26 September 2020

Staying in Paris apartments and gîtes ruraux

The first time Walt and I stayed in any place on vacations in France besides in a hotel room was in 1993 — except when we both lived in Paris in 1981-82, of course. We were celebrating our 10th anniversary as life partners in 1993, and I wanted to go spend a couple of weeks in Provence. I learned about the Gîtes de France association, and I started searching the internet to find a house or apartment we could rent for our vacation. The one I found was in a village called Mérindol, which is just 32 kilometers — 20 miles — north of Aix-en-Provence, where I spent a semester on a study-abroad program in 1970. It turned out that the house in Mérindol was no longer listed on Gîtes de France service (a gîte is a vacation rental out in the country). I contacted the owners of the house directly, and rented the house from them that way. We loved the place, which gave us easy access to Peter Mayle country, the Luberon and the Vaucluse. His book A Year in Provence had recently been published.

For a 1999 stay in Paris, Walt and rented an apartment in this building not far from the Rodin museum.
(I hope this post featuring photos from Paris in 1999 but a description
of our 1993 vacation and rental in Provence isn't too confusing.)

Things I remember about the 1993 trip and that house in Provence: there was a beautiful patio (terrasse) with the limbs of a huge cherry tree overhanging it. We could sit outside, enjoy a glass of the local wine, and gorge ourselves on fat, sweet red cherries we just reached up to pick off the tree. We had a TV so we could watch a favorite French movie, the news, or TV shows in the evening while we ate dinners we had prepared in the house's well-equipped kitchen. We could go shopping for food in open-air markets in the area as well as in local supermarkets. I especially remember being almost overwhelmed by the variety of foods available in the nearby Intermarché supermarket in the little town of Mallemort, which was like the Ali Baba's cave of grocery stores.

The 1999 apartment was just a studio — one big room plus a bathroom — but it had a kitchen with a stove and refrigerator.
The kitchen could be closed off by a big folding door.

During the years we stayed in hotels (1988, '89, '91, '92) we couldn't cook because there was no kitchen, we didn't have private outdoor space, and often we didn't even have a TV set. The gîte experience was much more enjoyable. A gîte didn't cost much more per night than a Paris hotel room, and we saved money by buying food we could cook, or prepared foods like salads, quiches, pâtés, cheeses, cooked sausages, and roasted chickens to eat at the house in the evening instead of going out to restaurants. In addition, in 1993 the gîte owners invited us over to their house one evening for dinner. It was almost like when we lived in Paris a decade earlier.

Some days when you're on vacation for two weeks and you've been walking all over the city, you just feel like sitting down and resting for a few hours. Apartment-living is perfect for that, as in this photo of Walt relaxing on the sofa in Paris in June 1999, probably in front of the television.

Unfortunately, those were the days before digital photography, so I wasn't taking pictures back then. On the other hand, Walt was taking pictures — slides — with a film camera. We still have those slides, but they've been packed away for years now, and we no longer have a projector. Walt has scanned some of the slides so that we can display them on our computers, but scanning is a laborious and time-consuming process. I'm not sure you can still buy slide projectors, and if you can I bet they are very expensive. We stayed in gîtes out in the country or in short-term rental apartments in Paris many times in the 1990s — on the Ile Saint-Louis  in Paris (1994), in the Lot near Cahors (1995), in Paris near Les Invalides (1996), in an apartment just off the rue Cler market street, not far from the Eiffel Tower (1997), and then in a different apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis (1998).

The bed and the sofa in the 1999 studio apartment were in the same big room. The kitchen was on one wall of the room.
I know there was also a full bathroom too, but I don't remember what it looked like.

I got my first digital camera for Christmas in 1998. It was a present from Walt and my old friend CHM. That spring, we rented an apartment on the rue de Babylone, near the Rodin Museum and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, and I took photos of our Paris accommodations for the first time. I have no memory of how I found this apartment or how much it cost per night to rent it. I'm sure it wasn't much or even any more expensive than a hotel room, and again we could shop for our own food, eat supper at the apartment, watch the French news or a French movie on TV after dinner, or just go out for a walk around the neighborhoods in the center of the city after dinner when the weather was nice. We didn't have to spend so much money in restaurants.

This is the courtyard of the building where we stayed for two weeks in 1999.

CHM was in Paris while we were, and we enjoyed spending days with him seeing places in and around Paris that we wouldn't have known about if we hadn't been with him. Our rented apartment was in the same neighborhood as his apartment, where he was born and lived until he moved to the U.S. in 1969. With CHM, we rented a car one day in June 1999 and drove up to see Monet's garden at Giverny, which we'd never seen before, and to visit old friends of mine in Rouen, where I had spent a year living in an apartment and working as a teacher (1972-73). It was a great trip. According to the timestamps on my digital photos, we were in France from late May through mid-June in 1999.

The 1999 Paris apartment faced on the street on one side. I took this photo, a favorite of mine just for the colors,
looking down from one of the front windows.

We've stayed in a dozen or more rental apartments in Paris and gîtes ruraux in the French countryside since the year 2000. I thought I might post some photos of them over the next few days and weeks, with descriptions and memories. In future posts, I'll try not to mix up the years and the places as I've so clumsily done today.

P.S. Walt just told me he has photos of the 2003 gîte in Provence on his blog, in three posts here.


  1. A nice post of your memories and where you have stayed.

  2. Memories! Dear memories. Hotel de l'Avenir in January 1992; I was there, too. Was it in 1998 we went to les Jardins Albert Kahn? In 1999, l'Orangerie with Gabby and Mary, and dinner, the five of us, at le Bistro de Breteuil. And on, and on...

    1. I think the walk around the Jardins Albert Kahn was in 1999, as well as the trip to the Orangerie with Gabby and Mary and the dinner at the Bistrot. I don't think you were in Paris when Walt and I were there in 1998. I think you had loaned me your camera for my trip to France.

    2. I definitely went to Paris in July 1998. It was the year I got back my apartment from the friends who had lived there all these years, gratis! I probably gave you the Kodak 50 (?) when you visited in Salton City in early spring. That year you came back alone to France in August and drove to Carteret to visit JL and to pick me up. We went back to Paris through Bayeux and Caen. That's probably how I got the Kodak back?

  3. You have my vote for more photos of those trips. And you had previously said you were going to re-post photos from the trip you and CHM took when he gave his grandfather's paintings to churches for final safekeeping. That was such an interesting one.

  4. Loved this, more please. I’ve stayed in many Paris apartments but never a gite. Next time, I hope.

  5. Wonderful, Ken! I am in agreement with all of the above!
    I have stayed in gites but as of yet, no B&B's. My daughter raves about them as they have stayed in many each year when she attends the Foreign Language Teacher's conventions.
    Yes, when one is a tourist, it is necessary (at least for me!) to have some down time so I can return to all of the heavy-duty sight-seeing, picture-taking and people-watching! Having a kitchen to prepare all those fragrant locally-grown produce must have been a god-send for you, Ken! Restaurant meals get to be old, fast -for me.
    I am truly loving these photos and memories you have shared!

    Mary in Oregon

  6. What a nice trip down memory lane. I like staying in gites, more flexibility that way and you're not bound by the house schedule.
    Re slides: There are small scanners available at places like Best Buy and probably on eBay, scan all those old slides in reasonably quickly. Fairly inexpensive, as I recall.


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