Excuse Me, Does This Apartment Come With Transsexual Prostitutes?

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Moving To France

This post is about our house hunting adventures. For obvious reasons, our bid to to star on House Hunters International was unsuccessful. Rather than bore you with all the nitty, gritty details about all the places we saw, I will just give you the highlights.

5. Starting with a bang. By far, the best apartment that we looked at was the first one we saw. It had everything: a brand new kitchen, new bathrooms, a projection TV with a ten foot drop down screen, and, wait, did you just read what I said? IT HAD A GIANT FUCKING TV! Watching TV is not something we had even planned on doing while in France, but the opportunity to watch French TV shows (Mime General hospital, Mime-day night football, Reno Mime-11) was astounding. The living areas and bedrooms were all old and charming while the other stuff was sleek and modern where you wanted it to be. We would have beamed with pride to live in such a house. At first, we didn’t like the location, though, because it was located in the Seventeenth Arrondissement and we felt that to be seventeenth at anything wass clearly not good enough for us. Later, we went back to the neighborhood for dinner and found tons of cool little streets with bakeries, butchers, restaurants and wine caves. Even though it was pretty far away from Malcolm’s school and Amy’s work, we realized that were never going to find a better place to live. By the time, though two days later, that we realized just how cool it was, it had already been rented. Dang.

4. Paris has its share of shitty apartments as well. The second place we looked at was quite crappy, even though the rent was exactly the same as the first. Everything about the second apartment reminded me of something I would have rented in college. The kitchen was dark, gloomy and useful only for using the microwave. The family room had orange couches that gave off different aromas depending where on the couch you were seated. The bathrooms looked like those found in a Supermax prison. The bedrooms were tiny, and oddly furnished. (One of them had three beds in it. Maybe it WAS previously used as a prison?) I found myself holding my breath while touring the apartment, and exhaled contentedly when we left. Yuck.

3. Elevators are great way to grope your neighbors. French elevator technology has progressed to the point where it can be considered mid-18th century. Seriously, the rickety old clap traps they have going there make you want to hug every hydraulic engineer you meet in the US. (Side note, hydraulic engineers are not used to being hugged. Proceed with caution.) To say that most French elevators are only built for two people is to oversell the capacity by about one person. Elevators are generally no bigger than a coffin, and, god forbid, if you ride in one with someone you don’t know well, parts of your junk will touch theirs and vice-versa. This can make for some awkward conversations when you are in one with, say, a relocation consultant that you have only just met. While riding in these tiny boxes, I could never really get over the sensation that at the very least, I could be buried in the thing that I was going to die in. As such, we took the stairsĀ  a lot.

2. Malcolm has weird criteria for evaluating apartments. In every single apartment we entered, Malcolm took his shoes off at the door, bee-lined it for the bedrooms, found the bedroom with the most desks, set up his stuffed animals on the desk chair, crawled into bed and started reading. He didn’t care if the kitchen looked like straight out of prison. He didn’t care if it even had a kitchen, for that matter (I don’t think he went into a single one!) He didn’t even care about the giant fucking TV. He just wanted a lot of desks and a nice comfy place to read his books. About halfway through each tour, we’d hear Malcolm shout, “I like this one, let’s get it!” The last apartment we looked at had four desks in it and, despite the many flaws (view of crappy 50’s apartment high-rise close by, kitchen tailor made for a submarine, lobby that looked like basement of serial killer) he still talks about it as if it is the one we are going to live in. He will be severely disappointed when we do arrive in Paris.

1. OK, time for the payoff: I fell in love with a neighborhood. It’s called Auteuil. If that looks like it has a lot of vowels in it, you are correct. In fact, it is pronounced using sounds that have no match in the English language. Every time we tried to pronounce it, our relocation consultant crooked her head at us and asked what the hell we had just said. We ended up just calling it Tatooine to avoid confusion. It seemed idyllic. It is still called a village, even though it is in Paris proper. It has a central district that has many nice little shops, (including one that sells nothing but foie gras!) and some restaurants. What struck us most was how green everything was. Every street seemed to be lined on both sides by big honkin’ trees and, considering we live on a street with big honkin’ trees, it seems a perfect match. We hope to be able to settle there when we find a permanent home.

One major draw to the area was its proximity to the Park, Bois de Boulogne. This park is almost three times the size of central park in New York and promised to offer us tons of space to enjoy outdoor activities on afternoons and weekends. I asked our relo person to give us a tour of the park so we could see all that it had to offer. Somewhere in my head, I remembered watching a French movie which depicted nighttime scenes at the park involving a lot of oddly masculine prostitutes. So, I asked our guide whether that was only at night and where all that kind of stuff took place. She demurred, opting instead to show us the carnage instead. Driving down the main street (dare I say “vein?”) of the park at two o’clock in the afternoon on a Thursday, we began seeing men dressed as whores. Some were on benches waiting for customers. Some were walking with customers into the nearby bushes for some shenanigans. Others were in various stage of cleaning themselves up. Having grown up visiting my mom in the emergency room, I learned that in some circumstances, you just don’t want to look behind the curtain. Horrible, frightening scenes take place behind the curtains, it’s much better to keep your eyes pointed forward and save yourself the therapy. Despite this training left me and when I saw a flash of something red in some bushes to my right, I glanced over. Sadly for me, it was someone cleaning themselves up and I had the unfortunate luck of seeing something I really didn’t want: dangle. Dangle is not something you generally want to see while touring a park with your family.

Mommy, what's dangle?

Mommy, what’s dangle?

I regretted my decision to look behind the curtain immediately. With eyes firmly focused out the horizon directly in front of us, we eventually made our way out of the park. I don’t know what made the scene so interesting to me, was it the fact that they prostitutes were out in the middle of the day on a weekday? Why were they all transvestites? Are the female prostitutes confined to the Moulin Rouge? So many questions, so few answers. (It’s not like I was going to ask the woman from Crown relocation where all the female hos were!) So, in the end, Tatooine had somewhat of a taint on it. To be sure, we will have to do some research to figure out where in the park we can go without a husky voiced harlot soliciting us. Then again, sharing a park 3 times the size of Central Park is a whole lot better than sharing an elevator.

And that is how our househunting went.

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