Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Christophe Chastel and Philippe Pee, owners of Guest Apartment Services from whom I have rented Callas, are consummate Parisian hosts. What sets them apart from most all other rental agents here is the way the business is structured. They offer hands-on management, and that includes a staff to handle maintenance, a concierge to provide travel advice and tickets, maid service, airport pickup and delivery—all the amenities you generally associate with a fine hotel. The sorts of things, by the way, that you won’t always find with many rental agencies, some of whom aren’t even located in Paris. In most cases, a call from the agency alerts the apartment owner that a renter has signed up and it falls to the owner to get the place presentable. But with Christope and Philippe, both of whom speak beautiful English, they and their team (which includes the young American ex-pat Thomas Spencer whom I have come to now and respect, get the place spic and span, including nice toiletries, name brand linens, and fresh flowers. They personally greet you on arrival,
and with an office a few steps away they make you feel like one of the family on day one. And they provide a number where they can be reached 24 hours a day. All of this is a big deal, particularly to someone, such as I, who was setting about to rent a place for two months, sight unseen—in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language and from people I did not know. The apprehension evaporates the moment you shake hands and are introduced to your quarters. Callas is a lovely apartment and has worked beautifully for me. It is not real big, but I am one person and did not need a big place. It is attractive enough to have people in for drinks and I have done so on several occasions. Everyone who has seen this apartment has been full of compliments. Security is tight and in this old place built in the mid-1600s all of the aches and pains seen to have been worked out, so it is as completely quiet. Almost eerily. The internet connection has been my lifeline and my laptop has been on a 24/7 schedule since the moment I arrived. Christophe and Philippe, who fly away to Thailand Friday for a couple of weeks, have 30-plus apartments to manage, mostly on the Ile St-Louis, but a few on the nearby Left Bank. I cannot speak too highly of them and their staff. They are the best. So today, I spent a couple of hours visiting other properties they offer for rental. Just wondering what I will be up to next January and February, that’s all.
The footbridge which leads to the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame leads also to a number of other splendid artifacts of France, medieval and forward: Sainte-Chapelle, the Palais de Justice, and the place which Balzac called the ante-chamber to the scaffold, the Conciergerie. Entry here is into the extraordinary Hall of Men-at-Arms, where you pass under the striking vaulted naves within. The hall is all that survives from the early structure which, according to the brochure, was begun in 1302. I still have trouble grasping that some place I am walking around in was built six, seven, eight hundred years ago and I don’t ever want to lose the reverence and awe I have for such places. This has been a spot for French royalty for centuries but most people come today to see something that does not survive: the quarters where Marie Antoinette spent her last days before facing the music, which took the form of a guillotine down the way at what is now the Place de la Concorde. As was the case with a lot of things with ties to royalty, this area did not make it in tact through the Revolution. But all that business is in the past and today everything is neat and tidy here. You have a beautiful view of the Conciergerie as you cross the Seine on the Pont du Change just a few steps away. It is a particularly stately old building, as old dungeons go.
Pizza and Pomerol constitued my evening menu and allowed for an early-to-bed scenario.