Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 2736: Chemouni, SaintLouis
1bed/1.5bath in 4th arrondissement, Paris
May 4 - 10, 2007, 6 nights
Located in the heart of Ile St-Louis in Paris, an island so separate its residents refer to the rest of Paris as "the mainland." Living on the island is living in the "old Paris", with centuries-old buildings and blessedly little traffic.
The apartment is on the fourth and fifth (American) floors of a building located on the main street of the island. The building has no elevator, but we seldom saw or heard anyone else on the stairs.
The best amenity of all, a bakery, is right downstairs on the ground floor of the building! You could smell the baguettes and croissants baking early in the morning (and indeed, throughout the day).
There are many restaurants on the same street, at most three blocks away. (Although I will say that the island is more touristy than it was a few years ago. Most of the other patrons in the restaurants are Americans.)
There is a small grocery store across the street where you can buy supplies for the apartment, and the BHV (department store) and Franprix (grocery store) just a 10-min. walk away on Rue di Rivoli on the Right Bank.
The building, as mentioned, doesn't have an elevator, but that is consistent with the historical character of both the building and the neighborhood. There is also a lack of in-wall electrical wiring, so many of the more modern amenities have been wired to extension cords. This looks a bit "different" to American eyes, but doesn't affect functionality at all.
The apartment is on two floors, and could sleep 4-5 people using the sofa beds in the living room downstairs. There is also a bathroom on the lower floor of the apartment, as well as the only hang-up closet space in the apartment.
On the upper floor is the dining area (a small area at the top of the stairs), the kitchen, the main bedroom and another bathroom (with shower). The kitchen is up one small step, with a regular-height opening, but you quickly learn to duck a bit.
This is the best feature of the apartment, a LARGE private terrace the length of the apartment, with full-length doors that opened to it off of the main bedroom, the hallway and the kitchen. Smoking is allowed on the terrace.
From the terrace, you can catch a glimpse of the spire of Notre Dame just a few blocks away.
The terrace has a wooden table (with umbrella) and chairs, suitable for dining, as well as additional coffee table and benches, suitable for lounging. There are also seat cushions available.
While the terrace is not shared, you are still looking across into other apartments (and they are sometimes looking back), and there is another apartment with a terrace on the floor above.
This is not a contemporary, modern apartment, and the furnishings reflect that. They aren't quite castoffs, or "shabby-chic", but they are eclectic and comfortable.
In the living room there is a large sofa covered with a throw, a small upholstered armchair, and a smaller sofa, also covered with a throw. There is also a TV with satellite (including several English-language channels), laptop with WiFi, and CD player.
The biggest feature of the living room is that it is all furnished in purple, but we actually got used to it fairly quickly.
The place is very clean.
The main bed was quite comfortable for us, as it is a very firm mattress. It had a bottom sheet then only a duvet, but there were additional sheets and blankets available, so we just changed it around to suit ourselves. It was warm enough to keep the doors to the terrace open at night, which produced a bit of noise, but we live downtown in San Francisco, so that didn't bother us.
The bathroom off the main bedroom produced our only slight problem, as it didn't flush very thoroughly, and the water ran after flushing for what seemed a long time. We told our local host, and she had a handy-man look at it, but they said that was normal. We just learned to flush twice.
That same bathroom had a huge (although oddly-shaped) tub and shower. It is a hand-held shower, but with a very long, effective shower curtain and a nicely placed holder on the wall, that wasn't an issue. There was very good water pressure in the shower, and VERY hot water!
The downstairs toilet flushed better, and also had a sink.
We didn't cook, but it looked like there were adequate supplies. The kitchen is a typical Parisian kitchen, though, set up more for assembling rather than full meals. There is a refrigerator/freezer, as well as a brand new microwave and dishwasher, and usually the soap and supplies needed for them.
There is a hot water kettle, and an espresso machine, but we never figured out what type of coffee and/or filters to buy to make espresso!
There are plenty of wine glasses and openers, plates, cutting board, etc. for the type of "cooking" we were doing!
The water pressure in the kitchen was a bit lacking, but again, it didn't matter, and the water got plenty hot.
Problems or Bonuses
No real surprises, except how out of shape we are to get up and down the stairs! The changes in level on the top floor also took a bit of getting used to... a step up to the kitchen, and a large step up and over the window to the terrace.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
We dealt directly with the owner, who lives part of the year in San Francisco. He was very cooperative, and doesn't view this as a business, but renting out his house. I had to push him to put together a formal contract, but he did so at my request, and it was very clear and reasonable.
He had a new on site host (Clotilde), who was very nice (and bought us a welcoming drink at the corner cafe). I don't think she has much experience doing this, as she seemed a bit taken aback by some of our questions (about the toilet flushing, for example). But she was very friendly and cooperative, and speaks English quite well, so it was no problem.
We paid $1590 for a week in early May. (A deposit of 30% to book, the balance either a week before arrival or in cash -either Euros or dollars- to the host on arrival.) There is also a $600 deposit held and returned one week after departure against any damage.
The rate includes everything -- cleaning, utilities (including phone except for calls to European cells), linens, cable TV, computer/WiFi.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
For those who have been to Europe and understand the differences between US and European living, I would definitely recommend this! If someone wants an American-style apartment or something modern, this would not be the place for them.
Unfortunately, the difficulty of climbing the stairs makes it unlikely that my husband and I would rent this again (although it's hard to find apartments that allow smoking even outdoors). And the island is a little too touristy for my taste now that it's been "discovered."
But I would definitely rent from this person again (and they do have other apartments).
Things to do in this area
Being on an island between the Right and Left Banks, there isn't much you can't do nearby! Notre Dame is very close, as is the Marais (still one of my favorite areas). St-Germaine/the Latin Quarter is on the other side, all within walking distance.
I wouldn't recommend any of the restaurants on the island -- they were good, but not great.
Food shopping on the island is fantastic, so you could easily assemble some lovely appetizers. There's shops that specialize in chocolate, foie gras, bread, cheese, etc. (I didn't find a roastery on the island itself, though, so no meals of roasted chicken and potatoes.)
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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