Sunday, June 29, 2014

Our Accommodation in Europe: AirBnb in Paris, France

Location of our first pad, the Parisian way

The cost of accommodation in Europe can be a huge chunk of your travel budget unless you can crash into a relative's or a friend's pad. But such was not our case. There is another alternative which is couchsurfing but we chose not to.  So we were left with finding our own roof, carefully sifting through hundreds for that good and affordable one.

We went to a total of 6 countries in Western Europe and it was good that some of these countries offered cheaper stay over the others. Somehow, it got balanced out in the end that while we spent several nights in dorm-type rooms, we were able to book a nice hotel room during the other nights.

Factors that we considered were price (of course), location and safety (because we were only 2 girls!). We only had a span of 2 weeks for this trip so, it came as obvious that we needed to stay in a convenient location. We came from a distant land that it was imperative to wisely manage our precious time there!

Airbnb in Paris, France (Oct 12-13, 2013 1 Night)

An amused French who eagerly joined our photo sesh.

It was my first time to book with Airbnb and it was too late for me to realize that one disadvantage with this type of accommodation is that it can be difficult in finding your host's location, especially if you are new to the place. And like hello?! For us, it was beyond new! It was Paris! A faraway place with a different language!

Airbnb is a booking site for accommodations, posted by private individuals who happen to have a spare room, an entire apartment or whatever free space that they have. It sorta like the couchsurfing concept but Airbnb has money involved.

We chose Airbnb for our first night since hostel rates in Paris were rather expensive for the value that we are getting. Most locations are also quite inconvenient and are located in somewhat seedy areas. So Airbnb it is.

Days prior, I religiously went over Google map to find our host's apartment and my main reference was the big cemetery across it. (I know! French ghosts? Nah I don't mind! Surely there would be a huge language barrier! haha)

I have an offline map app as well that works good with my phone's GPS so, I was confident nonetheless. Anyway, there's the two of us.

Gare Montparnasse as seen from the Montparnasse Tower

Our host's apartment is located at Montparnasse and without having to lug our load during train transfers, we opted to take the airport bus from Charles de Gaulle that ends at Gare Montparnasse (train station). From there, it was then a 10-minute walk.

Ready with my phone's GPS, my cousin and I hauled our luggage from our bus and started our first adventure in Paris. It was a pandemonium of emotions, grasping the fact that we had finally arrived in another continent and in the meantime, finding our host's apartment! It was even more challenging since the host does not accept calls from Friday till Saturday and we are due to arrive Saturday morning! However, I already made arrangements with the host that we would arrive at 11 in the morning and she responded that it was okay since there was no booking the day prior.

The address in our confirmation was in French and we only had Google's translation to guide us. Walking in an autumn morning, we successfully arrived at the presumed apartment's location but when we tried to key in the combination on the security panel, the door won't budge! We were stuck there for a few moments, thinking of what to do next! Good thing, my cousin proceeded further ahead and found the same number. Voila! Security key was then correct! Whew!

A furry friend welcomed us to Paris

We hurriedly went inside, passing by mailboxes and then after keying in another security combination, we found ourselves facing a curious cat with no single human in sight. The cobbled path where the cat was, was surrounded with residential buildings and we promptly took back our sigh of relief, knowing we were about to face yet another problem.

The remaining clue of our address was that it was on the first floor, door right. I already know that first floor in Europe is commonly known as second floor in my side of the world. But the building has several doors! So which of those doors was correct, we had no idea!

While discussing on our next step, a man came out from his abode much to our relief. Apparently, we couldn't ask the cat. We showed the address to the man and he then confidently pointed us to the door straight ahead. Okay! Here we go!

The challenging Parisian stairs

When we got to the door, we found a narrow winding flight of stairs and it was a bad idea to haul our luggage to a probably incorrect apartment so, I decided to climb the stairs first. I knocked on the first door and mustered my miniscule knowledge of the French language. A woman's voice answered back but when I mentioned my host's name, she told me that there's no such person living there. That conversation was already a blur to me, whether it was in English or French. At least I can recall that's how it went. haha

With no good news to tell, I went down and told my cousin that it was the wrong door. After a while, we heard a door closing upstairs and then, the sound of someone coming down the stairs. We were surprised to find a small old woman, probably in her eighties, bundled up with a large coat and her morning clothes underneath. It turned out that she was the one I talked to and her concern for us was one thing we were most grateful for. Besides that, she spoke perfect English and our spirits were up when she told us that she knew our host! 

The woman looked frail that I began to worry for the trouble we caused but before I knew it, she was already leading us the way. We retraced our steps and we entered the very first door nearest to the second security entrance. To think we were that close! Argh! We again, climb a flight of stairs to reach the first floor and we bumped into a man leaving the apartment. They conversed a little bit while the woman told the man that we were looking for the host.

And yes, it was finally the correct apartment and our lovely host was there. We actually arrived earlier than our agreed time but she let us in anyway.  And our cozy room in Paris welcomed us.

Our lovely and brightly-colored bed with our equally lovely closet

Our kitchen that we didn' use. :-/

Close up on our French window (Just had to! :p)

What an unforgettable experience on our first day in Paris! We were really in luck that we met the nicest locals, knowing other people consider French to be snobs. Well, we have a different story to tell. :)

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