In a previous post, I hinted that, despite securing a French job and bank account before arriving in Paris, finding lodgings was not exactly a walk in the park.
Far from it.
In fact, it took seven weeks, four Airbnbs, two hotels and what felt like approximately 4,726 viewings to find an apartment that I could call ‘mine’ for the foreseeable future (or at least the next year).
I don’t know whether or not that sounds like a lot to you, but it bloody well feels like it – believe me.
Each of the aforementioned Airbnbs was an experience in itself, too; I could almost write a book on those seven weeks alone. But I’m not writing a book, I’m writing a blog, so I’ll tell you about them as concisely as I’m able.*
AirBnB No. 1: Asnières-sur-Seine
As the subtitle indicates, this Airbnb, like all the ones I stayed in during the apartment-hunt, was actually a little outside of Paris. Not ideal, but also not expensive. You win some, you lose some.
This particular commune is North-West of Paris; quiet but well-connected, it wasn’t a bad place to base myself for my first week. Or at least, I didn’t initially think so.
Now, although I wasn’t too bothered about location for the first few weeks, my one firm stipulation for any Airbnb I was to stay in was that it was a whole-apartment rental. I was to start my new job on the Monday immediately following my arrival and, sociable being though I am, I absolutely did not want to come home from work every day and have to scrabble around for small talk with a stranger whilst I awkwardly tried to make myself as unobtrusive as possible in their home. No thanks.
Unfortunately, I was thwarted on this point before I even arrived. Due to a small… miscommunication… by some party or other on Airbnb (not me), I unwittingly reserved a room in an inhabited apartment – something that I didn’t realize until just over a week prior to arrival. And, because I’m me, this particular host happened to have the strictest cancellation policy I’d ever encountered, obviously, so I couldn’t recoup so much as a cent if I cancelled, no matter how far in advance of the booking said cancellation occurred.
SO, I resigned myself to flat-sharing with a stranger for a week and, after spending Arrival Weekend in the very budget-est of budget hotels Ibis has to offer, I arrived with some trepidation at the apartment in Asnieres-sur-Seine.
My makeshift bedroom was actually the living room, a large and sparsely furnished space featuring little more than a coffee table and a sofa bed. This was fine. I mean, the Airbnb ad definitely depicted an attractive double bedroom (the host’s room, why even show it???) but it would certainly do for my purposes.
The rest of the apartment was… less fine. Whilst it wasn’t a dirty flat per se, the owner was clearly not a house-proud woman; I got a particularly nasty surprise when I first opened the fridge and was blasted with the putrid odour of rotting I-don’t-know-what. There was a lot of green stuff.
Turned out that fridge was out of use (and had been for some time, apparently) and there was another, clean and functioning, on the other side of the miniscule kitchen. I’m not sure the stench from opening the disused one entirely disappeared the whole week I was there.
There was also no space worth talking about at all, which is perfectly normal in Paris and completely doable if you’re sharing with your other half, or a friend, or a family member, or someone with whom you are otherwise fairly well acquainted. Less so with someone you have never met before. Even less so with someone you have never met before AND someone you have never met before’s friend who’s in the process of moving into a new apartment herself. Who you have also never met before.
Suffice to say, I spent a lot of time in my ‘bedroom’ that week, sort of scuttling to the fridge or bathroom as soon as the coast was clear. Again, not ideal but I will go to quite some lengths to avoid awkward conversation and consuming dinners of baguette and grapes and yoghurt from the safety of my sofa bed did not seem too extreme in the circumstances.
None of these things were unmanageable, though. It wasn’t a great set-up (especially for three people) but it wasn’t the worst imaginable. As I said, the flat wasn’t in a terrible state (apart from that fridge), and the location was a reasonable distance from my work, and when I failed to evade contact altogether, the host and her temporarily-resident friend proved cordial and pleasant. To me, anyway.
Unfortunately, they were in no way whatsoever pleasant or cordial, or anything vaguely resembling it towards each other. Now, I have no idea what the issue was because both women were Moroccan and spoke “Arabe” when communicating between themselves. I use “communicating” in the loosest sense of the word; I’m not sure that’s a very accurate representation of the banshee-esque screeching going back and forth just outside my door (the apartment was so small that everything within its confines was just outside my door), from approximately 7 minutes after I switched my light off on my first night and not ceasing for a further THREE HOURS. This first night was, incidentally, the night before I started my new job. Luckily, it was only a new role in a new company in a new country, so I wouldn’t need my wits about me too much.
This incident was not confined to the first evening, either. Oh no. It was every. Single. Night. Goodness knows what they were bickering about, but my goodness, did they have a lot to say.
Oh, and did I mention there was no WiFi?
* I don’t know if this has become apparent from my blog so far, but I don’t do concise terribly well. You should try listening to me tell a story out loud. It’s so much worse.