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Paris Vacation Rental Scams: How to Avoid Them & Live the Dream Safely

The rooster, the emblem of France, as a door knocker and a friendly neighborhood dog keeping watch (mksfca, Ian T. McFarland)

This time last year, I was packing up my life to move to Paris for three months. I remember the butterflies spinning inside me as I made my way to my first Paris apartment in the hours just before sunrise. I was nervous, but delighted to finally live the French life.

Navigating the maze of cozy streets, shopping for my basic necessities (mainly cheese) daily, and assembling effortless meals in my tiny kitchen, I can understand why living in your very own Paris apartment is the quintessential American girl dream. There’s really no other drug better than living in Paris (except for maybe living in New York City, but that can be battled out over here.)

However, renting just the right apartment for you can be quite a process and one with its share of potholes, especially if you do what I did for part of my stay abroad: I rented one of my flats online, sight unseen.

Now I may approach this with some bias, as I do work for Haven in Paris (a boutique vacation rental company) and we recently discovered that someone, pretending to be the owner of one of our flats on Craig’s List, very nearly scammed a couple people who by chance found us before putting down any sort of deposit. But I want to write this with as much objectivity as I can muster. And since I always rent apartments when I travel, I felt compelled to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained from first-hand experience.

Even Parisian window latches are beautiful (artistfriendship)

First, you should take note that there are anywhere between one and four sometimes-lovely people involved with an apartment rental. There’s the renter – that’s you. There’s the owner who actually owns the apartment, but they often hire the agent to do all the nitty gritty. The agent typically manages the rental process and greets you at the flat. Sometimes agents also list their flats on vacation rental sites or Craigslist and sometimes they have their own web sites. (For your information, Haven in Paris is actually an agent, with exclusive rights to rent our owner’s properties and we’ve used all the previously mentioned venues to match renters with our apartments.)

Finally, there’s the most dreaded member of this process, and one I hope you never encounter, the scammer. They pretend to be an agent or an owner, but really lie by attempting to rent you the most amazing Paris pied-à-terre for just a few Euros. Oh, glorious Craigslist, please forgive me but scammers usually hang out on you.

Unfortunately, scammers are rampant these days. They’re showing phony apartments on vacation rental sites, classified sites and on made-up agency sites. In fact, scammers tend to steal photos from legitimate agent sites only to showcase them elsewhere, usually for an unbelievable price.

Fortunately, a scammer never tricked me, but they’ve hoodwinked too many people, including a dear friend who contacted me moments before she sent off hundreds of Euros. Luckily I got to her in time, so here are a few bits of advice to consider before getting tricked: Continue Reading »

Posted in Travel | 11 Comments »

A Haven in Montmartre: Photographer Jenny Jimenez stays at Houdon

Jenny Jimenez, a talented Seattle wedding and portrait photographer, recently stayed at Haven in Paris’ Houdon Montmartre 1-bdrm. Since a photographer can never leave her camera for long, Jenny and her husband Robin Dupuy logged their Paris stay through these amazing pictures… Which we’re happy to share with you now! Be sure to also check out her great blog and pics from her recent trip to Iceland.

Staying at Houdon was a great opportunity to live life as a Parisian would, with our own neighborhood boulangerie around the corner along with other locally-owned specialty shops.  Two days of our one week stay were spent walking around Montmartre and getting to know the ins & outs of our little Abbesses part of it…

View from the Houdon balcony
Winding 5 floor walk up to the apartment. It became old hat by the second day. My buns thank you
Left: our bright, naturally lit kitchen with lots of helpful amenities. Right: our greeter Evelyn cut a bouquet of fresh flowers to welcome us
The best baguette in Paris, from Le Grenier à Pain

Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Reader Tips & Reviews | 16 Comments »

Paris Restaurant Etiquette: Dining Discreetly

Dining in Paris (artistfriendship)

Sometimes, I’m still intimidated by Paris. If the city were a person, it would probably be your elegant-but-somewhat-terrifying grandmother. She’ll help you become more refined, but might also scare the heck out of you in the process.

This is especially true at mealtime, and when dining out in Paris, you’ll notice there’s an unspoken code that helps to keep order. If you haven’t quite cracked it yet, don’t be dismayed. Here are a few rules to get you started

Café seating and le tip (Dan Strange, Leo Reynolds)

Where to sit. At many cafes and brasseries, seating is a bit of a free-for-all, but there’s no need to feel like a deer in the headlights. Just walk in and greet the host (or whomever seems to be running things). This person should give you an indication of whether you should wait to be seated or whether you can “install yourself” (installez-vous) anywhere.

Dress for success. Super fancy three-star restaurants aside, most eateries in Paris are “casual.” Nonetheless, the French still manage to make casual look cool, neat and discreet. Therefore, ditch the athletic gear, sweatpants, and baseball hats. And when in doubt, layer.

L’addition s’il vous plaît! (Alex S.)

Talk softly. There’s an unspoken agreement among French diners that if everyone chats quietly, no one will need to shout. (When they want to shout, they head to New York). When in Paris, respect the sound equilibrium and do your best to keep your conversation level low.

Respect the timetable. French kitchens run on a tight schedule. While some restaurants stay open throughout the day and night (look for a “service continu” sign), many others have explicit opening hours. Lunch is generally served from 12-2:30pm and dinner from 8-10pm. Plan to walk in during these times or, better yet, reserve in advance. Once you’re there, you can generally linger as long as you like. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living | 9 Comments »

Surviving Valentine’s Day in Paris

So in love, they don’t even need the sidewalk (Dutotime)

You know what I love about February in Paris? Well, for one thing, by some quirk of nature the sky that has been threatening to cave in on Paris for the past 4 months of winter suddenly breaks and Paris is blessed with a few almost-warm days of uninterrupted sunlight. All the left bank vampires come out of their lairs, café terraces once again fill up with sunglass-toting-espresso-drinking Parisians and for a small window of time we can almost imagine that one day it will be Spring again.

The second reason why I like Paris in February is that storefronts, restaurants and TV commercials remain remarkably red-heart free until, say, a week before the Big Day – which seems like a completely reasonable amount of time to either start fretting or preparing for the year’s Day of Love.

Paris: the capital of park-bench romances (Trevino)

This also means that you and I are free to either glide blissfully unaware past Valentine’s Day or design a holiday that actually means something, devoid of the pressure of a month’s worth of intense, color-and-sound coordinated marketing tactics — all leading up to one pretty intense day that once, in some lost galaxy far, far away, was intended to give us pause to reflect on how lucky we are to have love in our lives.

So. Far from my candy hearts and hallmark cards and overpriced roses and expensive restaurant reservations made 3 weeks ahead of time, I would like to propose an alternate holiday of sorts, made up of all the things I love most about Paris and, if I’m lucky (but this is not central to the plan), someone with whom to share these indulgences. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living | 10 Comments »

The Ten Never-Ending Trends of Parisian Shoppers

Ballet flats (Paris in Pink)

Casual shoppers, beware. The French sales are just around the corner and many a French fashionista is getting ready to pounce on items she has secretly coveted all Fall. In all honesty, though, the soldes are often the one moment of fashion folly many Parisiennes allow themselves. For decades, one market has proven remarkably resistant to passing trends: Paris. Despite jumping at the occasional fad (the Balmain-inspired shoulder pad, the hardware-adorned gladiator sandal), Parisian shoppers — both young and old — follow certain cardinal rules in their shopping habits, year-in and year-out.

The key to this eternal French chic may lie in a natural sense of restraint and discernment. In considering her past wardrobe choices, a French woman is less inclined to wonder, “What was I thinking?” because (most likely) it’s what she’s still thinking: invest in high-quality staples and err on the side of understated elegance.

An Hermes scarf, guaranteed to never go out of style (Paris in Pink)

Here are the most time-tested items that can aid your journey towards impeccable Parisian dressing. Continue Reading »

Posted in Parisian Living, Shopping | 22 Comments »

The Inside Scoop: A Foodie Tour of the Rue du Bac

Do you know Amy Reverdy, of the wonderful blog C’est La Me? If not,  prepare to be wooed. This sweet expat from California charms with her self-deprecating, I’m-too-west-coast-to-take-myself-seriously tales of adapting to life with the Frenchies. In this post she shares her mouth-watering Context food tour in Saint Germain with fellow HIP Paris contributor and fabulous Parisian foodie, Meg Zimbeck.

The Inside Scoop (Photo by Little Brown Pen)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live like a Parisian? Unless you’re prepared to travel with a dog or take up smoking, I think the easiest and most enjoyable way to experience la belle vie while visiting France is by shopping and eating.

I’ve been living in Paris for five years now. While I’d like to pretend that I spend my days strolling along selecting cheeses and chocolates from small shops, I’d be exaggerating. Sometimes I’m forced to go to the supermarket due to time constraints, hours of operation, or the simple fact that I need to buy toilet paper.

On the weekend, however, I really do try to frequent the farmer’s market and small shops in my quartier. Little by little, you start to develop a relationship with the vendors and they remember you. With my accent, it usually doesn’t take all that long.  My second visit to the produce shop on rue Mouffetard, I was greeted with “Bonjour, Miss California.” I’m still smiling. And a few weeks later, after I’d paid for all my fruits and vegetables, I realized that I’d forgotten a lime. When I told him it was for my vodka tonic, he placed it in my hand with a wink and refused my money.

Caramel pastry from La Patisserie des Rêves (Edwardkimuk)

Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Parisian Living, Tours and Classes | 9 Comments »

Chateau Richeux: A Decadent Escape from Paris

We don’t know about you, but we think we may just be starting to get sick of winter. Now that the novelty of bundling up in colorful tights, capes, gloves and scarves is starting to wear off, it’s time to turn our thoughts to the sweeter months and dream about once again lounging on café terraces, picnicking on the Pont Des Arts and taking weekend trips to La Baule. To help keep our minds on the prize, here is a lovely post by Andi (from the fantastic blog Misadventures with Andi) about what might just be the perfect springtime getaway from Paris…

Chateau RicheuxChateau Richeux, view of the chateau and a room (Courtesy of Chateaux Richeu)

If I could travel with anyone in the world, it would be with Anthony Bourdain. But since unfortunately that is not likely, for the time being I’ll just have to follow him on his excursions.  When I saw his show on Brittany where he highlighted Le Chateau Richeux owned by Chef Olivier Roellinger, I knew immediately that I must go there and experience it for myself.

And I was not disappointed. The harmony and aesthetics of this piece of heaven are unimaginable; every single sense has been accounted for. You must see it, hear it, smell it, feel it and taste it to understand.

Walking the grounds of the chateau, I noticed benches placed thoughtfully to encourage rest, relaxation and the errant daydream. I ran into a little cabin where bread is baked daily ‘a la tradition’, not only to service the hotel but also to satiate hungry wanderers such as myself.

Chef Roellinger’s Spices (Leafar.)

Passing through a garden of spices, I came upon a flower garden filled with dahlias and other floral species followed by a vegetable garden with tomatoes, peppers, basil and many species of pumpkin and squash — all this to service the chef’s restaurant, Le Coquillage, where garden finds accompany local seafood à merveille. Continue Reading »

Posted in Food, Travel | 3 Comments »

Happy New Year and Warm Wishes from HiP Paris

Paris in Pink

Bonne Année! During this time of deep, philosophical soul-searching, buoyed by the imminent successes of 2011, all of the ladies here at HiP Paris would like to take the opportunity to thank you, dear readers, for reading and contributing to our blog. You are what makes this such an amazing journey. We send you our warmest wishes for a wonderful year to come: may it be filled with joy and laughs, travels, adventures and new discoveries, beauty, sincerity, love and friendship. Happy New Year!

Paris in Pink

Photos by Camille from Paris in Pink – Camille is a French-American freelance writer living in Paris, and she adores pink! Check out her fabulous blog here. Written by Genevieve Sandifer for the Hip Paris blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

Posted in Events | 14 Comments »