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Affordable Paris

September 1, 2008 By: Anne Sophie Guerin Travel Agent

Alluring apartment rentals in the French capital

Due to the current economic downturn, your clients may be reluctant to head across the pond for a European sojourn. But clients looking to experience the City of Light should not be deterred by the plummeting value of the dollar; there are still ways to ensure getting the best bang for the buck. Apartment rentals in Paris can be a great value for your clients, and provide a distinctly Parisian experience. Not only will your clients be spoiled with more living space than the average Parisian hotel (opulent luxury palaces excluded), but they will also reap the benefits of apartment kitchens. Dining in is cheaper, of course, but it also provides another excuse for exploring the city’s fabulous outdoor produce markets and neighborhood artisanal boutiques, troving for epicurean riches while slow-shopping the French way. After all, hunting for cheese at the fromagerie, prime cuts of meat at the boucherie and warm baguettes at the boulangerie (and dawdling in front of the perfect window displays) is itself a Parisian pastime. Your clients will surely appreciate the chance to live like the locals in authentic neighborhood settings, retreating into quiet, light-filled apartments in central locations after a day at the Louvre or café-hopping on the Left Bank—and getting all the convenient perks of someone else’s home, to boot.

Apartments are certainly not for everyone, as some of your clients may prefer the services that hotels provide (like daily room cleaning, spa and gym, and concierge). But the advantages of renting an apartment are numerous, and you can certainly find the right match for your clients, as each apartment has its own distinct personality. Needless to say, there is a slew of apartment rental agencies in the city, and navigating through all the websites can be a hit-or-miss exercise. We’ve scouted out some fine properties that will charm clients looking for an original, off-the-beaten path venture to Paris—without costing an arm and a leg. Note: Most apartment rentals do not give booking commissions to travel agents, so it’s necessary to add your own fee for a client booking.

Agent Advice

Terrie Conrad, president of the Terrie Conrad Travel Company, has quite a few tips for clients about the City of Light.

“For first-time visitors, I always suggest a guided tour of the city upon arrival,” she says.  “This works well after a morning red-eye flight into Paris, followed by lunch, at, say, the Eiffel Tower, then on to the hotel by check-in time.”

Conrad recommends three hotels in Paris that are very well located. “Hotel Meurice is a beautiful, sumptuous property that’s been recently refurbished and has an outstanding restaurant. On the Left Bank, just one block south of Notre DameLe Colbert is an elegant boutique hotel in a converted 19th-century mansion. Unlike many city properties, it’s set back from the street and accessed through a verdant courtyard. Lastly, the Hotel Regina is just by the rue de Rivoli, facing a gleaming gold equestrian statue of Joan of Arc. It’s pleasant, comfortable and friendly, and convenient to the Louvre, the Tuileries and the Place de la Concorde.”

Of all the museums in Paris, Conrad's favorite is the Cluny (Le Musée National du Moyen Âge). “The museum, a treasury of medieval art and artifacts, is built over ancient Gallo-Roman Baths.  Recently, the area was closed to shore up parts of weakened structural elements, but is now open for viewing. The most famous exhibit is the Lady with the Unicorn (Dame à la Licorne) tapestries. Thought to have been completed in Brussels in the 15th century, the six scenes are displayed in a circular room on the first floor. The only presentation in the windowless room, they are viewed by a minimum of artificial light. The colors are so well preserved because they haven’t been subjected to daylight for a century.

Another not-to-be-missed Parisian experience? “A Bateau-Mouche cruise on the Seine to view more Paris sights. Some also offer lunch or dinner.”

Pad-à-Terre is unique on the Paris apartment rental scene because founder James Burgess, a British ex-pat who’s lived in Paris for over 10 years, personally owns all eight apartments on offer. As explained to Travel Agent, Burgess’ goal is to create comfortable accommodations, on par with elegant boutique hotels, in enviable locations, that offer excellent value for money. “I hunt down apartments (ideally in poor condition) in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th arrondissements, knock them down to the ground and with an architect/designer team complete the renovation,” he says.

Established in 2003, Pad-à-Terre offers competitive rates and helpful service; it is committed to ensuring that guests enjoy Paris the way the locals do and also provides a booklet of information with insider tips for each apartment. Case in point: For the three-bedroom St. Honoré apartment, situated on the fashionable rue St Honoré just a stone’s throw from the Louvre, the Apartment Guide is peppered with recommendations for groceries, lesser-known galleries and restos, and even tips on accessing Velib’—the city’s self-service bicycle lending program.

Like all the Pad-à-Terre apartments, St Honoré is bright, well-appointed and fully equipped with all the modern comforts like wireless Internet and a contemporary kitchen. Your clients will love the Philippe Starck bathrooms and bed and bath linens by London’s White Company.  Many of the Pad-à-Terre apartments are housed in historic hotels particuliers (the homes of 17th-century aristocrats), and thus showcase wooden beams, traditional oak floors and charming historic touches. It is unique to find air-conditioning and modern amenities in the city’s historic heart, but all these apartments—ranging from one-, two- and three-bedroom—are endowed with all the contemporary conveniences. Local trivia: Molière lived just a few doors down from the prestigious address of the St Honoré apartment.

For bookings, e-mail Burgess ([email protected]), and he will follow up by phone to help determine the perfect apartment match for your client. Generally Saturday to Saturday bookings afford the best rates. Tip: The “Archives” apartment is the largest of the bunch, at nearly a whopping 1,300 square feet. Ideal for six people, the apartment is quite a find in the vacation rental market—just adjacent to the Archives, a grand mansion in the Marais neighborhood.

Romantic Options 

For a romantic apartment in the bohemian Montmartre neighborhood, high on the hill above the white roofs of Paris, book the Swell Apartment. Owned by Amanda Swanwick-Aharoni and Brendan Kirwan, the 420-square-foot apartment is located in an Art Nouveau building at 11 rue Duhesme. This quiet, one-bedroom hideaway is perfect for a couple. Your clients can make like Audrey Tatou’s Amélie and discover all the artsy delights and whimsical café culture in the neighborhood. For all the best addresses, an information pack is provided in the apartment with the owner’s recommendations. The apartment is cozy, and oozes indulgence; the bedroom boasts an original fireplace, chandelier, feather lampshade and handmade bed with goose-down quilt and luxurious linens. In the salon, your clients can listen to music while perched on the silken sofa, admiring the room’s wood paneling and original parquet floors. There is a separate shower room (with a Villeroy & Boch art deco sink) and toilet room with Molton Brown bath amenities. While eating an intimate breakfast at the kitchen table, you can look out on the narrow rues of Montmartre from the tall window. The kitchen even has a washing machine. Note: There is no elevator to the third floor.

Insiders tell us that many guests have tried to keep the apartment a secret, to no avail. Often booked months in advance, the owners themselves barely get to use it. To quote a couple from Sweden (quite taken with the place): “Try as we might we cannot find a better Paris than the one in this apartment.”

Priced from $1,260 per week, the apartment can also be booked on a nightly basis, with a minimum three-night stay required (about $670). Note that there is a separate final cleaning charge. Contact Judith Jones for booking, either by phone (011-44-1332-232-844) or by the website’s Contact Form.

For the "In" Crowd 

If we had to pick an “it” neighborhood of the moment, the 10th arrondissement’s Canal Saint-Martin would top the list. Chez Prune may be passé (though it still buzzes with a convivial crowd), but there are plenty of other hotspots adored by local hipsters. In the heart of this artists’ mecca, a trend-setting designer, Stanislassia Klein of Stella Cadente, has renovated a one-bedroom flat called the Appart of Paris located about halfway between Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord. This sleek designer space is both comfortable and functional; the living room, connecting to an open kitchen, has a pullout sofa, fireplace and flat-screen TV. In the bedroom, you’ll find angel wings hanging above the queen-size bed. This 590-square-foot apartment goes for $260 per night, or about $1,420 for the week, with cost calculated on the length of stay. Klein leaves her own personal address book in the entrance hall, promising that if guests mention her name at any local establishment, they’ll get the star treatment. Contact Aurélie Maris Lebrasseur ([email protected]; 011-44-3306-1469-7696) for bookings.

For some good picks in the lively Marais district, Appartement Blanc offers three whimsical choices: Au Coeur du Marais (Heart of the Marais), Les Toits du Marais (Attic Apartment) and the Appartement Blanc, a two-bedroom apartment with the lowest rates of the three (about $210 per night for one to three nights, $195 for four to seven nights and $170 for eight-plus nights).  In a 19th-century building at 138 rue Amelot, the 550-square-foot Appartement Blanc is, as its name suggests, dressed all in white. With two bedrooms and a living room/open kitchen, this apartment offers a spacious, quiet retreat for a family. Nice perk: French windows in the bedroom open onto a roof terrace. The second bedroom is equipped with two single beds.

Keep in mind that two of the apartments (Attic and Heart of the Marais) are housed in traditional, 17th-century buildings and thus don’t have air-conditioning or elevators, which may not be appreciated by certain guests. But they do have a surplus of whimsy and charm. Plus, all of them have high-speed Internet included. Under the eaves, the Attic Apartment soars over the city from its bird’s-eye perch. The 860-square-foot apartment is ideal for a family, with a kitchen, two bedrooms, bathroom with separate toilet and living room with fireplace and glass ceiling (the ultimate skylight!). Note: Michael Jordan-sized guests will be frustrated by the low ceilings in the Attic Apartment. Travel advisors should contact Christian Frank ([email protected]; 011-33-42-77-38-15) or Tatiana ([email protected]) for bookings. Tip: Suggest your clients eat lunch at the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered food market in Paris, located just off rue de Bretagne, near the Appartement Blanc flats.

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