After moving from AirBnb to AirBnb for over a month (12 suitcases shoved into 2 Uber Vans; 12 trips up and down Parisian micro-elevators) we are finally in our apartment. We learn this is actually quite quick. Over lunch with my friend Clara in the Canal St Martin where she lives, she tells me she and her husband had such a hard time renting an apartment, they had to buy one. One of the other moms at the school, who is French, tells me even she found it impossible with no recent tax history in France (they’d been living in Hong Kong). Another school Mom had to build a kitchen, because usually apartments don’t come with them. We were turned down from our dream apartment, despite offering a year’s rent in advance (which we find out later is illegal), because we were a family, and not a corporation.
When Murray found our apartment on one of our search alerts, I phoned immediately to book a viewing (email is futile in Paris—don’t expect an answer for two weeks or maybe never.) I arrived at the apartment in the 8th Arrondissement at the appointed hour with Charlotte in tow (it being Wednesday, she had no school). The agent arrived without the keys. “I have lost my whole morning!” she exclaimed in French, like it was my fault. Multiple agencies are representing the apartment, and someone had gone rogue with “les clés.” A few days later, the agent’s very young assistant showed me the apartment (though we had to break into the building since she didn’t have the door codes.) The place was a complete tip – booze bottles everywhere, sticky spills, melted candles, stacks of cash, men’s underwear tossed about. We learn later it has been used as a corporate apartment for a very well-known American company, a sort of landing pad for young employees recruited to Paris. Party central! So much for renting to corporations. Luckily I can see past the mess, noting the five small balconies, three marble fireplaces, and gorgeous mouldings on both the ceilings and the walls. The furnishings are very Philippe Starck boutique hotel circa 1995 (hot pink sectional, green leather dining chairs, fluorescent yellow TV stand, mirrored coffee tables, one of which is smashed) but are designer, and better than the fake Louis XIV style we have seen elsewhere. The apartment is 500 Euros a month over our budget, but it’s huge (1,400 square feet) and has an open kitchen—the first we have seen in this price range. The appliances are Murray’s favourite: Gaggenau. After much negotiation on the terms of payment, and after Murray has flown back to Paris 12 days later, we apply with our Dossier (basically all our financials, bank accounts, investments, tax returns etc. akin to pulling down your pants) and the landlord agrees to rent it to us. We learn at some point during this process that she is a New York-based, French fashion designer whose label I know well from my days as a fashion buyer. I will call her Madame M (that is her in the life-sized vintage photo installed in the kitchen). When she learns of the state of the apartment she jumps on a plane and meets us in Paris. She arrives in red stilettos with lips on them, red lipstick, and a belted acid-wash boiler suit. We turn the jets on in the bathtub and black mould spews out. Perhaps Madame M, in her jumpsuit can help? Murray being the sole male around, hauls a massive hockey bag of soiled linen to “la pressing” down the street while we make lists of repairs to be done over the next three weeks. We’ve been living out of suitcases since we left our Vancouver house in mid-July, and it is now October, so the entire wall of closets in the master suite, complete with shoe racks, is a revelation. Within three days we’re unpacked. Later, we notice the mail delivered to the door of our neighbour, with whom we share the floor. It is addressed to “Prince and Princess.” This could be interesting.