The apartment

20 December 2011 12:14 

Our apartment sits on the fifth floor of a Hausmann style building on the Boulevard d’Athenes. It is two blocks from the Gare St. Charles. The gare is the train station, a metro stop, a bus stop, and a stop for the navettes, the intercity shuttle buses. When I first flew in to Marseille, I took the bus from the airport to the Gare St. Charles. For day trips, such as to Aix en Provence, we take the navettes from the gare. From the train station it is a downhill walk to the apartment.

The building entrance and lobby are unremarkable and a little dingy. There’s a bank of mailboxes on the right as you come in the main door. The lobby is tiled with black and white squares. The building contains both residential and commercial spaces. The sole business, on the third floor,  is called FK Telefon. Several times a day the young employees are gathered in front of the building for a smoking break. The lobby usually smells like smoke. The other families in the building, mostly the husbands, came around when it was just Annie and the kids here. Now that I’ve arrived, we haven’t seen much of them.

The fifth floor is the end of the elevator run. There is a small floor above us, accessible by stairs. The elevator interior measures 55d x 83w x 203h (all units in centimeters). The elevator and its framework  just barely fits inside the spiral staircase. Sometimes we take the stairs just for the exercise. It has a stated capacity of 180kgs or 2 people. The first few days there were a couple of times when people got stuck between floors or the doors wouldn’t open, but since then we’ve adapted to the sensitivities of the elevator.

Ride the elevator up, the door opens, and you’re looking at the white steel door which is our front door. Our landlord recently replaced the previous door, also metal, with a newer one. Someone had tried to break in to the apartment, and crowbarred out the surrounding walls, although eventually gave up and never got in.  The new door is substantial.

The apartment takes up the entire floor.  Street side faces west(ouest), at about 265 degrees.  The back of our building and apartment  looks out on to a courtyard facing east (est), at 80 degrees. The street side is noisy and busy most days, although our height and good windows block most of the sound. The most common street sound is the distinctly European siren (neeee-ner, neeee-ner). The view out the front is to another Hausmann style building across the street; off to the south you can Notre Dame de la Garde.

The back side looks on to a courtyard shared with other apartments. You can see laundry from other apartments drying on the clothes lines. You hear the occasional argument or animated conversation,  but it’s much quieter than the street side.  The view here could be good source material for a play about life in an urban setting: Rent, Lease,  Sub-let, or Evicted

The apartment is about 1500 square feet. The first room off the front door is the foyer which we use as a dining room. There are three bedrooms, and three common rooms: the foyer/dining area, a living room, and a small study off the living room. There is a also a kitchen with a small table and three chairs. There are two bathrooms (shower with tub, sink, and toilet), and one watercloset (toilet only). That makes for three toilets, in case you weren’t counting. It’s hard to believe that out apartment has more toilets than a typical village in rural France.

All the rooms have parquet floors except the front bedroom, which has tile. Ceilings are over nine feet high. One bedroom is painted white, one is painted blue, the third has yellow and red wall paper. The apartment came furnished, although we will are replacing the mattresses, and may buy a few additional pieces.

In the kitchen are most appliances: dishwasher, washing machine, range (gas), oven, and a mircowave. There’s a toaster, a coffee press, and a stove top coffee percolator. The refrigerator is about half the size of the one you grew with, an a quarter size of the monsters that are found in most homes. The lower part is a freezer. There was an electric kettle here, but it held about a cup, so I bought a newer one that was larger (it was a British model that came with an odd plug, but had an adapter for the continental electrical outlet).

We have not one but two clothes dryers. The first is the line that is outside our windows on the courtyard side. The second is a rack that sites in the study, and gets the western sunshine. At any one time I can be drying two pairs of pants, four pairs of underwear, three socks, and a couple of shirts. Heating is done through radiators, although we have not yet figured out how to turn on the heat. More importantly, there’s an air conditioner unit on the wall in the living room.

The apartment came with a Roland electronic keyboard, but it’s not working so well. I am looking into either a Yamaha electronic keyboard, or maybe even a real piano. There’s a tv here. The broadcast sources are varied: French, German, Tunisian, Saudi, Polish, Moroccan, Russian.

The apartment has an intercom/telephone for talking to anyone at the front door, and a buzzer control to unlock the front door. Unfortunately the intercom is broken, so if someone buzzes to be let in, it could be the mailman or it could be someone with a crowbar.

We generally like the apartment, although as noted in my last post, it needs a bit of work.  I’d prefer a place with larger terraces or even a more traditional style townhome with a small backyard. I miss digging in the dirt and having space for projects.

Damn, the baguettes here are good.

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  1. Your stories and photos bring back fond memories of our place in Grenoble. Our building also had a phone booth-sized elevator shoehorned into the middle of the original staircase. And it was a shock initially to discover our “cuisine” had no appliances or cabinets. But the building’s details were fabulous: wood floors, high ceilings with elaborate mouldings, french doors opening onto very narrow terraces with stunning views and three wonderfully carved marble fireplaces. And, damn!, the baguettes were good! We miss you guys.

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