For the consummate francophile, it just doesn’t get any better. A cozy apartment on Paris’ Ile St. Louis provided us with new perspectives and a peaceful oasis during a recent stay in our favorite city. Although we have visited Paris on a regular basis since 1969, this was our first apartment experience.
Only six blocks long by two blocks wide, the Ile St. Louis is the oldest preserved section of Paris. Its narrow streets boast elegant 17th-century townhouses, many designed by Louis Le Vau, architect for Versailles and the Louvre. Discrete plaques indicate former homes of the island’s luminaries: Balzac, Voltaire, Zola, Cezanne, Delacroix and Colette.
Residents of the island, known as Louisiens, are reputed to venture rarely to the “mainland,” or Paris. And why should they? The Ile St. Louis, a microcosm of French life, meets every need with its patisseries, charcuteries, tea rooms, bistros and brasseries. There is a chocolate factory, a creperie and an olive-oil shop founded in 1800. Several restaurants though not Michelin starred offer attractive fare for every palate and pocketbook. Probably the biggest draw to the island is Berthillon’s famous ice cream and sorbet, considered the best in Paris.
For all its tranquility, the Ile St. Louis is only a foot bridge away from the Ile de la Cite and its many tourist attractions: Notre Dame, the Memorial to the Deportation, Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie. Bridges also connect Ile St. Louis to the Left and Right Banks. There is no metro station on Ile St. Louis, but it is only a short walk to the St. Paul station (Right Bank) or the Cite station (Ile de la Cite).
Our apartment was arranged through Chez Vous, located in Sausalito, Calif. They have been in business for 25 years and represent apartments in several of Paris’ most desirable arrondissements. Our top-floor apartment, dubbed “Romance” by Chez Vous, was comprised of two levels. The lower level had a well-equipped but tiny kitchen with an electric stove, toaster oven, microwave, coffeemaker and combination washer/dryer. Dining/sitting area and full bath with generous tub are also on the lower level. The loft bedroom is reached by a steep staircase, which would not be suitable for all clients. We found a very complete list of contacts for services, tourism and emergencies awaiting us in the apartment. Entry to the building is through a romantic porte-cochere into a cobblestone courtyard. The two-person elevator further heightens the intimate atmosphere.
Much has been written about the financial advantages of off-season travel with respect to air fares and hotels. Chez Vous offers 25 percent off rentals in August and November and through February with the exception of certain holidays. By preparing our own coffee and buying croissants at the local boulangerie, we enjoyed the traditional French breakfast at minimum cost. The Ile has many shops offering emporter, or take-outs, such as pizza, crepes, quiche, sandwiches and salads. We bought these for lunch and splurged on dinner.
Gayle Christensen is a travel consultant with Alamo World Travel, in Alamo, Calif.
During our week’s stay, we revisited many highlights using “City Walks: Paris,” a set of 50 cards and maps for self-guided walks. Most of the well-detailed walks were one to two miles in length. These cards are available at www.chroniclebooks.com.
We also took a half-day Da Vinci Code Tour covering locations crucial to Dan Brown’s bestseller. The tour starts at Place Vendome, proceeds to the Louvre and ends at St. Sulpice; www.viator.com
Chez Vous can provide photos and descriptions of properties as well as information on nearby transportation and attractions.