As it turns out, it is not actually that simple to arrive in Paris with all your possessions and find an apartment. The general techniques seem to translate from the U.S. to France, like checking apartment listings in the daily papers, scanning Craig’s List, even walking through neighborhoods looking for signs.
In practice though, apartment hunting in central Paris is just that – a brutal hunt. By the time Rachael and I had scoped out the day’s promising ads, bought a phone card and installed ourselves in a clear phone booth, every apartment we were interested in had already been rented. Apparently, if you want an apartment, you leap out of bed before dawn each Thursday to pick up the new edition of Particulier à Particulier and begin calling and calling and calling. You can’t worry about irritating people by calling them at 5:30 in the morning because you can bet that dozens of others will be calling at 5 and will get the apartment before you do.
The problem with Craig’s List is that it’s full of apartments outside of Paris for reasonable prices, or within Paris for up to $3000 Euro a month in rent (that’s 3836.70 in U.S. dollars). After searching through pages of useless listings, you may finally discover a perfect apartment – affordable, good location, with great pictures included in the post, only to discover that the post is 3 weeks old and completely defunct. As useless as hunting online may feel, it can be quite entertaining at times: Check out this guy.
After frantically searching through newspapers and online listings, a final option is to stroll through promising neighborhoods looking for “à louer” signs. Wandering streets can give you a leg up, because far less people are going to be sign-hunting on foot than searching through listings. At the same time, though, you are wandering side streets of Paris for sometimes hours at a time and coming up with maybe five phone numbers. Of those five, two will be overpriced studios, two will already be taken, and one will be a wrong number.
And of course, some are extremely sketchy:
After every “il est deja loué,” Rachael and I try to remind ourselves that we’ve only been here for a day and a half, that we will find something, we just have to put some effort into it. On the other hand, though, we’re halfway around the world from every comfort we know, and we are living out of suitcases in the world’s tiniest hotel room – it’s a little hard to stay stressfree during the hunt. If worst comes to worst, we can always call the shirtless guy from Craig’s List.
This is our ridiculous hotel:
But for now, after an exhausting and completely unfruitful day of wandering Paris, it’s time to sleep. I’m waking up at 5:30 to check the new online listings.
(By the way, when recuperating after a long and frustrating day of walking with a good dinner, make sure you know how to order a steak – otherwise, suffer the consequences and eat it raw.)