paris musings – the apartment

Furnished or Unfurnished
I moved to Paris on November 17, 2013, relocating for a job transfer opportunity within my company. As a mother of a then three year old, I elected to leave my son at the grand parents whilst I went ahead to start work, wait for my belongings to arrive from New York, and set up the basics.
I had been lucky enough to have my company’s assistance a month prior to start date, to come to Paris and spend a day with a realtor who whipped me around 10 apartments in one day. My criteria was set by price and 30 minute accessibility to work. I didn’t want to spend time commuting as I was also going to have to manage school drop off and pick up.
The first thing I learnt was that rental apartments come either furnished, or unfurnished… and when they say unfurnished, they mean UNFURNISHED… no NYC apartment basics like a cooker, kitchen units etc. Some had bathroom units, but a couple were fully bare. Walls, floor, ceiling…unfurnished! On the other hand Furnished meant walking in to someone else’s apartment: Pictures, mirrors, furniture, linen, cutlery, plates, hoover, mops, brooms… the whole kit and caboodle.
Whilst I was a little biased from my itinerary review on google earth of a small cobble stone street named after a 19th Century painter, you can imagine my joy when this apartment turned out to also be the only one with partial furnishing… ie: a kitchen with a fridge/freezer, oven, and dishwasher was already in place! With north/south exposure, and an elevator, after minor negotiation on the rent, and securing a Cave (basement storage area not automatically included), I said yes.
The paper work commenced, back and forth, official apartmentchecks, deposits, bank transfers etc. Unlike New York where I, foolishly or not, lived without any apartment insurance, I was to learn that this is non-optional in France. The rental agency put me in touch with and insurance company, and every year, the rental agency need an updated record for proof of insurance.
I had packed up the majority of my belongings to come over from America, but I had also left a lot behind… mainly electronics, but also a couple of fundamental pieces of big furniture… a bed, table and chairs. Rather than staying in a hotel until the shipment arrived, my company assisted with ordering of a bed and mattress to be delivered..
And then I became acclimatized to the other logistics of my french apartment.  With no buzzer intercom system, when the bed delivery team arrived, I had no way of knowing. I called my company, who in turn called the delivery team. The team had been and gone, but that they would return in an hour. This time, apartment building door codes had been relayed and they found their way up to the apartment, leaving me with a self assembly unit. Thank goodness the instructions are universal, and the flat pack comes with the necessary alan keys. Alas, my brain wasn’t really in gear, and I realized I had no bed linen or pillows… they were en route from NY. Luckily, back at work, a colleague offered to lend me a pillow and some linen which I picked up after work. Back in the apartment, my next discovery was that overhead lights are not a given! Luckily, the hall did have lights, but as I went into the different rooms flipping the light switches, I remained in the dark. Apparently, the French prefer lamps!
Tables and chairs would seem like a fairly easy thing to secure. Whether my tastes are not mainstream, or in alignment with the french style… this process proved rather challenging.
IKEA .com had table and chair sets, but if you wanted this table and those chairs, the table could be delivered but I’d have to go in person to get the chairs… not very easy when you don’t have a car. I went to Conforama, castarama, habitat, BUT, and several other locations where each table I selected turned out to be unavailable for 3 months, and floor models would not be sold. Invariably, I didn’t care for the chairs they had. I ended up buying online from the UK and having a lovely round table with preferred chairs delivered to my apartment!
Joy of joys, my bathroom had an area for a washing machine! Unlike NYC where laundromats seem to be on every block, ready to wash and fold perfectly, I had not passed one laundromat as i roamed my new neighborhood. With measurements in hand, I headed to the recommended electronics chain, Darty. After waiting for ever for a sales assistant to actually help me, the choice of washers was immediately limited to three based on my cabinet’s height restrictions, then reduced to two based on the fact that only one of them had a removable top, that would actually allow it to fit. I filled in the necessary details for delivery, ensuring the provision of necessary door codes, tried to narrow down the delivery window, and accepted the additional sales of a water converter to address the heavy calcium content of Parisian tap water and scaling issues.
When the washer was delivered, it was the washer without the dryer (I needed the all in one). Back to Darty. The correct machine was then delivered, this time, the gentleman installing the machine said that the water filter could not be installed. Back to Darty to return.
A real life saver was finding an english speaking handyman out fit to assist me. After a visit to review the apartment (with a flash light), we compiled a list of bits and bobs, shelving opportunities and overhead light requirements, and he organized his team to buy, bring, assemble and install.
My limited work-surface kitchen now has additional work surface/bar for eating (or accumulating all my french mail that I still don’t know how to read!), on top of a shelving unit, when I flip the switch, room lights go on, and when I have deliveries, or invite friends around, I make sure they have the necessary door codes to get in.
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