Hiring an apartment provides the perfect solution for anyone who has ever day-dreamed of living in Paris. And this was no ordinary apartment. Even the name of the rental company, ‘Haven in Paris’, sounded delicious. Ours was the ‘Monceau’ apartment, located just a short dash from the Parc Monceau with its statues and follies including a Chinese Fort, an Egyptian Pyramid and a Dutch Windmill. Schoolchildren congregate here after lessons, local residents jog, and true Parisians picnic on weekends. Parc Monceau was also where the world’s first parachutist, André-Jacques Garnerin, survived a bumpy landing in 1797, having managed to ascend to 3,000 feet with the help of a silk frameless parachute of his own invention.
With rental properties dotted around the city, irrelevant of size, Haven in Paris only hold top-drawer apartments on their books. Our luxury two bedroom and 2 bathroom 4th floor apartment was large enough to enjoy with friends or family but we were just too selfish to share. Located in an imposing 19th century building, it can either be reached by climbing several flights of stairs or squeezing yourself into a minuscule lift, of which the installation had clearly proved a considerable challenge, and designed for those possessing neither husbands or wives, children, or the need for groceries.
With only enough room for myself, my case, and our friendly greeter Evelyn, who presented me with a beautiful bouquet of roses, we waved my chap and the rest of our luggage goodbye as he insisted I travel up first. It meant that I was treated to the excitement of Evelyn unlocking the heavy mahogany door and being the first one over the threshold. Beautifully furnished, with marble busts, coffee table books and ancestral portraits, it was also breathtakingly spacious and light, with the flourishing treetops of the Parc seen from the living room window. After being shown around our new abode by Evelyn (who proceeded to put the flowers into a vase), I slipped my shoes off and glided across the polished parquet flooring as if I was stepping into a French film set and had suddenly been transformed into Audrey Tautou.
The kitchen featured all the utensils and equipment you’d need to cook up a storm, plus a large American-style fridge/freezer, and there are many high-end food halls in the vicinity to make a gourmet feast at home more than possible. The pedestrianised rue de Levis is lined with delicatessens and specialist French and European food shops – ideal for stocking up for the duration of your apartment stay. Whilst not being in the least bit a ‘locals’ thing to do, we arranged tickets for the spectacular Fountains Night Show at Versailles (taking place every Saturday evening from June until September) and assembled a spontaneous picnic by purchasing a good bottle of red wine and a selection of charcuterie from the exceptional Italian Cucina.
We met the Versailles Express by the Arc de Triomphe, and, although coach travel isn’t remotely glamorous, it is immensely convenient and comfortable. I will never forget waiting for over an hour in the métro on my first day in Paris, without understanding a word of the announcements and convinced that the delayed train in question would arrive at any moment. It didn’t. Taking around 40 minutes the Versailles Express waits for passengers until after the display and returns you to the city without any fuss or bother.
Exhausted after our Versailles escapade, we were both grateful for not being in a hotel and having to go downstairs for breakfast or get up and answer the door half-asleep. Instead, we could do exactly as we pleased. Even the simple pleasure of visiting the bakery was no mundane experience; our local Boulangerie being a branch of the artisan Eric Kayser. Just a few minutes’ walk and some mumbled schoolgirl French later and our non-existent apartment breakfast had been transformed by the welcome addition of freshly baked croissants and melty pain au chocolat.
We spent the day exploring the wider area, including the renowned Musée Nissim de Camondo around the corner (63 rue de Monceau) recommended to us by Evelyn as one of the most sumptuous private houses of early 20th century Paris and filled with magnificent furniture and art. That evening we dined at the elegant seafood restaurant La Marée where we sampled oysters by the dozen (eat as much as you like on Sunday evenings), their speciality shellfish bisque, and perfectly prepared bouillabaisse. Our apartment had become a home from home and I was getting used to our elegant bolt-hole. My chap had even begun peering into local Estate Agents’ windows looking for apartments. I was right to suggest this experience for anyone dreaming of living in Paris, you may just get your wish.
For more information about Haven in Paris and their luxury apartments, visit the website.