My first visit to Paris was over 32 years ago. It was the last leg of my first European adventure which started in Vienna. I honestly don’t remember much but I think I probably liked it. My second time in Paris was 13 years ago when I met “my man” (partner…or whatever) in Paris on Valentine’s Day. Sounds so romantic, but remember the episode of “Sex and the City” where Carrie meets her man (“The Russian”) in Paris? She spends the entire time alone wandering the cobblestone streets of Paris in her stiletto heels. Well, that was me except I wore Sketchers. “Romantic” Paris was very disappointing. So when I had a chance at house sitting in Paris I jumped on it, hoping to give Paris another chance to Wow me.
But, after being slightly disappointed by a return trip to Vienna, my expectations for Paris were kind of low.
The Wonderful World of House Sitting
A few years ago, I discovered Trusted Housesitters and it opened up a whole new world of travel possibilities. After creating my profile on their website, I applied for about a hundred sits (not kidding) before landing my first one. Since I had very little previous pet-sitting experience, I had to dig deep for references. I asked friends for personal references and asked my landlord for a reference. I asked anyone who would say something good about me (“responsible” and “trustworthy”) to write a reference for me.
Finally, I land my first gig in Bristol, England! When I asked the Bristol homeowners why they chose me, they said it was my age. It seems many homeowners prefer a “50-something” retired English Teacher to watch their pets and home rather than a 20-something backpacker. (I’m grateful to be “old”.)
My Bristol gig opens up doors to house sits in Bradford-on-Avon and Worthing in England, Antigua, Guatemala, and Vienna, Austria. The house sitting dam has burst and it feels like the world is my oyster! Now, I actually have homeowners contacting me asking if I’m available to house sit for them!
House Sitting in Paris
My Paris gig actually began as a November house sit and evolved into an October “house swap” instead. How did that happen? Well, the homeowner (an American expat I’ll call “Gigi”) initially placed an ad on Trusted Housesitters to cover ten days in November. But after we agreed on it, her mother decided to visit Paris in November. Since Gigi and I bonded during our almost hour-long Skype chat, we tossed around the idea of just doing a house swap at a time convenient for both of us and picked some dates in October instead.
After agreeing on the dates, we coordinate our flights so I’ll arrive in Paris with just enough time for her to introduce me to her two dogs before departing on her flight to Nice. A friend of mine in Nice (I’ll call her Jessica because that’s her name) kindly agrees to meet Gigi on arrival and introduce her to my apartment and the ghosts living in the stairwell of my antique building.
Two Pugs in Paris
Before jetting off to Nice, Gigi introduces me to her pugs, Fenway and Pesky. They’re adorable little pugs with adorable little pug faces. I find out later that they’re also incredibly needy little creatures who love to sleep on my head at night. But they’re just so damn cute and very entertaining!
This is the trade-off with house sitting: I have a free place to stay in Paris but I also need to coordinate my sightseeing to be back every four hours to walk the pugs. This is a very large city so it takes some skill to create a Paris sightseeing itinerary allowing me to be back in the 3rd arrondissement on time. I quickly cross a return trip to Versailles off my “to do” list since Versailles is a day trip and the pugs probably wouldn’t enjoy it.
Falling for Paris!
So, I arrive in Paris with pretty low (or maybe neutral) expectations because Vienna had been a bit underwhelming. I don’t want to expect too much of Paris and risk more disappointment so I approach it with an open mind and open heart.
And then an unexpected thing happens, I absolutely fall in love with Paris! If I win the lottery, I’ll move to Paris (except in the winter I’ll stay in Nice). But, luckily, I am able to find a lot of cheap and free things to do in Paris!
My first evening in Paris, I wander down to the Seine, order a beer and sit there soaking up the vibe.
My last night in Paris, I buy a bottle of cheap wine at the supermarket for 2.90 EUR and a bag of Doritos. Then I wander back down to the Seine and join the locals, soaking in the last few hours in this magical city.
In the days between, I spend my time revisiting places from my previous trips but with a totally different perspective. I slow down and don’t attempt to conquer all of Paris in five days. Instead, I wander the cobblestone streets of the Jewish Quarter and explore the wonderful vintage shops in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements.
I spend half a day in the Sacre Coeur area and take photos of the artists in the old area of Montmartre.
Finding I now have a greater appreciation for the history of this city, I become mesmerized by Notre Dame.
Sometimes, I’d sit quietly at a quaint French cafe and sip a cappuccino while watching people.
And Paris at night – so stunningly beautiful with the lights reflecting off the Seine! I walk for hours and hours. One night my step-counter app explodes and tells me to sit the hell down! I burn the rubber off the soles of my Sketchers! One day I walk over 30,000 steps (13 miles). My feet scream for a rest but I just can’t stop walking!
On my last night, I tried to go home after finishing my wine on the Seine. Suddenly, I find myself at a gelato shop on a small cobblestone street in the 4th arrondissement, eating ice cream and watching drag queens walk by, carefully teetering on their stilettos.
Surprisingly, I find Paris is so much better with two pugs instead of a man! I’m in love with the city!
House Sitting Tips – Getting into the Game
Once you’ve jumped in:
Be professional. Work on creating your online profile with as much care as your resume or CV. It really is your resume if you want jobs like pug-sitting in Paris. Get glowing references from reliable sources.
Be prepared for rejection. Sometimes you’ll apply for a gig and hear nothing back. At other times, the rejection emails are very kind and complimentary and those “kind rejections” may open doors to future sits. I usually reply and ask them to keep me in mind for future gigs.
Be flexible. My first gigs were all in southern England, mainly because that’s where the most opportunity lies. I wanted Spain, Portugal, or somewhere sunnier in the winter, but I had to go where the jobs are. When you’re just starting out, it may be difficult to get the jobs in more popular areas. You may need to expand your target area.
Be persistent. The Trusted Housesitters website shows approximately how many others have applied for the same gig. If it shows 50+, assume you’ve got little chance being selected and move on. Keep applying! I have a template I use so I can just copy/paste similar information in all applications while taking care to tweak each one to make it more personal.
Be creative in your travel planning. I use the house sit destination as a jumping-off point to explore other cities in the area. When I got the gig in Vienna, I spent some time in Budapest prior to traveling to Vienna. While I was in Vienna, I did a day trip to Bratislava. After my Paris house sit, I took the bus to Bruges, Belgium and found a cheap flight out of Brussels back to Nice. I always check Skyscanner along with Trusted Housesitters to preplan my route and make sure it’s feasible before applying for a gig. I’m not going to apply for a weekend house sit in Copenhagen because the flights are just too expensive. I’ve narrowed my target area to wherever I can fly cheaply!
Can you picture yourself strolling along the Seine with two adorable pugs or sitting along the banks sipping a glass of wine? Maybe it’s time to jump into the house sitting game. Check out Trusted Housesitters and please use this link!
Walk the dog. Feed the cat. Explore the city!
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