Apartment Living in Paris

A view of the column with Napoleon at the top on Place Vendome. Napoleon had this column made of the melted down cannon balls and cannons that he captured during his military victories.

Ah, The Joys of Apartment Living

We own our apartment, which is what they call them here in France. I suppose it would be called a condiminium in the States but there isn’t any separation between units. I think this is one of the reasons I never bought a condiminium when I lived in the States-I just couldn’t see paying all that money and then hearing my neighbors through the walls or walking on the floor above my head. Well, that isn’t an option here-no free standing houses for sale in Paris. We are on the 3rd floor-4th if you are an American-and we have neighbors.
We share a wall with only one person, but she isn’t very happy with us. It isn’t that we are having wild parties until all hours, playing loud music until the sun comes up. We just don’t have that exciting a social life and we go to bed fairly early. The problem is that we occasionally rent our apartment, let friends use it, and an occasional relative will sleep in our apartment when we aren’t in Paris. When over neighbor lady moved in, we endured a week of what sounded like jack hammering as she did renovation. Then I heard days of work with a hammer and chisel. It turned out-somehow-that she was turning the bathroom into her bedroom and was getting all of the tile off of her wall. There was such work going on, that I took a framed photo off of the wall so it wouldn’t come crashing to the floor with all of the vibation.
So, it isn’t our fault that her bed is up against the wall of our bathroom. This isn’t usually a problem. We aren’t in there very early and don’t take showers at night. However, this hasn’t proved to be the case with others who have stayed here. One guy is a real music lover and goes to clubs very late, as in at 2 AM or so, and he takes a shower before he goes out. We have heard about this each time from our neighbor. At first I thought we should ask him to take showers earlier, but come on, its his life too. She also reported that one night someone was having sex in the shower-she could clearly hear this in her bed. I have no idea who this was. All I know for certain is that it wasn’t me. The days when it might have been me are long past. I’m old enough that it seems like a real good chance you could seriously hurt yourself trying this. After all don’t most accidents in the home happen in the bathroom? Anyway, we hear about each shower taking place at such an hour as it awakens her.
In the apartment above us, lives a cranky little girl with her parents. I hear her whining and crying as the mother tries to coax her up the stairs. The little girl wants to be carried but the mother usually can’t and is trying to teach her to do it all on her own. I have never exchanged more than “Bonjour” with this lady, but this is what I think is going on. In any case, this little girl is one of those kids who whines and cries when she wakes up. And, God forbid, if she is awakened in the middle of the night, she screams and not for just a short time, either. I hear one of her parents get up, walk across the floor into her room and try and calm her. It doesn’t help that the father works until 2 AM every night. How do I know this? Because he drops his shoes into his closet when he get home. Thud, Thud. I hear it each night. Many times he wakes up the little girl when he comes home. Sometimes, when he wakes me up closing doors, dropping shoes, etc., I turn on my TV to try and get to sleep again. A couple of times, the noise from my TV, wafts its way through my ceiling into the little girl’s room and wakes her up. Once she is up in the mornings and through crying, she is extremely active doing her renditition of a pony running back and forth across the floor for what seems like ages.
Incredibly, at five in the morning, I can hear the RER-a metro train that goes outside Paris into the suburbs-go roaring on its way deep underground from the station as the first train of the day. It isn’t extremely loud, just a distant rumble.
In the summer, I have an electric fan going in the bedroom and don’t hear as much noise. It is when I put the fan away, that I become an unknown listner of the goings on of my neighbors. I hear people clumping down the stairs in the morning on the way to work and the reverse in the evenings. I hear water trickling down pipes as showers are taken. I smell what our neighbors are cooking for dinner. I don’t smell cigarettes in our apartment but do get that strong smell at the bottom of the stairs where the apartment owner does his smoking. The whole area outside his door reeks of cigarettes. This is the same guy who has put plants all over the interior courtyard where the residents all go to put their garbage in the green containers. He even had an aquarium out there for a while but I think it was too cold for the fish and it has been removed. His window opens right out onto the courtyard and I think he likes it to look like his own private garden.
I do occasionally wear earplugs but I can’t when I have my clock set for an early morning wakeup. Maurice usually sleeps through everything. I guess I should look at it all as a sort of social experiement, a look into the lives of a group of Parisians living in an apartment building in the 12th arrondissement. I don’t find people friendly here. We all say “Bonjour” when we pass on the stairs but no one goes out of their way to speak to each other that I can see. All of my information has been gathered by my ears alone.