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Parisian Apartment. Part One. L'arrondissement

I thought it would be fun to do a blog about how to find an apartment in Paris. I have had six apartments in Paris, so obviously I’m an expert. Ha ha ha ha.
This could be a very very very long blog because it is a tutorial, so I decided to break it up into a few different parts. Also, because most people have ADD.
Not to be a big fat snob, but it’s not that difficult to have a great apartment in Paris. Half the work has already been done for you 100+ years ago. Basically, all you have to do is find the apartment, move in and not touch anything. The first step in finding a Parisian apartment is to recognize the basics.
First things first. You need to decide which neighborhood/arrondissement you want to live in. In Paris, choosing your arrondissement is très important. It kind of defines who you are or want to be. I don’t play that game. I choose where to live in Paris based on rotisserie chicken. If there is not a charming boucherie with roasting chickens within a two block radius, I’m not living there. Additionally, in choosing an arrondissement, I have a few other requirements that I think you will agree with…

Neighborhood café. You’ve got to have a neighborhood café that is a feel-good staple. In my neighborhood, that staple consists of a café with a grumpy tipsy owner who is 90% of the time in a fight with a patron. There is no menu. You get what he gives you. Don’t ask for two desserts because you’re not going to get it. You want wine? He’ll choose one for you, so don’t make any suggestions. And most importantly, do not stress him out because he will then be forced to go out into the street and smoke a cigarette. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The food is off the charts delicious, the ambience is surreal, and the proprietor makes life grand.

Florist. This is of the utmost of importance. Your local florist is crazy important. Make sure your neighborhood has a good one. I learned this the hard way. I have been in two heated arguments with florists here. If they think you are a tourist, they give you nearly dead flowers at double the price. Luckily, I came upon a little secret florist. They are not open to the public as they mostly deliver to fashion houses! It is a teeny tiny little shop and the bulk of their flowers are kept in a huge walk-in refrigerator in the back. The owners let me go in the refrigerator! It’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory to me. This is not your ordinary florist. I don’t even think they have roses, except Piaget roses. It’s almost like an oddity shop. Every flower is a hybrid unique piece of heaven. I don’t even know the names of them… I just point. I think they either respect my enthusiasm or feel bad that I am in a wheelchair because they give me everything half off. The wrap everything beautifully and give me kisses as I leave.

Pharmacy. I never understood my husband’s obsession with French pharmacies. After living here for this past year… I now get it. For some reason living in Paris makes you need stuff at the pharmacy. More than in America. I am at the pharmacy at least three times a week in Paris. So, having the right pharmacy is very important. You have to have the right rapport with the pharmacist. You have to ask for everything because most everything is behind the counter. I had to learn that there is no place for modesty in a French pharmacy. Need a laxative? Well, you’re going to have to announce that while you are in line. Need tamoxifen? Now everyone thinks you have breast cancer. But here’s the funny thing… No one judges you at the pharmacy. The sicker you are, the nicer they are. So the right neighborhood pharmacy is crucial.
Drycleaners and tailors. Washers and dryers in Paris are absolute hell. First of all, you’re lucky if you get a washer and dryer. Then, you have to figure it out in French. Dryers are nearly obsolete, so most of your clothes will be crunchy. It’s a horrible phenomenon. So, that being said, your drycleaner and tailor are your lifeline in your arrondissement. The good news is that they are not as expensive as they are in the states. It’s normal here to take all of your clothes to the drycleaner every week. Luckily for me, they pick up and deliver. Keep a good rapport with your drycleaner because they can f*ck with you if they want. Missing your favorite salmon colored cashmere sweater? Well, you shouldn’t have been such a douche bag.

Picard. Your French neighborhood must have a Picard! This is a little French dirty secret. You know how you imagine these perfectly perfect French people having perfectly perfect dinner parties? Guess what? They are fooling you. They didn’t make those hors d’oeuvres. They bought them frozen at Picard. Then they lie to you and take all of the credit. However, I love Picard. The entire grocery store is frozen food! Frozen gourmet food. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Appetizer, entrée, dessert. Everything! Genius. And they deliver. By the way, I always mention if the place delivers not because I’m lazy or a brat. It’s because I’m in a wheelchair. Moving on…

Tabac. Obviously you have to have a good tabac in your neighborhood. This is a place where you will spend half of your life. So it better be good. A tabac is a quick in and out little place where you grab an espresso, cigarettes, quick breakfast, afternoon summer Panache, quick glass of bad wine and lottery tickets. The priceless aspect of the tabac is that this is where you get all of your neighborhood gossip. These people see everything, here everything and know everything.

Garden. Even though Paris is not as much of a concrete jungle as New York, you definitely can feel a little too city here. It’s important to escape at least once a day to the calmness and tranquility of your arrondissement garden. Every neighborhood has one. Parisians really take good advantage of their gardens. And you will too. So make sure your arrondissement has a proper garden.

Boucherie. Like I said, I will not live in a neighborhood without a boucherie. In Paris, you do not buy your meats at your grocery store because that is disgusting. Most boucherie have succulent roasting chickens dripping the jus onto roasting potatoes underneath. Then there are sweet, sweating, green beans, waiting for you. Even if you are a vegetarian, it’s hard to pass this up. I swear, this is the essence of a neighborhood for me.

Fromagerie. You also don’t buy your cheeses at the grocery store. You have to go to your local fromagerie. Not only do they have the most delicious cheeses in the world, but they also have the best butter. Life-changing butter. Sometimes we just have cheese and butter on a baguette for dinner.

Boulangerie. This might be the most important aspect of your neighborhood because you’re going to be there once a day for your daily baguette. There are good boulangeries, and then there are superb boulangeries. In my neighborhood, there is a line outside the door every day of people waiting for piping hot perfect baguettes. People are very picky about their baguettes in Paris. I get it.

Fruits and Legumes. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say again that you don’t buy your fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. You buy them at the fruit and vegetable stand, of course. You may be wondering what you actually do buy at a grocery store. The answer is toilet paper. Once you go to the fruit and vegetable stand, you will see why you don’t buy your produce at the grocery store. The proprietors take pride in their stock. These are not just blueberries in a plastic container with a rubber band around them. These are plump, juicy blueberries in little baskets. The blueberries actually taste like blueberries. The green beans are firm and crisp and as green as green gets. The oranges are bursting with juice and taste like a warm summer day in Spain. Everything is seasonal, so you know you are getting the freshest produce.

A certain je ne sais quoi. Your neighborhood has to just have that certain feeling that makes you happy. For me, that neighborhood has to be nearly free of tourists. I like to blend in with the locals. I like the locals. I especially like the old locals. My next-door neighbors have lived in their apartment for 45 years. Every day I open my windows and I can smell her daily lunch wafting like velvet across the courtyard. Every afternoon, the husband opens the windows and waters his beloved geraniums and has a little conversation with them. On weekends, I can see them sharing the afternoon with their grandchildren looking through photo albums. When I take my walks around the neighborhood, I love to stop and talk to my “friends” at the café, bakery, candle shop etc. Your neighborhood becomes your family, so you need to choose wisely.

I would have said a taxi stand. But that is obsolete now that there is Uber. What is Uber, you ask? Only the greatest modern invention in recent times. It’s an app that you download on your phone where within a few quick taps of your finger you have a private car picking you up and taking you to your destination. No more waiting in the rain at a taxi stand. No more flagging down zooming taxis. No more stinky taxi drivers. No more dirty taxicabs. Life has changed. Life has improved. The private car will pick you up anywhere you want within minutes in a clean car with complimentary water and no attitude. There is a rating system, so every Uber driver is trying to outdo the next one. Uber automatically charges your credit card so you don’t have to fumble around for cash. And it’s the same price as a stupid taxi! Also, your phone records the drivers name and license, so if you’re murdered they will know who did it… quicker. Love Uber!

So that is part one of a Parisian apartment. Now that you have chosen your preferred arrondissement, stay tuned for Part Deux.



  1. very interesting, thank you!!!!

  2. I have to say that even if the following Parisian apartment posts are off the charts gorgeous, this is some of the best basic advice I have ever seen for choosing where to live in Paris. Folks who haven't lived there don't know that really the butcher, the tabac, the café, your 'hood is key. The pretty stuff comes after and comes naturally. It is Paris after all. ;)
    PS. My honey chose our apartment before I moved from NYC and before I knew any better so where did we live? Vanves. I know. I am still bitter.

  3. Sunday morning-ish.. lying in bed re-reading all of your old blogs. Ellie, you are fabulous! Speedy recovery x