It is just over three weeks since our arrival in Paris. I could say that everything is perfect and exactly as we thought it would be but I’ve never been one to stretch the truth. The adjustment for us and the dogs has required a lot which is why I have been remiss in posting on my blog. And while Mitch and I can communicate using our words, Gertrude and Tink lack the physiology required to speak in words so they are forced to use other methods to let us know things are not going well for them. I will just leave the details to your imagination. Overall though, it has been a transition made much easier by our advanced planning and our friend Ameile who has been an extraordinary help in more ways than we can count. While future posts will include more on our day-to-day life in this exquisite city, I thought today I would begin to create for you where we live.
Our building, which was built around 1900, is made of stone and consists of 7 floors (8 US – they count what we call the 1st floor as 0) with service rooms on the 7th floor. The main doors are glass and ornamental iron which open into a tile floored foyer with decorative moldings creating a warm and welcoming feeling. Three steps up lead to another set of wood and glass doors which lead to the inner foyer containing the main stairs, elevator, entrance to the two ground floor apartments and the gardian’s quarter. There is also a door that leads to the courtyard and caves (cellars) as well as the service stairs. Each floor has 2 apartments, one on the left and one on the right creating a U shape with a beautiful brick courtyard in the center. The top floor is one very long hallway consisting of 14 small service rooms and two bathrooms – one at each end. These service rooms (Chambres des Bonne or Chambres des Service), were originally the sleeping quarters for the live-in staff who worked in the building. The only access to the Chambres des Bonne is from the foyer on the ground floor or from one of the apartments, each of which has a back door that leads to the service stairs. For the main residents there is a separate staircase parallel to the service stairs and separated by a beautiful stained glass wall. There is also a very small elevator enveloped by iron mesh that only goes as high as the 6th floor. The main staircase elegantly winds its way up from the foyer creating an oval shape with its monogony banister supported by jet black decorative iron spindles. The carpet runner, which highlights the finished wooden floor, is held in place by brass carpet stair rods. At each landing, there are two doors at either side of the elevator, framed by intricate hand carved moldings. In stark contrast, the service stairs are much smaller, made of unfinished wood with no carpet, cracked ceilings, unfinished walls and no heat. At each landing there are two plane doors, one on the left and one on the right that access the kitchens for the apartments on that floor. The staris lead to the top floor which is ominously dark and long with simple doors to each room. The only beauty in the actual Chambres des Bonnes is the ornate dormer windows looking out over the city from the highest view in the building. So back in the day I guess the staff who worked on the upper floors were luckier because when they went home they had to walk fewer stairs to get to their room than the ones working on the lower floors. Today, most of the Chambres des Bonne are used by the tenants for storage, however, there are still a few that are rented out to students who don’t mind making the long trek up and down the cold stark stairs every day.
Our apartment is currently empty save for a few items that our friend Ameile put in for us in anticipation of our arrival (see previous post). Since we are waiting for our things to arrive, I will not be giving a detailed description or providing photos until after everything arrives and we have had a chance to put the place together. Sorry but you will have to wait – just like us. In addition to our main flat, we also have two Chambres des Bonne and two caves. The caves are underground with earthen floors and stone walls. They are perfect for storing wine and other non-perishable items – not to mention the odd unexpected guest or vampire – LOL. The Chambres des Bonne will also be perfect for storage and a quiet space for when one of us needs a little time alone. Since the building was built during a time before closets became the norm, there is not one closet in the entire place. Historically, things were placed in armoires and dressers rather than closets. While we do have an antique armoire and dresser coming, it will clearly not be enough which poses an interesting challenge when storing clothes and other items we would usually put in a closet. Our ongoing joke has been ‘we’ll just put it in the armoire’. It would need to be more along the lines of the ‘room of requirement’ from Harry Potter to hold everything we have planned to put in it. But these are logistical problems that we are excited to work out. Everything seems less stressful when in Paris. A bad day in Paris is better than any day someplace else. At least that’s how we feel.
I have included several photos of the building starting with a beautiful exterior shot of it at night. We are the two highest windows with lights on. They then continue from the outside and move in as you would when entering. Try not to get too lost or scared when viewing the caves or Chambres des Bonne hallway. Enjoy and we will see you soon.