The Cackler is blessed with boundless Babelicious energy and a functioning set of knees but even she felt old and creaky when faced with three sets of stairs, no elevator, and the design features that were part and parcel of our apartment stay in Paris.
We should have known what to expect, because the pictures and the description for Rafi’s apartment in the Bastille area of Paris were very, very clear. I found the apartment on Airbnb and thought its minimalist chic would provide a welcome contrast to my own cluttered Itchy Ankle existence. Somehow, I failed to imagine myself lugging a giant American suitcase up one hundred winding French stairs. I didn’t stop to consider how I would get in or out of a sunken bed. It simply never occurred to me that I would be too fat to squeeze past the wash basin in the toytown loo.
I made the Cackler take the sunken bed of course, which gave her unlimited access to the jacuzzi bath ” It has spotlights and a setting for aromatherapy” she called from beneath the bubbles. I, meanwhile, was stuck in a shower that made the toilet look positively spacious.
The toilet, though tiny, was the last word in disco chic. It had a mirrorball, zebra-printed sueded wallpaper and, as relief was sought, music from an ipad nano started to play. It was linked to a sensor on the loo seat cover. Beethoven’s 12th bowel movement, I thought to myself sourly, as I tried to work out how to negotiate around the towel bar without sweating on the flock.
In the living area, red fairy lights lit up the bar. Our brother was very impressed when he came to visit. “Achingly hip” is how he described it. “Aching Hips” I thought he said and replied ” I know–no elevator and those stairs are very hard on the joints”. In the end though, even the youngest member of our family had to admit that he was just too old for this particular joint. “Where do you sit to put on your socks?” he said, having pulled himself up from the deep pleasures of the sunken bed.
In our third floor eyrie there were many sights to behold. Two gay men moved out of the apartment opposite, their furniture descending to street level via a complicated system of electronic platforms, winches and ladders. “Do you think we could get one of those for you?” mused the Cackler as she watched me rub linament into various crumbling crannies.
We watched two gypsies search the trash on the corner once our neighbors had departed. They left with a pair of silver high heels and a nearly new bottle of avocaat. Later, a van appeared and the men of the family stopped by to pick up a piece or two of discarded kitchen apparatus and the remains of a couple of chairs. The next day, a garbage crew had a good rummage through the remains of the household goods and helped themselves to some CDS before consigning the rest to their truck.
A new man moved in across the way and took to his window sill to affix new storm blinds. Nothing wrong with his knees by the look of him.
We shopped the Thursday market at the Place de la Bastille, just steps from our apartment. I bought a beret for Gretel and we invested in some goat’s cheese, figs, melon and ham in case we couldn’t face the stairs before breakfast. At night, we ate tagine and cous cous at Le Souk (delicious–but let the prunes cool down before you attempt to eat them–the tagine was served blistering hot). We met a fabulously interesting couple from Iowa at Le Relais Du Massif Central on Rue Daval. This restaurant is definitely worth a visit. Madame is a mix between Madeleine Albright and the older Debbie Reynolds. She is big and square and moves between a flinty look and a golden twinkle. The Maitre D’ is like a glum and perhaps slightly learning challenged extra from ‘Allo ‘Allo. I was tempted to ask “does he take sugar?” but didn’t know how in French. Perhaps I am the one who is learning challenged? We shared a plate of frog’s legs. I had cassoulet while the Cackler opted for steak frites. We finished with Tarte Tatin and washed it all down with Muscadet.
I would really recommend the apartment we stayed in and am grateful we had the chance to experience how the young and chic live. You should try it. Just travel light and perhaps invest in a knee support or two. And plan to go without socks…