Let’s Tour a Parisian Penthouse!

Okay, first up, reading all of your comments about what color Annabelle should be painted (or, in many cases, your horror at the concept that I might even consider such a thing!) was really entertaining. It ranged from a simple, straightforward “I like Option B” to impassioned pleas to not to sully her beauty and character with paint to bold assurances that painting pianos is the best thing ever.

Y’all are awesome. And I really appreciate all the feedback. But, I must warn all of you who are in the anti-painting camp that I specifically searched for a small, beat-up, super cheap piano with the express purpose in my mind of painting her. I’m a piano player myself, and if my boys continue with lessons, then I’m sure Annabelle won’t be the only piano we ever own. And if we ever do invest in a nice instrument, let me assure you that nary a drop of paint will reach her wood. So! I promise to give you fair warning when I do the big reveal so that if you need to skip that post, you can. :)

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I’ve been bouncing an idea for a post around in my head for a while about tips for saving money in Europe or making your trip go more smoothly. That one’s still in the works, but if I had one suggestion above all others, it would be to never stay in a hotel again if you can help it.

Shaun and I haven’t stayed in a traditional hotel, except a work-related one, (other than the Mission Inn, which I wouldn’t call a “traditional hotel” by a long shot) on any of our recent trips.

If you’re thinking, “But, Abbie, if I don’t stay at a hotel, what do I do? I’m not too into hostels or sleeping on park benches.”

But that’s the beauty of it! Because of an emerging short-term rental market over the last 10 years or so, it’s now possible to get entire houses to yourself for less than the price of one hotel room. You can have multiple bathrooms, a kitchen, a selection of beds, and all other kinds of special amenities, without having to share any of them just because some enterprising homeowner decided to rent out his place for a while.

The two rental by owner sites that we have experience with are VRBO.com and Airbnb.com. We’ve favored Airbnb for our last few trips, including all three of our rentals (in Santorini, London, and Paris) on our great European adventure last month (was it really only a month ago??).

And while we’ve had really good experiences with all of our rentals, all three of the European ones were especially great.

But the one that took the cake was definitely our Paris rental. It was located in the very heart of the city, a 5 minute walk from the Louvre and Pont Neuf and within easy walking distance of most everything else. As I mentioned in my Parisian eats roundup, our street was packed with restaurants, not to mention that a park and beautiful cathedral were just steps away from our door. It really was a dream location.

And also?

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It’s the only rental we’ve ever shared with Superman! Mega bonus!

Okay, so a bit of back story: I trolled Airbnb for a couple of weeks looking for the perfect spot in Paris before a super-funky, light-filled space caught my eye. It was phenomenally priced for what it offered, and the location couldn’t be beat. So, I emailed the owner with almost no hope of its being available. Imagine my delight when she responded immediately that it was open for our dates! I snapped it up and danced a little jig that we had managed such a score in Paris. Of course, one of the most interesting things about it was our host (but more on that in a minute).

When we got to the rental, we got a bit of an unpleasant surprise when we discovered that, not only was it situated on the top floor (the description didn’t mention this), but there was no elevator. We were kind of wondering what we’d gotten ourselves into as we hauled 60 pounds of luggage each (no, we did not pack particularly light) up 5 steep flights of rather uneven, slippery, sloping stairs.

Once we got inside, though, we were sold.

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{I kept calling that awesome contraption you see there the “spaceship chair”}

Sure, the decor was ultra-modern, which is pretty much the opposite of my own design aesthetic. But what’s a vacation for but to experience new and different things? It was kind of fun to live like hipsters (or at least pretend that we did) for a few days.

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I’m sure I didn’t even catch half of them, but all of the film references in the decor suddenly made sense when we spotted a director’s slate (that black and white clapper thingy that they slap together before yelling, “CUT!” in movies) with our host’s name in the director slot. We talked to her and discovered that not only was she a director, but she was the screenwriter, director, and actress in a relatively well-received, popular French film that is being slated for an American remake. She was such a fun personality too (as you might guess from how she decorated her apartment) and was so helpful and friendly.

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She owned the entire top floor of the building we were in and lived in the apartment down the hall from us. She even offered to rent both spaces to us were we to ever return with all our kids! (I couldn’t help but laugh as I pictured all of the moaning and groaning that would happen every time our whole troop climbed all those stairs).

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Her apartment was so great because everything was painted white and there were huge skylights, so it was constantly full of light and felt so airy and cheerful and huge. IMG_3758 IMG_3761

We didn’t cook once while were there because we were always on the move during eating hours,  but the kitchen was a pretty sweet set up with stainless steel cabinetry hiding everything from the fridge and freezer to the dishwasher and even washer/dryer and all the necessary gadgets (I always feel a little sad that my husband and I don’t drink coffee whenever we stay somewhere with a fancy espresso machine). 

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In case you’re wondering where Shaun was while I was taking these pictures…

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{Okay, he wasn’t there the whole time; I just told him to duck so I could photograph the kitchen and then tricked him out to get this shot}

Even the bathroom was super-luxe (I got to use Bobbi Brown facial products for the first time in my life!) with a cool stone wall and a large, glass-walled shower.

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Oh, and EVEN the hallway was fun!

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{That’s Reem’s door}

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{I wished I’d nabbed a better shot of this print; it was my favorite}

And there you have it, friends. A tour of the coolest rental I’ve ever stayed in.

Oh, and in case you were wondering…

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…I sat in the chair!

So, what do you think? Would you stay in someone else’s house instead of going to a hotel? I guess you know our answer is a resounding YES!

Have you tried Airbnb or VRBO? We used VRBO for years before we tried Airbnb (we even used it for our honeymoon!), and we’ve been really pleased with both.

Ever had an unexpected celebrity run-in? I think this is really our first, although I do have friends who got engaged on a beach in California and were congratulated immediately afterwards by Pierce Brosnan who just so happened to be sauntering down that same beach with his son. (Well, that and I think I almost collided with Gemma Arterton as I was coming back from viewing the sunset in Santorini…but I’ll never know that for sure).

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12 thoughts on “Let’s Tour a Parisian Penthouse!

  1. I was curious about how you found your accommodations on your trip. Thx for the detailed post! We’ve only used VRBO but have decided it’s the way to go. With little kids, having a house is priceless. We’ve only done it once on a sans kid trip (that was tooooo long ago!) and it was great too! Gonna check out the Airbnb too! And what a cool place! I’m dying to go on a European vacay now! ;) )

  2. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE renting a house/apartment vs. hotel room when we travel, especially if we’re traveling with little kids. Having a kitchen to prepare some meals in and not be forced to eat out all the time, and being able to have a separate bedroom/living space so my husband and I aren’t doomed to go to bed at 8pm with the little guys is priceless. Getting it for the same or less than a hotel room? No brainer!!

    By far my favorite one we’ve ever done was a houseboat we rented in London. It was tiny, but had two bedrooms (the second was barely big enough for the bunk beds), a living space with bookshelves full of books to borrow while there, a kitchen and bathroom that drained out into the canal. Ducks, geese and swans would swim up to the big window in the living room every day, and my boys loved throwing bread to them and waving at other boats going past. We were two blocks from a tube stop, and three blocks from a grocery store, in central London, but in this little private, gated area on the canal that felt like something out of a book. It was perfect.

  3. Hi Leslie! Yay for Ezras!

    You know, I was originally just going to be all self-deprecating and say, “I don’t have any secrets.”

    But really, I have three very practical ones:

    1) I have really nice family 30 minutes away. My mom is an angel, and regularly keeps my kids for me.

    2) I have worked with my kids a lot. I know that sounds like bragging, and I’m sure you work with yours too, but I honestly believe that one of my greatest strength as a mama is my tenacity. I will keep hammering the same thing until my kids get it, even if it’s torture for me! :) Which means that, while my kids have lots of things that they still need work on, and I am by no means perfect in my consistency, they ARE pretty dang good at helping out with things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, getting their own food, cleaning their rooms, etc. And we’re adding new tasks all the time as they get older.

    So hang in there and keep fighting the good fight in teaching them how to be self-sufficient. It will pay off BIG time before you know it.

    AND AND AND

    3) Mine are older than yours. Seriously, the hardest mama-ing time of my life was when I only had two kids and they were both little bitty. Seriously. 5 is actually easier because my boys, while not old, are old enough to be extremely helpful, and because of all the afore-mentioned training we’ve done, they are genuinely helpful.

    You have three little bitties very close together (yes, I do too, but see above about the helpful boys), and it may just be that during this particularly season in your life, not much gets done other than the keeping alive and the cleaning and cooking (HEY! That’s a TON!).

    Try not to be too hard on yourself and ask Jesus for help every second you think of it. You got this, Mama! :)

  4. Please oh please, tell me your secret! How do you have time for travel and dinner parties and thrifting and decorating and have 5 kids?! I have 3, ages 4, 2 , and 7 months (my Ezra, btw :) . I can’t seem to do anything beside cook, clean, and keep my kids alive.

    1. Hi Leslie! Yay for Ezras!

      You know, I was originally just going to be all self-deprecating and say, “I don’t have any secrets.”

      But really, I have three very practical ones:

      1) I have really nice family 30 minutes away. My mom is an angel, and regularly keeps my kids for me.

      2) I have worked with my kids a lot. I know that sounds like bragging, and I’m sure you work with yours too, but I honestly believe that one of my greatest strength as a mama is my tenacity. I will keep hammering the same thing until my kids get it, even if it’s torture for me! :) Which means that, while my kids have lots of things that they still need work on, and I am by no means perfect in my consistency, they ARE pretty dang good at helping out with things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, getting their own food, cleaning their rooms, etc. And we’re adding new tasks all the time as they get older.

      So hang in there and keep fighting the good fight in teaching them how to be self-sufficient. It will pay off BIG time before you know it.

      AND AND AND

      3) Mine are older than yours. Seriously, the hardest mama-ing time of my life was when I only had two kids and they were both little bitty. Seriously. 5 is actually easier because my boys, while not old, are old enough to be extremely helpful, and because of all the afore-mentioned training we’ve done, they are genuinely helpful.

      You have three little bitties very close together (yes, I do too, but see above about the helpful boys), and it may just be that during this particularly season in your life, not much gets done other than the keeping alive and the cleaning and cooking (HEY! That’s a TON!).

      Try not to be too hard on yourself and ask Jesus for help every second you think of it. You got this, Mama! :)

  5. My husband is currently finishing a tour in Belgium and during our 2.5 years living here, we have had amazing experiences using Airbnb during our travels in Europe. Not only do we save money, but we get to meet locals and often get the best recommendations on dinner, shopping, things to see, etc from our host. We are totally addicted to traveling so I am interested to see what Airbnb is like in the US and definitley need to try out the other site.

  6. I’ve been wondering what you used, so thanks for the info! In LA, I’ve ran into Drew Barrymore at a restaurant and Jerry Seinfeld outside. In Houston, Shaq was shopping at the mall and passed my hubby and I. He really is tall. In Bryan, TX, George Bush Sr. walked past my girlfriend and I while we were eating at Outback. When we were married in Antigua, Guatemala, Julia Styles was eating at our favorite restaurant. That’s funny, I only recalled Drew and her run in, but all these other fun memories came back after starting to type. Thanks for the memory stroll!

    Totally off topic but am wondering if oil pulling has continued and if you still like it?.
    Also, about a year ago you posted a yummy cheesecake made with honey. I tried it and loved it. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Oh my goodness! You are a celebrity MAGNET! That’s amazing! Oh, and oil pulling is still going well, though I’m not nearly as diligent about it as I was. I need to write an update post! :)

  7. WOW!!! Amazing especially since property in Paris is SOOOO expensive and usually pretty pokey! The stairs and no elevator didn’t surprise me though… that’s the norm. Thanks for the tips on those sites. I’m going to bookmark those for future reference.

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