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Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer, wanna-be photographer and the founder of Fluffy Towel. She specialises in travel memoirs, destination pieces, hotel reviews, guidebook contributor, travel advice, restaurant reviews, family travel, and copywriting.

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Housing Plight in the City of Light

filed15 Aug 2012 from

THE computer screen taunts me with photos of charming Parisian apartments with minuscule dimensions. My two-year-old is dancing to The Wiggles, having given up on the promised trip to the park. Finding a flat for our six-week stay in the French capital has become my latest obsession.

Our requirements consist of a two-bedroom apartment easily accessible to the Latin Quarter, where I will be studying in July. My research has been enlightening as I learn not to take anything for granted, not even walls.

My findings are baffling: traditional two-bedroom apartments apparently are rare in Paris. Some bedrooms are partitioned off with screens, curtains and “vertically exposed beams”. In some apartments, the number of beds doesn’t equate to the number of people supposedly sleeping there. How French.

Sometimes, the second bedroom is on a mezzanine floor, which is often not full height. Some lofts are only as wide as the bed and others don’t have railings; I guess that’s not a problem as long as you don’t roll out of bed. Although, when you are putting on your jeans while crouching, you could lose your balance and topple over the edge into the living room. Often the beds are hidden away in cupboards, a system known as a Murphy bed.

I have images of the bed lurching up in the middle of the night and its occupant disappearing until the cleaner appears (hopefully to change the sheets). Meanwhile, the flat-mate lies unconscious on the dining-room table. I guess that’s what travel insurance is for. It’s lucky then that in many cases the bedrooms have the proportions of a coffin, preparing you for the inevitable.

Behind the elegant facades of 19th-century buildings, many of these apartments are walk-ups. Some advertise lifts but are honest enough to admit they don’t go up to all floors of the apartment building; assuming the lift works, of course. I wonder how quaint the winding staircase seems when you’re lugging your belongings up to your bohemian apartment with Eiffel Tower-top views.

After such an ordeal you could cool off in the shower, which probably is in the bedroom. Then wash your clothes while sitting on the toilet in the kitchen. How’s that for convenience?

As you put your feet up at the end of the day, you can gaze into the mirrored walls and imagine there really is another room that looks exactly the same as the one you’re in.

Just when I think the French have thrown all the rules out the former window, it happens. I find an available apartment in the Latin Quarter, complete with worn parquetry flooring and large windows filling the rooms with light. Now I just need to convince the agency to rent it to me.

Fearing that handing over exorbitant amounts of money isn’t enough, I send super-polite emails that are replied to with curt responses. “Oui, Madame, the bathroom does contain a bath, as the name suggests.” Finally, I am triumphant as an obscene amount of money is charged to my credit card. At last, I can dream of my fling with the City of Light.

Lights? Hang on, I didn’t ask, but surely …

The Not-so Amazing Race

filed23 Mar 2011 from

 

WELCOME to The Not So Amazing Race. The first part of the Joneses’ challenge is to gain access to an apartment for their stay in Paris. The Jones family comprises of husband and wife, Jason and Simone, and three-year-old Jessica.*

None of the Jones family will speak French on this leg of the race. The final challenge is teamwork. Will Jason and Simone make it to the end as a married couple? Their prize is a month’s use of …

Petite Paris

filed10 Mar 2011 from

THERE are few places as lively, vibrant and stimulating as Paris. I’m not entirely referring to the city either as my daughter is named after the City of Light. It seems fitting that the two should meet. But if you shudder at the thought of dragging young children around vast museums, consider these tips on how to toddle around the French capital.

1. Cafe culture: Sip hot chocolate together as you watch people and dogs. Discuss, write, draw and photograph …

Gotan Project = tango

filed13 Dec 2010 from

 

paris heels1

Just as the letters of the word ‘tango’ scramble into ‘gotan’, your perception of the Argentinean art form will morph into the sublime with a Gotan Project concert. My rendezvous with the Parisian electro-tango band began with La Revancha Del Tango. With every beat evocative of an elegant bouncing acrobat on a trampoline, each instrument and member of the group was introduced individually building to a delicate crescendo. From there your climax is held at a heightened state for …

A Voyeur’s French Feast

filed07 Dec 2010 from

THIS PARISIAN LIFE: PART II

I Love Paris in the Summer Time

apartment view

It’s 4.46 a.m. and a woman’s scream cuts through the thick air surging up into the apartment’s open bedroom window.

I suddenly sit upright in bed. The scream was cut short and I envisage she suddenly woke up, imagining her husband to be an intruder before realising her error. Maybe she saw a mouse. Perhaps it was a nightmare? I know she wasn’t murdered because she did it …

Walk on the Tame Side in Paris’ Montmartre

filed17 Sep 2010 from

The view of Paris from Basilique du Sacre Coeur

Made famous by the Moulin Rouge and its hedonistic revellers, Montmartre is well worth a wander during the day.

As you alight the Metro stop Abbesses, check out the Paris cityscape mural, and its unusual green wrought-iron arches and amber lights, which are one of the few original Art Nouveau stations in Paris.

After savouring the seediness of Montmarte’s adult outlets, browse the electic range of shops while heading up to …

Roxanne’s Can-Can: A Heady Night of Moulin Rouge

filed16 Sep 2010 from

Shrouded in shadows the curtains rise. At long last, I fulfill my lifelong obsession with the Moulin Rouge. The entire cast appears sequined, feathered, buffed, toned, and breathtaking. White sequined tuxedos are ripped off to reveal jewelled g-strings adorning airbrushed legs. Despite their nudity, they remain elegant and ethereal.

One flamboyant scene after another makes it impossible to take it all in: a pirate show, a circus, the obligatory Can-can and the grand finale, a showcase of the history of …

This Parisian Life

filed20 Sep 2009 from

THIS PARISIAN LIFE – PART I

French Beauty

 “One is not born a woman; rather one becomes a woman.”  – Simone De Beauvoir

The French model wears a petticoat crafted from balloons. The model behind her flaps wings styled like a bird of paradise. Men sit rigid in their seats during this Parisian couture fashion parade, admiring these heavenly beauties.

Cameras flash, flattering some of the models and insulting others, who sneer at the audience. We are engulfed in wall-to-wall …

Le Cafe de la Paix

filed20 May 2009 from

Paintings and music, street noises, shops, flower markets, modes, fabrics, poems, ideas, everything seemed to lead toward a half-sensual, half-intellectual swoon. Inside the cafes, colour, perfume, taste and delirium could be poured together from one bottle or many bottles – from square, cylindrical, conical, tall, squat, brown, green or crimson bottles – but you drank black coffee by choicse, believing that Paris itself was sufficient alcohol.

– Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: A Literary Odyssy of the 1920’s

A typical Parisian cafe

A typical Parisian

French Beauty

filed30 Apr 2009 from

As Simone de Beauvoir put it: “One is not born a woman; rather one becomes a woman.”

The French model wears a petticoat crafted from balloons. The model behind her flaps wings styled like a bird of paradise.

Men sit rigid in their seats during this Parisian couture fashion parade, admiring these heavenly beauties.

Cameras flash, flattering some of the models and insulting others, who sneer at the audience. We are engulfed in wall-to-wall white balloons, as if we are …