Special Apartments, as you might expect, offers unique apartments in the very heart of Paris. If your looking for accommodation that exudes personality, charm and Parisian life, then Special Apartments will have you ticking off every box on your accommodation wish list. During my short sourjourn to Paris last year we stayed in the Marais district, above a boulangerie, right in the thick of handbag central, one block away from the metro, 100m from Restaurant Derriére and 10 mins walk to Merci for the best crumble I have ever had. It was ideal.
With every uneven, 15th century worn wooden step that I climbed up to our 2nd floor apartment, I dreamt of leaving my real life behind and running away to live in the Marais – forever.
Here is a peek inside the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ apartment, where I chose to see out my 10 days in Paris.
John and Regis from Special Apartments offer the penultimate in service, meeting us personally at the apartment late on a Monday evening to give us a tour and run down of where to eat, drink and shop and pulled out all stops to try and get us a table at Chateaubriand which normally requires booking months in advance.
We asked John to share with us his story of how he got into the enviable business of sourcing and providing unique accommodation…and just what he thinks of the George Pompidou Centre.
How long have you lived in Paris?
I’ve been living in Paris now since the beginning of 1986. I arrived as a young model in the middle of a really cold spell; the whole city was completely covered in snow; the sun was shining and there was a general strike (something that can happen here quite often) so I had to do all my castings on foot; it was one of the most magical memories that I have…
How did you get into the business of providing specialised accommodation?
Actually through a romantic meeting with my life partner Regis Maurin; he had just set up the company and I had an image consulting and event management company at the time. I suggested going into partnership with him and taking care of the website, PR, image etc… We started with just three or four apartments with the idea of personally decorating them and offering them for short-term rental. At the time, there was hardly anyone doing this in Paris and I thought it was a great idea to be able to live in Paris as a Parisian does. We now have about 46 apartments and have recently taken on some houses and villas in the south of France too.
Where is your favourite place to escape crowds in Paris?
Les Jardins du Palais Royal is a garden in the heart of Paris, just opposite the Louvre; there are arcaded galleries with some great fashion stores, cafés and restaurants, but it’s an oasis of calm.
Can you let us in on a little secret about Paris that only locals know?
I’d say the bottom of the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, between the Porte Saint Denis (an incredibly beautiful Arc de Triomphe, built by Louis XIV) and the Boulevard Magenta. Its a great market street with incredible food shops, cafés, restaurants which is becoming more and more popular with the young and trendy here. Tourists don’t know it so much yet, but for me its one of the central areas of Paris that is still authentic and multi-ethnic at the same time; A kind of New-New York, Paris style!
What is your most popular request from clients looking for accommodation?
To be in the very heart of the city, which all of our apartments are!
What is the most popular region/ area of Paris for tourists to stay?
Probably Ile Saint Louis.
Name your top 3 tips for doing as the locals do and avoid looking like a tourist.
1. Dress with style
2. Talk softly
3. Avoid restaurants with multi-language menus
What’s your opinion of the George Pompidou Centre?
Personally I think it’s brilliant, both for its architectural concept and the exhibitions and events it holds. The view from the top is also breathtaking at sunset!