It’s been ten years since we last visited Paris and I’d forgotten the minor incongruities of the vivre à la parisienne.
I remember now that old Parisian homes, which are so beautiful to look at, have all the architectural foibles of eighteenth century design retrofitted into twentieth century needs. Case in point – Stairs and Indoor Plumbing.
Our AirBNB was on the second (in French parlance) floor (which is really the third floor by any other language) and accessed through a winding set of creaky wooden stairs. The well worn steps and sturdy iron rails could have evoked romantic images of people running up and down, a la Gigi or Amelie. It did not look romantic to two people coming off a seven hour flight and sporting two hefty suitcases. This was Surprise #1.
Surprise #2 was the spiral staircase inside the apartment. It was located at the entry, leading up to the main floor. It looked cute and modern but was actually vicious and mean, particularly for people with dodgy knees and big (Size 7) feet.
When I was eight years old I wished mightily for a spiral staircase in my home. I must have seen it in a movie, where a lovely young thing ran down the castle tower to a pumpkin or a prince or some such thing. Going up and down those stairs, I had many chances to channel my eight year old self. I tried but my much older self complained bitterly about the frequency of going up and down. It had to do with the plumbing, which was Surprise #3.
Surprise #3 was that apartment’s one and only toilet was under the spiral staircase.
It was a tiny toilet, installed (I think) according to eighteenth century plumbing.
It might not have been so bad except for the location – across from to the entry door with no dividing wall and the proximity of a full length window with look-out into the neighbor’s kitchen.
But the size. It was tiny. How tiny? Let’s just say, anyone over 5′ 5″ had to assume the position and reverse their way in.
OK. OK. Maybe I exaggerate. There was no dividing wall between the toilet and the front door but the landlady did put a piece of furniture in front of the stairs to block the view. And while it’s true that the window did overlook the neighbor’s kitchen, there was also a full length curtain to pull.
However, there’s no disputing the size. Plus, it didn’t have a wash basin. For that, we had to go to the main floor, where the shower and sink was installed.
Hence, twice as many ups and downs those *$#@@$ darned stairs.
Paris, France. 2018