Thursday, 28 January 2010

Selling the Great Apartment

No, we're not selling the Great Apartment, but we are trying to sell the Great Apartment. Got it?

What I mean is, when we first bought, renovated and starting renting the apartment, we never really thought about how people would find it on the web, and choose us rather than one of the thousands of other places available in Paris. We did know that we wanted to do something different from the hundreds of apartments we had seen with creaky sofabeds, pine furniture and rank kitchens. And we also thought that the blog would bring people our way a bit.

However, we soon realised that being different from the rest was simply not enough. There are so many apartments and so many agencies out there, that the chances of someone coming across our site are small. I have the same problem when trying to find a decent independently-run apartment when I go abroad; there's just so much 'noise' from the agencies that you can't find them. It's frustrating.

This is why we put our apartments on Flipkey. Flipkey is the sister site of TripAdvisor, probably the most trusted way to find a decent hotel anywhere in the world. The site lists only apartments and allows past guests to review them so that others can make an informed choice.

Of course the problem of too much choice applies here too: if you do a search for - say - a Paris apartment for a week in September, there are 458 apartments listed! It's important to be at the top of that list so as not to get completely lost.

And this is where our guests can help out. The apartment's position on the page is dictated by the quality of the listing (number of photos, etc.), the number of reviews and the ratings given. Which is why you'll probably receive an e-mail from Flipkey after your stay, asking for you to write a few lines about the Great Apartment.

A mailout via the Flipkey site last week got us quite a few reviews for Great Apartment and the Canal Apartment, helping the latter to get to 14th place (still on the first page, quite a feat with 458 apartments on offer) and the former to 3rd place! We were so pleased! And grateful!

And I can't emphasize enough: writing a review on Flipkey is probably the nicest thing you can do for us. It helps people really know what the apartment is like, helps us pick up on anything that could be improved (I've already changed a couple of things at the apartment thanks to reviews) and makes sure that people can find us on the site. And of course, that helps us to keep the Great Apartment a going concern and help people have an unforgettable stay in Paris.

Here's what the first page of Flipkey looked like today:

Of course our position on the page will change all the time. We only show up if the apartment is available for the dates requested (logical), and the people above and below us will also be getting more reviews, so it's an ongoing process. The Canal Apartment is probably 14th because it's new and hasn't got as many reviews (although I'll be reminding people soon to help us out!) but having both apartments on the first page, even for a while, is really encouraging, and we're super grateful, especially as there are loads of nice things being said!

We've also integrated a Flipkey widget in the right-hand column of our site. That way, people can click and read what people have to say about us. I think it's quite a useful tool for people.

Andf you want to check out our full Flipkey pages, here they are:

The Great Apartment - or

The Canal Apartment - or

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to write a review. It's very much appreciated.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

La note rouge, a rather smart new wine shop two seconds from the Great Apartment!

It's my opinion that French wine and French cheese is reason enough to live in France. They are probably why I've never considered going back to live in England. It's just inconceivable. Imagine my joy then when I came across a brand new wine store at the end of our street, just next to Zine Fashion Store. Give a big welcoming 'glug' to La Note Rouge!

As you can see, it's in a former Bonneterie (in fact, we even showed you the old store-front in our article explaining Bonneteries here). Three young men have pooled their skills to create a wine shop with a difference...

Firstly, they've chosen a modern, minimalist style that's radically different from most wine shops that have rows and rows and rows and rows and rows and rows of bottles. Of course, quantity does not mean quality, and La Note Rouge's hand-picked selection means that you're not left bewildered.

The first room of the shop is mainly for reds, with a second room out back for whites. There are touchscreens in both that allow you to browse the catalogue in various ways: you can choose your wine by region, taste, price, by the food that will accompany it... the screen will guide you, and wines can also be rated and commented on by anyone visiting the website, giving the whole thing an interactive quality. Very cool. Of course, you can always ask the guys for a little help too, and with 75% of the stock under 20€, you should be able to find something in your price range.

They also have their own blog, a Facebook page, tasting sessions with the wine producers themselves and soon a proper tasting room that is reached via the courtyard, with large sofa, flatscreen TV... All very modern, web 2.0 etc. And they're not frightened to shake things up a little: when I went, the background music was Guns & Roses! Yep, these guys are different, and extremely personable to boot. Check them out!

La Note Rouge is at 212 rue St Martin, and you'd have to be extremely short sighted not to see it when leaving the apartment (turn right, then left and you're there). They are also on our map of all things uber-cool near the apartment here:

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Jewish Art and History Museum
just near the Great Apartment Paris

I'm slightly ashamed to say that since its opening (in 1998!), I hadn't been to the Jewish Art and History Museum before this weekend. Finally, the current temporary exhibition spurred me to visit. It's about about the wealthy and philanthropic Camondo family that collected art up until the Second World War, when the last remaining members were deported and killed. From Constantinople to Paris, over three generations, they built up a banking empire of extraordinary power and used their wealth for good.

It's an exceptional story and the exhibition tells it well (more about it on the Museum's official site here). Exhibition ends 7th March 2010.

The building housing the museum is called the Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, and dates from 1650, making it an impressive building in itself. It also backs onto the great Jardin Anne Frank that we've mentioned before (here). There's lots of info about the history of the building here, for example the fact that it used to be town hall of the seventh district of Paris back in 1795 (whereas the area is now the 3rd arrondissement), and that the architecture is "one of the finest Parisian examples of the serenely classical style known as Atticism". The courtyard is certainly imposing...

Photo by Flickr user fredpanassac used under cc licence,
although I did change the colours a bit because it was all green.

Although I can't say anything about the permanent collection (as we didn't see it) but this is another cultural establishment just on your doorstep if you're staying at the Great Apartment. It also happens to be just around the corner from delicious cupcake and cheesecake shop Berko, which is worth stopping by at on the way out.

The official site for the Jewish Art and History Museum can be found here. They're open every day of the week except Saturdays from 11am - 6pm (opens 10am Sundays). Last ticket at 5pm.