paris attitude.

We were advised not to get a hotel room while in Paris, because they were either A.) small and expensive or b.) middle-sized and really expensive. So we rented a flat, otherwise known as an apartment. I'm not sure what the difference is, but the person who rented our flat to us called it a flat, so I did too. Made me feel like a real Parisian.

The view from our window - Eiffel Tower in distance
We booked a place using Paris Attitude, which is a name that seems like it might make sense in French, but no native English-speaker would ever say, much less use as a name for apartment rentals. I looked through countless flats, agonizing over the decision. I tried to rope Josh into helping me out, but he was not fooled. He knew that this was more comparing details about things he would not care about. And in the end, I just shrugged. I mean, whatever I picked, it would be our flat in Paris, so it was pretty much guaranteed to be magical, right? Of course, right.

The view of our window.  We added another bottle by the time we left.
We did get a great place, and we only paid $600 for a week. There were even cheaper ones that were farther out of the city center, plus ones that exorbitantly expensive, like a houseboat on the Seine. Ours was a studio flat, one room with the kitchen and bedroom, plus a little bathroom. The kitchen was crucial. Our first day, we went out to lunch, and it was delicious, but it set us back $50. And I said, that was the best onion soup I've ever had in my life, but we cannot do this all the time or we'll go broke. So we ate a lot of bread and cheese in our flat. The bread was from one of the bakeries in the neighborhood, and the cheese would come from a grocery store across the street. So not only was the flat cheaper than a hotel would be, but it allowed us to eat more frugally, too. Don't worry, we were not depriving ourselves. Such a meal at home would be a splurge, but here it was really affordable and it still felt decadent.

Fourth French floor, which means one more flight of stairs than you think
My experience with apartments has been the suburban type - clumps of big buildings with nonsensical names like Glen Eagles or Ridge Valley (Raleigh Attitude?) that are beige carpeted rooms surrounded by beige walls. Our building in Paris was over a hundred years old and required three separate keys and a code to get inside. You used the code on the outside gate, walked through an interior hallway to a door that required a key. Then you went through a courtyard, where a butter-colored cat would say miaou (French for "meow") to you. Up half a dozen stairs to another locked door. Finally, up four flights on a wooden spiral staircase to our little flat. There was a skylight above the stairs, but it was pretty dark on the second and third floors. We came home one night after midnight, a little tipsy, and it was pitch dark and very spooky. The next morning, we discovered the light switch for the stairwell.

The courtyard below.  Not pictured:  cat
The location was pretty spectacular. The most important thing to me about staying in a big city is distance to the public transportation, and we were a block away from the train station. We were close to bakeries, but I think there must be some kind of zoning law requiring a bakery near every residence. There were also plenty of cafes and restaurants, plus the grocery store. There must have been a school somewhere, because we heard kids during the day. From our kitchen window, we could see the church of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, where Louis Braille once played the organ. There are several churches and one university named after Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of acts of charity, but this church was built on the square where he actually lived and worked. It was just a regular little Paris neighborhood, where Parisians lived and worked. Often it seems like hotels are in neighborhoods of only hotels. I felt more immersed in the city this way. I thought, hey, as long as they don't hear me speak, these people probably think I'm from here!

Paris.  Gray, gray Paris.
We had a TV, which had some kind of internet TV service hooked up to it. Not that the limited channels mattered, since the shows were in French anyway. There was one English channel, but it was news and full of stuff about the war in Syria, and I said no, we are on vacation, at least switch it to a channel where they talk about Syria in French. We saw an episode of South Park, plus some NASCAR, and several episodes of something called Youri the Spaceman which was not very good. Or maybe we just didn't get the joke. There was no dialogue, as Youri was on the moon by himself, but at the end a voice would say something. Maybe the something really tied it all together, and we were missing out.

I have a friend who doesn't like to travel, and she says that travel only gives you the illusion of life in that place.  It's not like you could really go someplace for a week and get the true experience of the lives of the people there.  It had never occurred to me that the point of travel was to live another life.  I told her that you're not trying to have someone else's experience or be someone else.  You're finding out who you are in that place, and having been that version of you, you return home a different person.

Skylight over the stairs, with a balloon that someone lost.  Okay, it was me.
We were not real Parisians; we just lived in a flat and ate a lot of bread and cheese and watched cartoons we didn't understand.  It was a good time.

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