Sunday, August 15, 2010

AHA! (Apartment Hunt Anecdotes) V – The Maid’s Quarters

Only day four of the apartment hunt, and it seems as if years of searching have gone by. I can only drag myself out of bed by the promise of having café au lait and croissants for breakfast with Aurélie (oh, the croissants. Montreal, sorry, but you have no idea of croissants) and a gorgeous new day of hunting ahead! Ha. ha. ha. No, so true for breakfast. It is especially great how all the chairs in a cafe are so placed that you automatically look out on the street and just have to people-watch. Fantastic. After the best start in the day possible, I have an apartment visit that I got over CROUS, the French student help center that also offers subsidized housing. I am not totally certain whether I even am eligible for this, but it’s never bad to check it out. When we arrive with Aurélie, there are already around 7 people waiting. This one kid looks intense, he has his folder under his arm as if he can’t wait to shove his dossier (those freaky papers with all your bank information) into the landlady’s hands. This is supposed to be a studette, a student studio, with your own shower and the toilet in the hall. When the landlady arrives and after lots of confusion (on which storey was the room again? Where are the keys?) manages to open the room, it has.. a bed. a chair. a table. a sink/hotplate/fridge/all-in-one/nothing-entirely. A rusty shower. And looks like the saddest place in the whole world. My fellow contenders for the place don’t look the least appalled though, and when the landlady says that we have to say immediately whether we’re still interested, intense kid is like, yeah, yeah, and I have my dossier ready too. What they must’ve already seen otherwise… While the landlady can’t find the keys to the bathroom, we say our goodbyes. Intense kid looks relieved. One contender less. But I have to say, I’m not too sad to have left this race.

Against lunchtime, I ring up my one find of the bulletin board and arrange a meeting. This is for a chambre de bonne (maid’s quarter) literally a five minute’s walk away from school. In the heart of the St. Germain district. Right behind the Musee d’Orsay. The location is a dream. And the landlady looks nice too, she has a no-nonsense kind of attitude, wants us to be in good relations (I can call her Chantalle), and says she is so tired of her phone ringing that I could decide immediately whether I wanted the place – then it’s mine – or not. Wow, first choice! This chambre is on the fifth floor of a bourgeois building where apparently Napoleon’s doctor lived –ooooh- and where now a bunch of snobby Parisians hate to hear any noise. So you have to be quiet. All the time. Otherwise your neighbors will hate you, and Chantalle, and Chantalle will therefore be angry, and you don’t want Chantalle to be angry. Oh, ok. The rooms are tiny, but cute, much like the studette, but much more charming, with slanted ceilings (but meaning you can’t stand upright in half of the room) and little kitchen niches. It might be silly, but I try half of the visit to picture my culinary excursions with one hotplate, a microwave and a toaster. There are microwave cookbooks, right? And why did I take Julia Child’s baking book along if I haven’t got an oven? Can I live without an oven? The bathroom is tiny, but oh well, one of the rooms has a tv, there are plugs for internet, but clearly, here you are paying foremost the location. Is it worth it? Maybe. At least this would be my first chance for a guaranteed roof over my head. I would have to find a “floormate” though, because there are two chambres, and if you are friends, you might also share hotplates, so you have one to make spaghetti and another to make the sauce. E-mail time! When leaving, all of a sudden I discover the door that says toilette and remember that Chantalle hasn’t told me about or shown me the toilet yet. For good reason. On request, she does open the door for a millisecond, enough for me to see the – hole?? Visitors to France might know that the standing toilet (is that the name?) has been very popular, mainly at highway restrooms and the like. Apparently also for French maids. Cuz who really is prissy enough to need a seat?

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