This stunning apartment sits tucked away on an historic and quiet "cul de sac," making it an oasis of peace and calm. This second floor apartment (two flights), has two large bright windows that face a classic Parisian courtyard. With digicode, intercom entry system and elevator, it has been completely newly renovated and professionally decorated to the height of luxury, with a soothing "aubergine" (eggplant) and taupe color scheme. Everything in the apartment is new, from the designer linens and towels, to the appliances and electronics.
Twenty-three years ago today, I landed in Paris to live here for JUST ONE YEAR...but obviously never left! I'm not the only one to whom this has happened. So, to all of you out there who dream of coming to Paris (or to anywhere in France), I WARN YOU: You will not "go back." "Going back" is regressive and life moves forward (in case you hadn't noticed!). Once you have settled in, created a life for yourself, and experienced the benefits of living in France first hand, trust me, you will not want to leave. That's what happened to me and to oh so many people I know.
On September 4th, 1994, we moved into a shabbily furnished rental apartment in the 17th arrondissement filled with worn Ikea furniture mixed with old heritage family furniture and dingy carpets. It was large by Paris standards, with three bedrooms, but it was less than half the size of our Los Angeles home. The mattresses were a zillion years old and at the time, I longed for our heated waterbed in Los Angeles. To remedy the mattress problem, I purchased an egg-crate topper on one of our trips back to the U.S., schlepped it in a big suitcase, and that helped a lot to soften the blows.
When we moved into our own unfurnished apartment three years later, Ikea became the store of choice to purchase the mattresses, and have been more than happy with them ever since, except that 20 years later, they were worn out. Ikea recommends you change your mattress every 8 to 10 years, and this has been 20, so it was time.
You may recall that this past February, I impulsively purchased an Epéda brand "Erable" thanks to a solid recommendation from one of our clients and at 40% off the list price at the BHV, it was tough to pass up. The purchase itself became Kafka-esque when I was sold a smaller mattress than the Ikea frame I had at home (190cm vs 200cm). BHV wouldn't take back the mattress because it had already been "desemballé" (unpackaged), which meant that after having a small temper tantrum at the store, I had no choice but to buy a new frame (190cm, and more money) and having the old frame dismantled and hauled out.
Ikea shuttle at Bastille
Swedish Meatballs t Ikea
Ikea mattress department
The Myrbacka mattress
It wasn't until after that I discovered that sleeping on this new mattress made me feel like a Mac truck had run over me the next morning. That led to trying to fix the problem by adding insult to injury: a Bultex brand "sur matelas" (topper, another €€€). Nothing relieved the morning aches and pains thanks to this very expensive (even at 40% off) mattress! By this time, I had spent what seemed like a small fortune and ruined my sleep and body. (If you dare, read the entire pathetic story in the Parler Paris Nouvellettre®).
I tried everything I could think of to improve the situation. I spent untold time, money and energy switching around the mattresses, the toppers, the frames, etc. and never came up with a good combination. I learned a lot about mattresses in the process, while suffering since February sleeping on the Epéda mattress, including why memory foam was not the best choice. Some people swear by it, but for several reasons, it doesn't suit me.
This summer in Nice, it was great to be sleeping on Ikea's "Sultan Fossing" mattresses at Le Matisse, because I slept like a baby and never woke with any aches or pains. Even recent guests there were extolling the virtues of the mattresses. The first morning after the first night back in Paris sleeping on the Epéda, once again I as feeling like a Mac truck had run over me.
That did it! Enough was enough! So, that very morning I made a date with friends for the following Saturday (actually this past Saturday) to go to Ikea and buy another new mattress! Oh what a saga! This one goes down in my memoir book with a few other long-running tales of the nuances of life in Paris!
Saturday morning we took the free Ikea shuttle bus from Place de la Bastille to the Villiers sur Marne store. WARNING: Get there early (at least 30 minutes), as the bus fills up quickly! It takes 20 to 30 minutes to get there, is all. Saturday the store was at its peak! Not only was it Saturday, the busiest day of the week, but also the Saturday before Back-to-School! We were prepared, and ran first to eat their Swedish Meatball lunch (which I later learned I could have eaten for free thanks to my Ikea Family Member card!) to fortify ourselves for the shopping excursion on which we were about to embark. Two of us were in the market for mattresses and two were in the market for other odds and ends. We worked our way through the hordes of shoppers.
We mattress-buyers had done a fair amount of research, but I was counting on the Sultan Fossings being there. No such luck. Many of the mattresses they used to have had changed. That meant testing out every one that fit the parameters: NO MEMORY FOAM, NO SPRINGS -- only latex and/or polyurethane for this "Parisienne."
The Ikea guide to their mattresses and even the store displays will confuse you: ikea.com/fr/fr/catalog/. We tested them all. But I can tell you from experience now that the only way to test a mattress is to actually sleep on it. The one I chose, named Myrbacka, comes in both latex and memory foam at the same price! Yikes! And the good news is that Ikea gives me 90 days to return it if I like!:
Un sommeil de rêve. Ou change de matelas. Nous savons que 10 minutes ne suffisent pas pour trouver le bon matelas. Ton corps a besoin d’environ 4 à 6 semaines pour s’habituer à un nouveau matelas. C’est pourquoi tu peux prendre ton nouveau matelas à la maison, dormir dessus et t’assurer dans les 90 jours que tu l’adores – ou alors l’échanger contre un autre. Avec une garantie de qualité gratuite de 25 ans. Translation:
A dream sleep. Or change mattresses. We know that 10 minutes is not enough to find the right mattress. Your body needs about 4 to 6 weeks to get used to a new mattress. That's why you can take your new mattress at home, sleep on it and make sure in the 90 days that you love it – or exchange it for another. With a free 25-year quality guarantee.
Ikea isn't French (founded by Ingvar Kamprad, now owned by a foundation in the Netherlands), hence the generous return policy. The BHV (part of the Groupe Galeries Lafayette) needs to take lessons from them. There was a line of people at Ikea buying mattresses and not a single person in the bedding department at the BHV on Sunday afternoon (I was there as a witness).
Le Charles V is a beautifully appointed Marais studio located on the quiet rue Charles V, just steps from the charming Village Saint-Paul's art galleries and antique dealers. For location, this can't be beat -- as only two blocks away lies the Seine and the Ile Saint-Louis, Place de la Bastille is just steps away as well as the elegant Place des Vosges. Less than a five-minute walk brings you to the Saint-Paul Métro stop and numerous buses serve the area.
Step outside to a treasure trove in the heart of Le Marais...from savory to sweet. Start at the boulangerie, then move onto the fromagerie. Do as the Parisians do: dine in on gourmet take-out -- perfect roast chicken with potatoes along side. Don't forget to finish up at the patisserie. Want to go out? Discover the Marais' bistros and brasseries just moments from your front door.
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