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Spring blossoms at Canal St. Martin two days ago

Spring blossoms at Canal St. Martin two days ago

So you want to spend Springtime in Paris?  Great idea!  But if you start looking at the price of short term rentals in the City of Love you will have a coronary.  Take a deep breath and spend a few days looking at various places so that you have a realistic idea of what an apartment in Paris costs.  Then, remember the sage advice of my real-estate agent friend back home: “When buying a house, look for one that is structurally sound, with recent upgrades, owned by a person who either has absolutely no taste or really bizarre taste.”

No taste?  Bad taste?  Better price...

No taste? Bad taste? Better price…

Some sites I like to use are:

VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) for long and short term rentals.  Great for finding cottages in North America.  North America-centric but still has accommodation elsewhere – mostly Europe.

Sabbaticalhomes for long term rentals up to two years.  Lots of wonderful apartments around the world.  If you live in a university town like Kingston, Ontario, you will find people willing to home exchange.

Airbnb mostly for short term but some long term rentals available.  Let me say right away that I have a bit of a hate-on for Airbnb.  This site has taken the world by storm and all the hipsters are doing it.  It’s a “trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone.” (Airbnb website)

Basically, people create a profile and then use the site to list their space or to find a place to stay.  Most of the places for rent will have the owners’ personal property in them.  You can use pantry items/laundry soap etc you find and you should treat the place as you would your own (ie there won’t be any maid service).  Sounds granola enough for me so why don’t I like it?  Airbnb, how do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways:

1. You have to pay Airbnb for your whole stay upon reservation.  The payment is held by Airbnb and the owner gets the money 24 hours after you check in.  If you reserve your Paris apartment 6 months before your trip, your money will be tied up at Airbnb all that time.  I should say that owners can set a “special price” for someone, so it is always worthwhile to enquire, particularly if you will be staying for a longer period.

2. The cancellation policy is reasonable but for a rental of more than one month, you lose the first month if you cancel.  Ouch!

Extra mattress in kids' room

Extra mattress in kids’ room

3.  Owners seem to use the going rate in their city to determine what to charge.  People get a grip here.  Spending $230/night for a hotel in Europe is NOT the same thing as paying $230/night to stay in a place where the parents are sleeping on a futon in the living room and the 16 year old is sleeping on a bunkbed in a kiddie room.  And all the closets and drawers are full of other people’s stuff.  And there is no maid service.

Paris Apartment - Shelf above our toilet (aka Owner's Junk)

Paris Apartment – Shelf above our toilet (aka Owner’s Junk)

4.  Did I mention no maid service?  Oh, I did?  Did I mention that you will still be charged a crazy high fee like 40 euros ($60) for a “final cleaning”.  Did I mention that there is also a crazy high “Airbnb” fee on top of that?  The Airbnb fee is a percentage of the accommodation price.  So the longer you stay and the more your accommodation costs, the less worthwhile it is to book through Airbnb.

5.  The icing on the cake is that the owner of the great apartment in Quebec where you will be airbnb-ing for a night might have a cat that you have told him will be no problem to have around.  The cat might then barf up hair balls all night and you will spend your holiday accidentally stepping in cat vomit, cleaning up cat vomit, listening to a vomiting cat.  If you don’t have pets, you will worry about the cat and send the owner an email.  The owner will cheerfully tell you that the cat does that sometimes.  Your kids will be so grossed out.  Great way to spend $120.  True story from August 2013.

Booking.com for hotel and apartment rentals up to a maximum of 30 days.  This is my personal favourite site.  The website works relatively well and it has the best selection of properties around the world from dorms in hostels to luxury hotels.  We used this site throughout Asia for our accommodation.  I find the prices on this site to be the most competitive.  The cancellation policy is more than fair and you pay upon arrival in the local currency.  No booking fee.  Can you spot the differences between Airbnb and Booking.com?

The best part is that when conducting a search, you can change the “2 Guest/1room” default to select “More Options”.  Then you keep “1 room” but list the number of people and their ages.  The site automatically calculates how many rooms you will need in each hotel you are interested in.  Some hotels have family rooms that can accommodate 6 people.   BTW, I never enter Lastborn in the calculations.  I have started a world-wide rumour that in Canada we don’t count kids until they reach the age of 5.  It’s worked so far – let’s hope it goes viral.  I believe this booking.com to be the most user-friendly by far for large families.

Welcome to Chez SWMBO

Welcome to Chez SWMBO

Okay, let me describe our apartment, which we booked through Airbnb.  Yes, you read that right.  Airbnb.  It’s definitely not my favourite site but in this case, it had the best apartment fit for us.  And no cat.

Please come in

Please come in

Open the front door and enter the hall.  The very small kitchen is on your right and the toilet is in a closet in the kitchen.  We literally have a water closet.  Maybe the original owner of our apartment invented the WC?  We could be staying in a heritage building!  No lock on the WC, no vanity.  What you see below is our entire kitchen.  Fridge and stove on the left (out of view).  Toilet, sink and mini-dishwasher to the right.  Good thing there is no cat in this Airbnb because there is not enough room to swing one (as the saying goes)…

Kitchen complete with WC

Kitchen complete with WC

The next room on the right off the hall is a comparatively large bedroom.  Fahbio says it is so big because you are supposed to fill it with armoires since there is no where else to store anything.  He is a little miffed that the room he spends 90% of his time in is SO tiny.

View from living room into bedroom

View from living room into bedroom

Across the hall, opposite the large bedroom is the living room with sofa bed and piano as well as the dining room.  It’s very hard to get a picture because of all the detritus strewn around (did I mention no maid service?) and of course all the drying laundry.

Start to climb Montmartre - one step up to the sink

Start to climb Montmartre – one step up to the sink

BTW, we have our own Montmartre right in our apartment.  The door off the dining room reveals a step up to the sink, another step up to the really weird tiny, tiny bathtub, then two steps down to the Miele washing machine.

Two steps up to the tub...

Two steps up to the tub…

Up and over Montmartre - Two steps down to washing machine

Up and over Montmartre – Two steps down to washing machine

2 steps down to washing machine

Washing machine

The second (also large) bedroom is on the other side of the bathroom.  So that means that if someone wants to shower, the person in bedroom #2 is trapped.  And if you use the toilet and want to wash your hands, you have quite a journey.

Sitzbad or very tiny bathtub?

Sitzbad or very tiny bathtub?

But don't have a shower because there is a laundry rack in your way

But don’t have a shower because there is a laundry rack in your way

Who came up with this layout?  Who knows but it’s gotta be hard to rent.  For most people, planning a trip to Paris is like planning a wedding.  They want every detail to be perfect so most people would never take a bizarre apartment like ours.  Even if they live in this kind of house back home.  Even if it is steps from Place du Tertre and yet tucked away in a quiet part of the street.  But we are not most people and are willing to save money because of that.  Besides, we are spending all our time out and about in Paris…