With surprise weekend Eurostar tickets to Paris presented to me, I thought we'd push the boat out with accommodation and we decided to rent an apartment rather than stay in a hotel.
The strap-line of One Fine Stay is 'live like a local' and that's exactly what we did in this designer apartment in the South-West of Paris. There's something about staying in a hotel that makes you instantly feel like a tourist, and we wanted to discover the heart and soul of Paris.
Being able to close our bedroom window shutters at night, brew our own coffee in the kitchen and stroll out of the front door to pick up baguettes seemed to make the whole experience more Parisian.
The apartment is in the 15th arrondissement, with both Commerce and Avenue Emile Zola metro stations a two minute stroll away. We hopped on the subway after arriving in at Gare Du Nord and arrived at the property within 40 minutes. It may sound like a long way out, but it's a short walk from the Eiffel Tower and the River Seine, and the Paris Metro is so efficient you can easily get around the city.
Armed with the key code, we slipped off the bustling Rue du Commerce with it's fashion stores, through an unassuming gate into an oasis of calm. The pretty courtyard is surrounded on all sides by apartments and we were met at our staircase by our One Fine Stay greeter.
All the communication from One Fine Stay was excellent, right from placing our booking. I received several texts on our day of arrival which was reassuring and helpful as I was able to check last minute details about the apartment and what I needed to bring.
Climbing the staircase, we soon found our home for the next two nights, it was warm and welcoming - she had already switched on the lights, checked the heating, laid out a welcome basket of tea, coffee and biscuits and put milk in the fridge.
All the worries you might have about leaving the security of a traditional hotel stay have been assuaged by One Fine Stay. We were able to book a breakfast package for the first morning - expensive but worth the money when we woke to pouring rain on the first morning! There's some one to meet you and check you in. They ensure you have the basics to be able to make a drink etc. Best of all, you're issued with an iPhone and charger which acts as your personal concierge during your stay. On the phone you'll fine useful apps to enable you to book cabs; find cycle hire; make restaurant reservations; find tourist information, maps and so on. Their own app is excellent, it has recommendations for things to do, places to see and dine at and a handy app which will direct you 'home' from wherever you are. There is 24 hour phone support should you have any problems, there's gorgeous L'Occitane toiletries in the bathroom, piles of fresh white towels and excellent wifi.
The apartment we chose was compact, but plenty of room for the two of us - much more space than you'd have in the average hotel room. There's a separate dining area, an en suite toilet and shower room and a small kitchen area - no oven but I wasn't planning on doing any cooking! The bedroom has a fabulously comfortable kingsize bed with crisp white cotton linen and original art deco reading lights at the bedside. Over the bed is an imposing art deco cloud-shaped mirror which frames the bed perfectly.
But the biggest draw to this property is the decor. The pied a terre of a Parisian antique dealer, the apartment is beautifully furnished and decorated with original art deco pieces and vibrant modern art. Brushed chrome and Anglepoise lamps aplenty.
On the Rue du Commerce you'll find a pleasant mix of clothes shops, together with grocery shops such as a bakery selling delicious artisan bread and the all important croissants, a greengrocer with a mouth-watering display of fresh fruit and vegetables, a fromagerie offering every kind of cheese imaginable - you can even buy oysters from the shop just opposite if the mood takes you. There's a bar on the corner where you can take your morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evening, and a good restaurant - the Cafe du Commerce where dining takes place on 3 floors in galleries with a huge indoor tree growing in the centre of the building. This place is famed for it's steaks - although of all the places we dined this one offered the least help with our limited language skills!
I'd recommend an evening stroll to the Eiffel Tower. Not only is it less busy than during the day, the tower is spectacular illuminated. The atmosphere is carnival-like and even the street vendors selling tatty souvenirs seem to become more good-humoured and friendly. You'll find carousels and candy-floss stores and lots of families enjoying the ambiance.
Every hour of darkness, the tower puts on a brief light show for the first 5 minutes of each hour, all 300 metres of it light up with 20,000 sparkly twinkling lights, and it's definitely worth seeing. Stroll back along the river before cutting back to your apartment and you're home in around 15 minutes.
We thoroughly enjoyed our break with One Fine Stay and will certainly consider them for other city breaks - they have hand-selected properties on their books in London, Paris, New York and LA.
Points to note:
One Fine Stay require the lead guest to be at least 25 years of age. They require a deposit to be held from a credit card (in our case £1000), and this will only be reimbursed 5 days after your departure.
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