I live on the seventh and top floor of an apartment block in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, to the east of the city centre and 15-20 minutes’ walk from the Bastille, where I used to live and where there’s a superabundance of noisy bars, restaurants and clubs – part of the reason I moved house – that, and local youths using the narrow street right in front of my building as an impromptu football pitch every evening.
My nearest Métro station, Rue des Boulets, is 30 seconds away from my flat, but I’m only about five minutes’ walk from la Place de La Nation, a major transport hub where four Métro lines and the A line of the RER converge. From there it’s about five minutes to Châtelet-Les Halles, about ten minutes to Place Charles de Gaulle and the Arc de Triomphe, about 20 minutes to St-Germain and 30 minutes to Montparnasse. I can reach the Gare du Nord in 20 minutes. Paris is a very easy city to get around.
Funny, but before I moved here I always wanted to live on the trendy Rive Gauche, in the 6th arrondissement around St-Germain or le Jardin du Luxembourg. But I don’t go there often these days, because it’s full of rich oiks, tourists and rip-off prices. Nowadays, when I hear an English or American accent I tend to flinch.
I also live five minutes away from a fifth Métro line, at Faidherbe Chaligny, and five minutes from Rue Paul Bert, which is full of fashionable restaurants which are always being mentioned in the poncey food guides, as well as the Pure Café, which featured in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset. But I don’t eat out very often because I don’t have much money these days. If I do eat out, it’s at one of the cheap faux-Japanese restaurants all over the place (they’re run by Chinese or Vietnamese, not Japanese, but they’re still a good deal at around €12 for a sashimi set-meal) or at the Korean café round the corner, where I can get a big dish of bimbambop for about €10. The Turkish doner kebab place next door to my apartment block is also good value: I like their mixed grill, which at €10 is one of their more expensive dishes. I wouldn’t dream of eating doner kebab in London, but here it’s delicious.
My flat faces east. In the distance I can see the treetops of Père Lachaise cemetery, where Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Honoré de Balzac and Marcel Proust (among others – there are dead celebs galore there) are buried. That’s about 10-15 minutes’ walk. When I lived in Bastille, my flat faced south-west and I almost died of heatstroke during the heatwaves of 2003 and 2006, when it was so hot I sometimes had to book nights in hotel rooms with air conditioning, just to catch up on my sleep. (I had money then.) So facing east is fine by me; I get the sun in the morning, but now, when it’s really hot, my flat is sheltered from the fiercest of the heat.
My next-door neighbour, by the way, is a classical cellist, and although I can hear her playing through the walls, it’s not an unpleasant sound, and she never listens to anything with a heavy bass beat, which is a mercy. Her flat faces west, and from her window you can see Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower and, on a clear day, la Grande Arche de la Defense. But she doesn’t have a balcony, and I have three, so I’m happy facing in the opposite direction, thank you very much.