Renting in Paris: Live Like the Locals
by Elizabeth Pope
Janice Ramocinski traveled the globe from Australia to Yugoslavia but always passed up Paris. “I never wanted to put up with that reputed French snottiness,” said Ramocinski, 53, an Orange, CA-based mortgage industry consultant.
But after a week of life in a Paris apartment, her notions of Parisian arrogance evaporated. Last May, en route to join friends in southern France for a barge trip, Ramocinski and her domestic partner Mark Perry rented a sunny one-bedroom flat on the fashionable Ile St. Louis. They quickly felt at home.
Shopping for cheese one day, Ramocinski, who speaks only “courtesy French”, ordered a wedge of Brie from a young clerk who spoke little English. When he put his knife on the wheel, she moved the knife over to indicate she wanted a bigger slice. “He cut the wedge, grinned and then handed me the entire wheel,” she said. “It became a little game we played.” One day when she saw him on the street he ran after her, handed her a piece of cheese, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Not bad for the first visit to the City of Lights. “We had phenomenal experiences like that and I think part of it was living in the neighborhood,” said Ramocinski. “The grocer was always charming and the bakery lady taught me the names of all the pastries.”
In return for a bit of housekeeping and cooking, renters gain entree into a new culture -- plus the opportunity to save Euros on restaurant meals and hotel phone/Internet surcharges. Shopping for croissants, wine or take-out dinners provides ways to connect with people that a hotel and impersonal room service can’t. “We spent hours sitting in two wing chairs looking out at the Seine, drinking wine, eating cheese and pretending we lived there,” said Ramocinski.
Vacation apartment rentals offer more space and privacy than a hotel room which average about 200 Euros ($236) a night in Paris, according to Glenn Cooper, owner of Glenn Cooper, owner of Rentals in Paris. “An apartment offers good value, particularly for people willing to make breakfast, eat their main meal at lunch and snack at dinner,” said Cooper, whose properties average 1,000-2,000 Euros a week. (An Internet search on “Paris apartment rentals” brings up hundreds of sites featuring properties ranging under $100 a night for a tiny studio to $880 for a luxurious suite. Discounts are usually available for longer stays.)
Rentals are an increasingly appealing option for 50-plus travelers spending a week or more in one location, according to Pauline Kenny of Slowtrav.com, a website offering trip reports, discussion boards and reviews of rental properties. “As you get older, you’ve seen all the must-sees. You want the experience of living in Europe, but you may not want to move there,” she said. Besides empty-nesters, rentals appeal to small groups, she added, like couples traveling together and families with children or grandchildren -- the kitchen is always open for snacks and light meals.
Ramocinski and Perry, 57, a mortgage broker, paid about $315 a night for their antique-filled apartment booked online through Panache Rental, a Cohasset, MA company (www.panacherental.com). A cousin, experienced at renting, walked them through the virtual tours on websites and helped them reject properties that might be dark or noisy. “It (the price) was a bit expensive, but it was about the same as our friends paid for a tiny room in a luxury hotel,” said Ramocinski. The night before their departure, the couple entertained eleven for wine and cheese. “Try doing that in your hotel room,” she said. “Now we’re looking for the same experience in Rome next year. “
(Editors, contact Elizabeth for the rest of the story and information on reprints.)