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First Floor vs. Ground Floor: Paris Travel Tip #21

Getting Around Parisian Buildings
The ‘First Floor’ is always one story above the gound floor. The Ground Floor in France is referred to as the ‘Rez-de-Chaussee’. (Similar to ‘Chaussures’ which is the word for shoes) Although I don’t know the origin of this expression, one might guess that back in the old days when Parisian streets were muddy thoroughfares, one probably was expected to kick off all the mud, or change shoes before heading up to the ‘first floor’ residences.

Parisian Haussmannian buildings usually reserved the ground floor for a ‘concierge’ or ‘guardian’ who would collect the mail for all of the apartment building occupants. She also would keep a wary eye on all the comings and goings. Sad to say, most guardians are gone from ground floor loges (usually located right by the front door). Ours has been gone for over two years now. Another part of ‘old Paris’ which has been dropped for lack of interest – and lack of funds!

Inner courtyards. You’ll often find inner courtyards with as many as four separate sets of stairs (usually designated as A-D) These often lead to ‘chambres de bonnes’ (former maids’ quarters). The aristos live in the fancy apartments facing the boulevard and the students get wooden staircases that lead to cold-water garrets. If this sounds like a scene out of ‘boheme’ it’s simply reality, baby! Bring along your sheepskin coat for those cold winters!

You normally need to wait until the elevator door closes before you can press the button for your floor. You’ll note that apartment building elevators (and in some smaller hotels) are really MINI. Some of the most fascinating elevators are the ‘iron cage’ elevators that make a clicking sound as they ascend. These are my favorites.

>> Get more Paris travel tips from a local before you go!