These were my first words as I entered my new apartment in Paris, stepping over construction debris and choking on plaster dust. My heart started to pound in my throat; the walls closed in on me. Holy crap! What did I buy? I’d seen the apartment in the flesh exactly once, and for only 30 minutes—just long enough to decide I absolutely had to have it. For the months after, back home in New York, I had to subsist on the agency’s photographs—which, it turns out were incredibly well-staged and craftily shot. My 24-square-meter apartment had gained ten square meters in my mind.
Yet, if I think about it, I uttered those exact words to my friend when I first laid eyes on the apartment on that rainy day in March: “Putain, c’est minuscule.”
How I ended up apartment hunting in Paris, the deep-seated reasons that beget the search, is a story worth telling but that’s what the book is for, I suppose. I can tell you, though, how I began the hunt: aimless online searches in the evenings in front of re-runs of How I Met Your Mother and Family Guy. A post-work, wind-down ritual. But soon enough, I was spending whole Saturday afternoons online, my searches becoming more organized: by apartment size; by neighborhood; by price per square meter. On a visit to Paris in February 2012, I visited a few places to amuse myself. I didn’t really believe I would actually buy anything. But when a friend offered to visit some apartments for me, the game changed. He was serious and gung-ho and, well, I couldn’t let him down. Accountability is a powerful motivator.
Next thing I knew, I’d booked a flight to Paris for a weekend with a plan to see six apartments in one day. The last apartment we saw would turn out to be the one. But that was just the beginning.