Vacation rentals in France (farms, cottages, gites, apartments)
Review 4172: A la Carte Paris Apartments, Marais Vosges
1bed/1bath apartment in the 4th arrondissement, Paris
May-June 2009, 10 days
The Marais Vosges apartment is on a one-block street between the rue St. Antoine and the Place des Vosges -- in fact the street's northern end is one of the arched entrances into the Place. It is on the second floor (third in the U.S. convention) of one of the buildings surrounding an interior courtyard and is thus quiet and private. Its location is excellent. The Place des Vosges -- Paris's most beautiful public space, in my judgment -- is just a few steps away, and the apartment is convenient for walking anywhere in the third, fourth or the 12th arrondissement east of the Bastille; it's also an easy walk to the Ile St.-Louis and the Ile de la Cite. The nearest Metro stop (St. Paul) is a five minute walk; it's perhaps twice that to the nearest Batobus stop at the Hotel de Ville.
Laying in food and drink was very easy. There's a Monoprix store close by on the rue St. Antoine, and a nice selection of bakeries, traiteurs, greengrocers, wine and cheese stores along that street as well. Many restaurants are within short walking distance, including the ultra-cher L'Ambroisie and the pleasant cafe Ma Bourgogne right on the Place des Vosges.
The building is probably from the 17th or 18th century -- or so I infer from its stone walls and winding staircase -- and has been well maintained. There are two apartments per floor but we rarely saw any of their occupants. It was very quiet. Inside our apartment's entrance was a narrow but satisfactory kitchen with a bar between it and the dining area, and then on the other side of the non-working fireplace the living area. Windows in these rooms open onto the courtyard. Off these rooms was the small bedroom and the bath; the bedroom window opens onto an unused space perhaps five feet wide and 30 feet in length between buildings. The bathroom has no window.
You can view the property directly: Marais Vosges.
The apartment was spotless and well-furnished. The dining table seats four, and there is a very comfortable couch in the living room, a large coffee table, and a couple of additional chairs. The lighting is good for reading. It also has a TV and possibly a CD-player, although we didn't use them.
The bedroom is small -- the queen size bed takes up most of the space -- but the bed was comfortable (and the linens good) and there are reading lamps on the bedside tables, which we appreciated. (Poor or no lighting for bedtime reading is the bane of some of the places we've rented, making us wonder whether many of the people who rent out their apartments aren't readers.) The bathroom isn't large but is efficiently organized, and the shower (no bathtub) delivers good volume and has an effective door that keeps water inside the shower stall, not always the case in France. There's not a great deal of space for toiletries but we managed OK.
The kitchen is well-equipped -- coffee-maker, toaster, tea-maker, cookware, cutlery, gadgets, and so on -- and the dishes and glassware are ample and of good quality. There's a refrigerator, microwave, stove-top, and dishwasher but no oven, because the owner has recently taken it out in order to install a combination clothes washer/dryer, which was more useful to us than an oven would have been. We didn't actually prepare dinners except for heating up stuff in the microwave -- there are so many tempting possibilities nearby for carrying in that there wasn't much impetus to cook ourselves, but we had no difficulty in preparing eggs and the like for breakfasts and lunches.
Problems or Bonuses
There were no problems but I'll note two circumstances that potential renters might want to be aware of. Storage for the clothes and so forth you've brought with you is limited and in a cabinet/closet in the dining area, and there's no place to store your luggage, so we put ours into a corner of the living area. Neither of these circumstances bothered us a whit, though, or reduced our pleasure in the apartment.
We also never succeeded in logging onto the wireless with our computer and that wasn't a problem because we could connect with the plug-in connection the apartment also has. I ought to add that we didn't inform the agency of our difficulty with the wireless, and probably had we it would have offered a solution.
Agency and Representatives (and price)
Paris a la Carte was exemplary in every respect. When I was looking for an apartment it always responded promptly and fully to my inquiries, and the actual rental itself was accomplished with efficiency and courtesy; I wrote in and was always replied to in English. Our flight arrived in the morning and the agency allowed us to occupy the apartment earlier than the usual 3 or 4pm time -- the cleaners were there when we arrived, so we just left our bags and took a walk until they were done by 1pm or so. The representative who met us at the apartment was helpful and pleasant -- he apologized for his English but it seemed just fine to us. We were greeted with a nice bowl of fruit and a bottle of wine, and the agency provided a useful notebook on the details of the apartment (in English), and nearby restaurants and food shops. We didn't have any problems but I have the impression that had we the agency would have swung into action to resolve them.
We paid €1415 (plus €54 credit card fee) for a 10-day stay at the end of May and beginning of June. While in the aggregate it seems like a lot, when one thinks of it as €147 per day and compares that to the usual Paris hotel cost, then it seems a bargain, especially considering that we had considerably more room, comfort, and privacy than we'd ever have in a hotel, a much better location than most hotels, and the facilities to economize a bit by eating in some meals rather than having all of them in restaurants.
Do you recommend this vacation rental to others?
We would -- and have -- recommended the Marais Vosges apartment to others. Its location can't be beat (although beware -- our cab driver claimed its street -- the rue de Birague -- didn't exist, even though we'd written down the address for him, and we had to show him on the map where it was!).
Things to do in this area
I don't have the names, but the traiteur just across from the rue de Birague on the rue St. Antoine is excellent -- we carried in splendid filets of quail in a brown sauce from there one evening -- and the patisserie on the same side of the street as you walk toward the Bastille is also terrific, and if you get there around 7am the pains aux chocolate will still be warm. The Carnavalet Museum is nearby, and free, and well worth a visit -- we spent much of an entire day in it. The Ambassade d'Auvergne restaurant is a 10-15 minute walk and has one of the best price-quality ratios in Paris, we think: go with a good appetite, because the portions are generous and the food so delicious it's an effort to limit your intake. And just hanging out in the Place des Vosges is itself a great pleasure.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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