Last week I was whisked away to Paris and London by Avenue Story to check out their luxury apartment rentals. Renting an apartment seems to be the latest trend for the sophisticated traveler. But being somewhat of a traditionalist, (ahem, a scaredy-cat) I had never ventured outside my comfort zone of Four Seasons and Sofitels to actually try it. The thought of giving up a solid reputation as well as a concierge always made me nervous. What scared me more though was that I would arrive at the apartment and would not find what I had seen online. Images of run-down and dilapidated furnishings scurried through my mind.
My fears are alleviated now though after my luxe stay at an Avenue Story apartment. Avenue Story is a luxury apartment broker who carefully inspects and chooses only the finest properties that are up to the standards of the discerning luxury traveler. They choose each apartment based on a wow factor–whether it is a fabulous location, view, etc. Once I found this out, I was excited to see what I would find.
Upon my arrival into Paris, I was collected up by Avenue Story’s driver right outside the train station. He drove us to the apartment where we were greeted by Sophie, the local operations manager. She showed us to the apartment, gave us the keys, a quick tour and most importantly, our welcome presents, which consisted of Pierre Herme macarons (only the finest Paris has to offer), a bottle of champagne, cheese, baguettes, and sausage. The perfect picnic for the gorgeous balcony that awaited us. But you’ll hear more about that in a bit.
Next, Sophie shared a folder with us that contained local information like restaurant picks, the closest subways, the local shops, etc. They also provided us with a map of Paris and assured us that if we had any questions they were only a phonecall or email away. With that she gave me her information, showed me the telephone from which local calls were included in the stay, and went on her merry way.
And then I was in Paris. In a gorgeous art-deco apartment, with a view of the Eiffel Tower. We immediately ran out onto our private balcony. Not only did we have a view of the Eiffel Tower, we had THE view. I kid you not, I think that this apartment in particular, not the one next door or down the road, has the best view in the entire world. As we sat on the balcony, day after day, night after night, my husband and I pondered, “What would you rather have a view of?” Was there any other landmark? Any other site? After many days trying to figure this out, I can assure you that no beach, landmark or sunset will possibly come close to this view of the Eiffel Tower.
But I digress, back to the apartment. We were furnished with fresh linens, towels and bath products for our stay, just like in a hotel. No need to lug your own towels across the ocean. Another fear that turned out to be unfounded. The apartment actually contained two bedrooms and two bathrooms, which is fabulous for a family, and even better for a married couple on vacation who doesn’t usually get to experience the luxury of not having to share a bathroom (I live in NYC after all).
While we’re on the topic of space, this apartment was enormous. Another point in favor of renting luxury apartments. We had an enormous living room with a couch and two comfy chairs, a dining room table for six and, drumroll please….a kitchen complete with a refrigerator and washing machine! Washing machine! What a vacation luxury. When I found out about this amenity, the size of my packing load instantly shrunk, now knowing that I could do a load of laundry. This meant much more room for shopping! (My husband sighed)
The next thing I noticed was that we were alone. Blissfully alone! We didn’t have to worry about maids interrupting for turndown service, about concierges calling to check in on us, we were brilliantly alone–in Paris! Time to go out and see the city! After we got dressed we sat in our living room and pondered what we should do first, a question that I usually call the concierge about. Hmm…
At first this seemed like a somewhat daunting realization but then what I found was that it felt like a much more authentic experience with Paris. Being on my own forced me to really get to know the city, to talk to the locals about recommendations and to really find my way around on my own, which as it turns out was an awesome experience when all is said and done. Although I enjoy the finer things in life, I hate visiting a city and feeling like I just had the cookie-cutter, tourist experience. I like to feel the pulse of the city’s soul, to go to the local hotspots, to experience its wonders like a native. Doing so is difficult to do in most hotels where everything from the decor to the menus are set by upper-management of the hotel who might live across the ocean. Staying in an apartment, you escape the predictability of a hotel room and are able to experience unique decor designed by the owner. Our apartment was art-deco style and while it isn’t necessarily the way I would decorate my own place, I thoroughly enjoyed its homeiness–its mustard-velvet couches, the modern artwork in the living room and even the naughty sketches that adorned the bedroom walls. It was a place to call home.
Staying in an apartment though, I must be honest you do forego a few things that hotels offer, which one might miss. Amenities like daily maid service, having someone make your bed and tidy up were missed a little. And I’m not a room-service person but if you are, you don’t have this option of course. However, what you give up in some areas, you gain in others. You have a washing machine and can easily launder your own towels at any time you like. Room service is also less of a necessity since you can keep a few of your favorite goodies on hand in your own kitchen. And as I said, although you lose a few things like those mentioned above, you do gain others like more space and privacy, which are not overrated.
Avenue Story provided me with an authentic and amazing experience with Paris. After my stay I revisited their website to check out the photos and see how realistic they were. That’s the travel writer in me right there. I couldn’t believe it, I had been worrying that the photos would exaggerate how nice a place was but in reality the pictures actually didn’t do it justice. The detailed descriptions were all accurate too, as well as insider notes about the location/ambience.
The staff of Avenue Story was so helpful in every way and responded to all requests in a timely (almost immediately) manner. For instance, when I attempted to do a load of laundry I found myself bewildered as to how to turn the machine on. Sophie sent me directions immediately and offered to come over at a time convenient for me to show me in person. Avenue Story also offers concierge services for anything you might need from arranging transportation for your arrivals/departures to filling your fridge so when you arrive it will be fully stocked.
Avenue Story’s team provided support from beginning to end–from helping choose an apartment that is the ideal combination of size, location, style and amenities. I really was impressed with their involvement. They weren’t just a broker who facilitated a key swap, they really helped tailor our stay based on my individual tastes and preferences.
Staying at an apartment not only offers an authentic experience with the city but it is also a much more affordable option often than hotels. The apartment I stayed in goes for €1200 for 3 nights. This apartment can comfortably sleep four and has two in suite bathrooms. This is an incredible value for your money anywhere but especially in Paris. Having a kitchen also helps save money as you can keep a few essentials in the kitchen. We loved having a few of our favorite snacks and of course the opportunity to cook a few things to save a few bucks.
The bottom line: I loved my stay here and found it to be a fabulous and more affordable way to experience authentic luxury in Paris. I couldn’t get enough of this balcony and will miss it every day for the rest of my life!
*I was a guest of Avenue Story but as always opinions herein are always my own. Also, these photos are all my own, none are professional so you can rest assure the apartment and its views are really as incredible as they look*