The original plan was to spend one week in Paris. But, when we got tired of South America – and in particular the fall weather there – we decided to go to Paris a week early and spend two weeks there, spending the second week in an Airbnb apartment with our old Cambridge neighbors Bart and Ann. We’ve had great fun with them in a couple of far-flung locations since leaving the States in 2013, sharing a house in Bali, Thanksgiving in Costa Rica, and even dinner at their house on a trip back through Boston.
We love Paris; it may be the only city that deserves its own “tag” on this blog instead of just the country tag. And no question about it, two weeks in Paris is quite the luxury. For one thing, as I told Mark before we left Buenos Aires, with two weeks we could be certain of getting at least a few days of good weather. Well, that one didn’t work out so well. We did have brief patches when it wasn’t cold and wet, but it rained nearly every day we were there, for fourteen days. Occasionally the sun would break out, but overwhelmingly it was cold and wet. At any rate, now I know that I love Paris even when the weather is crappy.
Spending a week with Bart & Ann was great fun, too. Played lots of Hearts, with Mark the big winner. The big event they got us up for was a train ride out to Giverny, the town in Normandy where Monet lived and worked for over 40 years. There’s a nice 40-minute train from Paris to the neighboring town of Vernon and from there it’s a beautiful three-mile walk into Giverny. The walk alone would have been worth the trip; the smell of spring as we walked along a country trail was intoxicating. As great as that was, though, Monet’s old gardens in Giverny were in a whole different class. It was like strolling through the biggest abstract painting you’ve ever seen.
One of the things we learned is that Paris is a great city to socialize in. We’d been in touch with Bill, a friend from previous travels, and he and Angela were going to be in France the same time we were. So they made a two-day detour through Paris so we could enjoy dinner and catching up. This is the second time we’ve met up with Bill on this epic adventure – we spent a week in South Korea with him, too – and it’s the second time we’ve gone without getting a picture of him. Strange.
Meanwhile, Mark noticed on Facebook that friends of ours from London – we worked with them both in setting up the Liberal Democrats’ VAN site – were in Paris for the weekend, too. Unfortunately both we and they had dinner plans all scheduled, but we still snuck in drinks before dinner to catch up on all the goings on in London.
The good news about the week in the rain with Bart & Ann was that we had a huge loft-type apartment and, if you didn’t feel like going out in the rain you could always relax around the house. There was lots about the apartment to love: cool design, enormous space, nice kitchen for making breakfast, massive windows for letting in light even on rainy days. It was a little quirky – no closets or even a single hook to hang anything on, no dressers or shelves for clothes, a big master bathroom with no toilet (seriously; very odd) – but all in all it was a great space. The bad news about the apartment is that at the very end they accused us of breaking one of their beds and are going to take several hundred dollars from our damage deposit.On our last full day in Paris – Mark’s birthday, no less – we were walking down one of the boulevards when his phone rang. It was the property owner (or more likely property manager) saying the cleaning lady had told him we’d broken the bed. What? That made no sense at all. Mark & I joked about it as we walked home, thinking there must have been a mistake.
Sure enough, though, when we got home and took a look the bed frame was broken, a big break in the wood frame on the box spring. Now, at 60 years old I really don’t jump on the bed any more. It made no sense. We called the landlord and asked him to come over. He did, said the cleaning lady had discovered it that morning, and that he was going to file the cost with Airbnb and have them take the replacement cost out of our damage deposit. As Bart – a real estate developer by trade – pointed out, it would be easy to fix; just screw another piece of wood along the existing one and it would be good as new.
The manager wasn’t budging: the bed was broken while we were staying there and we were going to pay for it.
My theory is that they set us up. The break was big enough – the wood was thick enough – that something pretty traumatic had to have happened; it wasn’t just some gentle crack or anything. And as big as the break was, we’d have heard something if somehow we’d sat on it and the frame had given way. That frame was broken before we got there and presumably propped up. Until our last day when suddenly the housekeeper “discovered” it. It’s possible, of course, that the previous tenants broke it and then cobbled things together so it wouldn’t have been discovered until after they left. That’s not likely, though, given how thoroughly broken the frame was; it’s not likely it would have held for six nights and then finally gave up the ghost on our penultimate night.
Like I said, my theory – given that we know we didn’t break it – is that the nice landlord set us up. And, given that Airbnb undoubtedly has a policy that if furniture is discovered broken during your stay you presumably broke it, they’e going to take the damage deposit. Really puts a sour note on our stay, and kind of messed up Mark’s birthday.
People are sometimes surprised that we don’t use Airbnb more during this three-year-and-counting adventure of world travel. After this experience we’re not really eager to use it more often.
OK, that’s it for our two weeks in Paris and a great visit with Bart and Ann. After they get their son Wil shipped off to college somewhere they’ll have the freedom to visit us more often. In the meanwhile, we’re off to Kiev for a few days – cheap flight, old friend to visit – then on to Vienna and Venice. Here are some more great pictures of a beautiful, if remarkably wet, city.