We leave the “Englishman in New York” to Sting, because we have a better song to sing to you – the one of the “New Yorker in Paris”. Read on to learn the lyrics!
There was the usual hustle and bustle in the office. A tenant just phoned in utter panic because the lamp in her living room had gone off. The Booking Department was industriously typing important emails at the speed of light. And the accountant was making infinite calls to property owners in order to clarify some financial figures. One of the architects walked in unannounced to share the happy news. A little newborn baby studio – just a stone’s throw away – was recently refurbished and immediately available for rent. In the meantime, an owner waved hello from a distance, a scooter almost crashed into a car in the street corner and some excited tourists took numerous pictures of ‘Collignon’s Grocery store’, better known as “the store from the ‘Amélie-movie’”.
It was a normal day in this little village, called Montmartre…
When suddenly, he walked in. A young man with quite an adventurous look in his eye and some backpack, carelessly flung over his shoulder. Smiling brightly, like the first settlers of America could have done, while treasuring the few dimes left in their pockets as much as the idea of a new world in their hearts. The office froze for a second, mesmerized by this sudden incarnation of the American Dream. He broke the momentary silence by asking for an available studio. The booking girls looked at each other. All the apartments were rented out and the calendar disclosed no immediate availability. He took the time to explain his extraordinary situation. He came to Paris to get lost and to wander from one hotel to another, in search of all those new experiences that could be wrung out of a city visited many times before.
No, he hadn’t booked any hotel rooms in advance. Yes, he did know that it was highly unlikely to find one now, at the height of the season. And yes, he was looking for a flat from tonight. For how long? He couldn’t tell. “A few days or a week, maybe?” he said with the smile of a kid, who hoped to be giving a serious, adult answer.
“So when, a few minutes later, I spied a storefront called Studios Paris advertising short-term rentals, I made a decision. Wandering Paris was fun; carrying all my belongings with me, rain or shine, was less so. But an apartment would be more than a glorified storage locker or a spot for an afternoon nap — it would be a little corner of Paris to claim as my own. Into Studios Paris I walked.”
And then, in the same casual way as he walked into our office, a solution magically appeared.
A little new studio had come along this morning, waiting to meet its new tenant. It was not even in the database yet and was unusual enough with its small size and 7th floor location, but just like him, it was so out of the ordinary, so different and special, that the match seemed perfect!
“ONE hour later, I was looking out from the sole window of The Eagle’s Nest, my newly renovated seventh-floor garret, at what might be the best view of Paris in Paris. From Montreuil in the east to the Bois de Boulogne, it was unobstructed: the towers, the domes, the mansard rooftops, the slight sinuous suggestion of the Seine. For the next six days, I would look at this view every morning as I drank my coffee. I’d look at this view at sunset, after returning from my wanderings for a shower, a rest and a glass of wine. I’d watch it in the driving rain, and at midnight, when searchlights spun around the Eiffel Tower. The apartment itself might be only 150 square feet, with a private toilet out in the hall, but my living room was all of Paris.”
The six days of his Parisian visit passed quickly, however. So now he was standing downstairs, waiting for his local host to return to him the sole key we had to the apartment. He was dead punctual. Not a hair of a second late. But – as in every curious story – in this one too, there is a tiny, little game-changer.
“When at last the morning came to check out of The Eagle’s Nest, I took one more look at the sunlit view and could see almost nowhere I hadn’t set foot. No doubt secrets remained, but they would be revealed in time. It was 11:30. The rental agency’s rep would be downstairs, waiting for me to let her in. I patted my back pocket, heard the reassuring clink of my keys and walked into the hall, closing the door behind me. Then I froze. That clink was not keys but coins. I was locked out, just as my wife and I had been 13 years before.”
So there he was, sitting on the old wooden staircase, smiling apologetically while explaining that he never really puts coins in his pockets. On the bright side, this amusing accident opened up some time for us to chat in the empty staircase. It was there and then that he first mentioned he was a writer for The New York Times. In fact, getting lost in different cities and writing about it was, sort of, his specialty. Our chat was interrupted by a phone call announcing that a second pair of keys has been surprisingly found! Matt Gross, the New York Times writer, offered right away to go get them himself and to hand them to us later, because…
“…until then there was nothing to do but walk out — as I’d done a hundred times before, as I hope to do a thousand times more — into the streets of Paris, with no clear idea of where I was going, or what I would do when I got there.”
That was the last time we saw him. Or was it? One month later, we received a big envelope with 10 copies of The New York Times Travel magazine, where Matt’s article, titled “Lost in Paris”, hit the front page. Shortly after, random people started pointing at our office, whispering ‘That’s the agency from ‘The New York Times’. Some were even happy enough to take that famous peek from The Eagle’s Nest after…
Right now we have no idea which invisible cities is Matt presently getting lost in. But with all our heart, we wish him even more inspiring accidents all over our enchanting globe. Because he knows how to make the best of them!