Well, I couldn’t very well have a title that said ‘Airbnb virgin’ could I? That’s just an open invitation for Russian spambots to do what they’re best at. But yes, this is my first Airbnb experience. I am something of a late bloomer. In 0 to 60 seconds I went from wondering what to do with that surprise windfall from those aged debtors (official name for folk who just don’t pay) to thinking, could I really go and live in Paris…….? I bounced that question around for a few minutes and found myself on the internet looking at Paris flats.
Wipe your feet on the way out
Now, I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve always thought no way José when the subject of Airbnb has come up. Nobody could ever accuse me of being a luxury traveller by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve done my time in Tibet with the local rubbish dump as the (very) public convenience. And we won’t talk about the time I did my business with an audience on the Tibetan Plateau. Or the lack of sanitation, not to mention the rats when you’re working in a refugee camp. Nobody wants to go there.
Suffice to say, I am a woman with extremely low standards. But in the early years, for me, Airbnb conjured images of weirdos, scam artists and well, wiping your feet on the way out. Scare stories of pop up brothels, drug dens, makeshift cannabis farms or, my particular favourite, the house that burned down hadn’t helped with those shabby first impressions.
A gal on a budget can’t be picky, so I had a jolly good nosey at what was available. Now, some of those flats would have wiped out my aged debtor windfall in one week, let alone the three months I was after. They were prohibitively expensive and probably fodder for TV programmes that begin with “Who lives in a house like this?” Answer? Not me. And hey, at this point, I was keeping my options open, just seeing what was out there. There were tons of high end short term rental sites that I mentally crossed off my list very early on. R
The strange thing about Paris is whichever arrondissement I have stayed in, I’ve always ended up back in the 18th. I typed in ‘appartments on Rue Ordener’ expecting, well, nothing much. Rue Ordener, my pipe dream, my street, or rue, if you will. Three apartments materialised, all with Airbnb.
I gave them a quick flick and moved on to Homeaway another renting site and what appeared to be a trés chi chi little apartment overlooking the Sacre Coeur. A swift swipe through the photographs of cobbled streets and the Butté at dusk. Nice, very nice. A few more minutes of umming and arring over the flat. Hmmm, it had zero reviews. Never a good start. A few more minutes getting right up to the booking stage and reminding myself that this was just supposed to be a reccy into what was possible. Five more minutes perusing the reviews of Homeaway. Not good. It was that early Airbnb crack den phobia all over again.
So back on over I hopped to Airbnb with the intention of being way more thorough this time. I felt as though I was beginning to know what I was looking for. Armed with pen, notebook and a list, things were getting trés serious. I knew the 18th arrondissement well enough to be able to guess where most of the flats were situated even when it didn’t give a precise location. There was one that I knew in my bones was on Rue Ordener even though it didn’t give a location.
The flat for me
The reviews were amazing. Everyone who had stayed there loved the flat which had a spectacular view of the Sacre Coeur in the distance. A street market buzzed directly outside. What’s more, it had two bedrooms and, wait for it, a washing machine, hitherto unheard of in most of the old teeny, tiny, typical Parisienne Haussmann flats. I emailed the owner. Was it available? Was it really on Rue Ordener? I wanted that flat but I wasn’t ready to commit. I was emailing but I wasn’t booking. Yet. My email was the commitment phobic equivalent to dipping a hesitant toe in the Seine, just to ‘see’.
In the grip
I covered my bases and emailed a few more owners but my heart was set on the Rue Ordener flat with the view of the Sacre Coeur and the street market outside. It had my name on it. I was six hours into my ‘just looking to see what’s out there’ when something took hold of me. I still don’t know what. Maybe I’d just got caught up in it all. Maybe it was the realisation that life is too short. I went into the booking section, entered my dates and paid a deposit. Then I waited to hear back from the owner who would yay or nay my Paris flat.
The next 24 hours were excruciating. You know how it is when you want something so much, with every sinew, fibre and cell of your body that it is all you can think about? What had started out as an idle Google search with no real intention, had rendered me besotted. It was like the quiet, distracting teenage desperation of waiting to see if someone will call you after a first date.
I wanted that flat so badly I could hardly breathe. Some of the other owners slowly started to get back to me. A couple were available but they positively paled in comparison to the flat on my street. I toyed with the idea of cancelling my booking and securing something else, anything else, in Montmartre. I was in the grip of something bewildering to me. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had to have the flat on Rue Ordener. Even I didn’t know what had got into me. I was a woman possessed.
And then, around 3pm the next day, the owner emailed. Not only was the flat available, she was giving me a 50% discount for a long term let. So I emailed back and added a few more weeks to my stay.