Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Princess Climbs the Stairs

We rent a small apartment (by American standards) in one of the best neighborhoods in Lyon. It's sunny, on the top and 5th floor of an elevator building, very central and very quiet. We have two bedrooms, a small office, a combination livingroom/diningroom, a small bathroom and one very small, very ugly kitchen. I feel very safe in this apartment. It is easy to clean, I have a decent landlord and a handyman named Omar who fixes things when they break.

Recently however, a beautiful huge apartment became available on the second floor of my building (which I love by the way.) I started having fantasies about moving into this grand, palatial space, each room with a marble fireplace, original details, hidden built-in closets. The girls started dreaming about having their own rooms (Hallie's pictured above), their own huge bathroom, a grand salon to entertain their teenage friends in grand style. It is a corner apartment with a view on a square, 15 foot ceilings and the most beautiful light you have every seen at any time of day. In Lyon, the lower your floor, the higher your social class because when this building was built in the 1900s, for example, there was no elevator as there is now. The wealthy and aristocratic only walked up two flights of stairs to their grand apartments with fabulously high ceilings, while the servant class (who lived in our apartment) walked up five to their low ceiling-ed apartments. The height of the ceilings also diminishes as you ascend in floors, and descend in social class.

Anyway, so I was having a moment there, dreaming of grandeur. I took great pains to write a perfect French letter to the management company (la régie) expressing my desire to be the first in line for this potentially coveted apartment. Long, long long story short: La régie was absolutely impossible and rude and while they were very interested in my proposal to renovate the apartment in exchange for really cheap rent, they took 6 months to move forward with the project, and barely returned my phone calls and emails.

I had a change of heart, while Bob and Barb were here. We talked a lot about all the responsibilities I already have—a demanding business, two thriving adolescents, two aging dogs, a big, old house in les monts du lyonnais, family and friends all over the planet that I try to keep up with. I am a bit maxed out quite frankly. And while the fantasy princess me wanted to project myself into this life, the actual practical me kept thinking "No, no, this is too much. You are going to be exhausted. It's going to cost a fortune. It's too hard to clean." One day of utter despair and self-doubt, where I cried hysterically for almost 4 hours just thinking about all that I had on my plate, I finally made the decision not to pursue the apartment. It was so obvious a decision and I have felt elated every since, free as bird, no regrets, more in love and appreciative of my little working class apartment (haha) than ever before.

Now here's the challenge: how to transform our present apartment into the perfect place for at least the next two years on a budget of less than $1,000? Stay tuned for the before and afters.


Rhonda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhonda said...

Isn't life painful at times? Yet on some days it is beautiful and everything is crystal clear.

I loved this post, I felt your pain making that decision. That new apartment sounded fabulous.

I love the way you are happy with your final decision. Don't give up your dream to be in an apartment like that one, it could happen one day.

BTW - You do lead a fabulous life!

localcookbook said...


Laura said...

Small spaces can be a joy and are always easier to manage. I like your attitude of knowing someday you will find a larger space, but for now will make the most of what you have!

Carol said...

Thank you all for your comments. I do feel great about my decision on many levels. Small is easy and down sizing has been nothing but a good experience for me in my lifetime. Less is more, as they say, but it's so opposite from what we are taught in the states, right?