{Un}Glamorous Paris: Visitors

If you don’t like being a hostess, you shouldn’t move to Paris. More than anywhere in the world, I’d venture to guess that Paris is the #1 place people will go out of the way to visit you (or even those people you don’t really remember – but who are suddenly your new best friends – will find a way).

I’ve stopped counting how many visitors I’ve had pass through Paris in my various stints here. However, I can tell you that in 2003/4 when I lived here, during the course of 9 months I had 18 friends and family pass through. Crazily the majority of them stayed with me. Which is kind of funny because at the time I was living in 30m2 (up from my current 12m2) with a roommate. We both slept in the living room on “klick-klacks” – a more practical European style futon that served many functions. But wait, it gets better. So my first friend came to visit came for 2 weeks. As someone who myself was poor, I didn’t have the heart to say no, or limit the time to a few days. Then my roommate’s ex-girlfriend came to visit for another 2 weeks, so that was awkward, and I couldn’t say no, because I started to have a huge influx of guests that far outweighed his. (Funny interlude: there was hardly any storage, so we kept our clothes in the kitchen cupboards). I love that I can laugh at this scenario now, because it only got worse. More friends came, and there were several nights with 4 people staying in the itty apartment. Then it was the holidays and I jetted off to Cairo, while my roommate’s dad and brother arrived. Thankfully my friend with a “real” apartment asked me to cat sit so I didn’t have to return to my apartment where my roommate’s father was sleeping on the floor. At one point I did have enough, and told him that his family could afford to get a hotel room. I’m not really sure how I survived that year – I was young, and dumb, but did have fun. Ironically, I think it also helps my current 12m2 feel even more luxurious.

Now with age, I’m moving up in the world – literally, up 6 flights to the maid’s quarters in my chambre de bonne. Sadly (or maybe good for me), having friends stay with me is not even an option. Over the holidays I had twenty (yes, 20!) straight days of friends in town. The day one left, another arrived, and then a third was in there too! Last weekend, I had a dear old friend pass through for work, and had 24 hours notice to make the most of hanging out on Sunday. And the real irony of this post is that I woke up this email from two other great friends saying they just cashed in some mileage and are coming this weekend (I like the way they roll!). Then I know another friend comes February 14th, and another in March, and three more in April! And my parents in May. Yes, it’s a constant windmill of visitors passing through, so maybe it is a good thing that there’s no guest room at my place.

The way I figure it, I have people I know in town a solid 30% of the year. It is all lovely, and fun and games, but then it’s a bit harder when you’re a perpetual student (aka poor) and everyone who passes through has the mentality, “oh it doesn’t matter, I’m on vacation!” and “I’m so glad I don’t have any work to do.” So over the years I’ve learned to strike the balance of having my friends in town, getting quality time and keeping my sanity, while getting my own work done.

  • Before they arrive, I like to send them my favorite links and resources – and although they’re my friends, I realize they don’t all read my blog as closely as they should ;)
  • I’m a nice friend, but only so nice, so I make sure to send them my “Arriving in Paris” post so that they know how to get from the airport into the city. And not only do they feel empowered on having done it on their own, but I can sleep in and get more of my stuff done, which means more QT with them!.
  • Greet them with their very own “Plan de Paris” map book, and pre-paid cellphone loaded with credits. These days many people have phones that work over here, but having a phone you can text message is crucial for meeting up and making plans. (This tip has changed my life!!!)
  • I know my friends, and I know what they like, so I always try to plan something we can do together that I know they’ll really appreciate. As much as I love the design scene, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea so it’s all about digging up something fun for both of us. And I use friends as a great excuse to try new things myself.
  • Help friends come up with an itinerary. Since I can only handle the Paris “Top 10″ so many times, I typically find it better to send them off on their own. And particularly for places like the Louvre, it’s nice for people not to feel rushed. In planning the days (just roughly), I can figure out when I can fit my work in too. Sometimes you feel like you need to be together 24-7, but space can be healthy for everyone.
  • While I can’t house my friends, I do make every effort to help them find a place to stay. Sometimes I even help my Paris friends out by helping “rent” their apartment while they’re on vacation. It’s a win-win-win, and I feel less guilty for living in a petit appartement.

Here are some other great leads if you’re looking for a place to stay in Paris. If you’re looking for a hotel, Budget Travel recently posted their favorite “secret hotels.” My vote is with Mama Shelter or Hotel Amour, and on the way budget end, one reader wrote me about her great stay at the hip hostel Oops!. Personally, I’m always a fan of renting an apartment – it’s far cheaper and you get more space, and feel more like a Parisian living here and exploring the neighborhoods. For apartment rentals, check these out:

Have any other recommendations for places to stay or where to look? Add them in the comments!

{Un}Glamorous Paris is a regular series exploring the less than perfect sides to life in Paris with a sense of humor. More in the series:
- Chest X-Rays
- Paperwork
- Finding an Apartment
- Working in France
- Swimming Pools
- Les Toilettes

17 comments

  • I love this post, when I lived in Rome I had the same problem – in Milan, not as much :)

    I have a (private) page with password with some of my recommendations for restaurants, how to get around, links to attractions, etc. and also includes a link to a Google Map with those things I mentioned.

  • Sounds super-helpful!
    I gather that an awful lot of people are going to come and stay with us here (we already have our fist visitor!), so these are really really good to know…

    windeater.blogspot.com

  • Great post. It’s true … Move to Paris and people will come out of the woodwork to crash. I was one of those woodworkers … Though, my first trip to Paris was with a genuinely good friend, and was the conclusion to a whirlwind European tour (my first trip to Venice, Paris, etc.). She was ultimately moving to Paris for work and had that tiny maid’s quarters apartment you have now. It had just been painted. It was pouring rain. I had a cold and she couldn’t sleep with the window open. We spent each night fighting. I’d open the window when she dozed off. She’d close it when I conked out. And so it went. It was quite the miserable end to a long happy trip, and not the best time I’ve had in Paris.

    Friends have used Trip Advisor’s Flip Key service and recommend it -

    http://www.flipkey.com/vacation+rentals/france/ile+de+france+paris+region/paris/

    I stayed at Le Caron de Beaumarchais in the Marais years ago before it got so popular and pricey. I’ve recommended it to many more well-to-do friends than I, and they’ve all loved it. Most recently two friends stayed there last fall on their honeymoon -

    http://www.carondebeaumarchais.com/

    It’s nothing fancy, but the location is great … I’d highly recommend the Hotel Jeanne d’Arc, also in the Marais. The price was right and they were fantastic during the volcano madness last spring. I was supposed to stay only four nights and then head down to Nice for a couple of weeks, but ended up stuck in Paris for my entire vacation. They let me stay, and in the same room even. And didn’t jack up the price as other hotels were. They were great -

    http://www.hoteljeannedarc.com/

  • 20 straight days of friends in town? THat sounds both wonderful and exhausting… I’m moving from Sweden to New York this summer and people are already trying to book in times to visit. I don’t even have an apartment yet! I hope when they do come to visit, though, that I will be as helpful to them as you are to your friends.

  • Wow, 20 days in a row…I would have gone mad! Although I’d gladly endure that to live in Paris! I can’t imagine knowing someone lives in a tiny flat and still inviting myself to stay there. You are too kind! :)

    Paris is my favorite place to visit! I am learning to speak French so that I can return and shop those Parisian flea markets I hear so much about. Got room in your flat for me? He, he-just kidding!

  • My partner and I are going with our kids this summer, so we’ve been looking at family-friendly places — and I just did a post today on the best of what I found!

    In the end, we are staying at Appartement Blanc, which I found via your blog, so thank you! I also looked at Reuilly 1 with Paris-Flats….

    And also The Canal Apartment (it’s adorable), Paris Oasis (a guest house visitors seem to love — and they have a pool), and a loft in the 10th on VRBO.

    Here’s the link to my post:
    http://shinybrite.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/family-friendly-apartments-to-rent-in-paris/

    And links to the places above:

    http://www.canal-apartment-paris.com/

    http://www.paris-oasis.com/fiche_studios.php?lang=2&page=11

    http://www.vrbo.com/308840

    Come say hi sometime! Loving your blog.

  • I guess one of the perils of living in one of the most wonderful cities in the world, which is also expensive, is having constant guests. I have friends who live in a house by the ocean who have the same situation. Your pre-paid cellphone idea is really thoughtful. What a great hostess you are.

  • You had me with the PARIS keychain photo, but now that I recall the hassles of recharging my Paris Orange mobile phone, who can blame your guests if they invite themselves to your place for an encore vacance?

    @ParisGetaways

  • And I thought I had a lot of guests coming in and out! 20 in a row is crazy!

    Thanks for the extra tips for entertaining visitors, I am definitely going to add these to my collection and pass them on to my out-of-towners. The cell phone idea is great.

  • I know this post is almost 1.5 yrs old but I just had to comment.

    Since living in Scotland we’ve had so many visitors! Which can be nice, but more so not. Our 1st yr we lived in a studio apt and friends/acquaintances who would email saying they were coming basically said they’d be staying with us. No asking. We had a hard time saying no but we’d explain we lived in a studio flat and we were already cramped. They’d reply, “we don’t care! It will be an adventure!” How nice for you, but we can’t move with 4 people in such a small space. There wasn’t even enough floor space to sleep on. They slept in a chair.

    Now, we’re wiser. We send links to nearby hotels. We send them off to do the sightseeing themselves. I mean, that gets costly and I can only see Edinburgh Castle so many times at £30 a pop!

    People come out of the woodwork when you live abroad. They see you as a free vacation. We love having visitors but when they eat all your food and cost you money for their vacation…it’s gets old fast!

    We love having family and close friends visit but we now know how to do it better! That first year was a doozy!

  • I’m also a bit late to comment on that post! But the good thing is that it’s not outdated! (maybe Anne’s apartment is a bit bigger than it was two years ago?… :-)
    Well, being a native parisian (you can not find that many in Paris), and having travelled quite a lot, I had, as you did Anne, many people asking for advice, tips and best way to discover Paris and live there like a local… That is actually what gave me the idea of trying to make a living with that ( not with friends of course), and to create my little travel agency “Rue Amandine”, offering visitors apartments to stay in and personalized suggestions and recommendations to make the most out of their stay… and making it easier for people who live in Paris to greet their friends and family :-)
    This might sound as promotion ( it is in a way), but it is first a reaction to something I’ve experienced so many times!

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