to go through the other bedroom to get to the bathroom.

I got home and Kim had emailed me back about Room 2, saying that she’d already let it to someone else, and that she was surprised to hear from me as I didn’t seem that interested (I guess I should have sent an email after she didn’t reply to the first one where I asked if I could let her know in a couple of days).

So I emailed Room 5, and agreed to take it for July and August. I’m a little nervous about living with a couple of very sociable French people, but it will be good for my French – I’m not going to get fluent using English at work!

Finding a room

The Seine and the Eiffel Tower

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.

Using Fusac, Appartager and ClickFlatShare, I have four rooms to look at. Considering I only looked at four or five each time I went in search of rooms in London, I figure this should be plenty.

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.’

Damn.

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.