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Where We Stayed: Paris

sunny 90 °F
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Paris was the city where we had the toughest time finding accommodations. It's expensive, so you can quickly find listings that are out of budget, especially if you want a good location. It's also a city with a lot of old housing stock, so finding a place with air conditioning (one of DH's must-haves) was also a challenge. We had interactions with a couple of flaky landlords as well; that is, we'd reserve their property online, write them to introduce ourselves, and they'd ignore our reservation request and email. After 24 hours, Home Away would automatically cancel the reservation, and we'd be left to wonder if we should try again or give up (I would give up after this happened twice). We looked at a variety of apartments and aparthotels, and even some traditional hotels before deciding on our apartment in the suburb of Noisy-le-Grand (FYI, "noisy" means "walnut tree" in French, not "loud").

If you have ever daydreamed about a charming apartment in Paris, I can almost guarantee that Noisy-le-Grand is not what you pictured. There are no white buildings with French doors and wrought-iron balconies. Nope, this is a center of Brutalist architecture where Hunger Games 3 was filmed (read more about that here). This map shows the hexagonal layout.

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We stayed in the pyramid in the background of this photo.

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Here is a neighboring building.

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OK, so this is not the Paris you dreamed of. That said, if you can let that go, there are some good features to this location.

Noisy-le-Grand is not on the Metro lines, but it is on the regional train line (RER A). In general, I found that accommodation prices drop in neighborhoods served only by the RER. As always, distance to your stop, whether on Metro or RER, is always a consideration. From our apartment, I'd say it was about 5-7 minutes to the RER entrance inside the Arcades mall, with over half of that within the confines of the mall itself. Commute time into the city depends on where you are stopping and how much you have to ride the Metro once you leave the RER. It was about 15 minutes to get to a stop that connected to the Metro (approximately the city limits). If you're going farther in, it takes longer; for example, it took about 45 minutes to get to the Arc de Triomphe (Chales de Gaulle - √Čtoile station). Getting back for naps would have been really time-consuming, so we skipped them. It was not ideal, but we survived. For families who can skip nap or get their kids down in a stroller or under a tree while they're out and about (not my kids, though I hear some can do this!), the location is doable. Otherwise, it can pose a challenge.

Going in the other direction on the RER, you can reach Disneyland Paris, so this location is good for families who want to spend time at the theme park.

The mall was another upside to this location, even though we did not check out Sephora or any of the clothing stores. The Arcades houses several restaurants and a large Carrefour supermarket where we bought food for breakfast and snacks.

There was a park with some play equipment a few minutes away. We didn't go there because it appeared to be under construction, but it might be fine now. Lots of local residents use the plaza between the apartment building and the mall as an outdoor gathering space, but it is all concrete and sometimes we saw litter spilling out of the garbage cans (whoever is responsible for pickup doesn't do it often enough).

We had a good experience with the host, but he did not speak any English, which may make communication tough for some families. He does speak French and Portuguese, and he was gracious and informative when I dusted off my intermediate Portuguese skills to ask him questions in person or used my even-worse French in an email.

The apartment itself had 2 bedrooms: one with bunk beds and another with a double and a crib. The bathroom has a washer and a very small shower without a tub. The AC unit is in the living room and did OK at cooling down the bedrooms if we cranked it up. There was a spacious terrace with a table, but because of the heat wave, we didn't go out there to do much other than hang our clothes on the laundry rack that was also out there. In better weather, it would be a nice feature.

For the most part, this place was fine. However, it would really make a difference if a couple of details were improved. First off, the towels: the ones that were left for us to use as full-body bath towels were only slightly larger than the standard hand towels you see in the US. There were no extras, so we couldn't use 2-3 per person, either. What's more, although the towels were clean, they were worn really thin: for contrast, the towels I have been using in my house for over 16 years are in much better shape (and for the record, mine are not a luxury brand).

The second issue was with the pillows: they were really lumpy, yet flat. It seemed like every night DH and I would battle against them, trying to fold, scrunch, or punch them into a shape that would be comfortable for the night. Although the girls did not complain about theirs, it didn't look to me as if they were any better. Maybe it's just easier for smaller heads to find a comfortable spot on them. In all, some new pillows and towels could go a long way to help people feel more comfortable.

The listing can be found here.

Posted by amikulski 08:22 Archived in France Tagged children france apartments

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