The true horror stories about the law of the jungle in Paris-Part 7


Tourists flock to Paris dreaming of perfect meals.  I no longer have that illusion after learning the truth behind the kitchen door in the restaurant scenes in Paris.  The recommendation stickers on the windows or the walls should be a good indication; however, good chefs always move on to better-paying restaurants.  The managers should remove the recommendation when the good chefs leave, but no.  That is why you frequently read on Tripadvisor ‘We came because of the good reviews, but we can’t agree.’ 

The long-standing establishments provide good food, but that is not all.  The difference comes down to the manager's personality, whose integrity the locals know well.  The price may be similar, but some managers would cut corners.  The challenge in Paris is not to be ripped off or fed old food from the fridge despite the sign that says 'fresh from the market.'   Despite the national motto' equality', France is surprisingly a polarized society.  On one side is a small group of wealthy elites enjoying absolute dominancy, while on the other side are financially oppressed.  Some decent French people uphold morality…but culture also hails cheating as being smart.  

Some people have a knack for sniffing out misfortune in others.  So there they were Mr PRIDE and Mme HEART, standing in front of an old shop whose previous owner had run into deep debt.  The shop was a bargain to pick up.  Mme. HEART would be considered old and peaked out in any other country, but she was still in the game here in Paris.  She smiled at Mr Hay seductively, and he was intoxicated, though you could not see it on his brusque face.

The pair dreamt of running an upscale restaurant though neither one knew the restaurant business.  Mme. HEART insisted she was an expert, but this was an exceedingly optimistic view considering every eatery she had managed eventually flopped.  One would question the wisdom of Mr PRIDE's judgment in appointing her as the manager of his newly acquired property, but incompetence did not matter in the touristic areas.  The unsuspecting tourists would always be beguiled to dine at substandard restaurants if the managers chat them up in English.  

Mirror that reflects your soulAt the other end of the old Paris, I was signing the three years contract to rent an empty apartment.  Yes, furnished apartments would have been more straightforward and less binding (only one month's notice required), but tenants come and go in Paris, so it was realistic to assume that they would be all noisy, one way or another.  I needed the freedom to insulate my lodging.  

To my relief, my new landlord, Patrick, was a French man, and there was no sinister shadow about him.  The air around him was light, in fact, a little too light, but I was pleased.  He even spoke English as a bonus.   Patrick said, 'Although it is an empty apartment, I'll have it painted for you, fixing all the holes on the walls.' I thanked him and felt hopeful for the first time since I arrived in Paris.  Patrick quickly added, 'About the new restaurant in the building you inquired about, your apartment is not located above it, so you will not hear clients talk and laugh or even sing.' He laughed, and so did I, wondering what was so funny. 

However, this meeting made me calm enough to face the man sent by my former landlord on the last inspection day.  I did not want to spend a second unnecessary in the cursed apartment where I had the brush with the underbelly of Paris, but there was a brief update on the cowardly former landlord.  He had fallen ill and would have to semi-retire.  His condition must have been later aggravated by the new regulation binding the rent to be compatible with the size of the property.  My former landlord was charging the foreigners 'the hefty Marais price', but now he had to reduce the rent to match his small-size properties. 

The small apartments market crashed, lowering the rent, and I secured a low-rent apartment for three years.  Empty apartments are cheaper than furnished ones.  What I would save over the coming years would compensate for the money stolen by the crooks.  Here is a small example of the retribution exacted by the universe.  You may say it is not a big deal as I will be getting back what I lost, but I get to study French culture in the next three years, which is priceless.  Also, having a fixed address will help with my Visa situation.

Days later, I moved in.  I was puzzled that the dirty wall had not yet been painted.  Then a sweet voice was heard at the door.  A senior French lady had come to greet me.  I shall call her 'Mme. HARMONY' because it was her favourite word.  She welcomed me and said her tenants lived in the same building.  She lived elsewhere but would come by to look after her tenants.  She spoke some English and offered her assistance should I need it.  Her gesture and her smile moved me.   I was still new to Paris.

Mme. Harmony noticed the dirty wall with lots of holes.  'Oh, that Patrick.  Never looking after the apartment, let alone tenants.  He gets away with it because the landlord of this apartment does not live in France.'

'What?  Then who the hell is he?'

'A real estate agent, looking after the apartments owned by this old lady who trusts him too much.  I know a friend who sold his apartment through Patrick but was annoyed by his sloppy job.'

I never saw Patrick again.  It was better than the dark shadow of the crooks who aggressively sought to steal from me, but too much light air I sensed about Patrick translated into irresponsibility.  It would not have mattered had it not been for the restaurant in the building.  Patrick had omitted to inform me that its kitchen was right below my apartment.  I would not hear the clients like he cheerfully said, but I was to be exposed to the machines' hellish noise.