We set off to our summer vacation looking forward to another adventure. On the encouragement of some friends, we decided to take the long journey to Europe again. The trip was to get acquainted with Croatia and its surrounds. First, we decided to spend a few days in Rome. The last time I visited Rome was almost 20 years ago. Two summers ago, we had chosen to visit Tuscany and the Italian Riviera, and we totally bypassed Rome.
We arrived early on a Tuesday morning in mid-August to an airport just waking up from a brief respite of comings and goings. Our ride had our name in bold letters on his chest. A welcome smile. A warm “Buon Giorno” with an extended hand. It was going to be a good trip.
As we drove in to the heart of the eternal city, we were dropped off in front of some very old buildings. We were told to take the lift to the third level. (In Europe, the level 3 is really the fourth floor because the street-level is considered level 0.) We looked through the different ringers on the side of the large brown door and found Gens Luxe. After buzzing us in, the door opened to a dimly lit stone hallway that ended in a set of worn marble stairs and a wrought iron lift cleverly inserted in the middle of the stairwell.
All of a sudden I had this gnawing ache between my ribs. Images of the disastrous accommodation we had to make do with a few years ago came flooding in. We were traveling to Paris to visit our daughter, who was doing her study abroad there for six months. My youngest sister, Maj, had asked to visit Paris with us. She had arrived the day before and was the first to occupy the apartment we rented at St. Germain de Pres. Great location, we had thought.
Much to our dismay, the historical building’s management had scheduled a renovation of its main hallways and atrium. All the apartments looked out to the garden in the atrium. There were no other windows in our rental apartment. The common areas were covered in drop cloths and dust. There was scaffolding along the hallways. As most old buildings in Paris, there was no lift. We half-dragged our suitcases up four flights of stairs to be greeted by a stuffy claustrophobic space with windows shut and covered. My hubby was livid! He was on the phone right away with the owner. After a torrent of apologies, he tried to appease us. No, he did not know about the repairs on the building. Yes, he can give a discount. My sister had stayed one night in the apartment already, he reasoned. There was no backing out. We were committed!
We thought the trip was completely lost. We were determined to make up for the less than stellar accommodations. We made sure we hit some of Paris’ culinary bests. We went back to old favorites like Le Comptoir du Relais, a bistro in St. Germain, where we could sit outside and people watch while we nibbled on some fois gras salade and treat ourselves to beef cheek stew or roasted crispy skin pork over slow cooked lentils and basque sauce. To make it up to my sister (and ourselves too!), we insisted on L’Atelier Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire’s seafood bistro on Rue de Bac. Take that, you sorry excuse for an apartment stay!
Fast forward to our moment of truth when we walked into Gens Luxe Suites’ receiving room. We turned right off the stairway to be greeted by minimalist design with soft strategic lighting. At the station stood Jonathan, who extended his welcome handshake and warm Italian accented greetings.
After a brief exchange of information, he led us through a short corridor, lightly touched the room security with our key card and voila! Our home away from home opened to a black and white eclectic sitting room. Beyond was our bedroom with an en suite bath that had tinted glass walls and door. Hmmm. That’s novel, I thought.
This is where we were going to get over our jet lag while indulging in Rome’s rich historical treasures and its legendary cuisine of great wine, salumi platters, house-made pasta and pizza. My hubby had picked a strategic location. We were only a few blocks from Piazza Navona. Almost everything was a short walk or at most, a scenic hike. With map in hand, we were off!
P.S. As for that forgettable week of bad accommodation in Paris, well, we did manage to get our money back.