The Paris apartment was the first accommodation I pinned down, way back in March or April. Partly because those accommodations go quickly, and secondly so I would have a greater incentive to stay in the game and not back out.
I had never been to Paris before and studying the map still didn’t give me a complete sense of where would be best to stay. For you can study all you want, but it’s nothing compared to being on the ground in the city, understanding how public transportation works and what a neighborhood actually feels like.
The apartment was in Montmartre, and it turned out to be a spectacular choice. When you think “Montmartre” you might just think “artists” and “Sacre Coeur,” but you might also think “sleaze” since the area around the Moulin Rouge is known for its sex shops. Thanks to Google Streetview I could do a good check of the neighborhood – which was a few blocks away from the Moulin Rouge - and it was advertised as a “family apartment.”
Nothing to fear. It was a great apartment, very non-touristy neighborhood, grocery store next door, three boulangeries on the block, fine restaurants everywhere, ordinary take-away food everywhere, the Metro down the block, two good bus lines, Sacre Coeur up the hill, and every once in a while..parades.
The Drehers stayed on the other side of town, right next to the Luxembourg Gardens, and that definitely has its advantages as well. But all in all, we were good where we were – and the management company is really the best.
From Paris we took the train to Lausanne, where we stayed in this hotel – Hotel des Voyageurs - for two nights. As is the case with everything in Switzerland it was expensive – sort of insanely expensive when compared to what you’d get in the US – even in a larger city – for the same price. BUT it was super clean – just immaculate – well located, and the breakfast was fine. Still, I’d rather stay in an apartment than in a single room with three beds….I wasn’t sad to leave.
Then it was almost a week in Padua in this great apartment. As I’ve said before, I had envisioned that we’d be staying in Venice for this part of the trip, and I am SO GLAD we didn’t. Padua was great, and this apartment was perfectly located right next to three major piazzas and a couple of bustling markets. 2 bedrooms, one with a full/queenish sized bed, the other with a twin and a trundle. Public tranportation very convenient, and once you actually get to the train station (a fifteen minute walk or 5 minute tram/bus ride) it’s about 30-40 minutes to Venice.
One more hotel…this one in Assisi. Hotel Pallotta. Assisi is small, of course, so you really can’t go wrong on location, unless you have mobility issues, and then I’m not sure you want to be in Assisi at all. So yes, this was well located. The room was, once again, clean, with very attentive housekeeping. It was, however, tiny with a ridiculous bathroom.
Europeans are known for having creative shower arrangements which are often puzzling to Americans because the enclosures may seem insanely…non-enclosed. This is almost a self-parody of “Weird European showers that spread water everywhere” because, well…that’s what it seems designed to do. Granted, given the limitations of this building which was undoubtedly not originally a hotel, and probably built about 400 years ago, the challenge to even construct an ensuite full bathroom was considerable.
Finally – Rome. This is the 3rd apartment in which I’ve stayed in Rome, and it’s right around the corner from first, back in 2006, right off the Borgo Vittorio near the Vatican. Many people prefer to stay on the other side of the Tiber – near Piazza Navona or the Spanish Steps or the Coliseum - and I originally thought I might do the same this trip, since I never have. But the prices were higher over there, and I could never find one that was the right size (a friend would be coming over, so we needed more space) at the right price with enough positive reviews.
So I shot back over the river and found this one, which was spectacular. Highly recommended.
A few notes about all of the accommodations:
- All of the apartments had washing machines, but only one had a dryer (not unexpected in Europe). I did some airdrying, but in most places,I found a nearby laundromat in walking distance, took the wet clothes over there, spent a couple of Euros and 30 minutes, and got the job done.
- La Four a Sel had full laundry facilities in a separate building for all guests.
- All except Tennessus and La Bobiniere had Wi-Fi (that’s a requirement for which I look ), and all were pretty dependable connections except for the Assisi hotel. I couldn’t connect to that one except for in the common area. Those thick stone walls are a signal killer, and not everyone has heard of the concept of the wi-fi booster.
- I booked the Paris apartment in the spring, but everything else I booked the last couple of weeks in October for November stays – even the Rome apartment.
What the great rentals on this trip had in common wasn’t just the physical comfort and convenience available – they were all owned and/or managed by really helpful people with a passion for making the guest’s stay great. Lovely, lovely people, at every stop!