Swapping Carlow for Lenny Kravitz’s Paris
Could I live like a rock star for a week? Well yes, thanks to a house swap website
“No matter how many times I see the Eiffel Tower, it is a sight which I will never tire of.”
There is nothing like a deadline to bring on procrastination.
Bake a cake, clean out the hot press or, as I’ve recently succumbed to, embark on periods of ‘visualisation’. The concept is that if you conjure up a certain situation in your mind, and really think long and hard about it, you can actually bring it to reality.
Which leads me onto rock star Lenny Kravitz, who has lately been appointed Global Creative Director at Dom Pérignon. Interviewed about this fabulous new project, Lenny spoke of his love for Paris.
“Wandering the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area gives me creative inspiration,’ he said, ‘I like Studio 7L, Karl Lagerfeld’s bookstore . . . and I might end up in the impressionist rooms at the Musée d’Orsay, where I’ll often just sit and relax.”
I gazed out the window of my home in County Carlow and noticed the leaves beginning to turn, Michaelmas daisies popping out like tiny cheerleaders among the other plants, now mostly dormant until the spring.
Our view is beautiful, no doubt, but my mind was beginning to wander to Paris. I visualised myself sauntering along the Seine, touching the book spines in Monsieur Largerfeld’s store and, like Lenny, sitting in a restaurant straight out of Vogue, people-watching whilst sipping on a glass of Sancerre.
Imagine if I could step into Lenny’s shoes for a week and swap my house in the country with an apartment in Paris?
Imagine if I could live like Lenny? Writing in completely fresh surroundings. Just for a few days.
I thought about this, then thought some more. And then I came across lovehomeswap.com, a home exchange website, where the standard of places to stay is definitely upper end, be it rustic charm or urban luxury.
The beauty of this model is that a house swap is possible wherever you are in the world and the only money that changes hands is to settle the cleaning bill.
Also, the timing of your swap doesn’t have to coincide with that of your fellow swapper, because the swappers don’t have to stay at your place at all. This clever system enables you to simply swap your house for points; you then exchange those points to stay at any of the places listed. The more points you have, the better the options and the longer you can stay.
I searched under Parisian and quickly came across a two-bedroom apartment in the heart of the stylish Trocadero in the 16th arrondissement, owned by a retired doctor and his wife. Fast forward a week and I am a citizen of Paris for five nights.
One wall of my smart new Paris pad was made completely of glass, facing onto 18th century buildings, ornate and magnificent – an instant novelty for this country gal.
Art deco centrepiece lights, parquet floor, white walls, contemporary art and a ceiling mounted shower in a marble bathroom – there is something about staying in an apartment, rather than a hotel, that makes you feel much more like a resident than a tourist.
Sipping on café from my apartment Nespresso machine that first morning, with writing to attend to, it all felt deliciously urban as I sat upon a chair made of white leather in front a glass desk with nothing but a blossoming orchid and my MacBook.
I wore Coco Mademoiselle perfume to further enhance my Parisian senses, along with a blazer, jeans and patent leather shoes. Befriending the boulangerie around the corner, I found my supplier for pain au chocolat and I also discovered a pretty supermarket, which offers red wine on tap – as part of a recycling initiative, encouraging customers to bring their own (empty) bottle along to fill up with rouge, blanc or rosé.
A five-minute walk brought me to the centre of the Trocodero Gardens, and no matter how many times I see the Eiffel Tower, it is a sight which I will never tire of, especially when the lights twinkle at night – it feels a little like they have been lit up just for you.
Later that day, I strolled along George V, taking a hot chocolate and tartine at Café de Flore, catching my breath at the sight of the Petits Palais, admiring long legs, immaculate tailoring and dogs as elegant as the owners they stepped out with. Framed by Baroque and Belle Époque, I inhaled an ambience of immense peace in the still, crisp, autumnal air.
Feeling deeply satisfied by my urban refresh, arriving home I thought of advice by Betsy Kasha of A+B Kasha, an interior design and real estate agency based in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
“A Parisian apartment is like a black Chanel dress,” says Kasha. “It only needs a little accessorising for the occasion. It can be worn day and night, across decades.”
With French house tweaks in mind, a statement lamp is at the top of my list, revamping the sofa and armchairs with fabric throws and also to keep a copy of Dominique Loreau’s book, L’art de la simplicite, which preaches Zen and the art of everyday living.
A change is as good as a rest, no doubt, and when the good French doctor and his wife come to stay at our house next year, they are even game on to look after our hens while we venture elsewhere on another lovehomeswap.