You’re in Paris so it’s a pretty good bet that sooner or later, family and friends are going to come knocking on your door, delighted to know that they now have a free place to stay in one of the world’s most visited (and expensive) cities. And while most of us don’t mind spending time with those near and dear, running a bed and breakfast is something else entirely. Here are just a few thoughts to preserve your sanity.
Rule Number One. Just because someone calls or sends an e-mail that they are coming to town doesn’t mean you have to put them up. Parisian apartments are typically on the small side and having extra people in your space can be a real drag. Remember you are not obligated to house anyone for any length of time. So when they say, “We’re coming to Paris!”, keep these stock phrases in mind.
“We’d really love to see you but we just don’t have room for guests. Can we meet you for [fill in the blank: coffee, dinner, a drink, and afternoon, an evening]?”
“I’m so sorry but we’re going to be totally swamped when you are here. Maybe next time.”
Rule Number Two. Set the ground rules in advance. Make it clear what’s going on in your life while they visit including both your work and social commitments. If you have to leave for work at eight o’clock and want a shower before you go, say so. If you’re not doing dinner, suggest places in the neighborhood where they can get a bite.
Rule Number Three. You don’t have to play tour guide unless you want to. Tell your guests to get their sightseeing priorities in order before they arrive. There’s way too much to do in Paris whether they’re staying for three days or heaven forbid, two weeks. You may want to suggest particular restaurants or favorite shops or museums, but don’t get caught in the trap of planning their visit for them. Most public libraries back home offer a nice selection of tourist guides so they don’t even have to buy a book. Or send them links to your favorite Web sites.
Rule Number Four: A few orienting basics can go a long way to forging independence. Have an extra subway and city map on hand. Collect some brochures for tours (such as Paris Walks , Fat Tire Bikes, or Open Tour) or tourist attractions. (You can swing by one of the tourist information offices around town and take care of this in one fell swoop.) Show them where to find the nearest ATM and how to buy their first carnet of metro tickets. You might also point out your neighborhood market and boulangerie.
Rule Number Five: You do not have to pick up your guests at the airport. Period. Send the information on how to take public transportation, the Air France bus, or a cab to your place, including an idea of what it will cost. And for your convenience, here are the options for getting into town from Orly and Charles de Gaulle.
Paris Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (in English)
How to be Good House Guest (a link you can forward if you are either truly courageous or truly fed up)