Four cheers for apartments! My partner and I decided when planning a trip to Paris that we would for the first time rent an apartment rather than book a hotel room. We found a very reasonable one in a neighbourhood at the foot of the Sacre Coeur that cost only as much as a moderate hotel room. We chose a wonderful area, in Montmartre, one of the liveliest spots in Paris, perhaps the highest point in the city, with a view that made all of Paris accessible, and in a fascinating immigrant neighbourhood where many of the residents were African and Carribbean who daily wore their native costumes. This is the neighbourhood where we shopped and felt a real part of the city, more a resident than a visitor.
Every morning we would shop at the local bakery for bread and pastry before starting out on our journey to the usual tourist spots of Paris. We used public transportation and walked to all destinations. We were true residents of Paris. Because of our location on the highest hill in the city, the walk back to our apartment was a bit tiring, but a quick trip to the fridge in our dwelling to retrieve a cool drink while resting made it all worthwhile. Our well stocked refrigerator was our first stop whenever we returned to the apartment.
The ability to shop in a neighbourhood with a bevy of small stores with ample supplies of fresh food and a fully equipped kitchen made cooking our own meals easy and much more economical. We ate only once in a restaurant. We had the pleasure of eating breakfast when we wanted with no set meal times and a greater sense of freedom to come and go with space to enjoy all of this which is not simply a bedroom to relax in. For one thoroughly enjoyable week, we were citizens of Paris.
EDEN PARK RESORT. Paris was our first experience with an apartment but not our last. For my partner’s birthday, the last weekend in April, I treated her to a weekend in Pisa, Lucca and Florence. Once again we rented an apartment, this time at Eden Park Resort, in a quiet town of San Giuliano Terme, between Pisa and Lucca. Eden Park is only three years old, so everything is clean and new. The kitchens are well stocked with everything necessary for a home away from home. The apartments are spacious and are more like chalets, as one reviewer has suggested. The view of the mountains at sundown is spectacular and the patio areas around each apartment provide a lovely place to sit and relax at the end of a tiring day of visiting the sights of the nearby cities.
The shops within a five minute walk sell all that is necessary for a great Italian meal. The grocery store gives all guests of Eden Park a discount on food purchases. We ate breakfast in our apartment as everything is available in the shops, and the dining areas of the apartments are spacious and comfortable. In the summer, I recommend that you eat your meals on the patio looking at the hills and the sky.
We were given a gift of “extras” each time we visited the grocery shop; slices of Italian mortadella, prosciutto crudo, pieces of local cheese. The morning that we left, we stopped in to say goodbye and to buy some cheese to take back to England, and we were given a wrapped package that turned out to be two Panini for the trip to the airport. We were quite touched. While we were waiting for our taxi to the airport, one member of staff came out to thank us for our visit and to give us a gift of wine. We were overwhelmed with the helpfulness and concern of the hotel staff.
One caveat: We did not have a car so we used trains and buses but we are not fussy and picky and we regard any difficulty as an adventure. I would strongly recommend that you take a car with a SAT Nav.