Rue Bergere II (onefinestay)

LOCATION: Central Paris, in the bustling Opera district

BACKGROUND: Onefinestay is undoubtedly slap bang in the middle of a critical and exciting few months. Hospitality giant Accor acquired it, expansion plans have rocketed with an aim to be in 40 cities within five years, and chairman Greg Marsh, who cofounded the company, has stepped down.

With a new head honcho and accelerated growth plans, you can expect destinations to be added on a regular basis. Miami is the latest city to feature in the portfolio, following in the footsteps of London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome. However, what hasn’t changed and shows no sign of doing so, is the idea that Greg and his co-founders had seven years ago. Essentially, you can stay in distinctive private homes, while the owners are out of town. Some are tempted to call it a posh version of Airbnb but it’s a lot more than that.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Every home onefinestay offers has been visited and given the once, twice and thrice over. In fact, before a paying guest sets foot inside, there are 132 boxes to be ticked. And when you arrive, you can tell they’ve checked and ticked everything off that list.

A post-work Eurostar had us in place outside the apartment on a narrow and bustling boulevard early enough to enjoy a Friday evening amuse bouche-sized sample of Paris life. Excitement levels were decidedly different from those I’ve felt walking into hotels. This was akin to opening a massive present when the gift hiding under the wrapping paper is entirely unknown. With great hotels, it’s more like a parcel arriving with something you ordered (and can’t wait to get your hands on) inside.

Through big gates and into a courtyard of unexpected proportions, our exacting directions soon had us at the front door. We were met by a friendly chap who didn’t seem to mind spending his Friday night waiting for us to turn up. He gave us a tour, showed us how everything worked and offered us snacks and drinks. He even gave us an iPhone loaded with useful things, thereby removing the ever-present terror I feel whenever I step out of Blighty of turning on data roaming. He had also opened the windows and put fans on for us, as it was a particularly sweltering early autumn weekend. We loved him for that.

THE FACTS: We would never see this chap again, or indeed anyone else from onefinestay. But we could have if we had fancied it, thanks to a 24-hour number. The phone was all the concierge we needed, though, with Uber and Google maps installed and a guide to the local area, allowing us to feel like locals going about our chic lives. But not yet, as we had only just closed the door on the nice chap, and had an apartment to explore. Original parquet flooring, white-washed wooden beams, top-notch sheets and towels, tiles so pleasant they’d be in the eye-wateringly expensive section of Fired Earth, French windows (obviously), juliet balconies and some stunning bits of art and sculpture that had us concurrently impressed and envious. The unavoidable game of ‘through the keyhole’ (but without the assistance of the ever-mysterious Loyd Grossman) started immediately. Occasional red stickers were dotted on cupboards, to let us know which ones not to open, and despite our nosey natures, we resisted the red button temptation.

The apartment had everything you could ever want, and everything you always wished a hotel had:  free Wi-Fi, a cooker, microwave, toaster, fridge freezer, dishwasher, coffee machine and a cafetiere, to name but a few. I kneel down, close my eyes and thank the hospitality gods for the glorious bounty whenever I find a kettle and an ironing board in an upmarket hotel – never mind a kitchen and tumble dryer. Next time, I’ll stay for a month and bring my dirty washing with me to take full advantage.

GOOD BASE FOR: City centre exploration. With no washing to do, we instead chose a room (there were three) and headed out into a dazzle of restaurants, bars and cafes to spend a warm evening eating escargots at Au General Lafayette, while listening to old men drunkenly singing. It was Paris perfection. For two days, we explored the city by foot, taking advantage of being central and therefore close to all the best bits of town. Every time we returned to our plush apartment, we would stick the kettle on, lay on a sofa each (shoes off, of course) and revel in the peace and privacy of our pied-à-terre.

 

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