I had spent a year in a functional, no-frills dorm in Nantes as a student, and was ready for my own little space (and EDF bill) as a TAPIF assistant. Before leaving California, I’d done a bit of browsing on leboncoin and appartager, and couldn’t decide if I liked better the idea of taking a tiny room in an old building in town, or a quaint cottage in a hameau that doesn’t show up on the map. But as much as I loved dreaming about my next move, I really dreaded the hunt.
After my car broke down, Phillip and I spent a memorable night in Nontron at my Lycée, where I had been happily promised a room, but had failed to mention the member of the opposite sex that I had brought along with me. Zut. We woke up early the following morning, hoping to hop out of there as fast as we could, though somehow got talked into a tour of the school animalerie – guinea pigs, chinchillas, snakes, frogs, that kind of thing. I blame myself.
No longer needing to keep up appearances (and I’m not too sure I made the best first impression), we zipped down the D675 to the D939 to Périgueux, where we started our apartment search. Kind of. I had neglected to do any research prior to our Périgordine début, so I had nary a phone number nor address, which complicates any house hunt, of course.
So our attention turned to finding an internet connection. Needless to say, this was a very difficult task in adorably podunk Périgueux – no “weefee” to be had, not even a wave. But we did find a “Centre Information Jeunesse” (CIJ) in what would become our beloved Place du Coderc, and decided to try our luck inside.
And what luck! We were greeted by a friendly, cheerful, is-she-even-really-French? woman who directed us to a free computer with internet connectivity that we could use. But first, she just had to ask…what are we doing in Périgueux? We explained and then exchanged confused looks when she started tapping away on her keyboard. And then she starting printing – pages and pages, and we were still confused. Then she was circling and crossing out and handing us a pile of papers. A private listing of rooms and apartments for rent in town, big enough for two, perfect for a student budget, on the better side of the river. We’d found gold! But then, furrowing her brow, the woman reached back for the packet and made a suggestion: “Maybe I should make the calls to the landlords for you two as well, if you’d like.” Music to our ears.
So she called, left messages, and sent us on our way (also recommending a restaurant that ended up being a favorite). That evening, whilst syphoning internet from an outskirts McDonalds and downing McRistrettos, I got a call from a woman renting an apartment in the center of town. She offered to show it to us that very night, despite living an hour out of Périgueux in Ribérac, and told us to meet at the cathedral at eight, this cathedral:
And right across the street from Saint-Front, our apartment. And we knew it was our apartment just that quickly. That night, our new landlords, who we soon learned were a British ex-pat handyman and a collège English teacher, handed over the keys and said they’d be back in the morning to pick up the deposit, get copies of our passports, dot all the i’s, cross all the t’s. And with that, we moved into Rue Mignot.
You can buzz for us (oh, technology!), but you’ll want to immediately crane your head skywards, because the door won’t open and I probably won’t want to hike down the three flights to greet you, insisting instead on stuffing my keys into the toe of an old running shoe and throwing it out the window. Allez hop!
Next, the staircase. Take your breaths now, because by the time you’re on the third floor (the fourth floor by American standards), you’ll be plum out, and despite the fact that for the seven months I lived here, I never once made it to the top without feeling even the littlest bit winded, I will still probably laugh at you. And then feed you crêpes.
Mind the bicycles! And be thankful that you’re not the one to carry them up and down each time you want to ride. If you can muster the strength, though, after so challenging a climb, open the door and you’ll be in the middle of my kitchen.
It’s a bit of a squeeze, but I’ve managed to make some pretty good things with my two burners and tiny counter. I’m missing those canelés right about now, though…
Through a door to the right is the living room, where many a meal was had, and many a bottle of wine was drank (and spilled – even with a tablecloth our white table still bears the bloody red scars of a Pécharmant). It’s also home to our bookshelf, filled with maps and an odd collection of books bought 10 for a euro at the local Amnesty International rummage sale, topped with two vases, gifts from my school, and a wonderful gastronomic map of France, its twin residing with Rosie (hopefully displayed in a place of prominence!).
And out the window: trash cans, the brief conclusion of my tiny street, and ta-dum!, Cathédral Saint-Front.
Opening from the other side of the kitchen, the bedroom, where it’s nearly impossible to take a picture as 70% of it lies under a sharply slanting ceiling, pictured above (French apartment renting tip: the square meterage of a residence cannot include any attic-ish space with low or sloping ceilings, even if it’s useable, so the cost of rent is lower – at least it feels like you’re getting more for your euro!).
There you have it! My own Roo de Loo (is it obvious that I’m reading Julia Child’s “My Life in France” at the moment?). I’ve been missing waking up on Rue Mignot…