Now, if you’ve read my earliest posts, I realise that it looks like I have completely abandoned the saga of my Quest For An Apartment and you would be forgiven for reaching that conclusion.
Aha! Fooled you.
Despite a two-and-a-bit-month-long digression, I have returned to my narrative to enlighten you further on the joys of living in Airbnbs on a shoestring budget.
In case you wanted to refresh your memory on The Story So Far, here’s Airbnb No. 1 (and Part 2, actually) and Airbnb No. 2 – thought I’d save you trawling back through the endless intervening foodie posts. You’re welcome.
Leaving behind The Smallest Space Known To Woman, I now proceeded to haul my life/suitcase across the length and breadth of Paris to Airbnb No. 3. And it was quite literally a case of travelling one side of the city to the other.
This time I would be staying in Les Lilas, a small commune situated in a suburb to the east of Paris. There isn’t a lot to say about the place, except that it’s not very pretty and nobody seems to clean up after the apparently-numerous dogs. Though there is a decent (extremely cheap) crêpe shop, so it’s not all bad.
The apartment itself was much more interesting than its locale. (Do bear in mind that, at least in the context of this blog, interesting is not always utilized as the positive adjective that one might expect.)
I immediately noticed three things on entry:
- It was approximately three times the size of Airbnb No. 2 It says bad things when you start considering it a serious bonus to have a separate bedroom. The bath/shower even had its own room. Luxury.
- It was bloody freezing. Tiled flooring and a no-heating-‘til-Christmas policy do not make for a cosy home in November. This would prove to be even more of a problem than I first envisaged, when I ended up spending a good five days almost completely house-bound with a nasty stomach bug.
- The smell. I discovered from the friend of the owners who gave me the keys/showed me around that the couple who lived here cleaned exclusively with vinegar. And by God, could you tell.
The vinegar thing, it transpired, was just one of the strange idiosyncrasies of the apartment’s usual inhabitants. It didn’t take a genius to deduce that they were clearly very passionate about the environment and this explained many, if not all, of the, er, ‘quirks’ of the apartment.
For example, all of the furniture was handmade, apparently with reappropriated bits of wood etc – some pieces more successfully than others. Despite being pretty much dead average height for a woman, I literally had to jump up to sit on the bed, which appeared to have been assembled from a couple of large crates and some kind of rope. A wardrobe had seemingly surpassed the carpentry capabilities of whoever had assembled the furniture, though, and instead there were a number of roughly-built rail-type devices – which, I had been advised, weren’t actually terribly strong, “so maybe don’t put more than a couple of items on them?” Oh well. I was getting used to living out of a suitcase anyway.
Then there was the issue of hot water. Or a hideous lack thereof. I was advised by the apartment owners that they didn’t have a huge daily supply – perhaps enough for three short showers, on average. “Fine,” I thought to myself, naively, “I’m pretty quick in the shower anyway”.
Now, I don’t know how they showered – perhaps they just doused themselves in water for a couple of seconds after a relaxing vinegar bath – but what quickly became quite apparent was that, in a normal person’s interpretation of the whole “showering” concept, it was actually only possible to take approximately 1.5 very short showers unless you wanted to find yourself suddenly standing under a deluge of ice water. Slightly inconvenient when there are two of you sharing the apartment. Also slightly inconvenient if you want to do things like wash the dishes, or (heaven forbid) do the laundry. Because, not only were we limited to 1.5 hot showers – those 1.5 showers drained all the hot water from the apartment, for at least the next 12 hours. Once and once only did I make the mistake of putting a clothes wash on in the morning before attempting to wash my hair in the evening. I’m just about starting to regain the sensation in my toes.
Then, posing less of a practical issue, but of some relevance when you’re staying in a place for three weeks, there was the décor. The owners’ taste was somewhat particular, to say the least. In French, you would describe it as “spécial“. Some might say a bit flipping weird. But there’s no accounting for taste, each to their own, and all that. I’ll let you make up your own mind.
The walls and ceilings were hung with homemade dreamcatchers, feathers and untied friendship bracelets. Over the bed, someone had suspended these little 3D cardboard shapes, cubes and pyramids, crafted into a sort of sparse cradle. Odd, spindly ferns lined the shelves, and the ledges outside the long windows were crowded with what looked to me like a choice selection of half-dead weeds. We were charged with watering this curious collection of foliage, a task which seemed to me to be a wholly pointless exercise. The ‘rugs’ under the battered black coffee table and the handmade computer desks looked more alive: as far as I could tell, they had been cut from a roll of Astroturf (genuinely) and added a vibrant splash of green to the living room, achieving what the despondent plants were probably intended to.
Best/worst of all were the photos. Oh there were a few cute couple snaps here and there, but the vast majority of the numerous photos blue-tacked to the walls were of ferrets. Yup. Two ferrets to be precise. The pair of ferrets together; each ferret alone; the ferrets playing with their toys; the ferrets with the owners. You name it. I’ve never been so confused.
Oh no, wait. I have, actually. I almost forgot to mention: there were shells in the kettle.
If anyone can explain to me what on Earth this was aiming to achieve, I would be genuinely grateful.
Shells. In the kettle.
P.S. For reasons which should be self-evident by the time you’ve reached this note, I don’t have any pictures of Airbnb No. 3, or Les Lilas. (If the reasons aren’t self-evident, you clearly haven’t read the post. Why are you down here? Go back to the top.) So, in the interests of aesthetic pleasing-ness, the photo I’ve used above is one from my walk to work in those early Autumnal weeks. Much nicer.