My Parisian elevator and I: a love story

The day I met my Parisian elevator

My Parisian elevator and I met in March, when I visited the elegant red brick building, built in 1936, I came to call home. Two weeks earlier (I was still in Seattle then,) my father had told me he may have found a studio for rent located on the 7th and last floor of the building. I remember thinking: “Please not a ‘ss asc!‘”

The “ss asc,” (sans ascenseur, a walk-up,) is one of the most dreaded abbreviations to be found in Parisian real estate listings. How many unfortunate visitors have booked a vacation rental in the French capital without reading (or understanding) all the small print and found themselves dragging suitcases, grocery bags, and their derrières for the next ten days up quaint, yet steep, flights of stairs? Parisians expect their apartments to come “ss asc.” Most foreign visitors don’t. Everyone in their right mind prefers un ascenseur (elevator.) How else are you going to go grocery shopping with a fancy Rolser poussette de marché (shopping trolley) like a bona fide Parisian if you live in the upper floors?

Parisian elevator
La Rolser et l’ascenseur

Less than two weeks after that phone call with my father, I squeezed inside one of the tiniest elevators I had seen in a long time with a portly real estate agent. I don’t know if it was the quintessential Parisian lift (small, quaint, all wood and iron,) or the incredible rooftop views in the studio that did it, but it took me exactly 10 minutes to announce: “Je le prends!” (I will take it.) It was a done deal. At long last, I was back in Paris and would constantly be reminded of it when I rode my Parisian elevator or when I opened my windows. Perfect.

The honeymoon

At first, we loved each other, my Parisian elevator and I. I enjoyed the slow pace of the ride, up or down the building, several times a day, as I looked through the glass walls at the stairs and the pretty green carpet. On the way down, I memorized my grocery list before visiting Monoprix and other specialty shops in my street. The elevator was there when I needed it, and, as I opened the door and the light came on inside, greeted me cheerfully. We could have lived happily ever after, but fate interfered.

Disillusionment

Cracks appeared in the relationship just ten weeks after I met my Parisian elevator. It was getting moody, making creaking sounds while going up and down the building, doors opening and closing reluctantly, it seemed. One day, the elevator stopped working without an explanation. I was surprised, yet I tried to understand and carried my grocery bags up the seven floors, huffing and puffing unromantically. The repairman took several days to fix it.

A couple of weeks later, on my way to a morning run in le Bois de Vincennes, I spotted two visitors, unwilling prisoners of the elevator, the cage stuck half way between floors, as their children watched in horror from the stairs. My kind landlady was standing by their side. She was on the phone with the repairman. The elevator was very, very ill. My heart sank. That relationship, I could tell, was headed down the drain fast.

Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) has an epiphany in Pretty Woman

Falling out of love with my Parisian elevator

The first heatwave of the summer hit Paris on the same day I had to go back on tour at the end of June. The elevator had been down for a week. I cursed as I dragged my travel bags down seven floors on the pretty green carpets, sweating profusely before I even reached the hallway. My landlady (she lives below me on the 6th floor,) later texted me that the repairs would take weeks. The building’s board of directors were very unhappy with the maintenance company. They had decided to start shopping for a new one, and had sent out several quote requests, with promising results. Parts had been ordered. I sighed. I knew what was coming next: A re-introduction to the concept of the elastic French time, and its two sidekicks, patience and flexibility.

I returned two weeks later, at the beginning of July, a wee bit tired after traveling around France in the heatwave for 14 days. That afternoon, I had to drag my bags up the seven floors. The bad news: I was home for the next four weeks “ss asc” (without an elevator,) and my son was coming over for a few days. The good news: There was an encouraging note on the elevator from the new maintenance company (named Eiffel Ascenseur) when I arrived.

Parisian elevator
He offered to help residents carry heavy loads up the stairs! Pas mal.

Signs of life

For the next four weeks, I climbed seven floors at least twice a day, and became really good at maximizing my time outside the studio (while minimizing the number of trips.) There was no going back downstairs to buy a warm baguette last minute. Let them eat biscottes (crackers!)

Walking by the elevator on the rez-de-chaussée (ground floor,) I could see (and hear) encouraging signs of life. Someone was definitely working there, in the abyss under the building. Someone was playing music (rather loudly.) Someone was being treated to espresso by a friendly neighbor. — — But where was he?

Meanwhile, residents pushed through, one foot after the other. Still no elevator. Some people count sheep to fall asleep, they say. I am certain many neighbors of mine started counting stairs in their sleep. I know I did.

Keeping the spark alive

One morning, as I started – ever so slowly – the long hike down the Mont Blanc, I had to stop on the fourth floor. The elevator door was open. Two legs were coming out of it, blocking the way, surrounded by tools, while the small speaker was blasting rock’n’roll music. Finally! I was going to meet the repairman, the guy who had become so essential to the building nobody had dared ask him to turn down his music during the day.

Bonjour!, I shouted (because that is what you do in my homeland, as every single expert on French life likes to remind you.) A male voice replied, Bonjour! Excusez-moi! Legs disappeared. Door closed. Then reopened. He stepped out. And I kid you not: This is what he looked like:

Parisian elevator
Ryan Gosling is my elevator repairman!!!

I smiled. Of course, it had to be Ryan! Who else would be able to save my relationship with the Parisian elevator after it had been on life support for weeks? Of course. That afternoon, I had to abandon my studio to survive the second round of heatwave. All my neighbors on the 7th floor had already left by the time I booked myself into an air conditioned hotel. I did not have much time to think about Ryan the repairman for the next couple of days. My landlady had hinted at the fact that if he did not complete the repair by the weekend, he was scheduled to go on his summer vacation, and we’d have to wait longer for the elevator to get fixed. Quoi? Never mind. I did not worry. Ryan was in charge. With his help, everything would be all right.

Happy ending

Ryan delivered, in spite of the heat and the long hours. When I woke up at the hotel on the second day, I received a new text message from my landlady. My Parisian elevator was working again! Ryan had done it. I almost got emotional when I returned to the building and opened the door, ever so slowly. Once again, when we touched, it was like… magic. The rest is history. Wherever you are Ryan repairman, Merci! I hope you are enjoying your vacation. You have earned it.

A bientôt.

I had to immortalize the moment my Parisian elevator and I fell in love again in a video…

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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)

28 Comments

  • Véronique, thank you for a very entertaining story about your elevator! You are a talented and gifted writer. I have enjoyed following your adventures in Seattle and Paris. Do you give tours on your own of Paris or only through Rick Steves?

    Best wishes,

    Kevin

  • I LOVE this post, Véronique! It is so much fun to hear about the little things in your Parisian life. I remember an elevator just like yours in one of the hotel on Rue Cler we once stayed in. They are beautiful; small but mighty-or that one was. 😉. Ryan Gosling can remain MY elevator anytime! Good to hear all is in working order once again.

  • I once rented an apartment on the 5th floor with elevator. When I arrived, the rental agent said the elevator had just broken the day before, but would be fixed by the next day. When I arrived at the apartment ( which was lovely) I could see the elevator had been broken for a long time – maybe decades. I made a big fuss and got some money back. But 5 flights of stairs for 10 days made me decide to never rent about floor 3!

  • In 2012 I rented a flat on the fourth floor ss asc. No problem I’m in great shape. But I had forgotten about the difference floor numbering in US versus Europe. But the eighth day, it was taking much longer to go up. And the carry-on on the last day was soooo heavy.

  • You are an amazing storyteller and I hope someday Ryan appears in your life. I’ve booked 2 Airbnb’s in Paris and both require walking up and down 4 flights of stairs (circular ones) that required taking one step at a time. Many of my favorite memories are the times when I had to move luggage and then I would celebrate when it was done. I really can’t imagine 7 flights – that definitely requires an elevator. Are you working for a tour company now?

  • I could feel your pain, love your humor, and very happy your elevator has a new face for you…..a very handsome one at that! <3

  • Ah Véronique, just admire your kick-ass derrière and legs that are your reward for going “ss asc”. Bravo. And congratulations on the return of your most moving friend!

  • 🤣🙃 Good thing you have a sense of humor, Véronique. I hope the charming elevator keeps working, but Ryan Gosling is a pretty good consolation prize! 😉

  • Ha! What a great story. I’m so glad it was finally able to find life. Your description is SO spot on. L’ascenseur when we lived in Nice sounds almost identical. Deux personnes? Non. Cheryl would take herself and the groceries up and send it back down for me. I lived in fear of une grève d’ascenseur. Thankfully, it never happened but your story left me in stitches recalling those days.

  • We rented an apart on the quatrième étage in Montmartre a few years back. When we arrived, a very official-looking letter was posted saying that the elevator would be out if service for modernization until February 13. Merde ! Today was the 13th, but it’s still out. Our host, however, assured us that it would be finished tomorrow. A week later, we discovered that carrying heavy suitcases down four flights isn’t much easier than lugging them up four flights 🙄.

  • Thank you for the funny and entertaining elevator story. Such patience you Parisians have! The elevator at the hotel where Marita and I stayed in Lyon last year did not work when we arrived and was not repaired when we left four days later. Fortunately, a very tall and slender man flew up the stairs with our luggage when we arrived and took it all down when we left. We got our exercise walking up and down the stairs.
    Once upon a time, many moons ago, I was actually stuck in an elevator for several hours until it could be reopened so I understand the horror of the children watching as the elevator was stuck between floors.

  • Véronique, you’re hilarious! Over the summer, you’ve made a couple of casual comments about your elevator, but you certainly didn’t make a big deal about it. Obviously what was happening day-to-day was a much bigger deal, especially with your descriptions of shopping, your shopping caddy, and your suitcases needed for your touring.

    This was a great post, thanks for sharing. I hope you and your elevator have a long and happy relationship together!

  • Veronique, Whew! Impressed that you maintained your sense of humor throughout this inconvenience. For the 11-12 years of my frequent visits to Paris, I had a friend’s flat in the Place des Vosges with an inoperable elevator. Fortunately, the flat was on the third floor and I was able to drag things up the marble stairs with little trouble. Fingers crossed for continued availability of your most necessary “mode of transportation!”

  • Very entertaining! The story brought a smile to my face along with a few laughs. Loved the video at the end. Felt like I was right there with you although I suspect there was only room for one.

  • A great story! Glad it is now working. I took the Paris Metro to the Abbesses station one afternoon. I didn’t realize there was an elevator until I reached the top. I’m not sure of the number of stairs but I did have to stop a couple of times to rest – the entire time wondering why I was mostly alone on the stairs. But the climb was well worth it. Keep your stories coming.

  • Cleverly and entertaining story! Treking those stairs must have been exhausting and surely a workout. Happy to hear your love relationship has been restored.Thanks for sharing .

  • Dear Vero…you make my day! I’ve been wondering how the elevator repairs are progressing; now I know. Congratulations on the new and improved elevator. Thanks for the great story…I look forward to more.

  • So glad the ascenseur is back in business! Your photos are always great, Véronique — I will be using your blog in my French classes, to show them what a Parisian elevator looks like!

  • Loved this article! You write so well that it is easy to feel like you are there! My daughter lived in a 6 floor walk up in West Village in NY which I visited many times, so I was able to feel your pain, the heat, and your joy over the repairs. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amy: Sorry for your troubles, dear Vero, but you now have a chapter and a story for that book you will one day write. Well played! Amy

    • Bonjour Cheryl. There is no link: You need to visit the homepage and look for the section titled “la Mailing List.” That is where you sign up. It should be easy to locate on the right hand side of the page. Bonne chance!

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