Saturday, 30 October 2010

Paris by Mouth. A handy restaurant resource for English speakers

One of the questions that people often ask when arriving at the Great Apartment - especially if they don't know Paris - is whether there are any good restaurants around, and of course there are! We loved Derrière and very much enjoyed Le Cochon à l'Oreille, but there are many many more places that are probably excellent, if only we had the time to get round to eating there.

Paris by Mouth is a new site that could well be of help to a lot of people for a number of reasons.

1. It's almost all in English, which is incredibly handy for those of you who can barely grunt anything more complicated than 'baguette'.
2. It's a collaborative effort with both original content and aggregated reviews from a number of trusted food blogs, all written by Paris residents, meaning that there are several trusted views on each restaurant that you can compare.
3. Having a large group of contributors means that there's something new to read every day.
4. There's a very handy filter that allows you to hone down listings by area, price and - genius - certain days of the week: a lot of places in Paris are closed on a Sunday or a Monday, and Lord knows even I can't remember which ones are open when, so this is a very welcome feature.
5. They even have special sections for bakeries and ice cream parlours, an ace idea.
6. And if all that wasn't enough, there's also a great links section, so the extra curious can click off left and right to their heart's delight.
The site is the brainchild of Meg Zimbeck, an American freelance journalist based in Paris who has been writing about the city for years now, awlays with her keen sense of what's hip and what's hokum (earning her the job of Paris editor for both Budget Travel and BlackBook).

Paris by Mouth is fairly new, and the sometimes slim listings pages will undoubtedly fill out over time, but you should definitely have a look at the site's reviews by Meg and all the other gastronomic bloggers. Their no-nonsense personal experiences will help you avoid the tourist traps and over-hyped disappointments. And don't miss their daily porn section either. Actually safe for work!
photo: Meg Zimbeck

Friday, 1 October 2010

Keeping up appearances for our two year anniversary

The Great Apartment is two years old. Yay! Back in September/October 2008 we probably didn't really realise what we were getting ourselves into, but time has gone so quickly and we've have so many lovely people come to stay. We're really grateful to all of you. Apart from the people that put grated carrot down the shower, obviously (people love that story).

Of course as time goes by, some parts of the place get a little wear and tear, and we want it to stay looking its best, so a certain amount of money goes into upkeep.

The first problem we had was condensation, as there were no extractor fans in the place. Last year we even had to replace the sofa bed mattress because it had started looking nasty. So, in January this year we had some ventilation added to the bathroom and kitchen to try and alleviate the problem. I didn't write about it back then because - frankly - that would have been the dullest article on earth. We'll see this winter whether they do the job or not (and they bloody well better do - having them installed meant a fairly sizeable investment, a lot of trickery with the false ceiling and requesting permission to drill through the exterior wall from the building managers. Not simple).

Actually, the biggest problem, and I suppose it's not a bad problem to have, was finding some time when the apartment wasn't full in order for work to be done! Strangely, the bathroom needed the most work. We'd had some grief with our smart-looking shower for example, especially the glass door which turned out to be pulling itself away from the wall. Extra fixings solved that, but left nasty holes all up one side, even if you'd have to stand in the far corner to see them. That's been fixed, at last.
The accumulated condensation in the bathroom had made some paint crackle and come away from the wall and surface near the window. Add to that a couple of unfortunate guest incidents - like leaving your electric curling tongs to cool down on the paint, burning it brown - and it was obvious that this needed redoing. After camouflaging the corner with a plant (not terribly successful) we decided to have this area tiled to match the rest, and get the wall repainted. Looks like new! (erm, because it is).
Apart from that there have been a few paint touch-ups where things got banged, and a new coat of paint on the front door makes it look a little smarter. Unfortunately there was only time for one coat, because our workman's grandmother died in the middle of it all, and he had to fly back to eastern Europe for the funeral. We'll get a second coat on there sometime soon.

All that took about three days, and as the door had been sanded down, we completely cleaned the whole place afterwards to get rid of the dust. And it was everywhere, believe me.

Having the apartment looking like new was also the excuse to take a few pictures with my smart new Lumix LX-5. It's great in low light and has a wide angle lens that makes the place look huge! Actually, our last guests told us it wasn't as small as they had expected, and people often say that they don't feel cramped because everything is well thought out.

We actually have some more work coming up in the not too distant future, but I'll tell you about that another time. We think you deserve to have the place looking smart for your stay, and intend to to keep it looking that way.

Thanks again to (almost) all of you. :-)