An Apartment in Paris: a great base for a week-long visit

This article appears on page 6 of the May 2008 issue.
Parisians and visitors alike enjoying a beautiful day in the Jardin du Palais Royal.

by Richard Berner, San Diego, CA

Martha and I, like many travelers, are drawn to Paris and seem to return there more often than to any other European city. On a recent 3-week trip to France, we spent our first week in Paris.

Getting there

We left San Diego on American Airlines during the last week of April ’07, connecting to Paris through JFK. We were able to use frequent-flyer miles to book our flights.

Richard Berner outside the Hôtel Biron, Rodin’s former home, now a museum.

We had a delay leaving New York due to a mechanical problem and landed an hour late in Paris the next morning. Other than that, the flight was fine, the personnel were friendly, our luggage arrived with us and the food was okay. The flight wasn’t full, so we were able to change seats and have more room to stretch out.

After clearing Customs and Immigration, we went to the RER (the suburban extension of the Métro system) station located in Terminal 2 at CDG Airport. There was a long line at the ticket counter, but I had enough euro coins left over from prior trips to buy tickets from the automated machine, which had no line. The machine didn’t accept American credit cards or euro bills. The cost of the train into central Paris was €8.10 ($12.70).

We rode the RER to Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, where I bought Carte Orange passes. These passes are one of Paris’ best bargains, at €16 ($25) for unlimited travel on both the central Paris Métro and buses for a week. They are available Monday through Wednesday and require an extra passport-sized photo.

Settling in

I tried to call Brigitte, the agent for the apartment we had rented, and got her voice mail. We hopped on the Métro and rode to the Richard Lenoir station in the 11th arrondissement, where I called again and did contact her.

The living room of our apartment.

We walked five blocks to the apartment and met Brigitte. We were pleased with the accommodations, where we would spend the next eight nights. We paid €108 ($170) per night for a one-bedroom apartment that was two to three times the size of most hotel rooms in Paris. Brigitte welcomed us with fresh flowers, a bottle of champagne and a large bottle of Coke.

The apartment had a small open kitchen, a dining area, and a sleeper sofa in the living room. The bathroom was spacious, with lots of storage, and the toilet was in a separate closet.

We had two large, almost-floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and one in the bedroom, each with a view of the tree-filled Square Maurice Gardette across the street. The bedroom had two single beds that could be pushed together. The television in the apartment received 200 channels, including six in English.

The only negatives were the bright security light outside one window and the occasional noise from the park. Still, all in all, we found it far preferable to a hotel room.

Brigitte (phone 31 1 60753336) represents several apartments in that building plus a few others in Paris. This location ( was out of the usual tourist flow, which we prefer. This is the third time we have rented an apartment in Paris for a week or more.


We carried an international cell phone with us on this trip. Talking was expensive at $1.50 per minute, but it was very handy when needed. The phone ( cost $99 and there was no charge when not using it. We have found it easy to activate before departing on a trip.

There was a convenient cybercafé right around the corner, on rue St. Ambroise, for e-mails home.

In our neighborhood, our favorite café was La Tusain, on the corner of rue St. Ambroise and ave. Parmentier. We had lunch there a couple of times, and tartines (open-face sandwiches) cost about €7. Our dinners cost approximately €30 for two, including wine.

We had the same young waitress a few times and she remembered us and was very helpful but didn’t speak much more English than I spoke French.

New and familiar sights

While in Paris, we visited some new places and some familiar ones. We’d seen most of the city’s major sights and museums on past trips. One favorite of ours is the Rodin museum, Hôtel Biron. We have been there at least six or seven times and this trip was no exception.

A canal boat on the Canal St. Martin enters the tunnel which takes passengers under the city.

It’s a treat to see Rodin’s art in the same place where much of it was created. The grounds are park-like and the café was a reasonably priced place for lunch (€20 for both of us).

We spent time wandering through Île de la Cité, Île St. Louis and the Latin Quarter. I had downloaded a free podcast of “Historic Paris” from Rick Steves’ website (www. and we both listened to it on my MP3 player with a splitter for two as we walked around.

We had our gelato fix at the Berthillon shop on Île St. Louis, a tradition for us. We also had a good dinner in the Latin Quarter at a vegetarian restaurant, La Grenier de Notre Dame (18, rue de la Bucherie; phone 01 43 29 98 29). Our two dinners cost €21 and a bottle of excellent organic wine was €16.

We visited the Musée Marmottan and admired their wonderful collection of over 100 Claude Monet paintings. They were arranged somewhat chronologically, so we could see how his style changed through the years. We had wanted to visit the Marmottan since seeing Monet’s home at Giverny last year.

From the museum, we walked back to the Métro through the Jardin du Ranelagh and stopped to watch young children enjoying the old-fashioned, hand-cranked carousel. They all had sharpened sticks to try to catch the brass rings as they went around. A few of the children were too small to reach the rings, so the operators would help them.

The Musée Jacquemart-André in the 8th arrondissement was another first-time visit for us. The lavish home and art collection of this wealthy couple now serve as a museum. It was an excellent insight into the good life of the 19th century.

Old vs. new

We are always attracted to marché aux puces (flea markets), so on this trip we visited the largest one in Paris, at St. Ouen. It is held on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and features everything you can think of but primarily antiques. There are over 2,000 sellers. It is accessed by the Porte de Clignancourt Métro stop at the north end of line No. 4.

On the outskirts of Paris I visited La Défense. This collection of modern office buildings is controversial, but most Parisians appreciate that it was not built in the more historic center of the city.

The smoggy views from the observation level of the picture-frame-shaped La Grande Arche included the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.

There is an interesting museum along the Esplanade de la Defénse explaining the history and development of the area. I enjoyed visiting the modernistic buildings of La Defénse, but they are not to everyone’s taste.


One of the few remaining Art Deco Métro stations in Paris; this one is in Montmartre.

We took a walk through Montmarte, somewhat following a tour from a Frommer’s “Walking Guide.” I have been interested in renting an apartment in Montmarte but was concerned by negative reports on parts of it. My conclusion was that the southern parts of the area appear questionable but the rest could be a good area to stay in.

We had lunch alfresco at La Maison Rose (2, rue de l’Abreuvoir). I had a very good salad with slices of turkey on it and Martha had an asparagus appetizer; we shared. With two glasses of wine, our lunch cost €22.

We had arranged to meet our neighbor from San Diego, Robert, as he was in Paris on business. We met at Willy’s Wine Bar (13, rue Petits Champs), just behind the Jardin du Palais Royal, and had a predinner glass of wine. Willy’s serves food, but on Robert’s recommendation we decided to go to a nearby Thai restaurant, Baan Boran (43, rue Montpensier; phone 01 40 15 90 45), and had an excellent dinner. The total for three people with wine was €120 — a minor splurge, for us, but not that bad by Parisian standards.

A few more sights

We also went to see Monet’s water lilies (“Les Nymphéas”) at the Musée de l’Orangerie. This museum had recently reopened with redesigned skylights to better illuminate the paintings. Eight beautiful paintings about seven feet tall and up to 50 feet long are displayed in two oval-shaped rooms arranged so you are surrounded by these impressive pieces of art.

One morning we took a cruise on the Canal St. Martin, boarding the canal boat at the Paris Arsenal Marina near the Bastille. Most of the first two kilometers were underground, below downtown Paris, with occasional openings for air and light. We came up near the Place de la République and traveled a few more miles to Parc de la Villette, on the northern edge of the city.

The narration, in accented English, was interesting, and the cruise gave us a different perspective of Paris. We went through several locks, rising 24 feet during the ride. The 2½-hour trip cost €15 each (phone 01 42 3915 00,

Summing up

During our week in Paris we ate in several locations, including having dinner in our apartment on two nights with food purchased from a neighborhood charcuterie and a restaurant.

The outside of our accommodations at No. 3 rue Lacharriere in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.

We had breakfast daily in the apartment with yogurt and fruit from a nearby grocery store and/or croissants from our local boulangerie, plus coffee made in our American-style coffeemaker. We still would usually stop for café au lait or cappuccino in one of our local cafés when we left for the day.

Euros were readily available from ATMs all over Paris. I had an incident with an over-helpful bystander (scam artist) at one outside ATM, so I usually sought out ones inside.

We had nice weather every day except for one night when a storm moved in and we were treated to heavy rain and a thunder-and-lightning show. This was one of the nights we ate in the apartment, and it felt very cozy.

It was nice to have a park across the street rather than having a view of the next apartment building. The park was full of nannies and moms with young children plus elderly men playing boules, or petanque, the French version of bocce. There were very few homeless men in the park, fewer than I see at home.

We would recommend the restaurant guide “Eating and Drinking in Paris” by Andy Herbach and Michael Dillon. It is the most complete one I have seen.

Contrary to their reputation, we found people in Paris generally helpful and did not have any negative encounters. We saw occasional anti-American graffiti, generally having to do with the war in Iraq or our leaders. That animosity didn’t seem to carry over to American visitors. Paris was as wonderful as it has been on previous trips.

If anyone has any questions or wants further information, feel free to contact us c/o ITN.

Next month, Alsace and Burgundy.