Places I’ve Lived: My Time in Paris
by Tessa Murphy
October, Paris 20, €700 + Airbnb fees
The first thing that greeted me when I walked through the door of this second-story apartment was the stench of cigarettes. The 20-something French man occupying the other room was between jobs; he spent most days sleeping or watching TV on the couch and most evenings out with friends, returning in the wee hours of the morning to cook eggs in the small kitchen adjacent to my sparsely-furnished bedroom. We had a total of three conversations during the month we cohabitated, and in each one he made sure to mention how important it was for him to be able to watch Master Chef on Wednesday nights. On the plus side, the apartment was only a few minutes’ walk from my new office. I spent a lot of time at work.
November, Montreuil (a suburb just east of Paris and still on a metro line), €700
Anna and I made contact on Airbnb but managed to arrange a sublet in person, avoiding pesky fees (sorrynotsorry Airbnb). Her sunny, delightfully-decorated apartment was a dream: no traffic noise! A separate bedroom! A shower I could just stand under, rather than having to hold the shower head above me the whole time (this is a thing in France, and it kills me). I would have been sad to see Anna return from her stint in a traveling theatre production, but the woman is as lovely as her apartment and it is impossible to begrudge her anything. Plus I went away for the entire month of December and it was nice not to have to pay rent.
January-March, Paris 20, €1,100
My boyfriend joined me in the city of lights for three months and we decided to rent a place that could better accommodate two people. We made the most of having both a double bed and a pullout couch by hosting a near-constant stream of visitors. The shower in this place defied explanation: It was sort of elderly/handicapped-accessible in that you had to sit down in it, but it was also so deep that climbing in and out was nothing short of an acrobatic feat. The 11-floor apartment had an enormous terrace, which we were able to make use of for exactly one glorious sunny weekend. The people who moved into the apartment after us stayed through the summer, essentially getting another living room — one with sweeping views over southern Paris — for the same price. I loathe them.
April-July, Paris 11, €800
Another Airbnb find paid for sans Airbnb fees. Marie was (somewhat weirdly) another traveling theatre actor, and she was happy to sublet her cosy two-room apartment for as long or as little as I wanted to stay. The top-floor walkup was all slanted rooftops and courtyard views, and I looked forward to buying a croissant from the little bakery at the foot of the building every morning. Living farther away from work also meant that I was introduced to the magic of Velibs — Paris’s €30 per year bike share program opened up whole new parts of the city to me. The location and the apartment itself combined to make this my favorite Paris apartment (possibly my favorite apartment ever?) and I regretted having to give it up to spend the summer doing research/drinking rum in the Caribbean. La vie est difficile, definitely.
Mid-August to mid-September, Paris 20, €800 + Airbnb fees
Finding an apartment in Paris while moving around the Caribbean meant I had to rely on normal routes, fees and all. While there’s nothing wrong with my final Parisian abode, I won’t be too sad to leave it. A fabulous park right across the street means I have somewhere to take in the summer sunshine, but it also means that neighborhood kids congregate outside to smoke and blast music — last night’s selection included Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” and Dre’s “Chronic 2001.” The woman I’m subletting from (incredibly, also a theatre actor) did a lot of the renovations on the apartment herself, including attaching a propane tank to a gas oven. Needless to say I’ve been taking advantage of the many excellent and inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants in the area and sticking to salads at home. I head back to Chicago, and the apartment my boyfriend and I signed a lease for just before I left, in just over a week. My boyfriend moves to D.C. tomorrow.
Tessa Murphy is a perpetual expat and a historian.