This past weekend was a big one since it led to writing an actual departure date on the calendar! We booked our flights to Paris as well as an apartment for our first month abroad. In my past-decade daydreams, I always imagined leaving for our gap year the day after Labor Day – the minute the post-summer fares dropped – and that’s exactly what it turns out we’re going to do. It didn’t take long on Kayak to determine that departing on Tuesday, September 6 on Icelandair was the best and cheapest one-way choice at $467 each. We’ll wave goodbye to the U.S. from Dulles and say hello to Europe at Charles DeGaulle after a brief stop in Reykjavik. The stopping-in-Reykjavik option was the cheapest way to Europe back in the 70s and early 80s, but somehow we never took that route back then. So, we bought one-way tickets, not knowing exactly when we’ll be returning, although it should be in late August/early September 2012. Let’s just hope we can make it through the visa appointment at the embassy with one-way tickets in hand! They actually may have cause to worry. Will we actually want to come home?
We plan to arrive in Paris and pamper ourselves to start by staying at a hotel for three nights to settle in and catch up on some sleep. We’ll then check into the studio apartment we booked for a month. I hate to admit it, but it takes us longer than it did in years past to bounce back after the overnight flight. It was entertaining to browse the apartment offerings on the Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) site, imagining life in the various and very different properties and weighing the pros and cons of each. The first big question was which arrondissement to choose. On our last couple of trips to Paris, we stayed in the 6th – St. Germain des Prés – and loved it, but something kept drawing us to the 7th, home of the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps it’s because the Tour Eiffel is Joe’s favorite site and let’s be honest, what could be more romantic than a daily view of this gorgeous, latticework structure? In all my times in Paris, going all the way back to my student days, I’ve never stayed even close to the Eiffel Tower, so I did everything I could to hunt down something in the 7th, or the 15th, just a bit further south. We pored over listing after listing: this one’s too expensive, that one’s in an ugly building (yes, there are some, even in Paris), that one has no wifi, this one’s all decorated in red (don’t really want to feel like we’re at the Moulin Rouge for a month), that one’s not available for our dates, this one’s on too busy a street and that one only has a pull-out couch... After sending a slew of emails we finally found what we hope will be the perfect pied-à-terre on the Avenue de Suffren, one block over from the Champ de Mars. It’s well within the budget of $100/night at $2,350 for the month and somehow, it just feels right. It’s on a gorgeous tree-lined street on the ground-level of a Haussmannian building and opens on a small courtyard. Despite the fact that it’s a tiny 25 square meters, the Eiffel Tower is in its backyard and the Seine is just down the street, so how can we complain? Maybe it was the warm lighting in the pictures or the fact that its hardwood floors, beiges and taupes make it look like a place I would have decorated, but something about this flat reached through the computer and grabbed us. The “Eiffel Studio” is now ours from September 10 through October 10 and at long last, our fuzzy reveries of living in Paris finally have a tangible mise-en-scène.