Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It sounds like a dream:  moving to Paris and living in your very own apartment in a trendy neighborhood.  Unfortunately, for David Lebovitz, this dream quickly turned into a nightmare in the book l'appart.  The book chronicles the ups and downs of his purchase and renovation of an apartment in Paris.

David Lebovitz is a cookbook author, so nearly every chapter ends with a delicious-sounding recipe.  Because of his work, his requirements for his new home mainly involved the kitchen, where he needed space and equipment to try out recipes.  He had been living in a cramped Paris apartment for several years when he decided to take the plunge and purchase his own flat.  Once he decided to buy a place, however, he encountered his first problem.  Each real estate agent has his or her own listings, and they don't share this information with each other.  So he had to try and figure out exactly which apartments were for sale and how to contact the sellers.  Once he had found an appealing prospect, even though it was on the market, the seller apparently was in no hurry to finalize the sale.  This, of course, created problems when he attempted to give notice on his current apartment.

All of this paled in comparison to when he began renovations on the space.  The wiring, plumbing, drywall and nearly everything else in the apartment needed to be replaced.  A friend recommended a contractor who was reassuringly calm and didn't seem fazed at all by the amount of work that would be required.  David's French partner, Romain, tried to counsel him on how to deal with French tradesmen, but David, as an American used to dealing with things that run more or less smoothly, thought he was overreacting.  He therefore paid a lot of money for the work upfront, only to be dismayed when no workers showed up for days or weeks at a time. 

Not only was the repair work difficult to get done, but things which should have been simple, such as ordering appliances or parts also turned out to be mammoth tasks.  No matter how many mistakes the electrician and contractor made, everything was blamed on David.  Because he paid so much up front, he was not anxious to start over with a new contractor.  Luckily, after the work was completed (not to his satisfaction, but to a finally-move-in-ready-standard), he had some architect friends look over the work, and they discovered not only shoddy, but also potentially hazardous situations. 

The book is quite interesting to read and discover the cultural differences in our French cousins.  It is amusing to read about the many strange and unfathomable things that just accepted by the French with a shrug.  Since the author is a food writer, he brings in a lot of discussion about different types of foods that he has discovered since moving to France.  The book has plenty of humorous situations that anyone doing a home renovation project can probably sympathize with.  I hope to try out some of the recipes in the future -- especially the Frangipane Plum-Raspberry Gratins!

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of l'appart from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review

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