Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Great Apartment is a Google Maps power user

I'm not one to blow my own trumpet, although it could be argued that a blog which dares to go on and on and on about a 'Great Apartment' is probably blue in the face from blowing its own trumpet. Anyway...

I've just got my head around a new function in Google Maps where you can draw lines and stuff. Sound boring? Well, it can come in handy. Take a look at this beauty...

Whenever we send a confirmation e-mail for a booking there will be a link to a private Google Map. This shows how to get to the apartment on foot from the four nearest metro/RER stations.

Click on any of them to see which line they are on.

Click on the likkle green house (the apartment) to get the code for entering the building (that's partly why the map is private) and info about how to buzz the apartment.

Click on the big purple blob to see that it's the Pompidou Centre (thought it might be helpful for getting your bearings. Need I say again that we are 2 minutes away?).

After all that delicate drawing and changing the pin colours and embedding photos into the information I get an official Great Apartment in Paris gold star. Go me!

Coming soon: another map with all the places we mention on the blog noted on it. Hurrah!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Paris' most impressive (and gay-friendly) church

Now there's a title for you. Never thought I'd be writing that one, but as it happens there's an arts event currently happening in Paris called La Force de l'Art (lots of info about that here on the Paris Newsblog that I also contribute to) which includes an installation in the Saint-Eustache church in Les Halles, five minutes from the apartment.

I admit I haven't been back in there for about a decade, although I go past it all the time. However the new installation by photographers Pierre et Gilles - their first Madonna and child - was my excuse to pop in... and I was wowed!

The church is - to my mind - as stunning as Notre Dame, with a dizzyingly high ceiling and some wonderful painted details, some of which have been marvellously restored.

I was intrigued however about how and/or why a conspicuously (not to say notoriously) gay couple were invited to expose their work in a church. It turns out that Saint-Eustache is a particularly gay-friendly parish with a keen interest in modern art.

The installation itself is quite interesting, with the main photo presented in scaffolding with throbbing orange roadwork lights and neon strip lights around it. At its base are car parts, echoing the photo itself...

Ignoring the fact that the Madonna is in a Christian Lacroix dress, it's an imposing piece and the couple's first to be shown in a place of worship. Although a lot of their work contains religious imagery treated in various ways, some of their other stuff is much more - as we say in French - olé olé, and showing the photo here is a bold move that can be interpreted as fairly open-minded (i.e. gay friendly).

Walking round the rest of the church, I was soon to find out that this is not the only modern (gay) art there. It's also home to "Altar Piece" by Keith Haring, one of nine examples that are exhibited around the world (others are to be found in the Whitney Museum in New York, the Contemporary Art museum in Hiroshima, etc.) donated by the Spirit Foundation founded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was Keith Haring's wish that one of his pieces be exposed in Paris, and this was one of the last he created.

I'm not a churchgoing man myself, but Saint-Eustache has many other extraordinary sights to offer, and as it's just down the road from the apartment you really should check it out.

You'll find more photos of our look round in the Flickr gallery here. Walking map of how to get there at the end of this post.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Reading material

I always thought that people who book an apartment in a city (rather than a hotel) probably know their way round a bit already. In my mind they prefer to have a place that they can call home for a while instead of just a room and bathroom that are magically cleaned every day. Our experience of guests tends to confirm the theory.

In order to really soak up the Paris atmosphere, and in addition to the magazines that we leave in the apartment for your lounging about time (Citizen K, Vivre Côté Paris...), there are also some books and a guide or two. Now we've added the above title. Just because we're lovely.

Well not just because we're lovely. It's also because a) it's in English, and b) it's really rather good! For someone who wants some decent insider tips about cool restaurants, bars and things to see in the city, it's ideal. I wish I'd had something like this when I arrived in Paris! It would have made things a lot simpler.

Check it out next time you're at the great apartment. Alternatively, you can order it here on amazon.fr for the princely sum of, er, 8.55€ plus postage & packing. Hey, we're lovely, not loaded. ;-)

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Eco-friendly taxi, airport transfer and Paris tours with EcovisitParis

Everyone booking some time in the apartment gets a confirmation e-mail with all the details about checking in, checking out, where we are, etc. etc. The e-mail also contains links to this blog (in the hope that some of it will come in handy) and another to EcovisitParis as part of our eco-friendly stance (which is partly explained here). So who are EcovisitParis?

Well, the company is basically the brainchild of Erwan Maizy, who saw a way of extending his personal ecological beliefs into a business. He offers several services aboard his hybrid Toyota Prius, the cleanest car in its class on the market:

- Airport transfers. For practically the same cost as a standard taxi, he'll pick you up at the airport, just after you get through customs (so no queueing for cabs) and drop you off at your destination.

- Guided Tours. 45- or 90-minute tours, during the day or in the evening to see the sights of Paris and learn about the city's latest eco-initiatives, or a parks & gardens tour to visit three of Paris' largest green spaces (the company is certified by the Paris Tourist Office).

- Special Versailles visit with lots of eco information during your visit.

- Chauffeur service. Have your own private driver and be safe in the knowledge that you are respecting the environment.

EcovisitParis speaks English (phew!), drives eco-responsibly (no Fast And Furious-style acceleration at traffic lights), has a selection of eco magazines for you to read, washes its cars without water (hmm, not sure how that one works...) and compensates the CO2 created during the daily running of the company.

By the way, we're not affiliated with them in any way: we just think it's a great idea. Plus, Erwan is genuinely motivated by his beliefs and very obviously enjoys his work, which is always a pleasure to see.

Check out their site and keep them in mind for your next visit to Paris!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Gratuitous flower pics

You may have seen them from the inside, but even I'd never seen them from the outside. This is what the window box in the front room looks like from the (calm, cobbled) courtyard...

Sweet! The neighbour opposite is jealous of the ivy because his huge display got frozen to a crisp this winter. I haven't told him my secret: wild luck.

And in a fit of Spring fever I've also added geraniums outside the bathroom window (although for the moment you can hardly see them). I know, geraniums. There not the most original choice are they? I just wanted something vaguely colourful and not too expensive that wouldn't die immediately. As it turns out, that side of the building gets a lot of rain down it, and they are already waterlogged. Oh well...

Sunday, 5 April 2009

sweet ceramics shop on rue Montmorency

We always make sure that there are a couple of magazines in the apartment, something to flip through when chomping on a baguette at lunchtime, y'know?

One of them is Citizen K, a fashion mag with (fairly) decent articles, lots of photos and even more ads (plus, it only costs 1 euro. Aren't we good to you?). There's even an English language section at the back so francophobes can get the gist of what's being said (although I doubt that anyone really reads the whole thing with interest).

The other mag is Vivre Côté Paris which started publishing just over a year ago and contains loads information about new shops, restaurants, design, déco, etc. etc. We always find loads of interesting stuff in it, and there's an English-language summary at the end too.

I'd forgotten that a few month back the magazine had mentioned Le Petit Atelier de Paris, a rather lovely ceramics workshop/shop at 31 rue de Montmorency, literally 30 seconds from the apartment. The place is run by Frenchman Stéphane Froger (what a great name!) and Korean Jae-Hyun Cheong. The simplicity of the space and their work is appealing, even though I find their prices to be a little steep. They have a sweet minimalist blog too, if your French is up to it ('minimalist' in the sense that they only update it twice a month).

The article is below. Click on each image to see it big or you'll hurt your eyes, OK?

Le Petit Atelier de Paris, 31 rue de Montmorency, is open Thursday - Saturday from 1 - 8pm.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Great new jewellery and perfume concept store 30 seconds from the apartment

It's just on the next street, but you could easily walk past without noticing it: Les Néréides likes its semi-secret status (indeed, when I went to take pictures the only way to get in was to bang on the window. I guess they're still waiting to get a doorbell).

At 5 rue Bourg l'Abbé, they have transformed their offices into a two-level showroom & concept store with great jewellery and perfume beautifully displayed in a well-designed space. The place is light and airy thanks to a glass ceiling at the back corner and clever floor cut-outs that allow you see down to the basement.

Mixing contemporary design objects and vintage touches, there's an old world with-a-twist feel to the front of the shop, with old wooden furniture and an original staircase preserved (with fab wallpaper).

And the rest of the setting is both original and amusing. They obviously have a sense of humour and a great eye for colour...

The whole thing is pretty damn classy. Now if only I wore ladies jewellery... ;-)

You can check out the rest of our photos here on the Flickr gallery page or peruse their website here.