Mister Robert Potter is an American writer, who found his Parisian home with Les Studios de Paris and stayed with us for 3 months. He says he loves coming to Paris to practice his French and is never too tired to discover a new Parisian curiosity (his latest passion being the underground world of Parisian metro stations). We are hereby happy to share with you his specific writer’s perspective on the fascinating city of Paris, as well as his impressions on his sojourn at the Chez Sam apartment, where he lived, and on the experience of renting with Les Studios de Paris.
Mr. Potter, what you do and where you come from?
I write books and produce documentary films. My current projects include a science-fiction and metaphysical exploration in three volumes and a photographic essay of the métro stations of Paris. I live near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but I love traveling in the States and in Europe, especially France.
How did you choose to come to Paris this time?
My stay in Paris this winter and spring was ostensibly for the purpose of working on my current book—the third volume in a trilogy, called “Letters from 500” (cf. http://www.lettersfrom500.com/). I also gave myself an auxiliary project that will likely turn into a photographic book on the métro stations of Paris. I will produce a short documentary film on this same subject. In the first two months I lived in Paris, I visited all 299 (maybe 300) métro stations and photographed them above and below ground. This required a lot of traveling within the city — hundreds of kilometers. I estimate that I climbed over 20,000 steps in three months in the underground world of this city. I also walked, on average, about 10 kilometers per day. I got to know Paris far better than I had ever before hoped. It was a most excellent adventure!
So how did you find Les Studios de Paris? What made you chose us?
Over several months I searched the Internet for apartment rentals in Paris and came up with a number of different options. Then I checked with web review sites and travel blogs to find which agencies had the best reputations. Les Studios de Paris had the best reputation and, ultimately, the best-looking, furnished apartments in my price range. I examined photos and specs from many dozens of possibilities with various agencies, all over Paris. I was looking for sunny windows with a writing desk or table near a window. When I contacted the agency, I found the personnel to be very helpful and friendly. It made me begin to trust. Trust is a major factor when doing something like this — namely, sending 4,000 € to complete strangers in a foreign country as my initial-payment.
What did you like about staying with us?
Following on the last answer, I would say ‘trust’ is the most important thing. Of course, there are many other factors. From the moment of my arrival, I felt welcomed and well attended to — by bright, energetic, lovely young women. What a surprise and a joy! Bright, energetic, friendly young men would have been OK too, but this was especially delightful. Nearly everything about the apartment and its furnishing was very agreeable.
Over the course of my three-month stay, I had several occasions to ask for assistance with small matters in the apartment. Every time, there was a prompt and totally satisfactory response from the agency personnel. I can’t say enough about how important the friendliness and availability of agency staff was to me. Totally satisfying! On this basis, I have already recommended Les Studios de Paris to a number of friends and I will be happy to do the same for others.
How did you choose the “Chez Sam” apartment?
As I mentioned above, it was the window with the writing table that finally persuaded me. I also knew the ‘Abbesses’ neighborhood from previous visits. The amenities of the apartment were just what I needed: separate bedroom, sofa-bed for guests in the living room and high-speed Internet access. And it was blissfully quiet at night.
How did a typical day in The “Chez Sam” start for you?
I would shower, dress, check my emails quickly and review the material I had written the previous day, while having a small coconut yoghurt. Then I would often hike over the ‘shoulder’ of the butte to the north side of Montmartre for my coffee. I had discovered an inconspicuous café (Au Relais) on the corner of rue Lamarck and rue Mont Cenis, thanks to Eva Leandre’s wonderful book, “Montmartre, Avec Amour”. It was a gift with the apartment, and I read it cover-to-cover in both French and English. The unassuming nature and friendly staff at Au Relais were just right for spending an hour with my laptop, writing. I became known there for my ‘usual’ order: The barman one morning finally asked, “Comme d’habitude, monsieur?” It consisted of “un café allongé et des tartines, doucements grillées, avec confiture d’abricot”.
Some mornings I would stay closer to home. I would just wander down to my favorite neighborhood boulangerie and bring back a croissant or pain au chocolat to have with coffee in my kitchen. Thank you, Les Studios, for the supply of coffee capsules.
What was your favourite place in the apartment? Where was your safe spot?
The dining room table, which for me was a ‘writing desk next to the window’. I would sit for hours there, typing on my keyboard, sipping coffee or wine and occasionally gazing out at the local rooftops and the courtyard below — very tranquil and pleasant. The thought that the great City of Lights was out there whenever I wanted to venture forth made it even more pleasant. And every day I would.
What do you love about Paris the most?
The mystery! I have explored the city for years on various visits, but I never run out of new places to discover. On this trip, I was getting very familiar with the métro system and the neighborhoods around each of the stations. In the end, however, I realized that there are many other ‘quartiers’ in the interstices between stations that I have not yet visited. This leaves much fertile ground for future explorations. I love the neighborhoods of Paris.
Also, what I ‘love most’ about Paris is its sidewalk cafés, and merely sitting with a glass of pastis or a cup of coffee and watching the endless parade of people passing by.
You’re a writer. How did you choose the topic of your book about Paris?
It began as a simple, strong interest in métro stations from previous visits to Paris. I had photographed certain stations before because I found them to be fascinating spaces. The imaginative décor and style from various historical periods, the endless stairways and connecting tunnels, the homeless people camping, the wandering musicians — all are fascinating.
When I began to plan my stay this time, it occurred to me that a good way to get to know the city — intimately, from the ‘ground up’, so to speak — would be to visit all the stations. Little did I know how exhausting that would be, nor how rewarding. I haven’t looked into this, but I have a feeling there aren’t many people who have visited and photographed each métro station in Paris. In three months’ time, it was a very strenuous exercise! As I was nearing completion of the project, a Parisian I met through a friend informed me that it was ‘interdit’ (forbidden) to photograph métro stations below ground. Oops! I didn’t know! Well, it’s too late to stop now.
Which metro station would you recommend us as the most stunning, then, and why?
Above ground, my favorite métro station — like that of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain” — is Lamarck-Caulaincourt (Ligne 12). Underground, my favorite is Cité (Ligne 4), with its high-arched and white-tiled vault with great light globes. My favorite art nouveau station — an above-ground shelter — is Porte Dauphine (Ligne 2). There are many other very charming stations, scattered everywhere in this magical city.