The capital of the nation and of the historic Île de France region, Paris is located in northern central France, across the English channel from Britain; 165mi southwest of Brussels; and 315mi west of Stuttgart. The city center, known as Intra-Muros, (within the walls), is bisected by the River Seine. Paris is divided into twenty zones or arrondissements that fan out in a circular pattern with the Louvre as the center point. The last two digits of the postal zip code of each zone indicate its location.
You may have heard of the ‘Left Bank’ and the ‘Right Bank’ when describing Paris. The origin of these references is straight forward. When the early Francs floated down the River Seine (headed north toward the sea), the land to their left was referred to as the ‘Left Bank’; that to the right as the ‘Right Bank’.
Paris’ left bank (the southern part of the city) is known for its somewhat bohemian lifestyle; a mode that flows along the wonderful streets of Saint-Germain-de-Pres, Saint- Michel, rue de Renne, and Blvd. Montparnasse. The Left Bank is a way of life; as much the heart of the people of Paris, as the Sorbonne is the heart of Parisian university life. Because classes at the Sorbonne, were originally taught in Latin, the area has become known as the Latin Quarter. There is of course the Tour Eiffel that was built, in spite of near revolutionary protests, for the World’s Fair of l898. Parisians were up-in-arms believing that it would be an eyesore. Instead, it became the highlight of the fair and the toast of Paris.
Paris’ Right Bank is best known for its elegant and sophisticated lifestyle. Its most famous landmark is ‘Etoile’ (the Arc de Triomphe) which Napoleon ordered to be built in 1799. It was to be a replication of ancient Roman architecture to immortalize his many military victories. The most famous street in Paris is the Champs-Elysees. This boulevard caters to the world’s elite. Paris may be the fashion capital of the world, but the Champs-Elysees is the fashion center of Paris by virtue of its exclusive and chic stores and hotels.
Parts of Paris don’t fit easily in any “category”. In fact, Parisians say that their city is just a collection of one hundred villages. Montmartre, rising up to the north of the center, has managed to retain an almost rural atmosphere with its colorful mixture of locals and artists despite the daily influx of tourists. Undisturbed by tourism, the dilapidated working-class quarters of eastern Paris offer a rich ethnic slice of Parisian street life and in direct contrast, technological wonder is paraded at the ground-breaking science museum constructed in the recently renovated Parc de La Villette.
Housing in the Paris area is difficult to find and is expensive by American standards. As in the United States, houses, apartments and rooms can be found by consulting the classified advertisements or by placing advertisements in local newspapers. The internet has recently become another excellent daily source to use in finding an apartment. Several sites are available in Paris.
If you rent an apartment:
The landlord will normally ask to be paid a rental guarantee or deposit equivalent to one or two months rent but possibly be more, plus a month’s rent in advance. This will be specified in the lease or contract which is often standard and which should be carefully read to ascertain the responsibilities of the parties. It is also possible that the landlord may ask for the lease either to be taken out, or guaranteed, directly by the employer.
In addition to the rent, each tenant has to pay utilities which usually cover miscellaneous expenses for the building. If you have resided in the apartment or house since the 1st of January of a given year, you will have to pay local taxes, Taxe d’habitation. This tax varies from one city to another. It depends on several criteria (square meters, number of inhabitants) and the amount is fixed by the city hall. This tax is payable every year.