Drew Graham will always have Paris.
The Newport Harbor High School 1996 alumnus spent 10 years in Europe, including eight years in the City of Light, before returning home to open a Parisian vacation apartment rental agency.
"With CobbleStay, we create Parisian insiders out of travelers," Graham said of the Costa Mesa-based company he launched in 2010.
Upon returning home from Paris, Graham saw a need for a bridge between American travelers and French culture.
"I think that it is very hard to navigate the city on so many different levels without having had the experience of living there yourself," Graham said. "I had a very interesting experience myself when I first moved, from finding a place to live, how to find a job to how to go about having a social life."
Living in Paris taught Graham the inside tricks to riding public transportation, where to shop, the best neighborhood cafes and other locals' secrets — all of which he now channels into his business for his clients.
"It takes away a lot of the stress of traveling," said CobbleStay client Erin Hallett, a Canadian. "The properties are of the highest quality — you don't have to worry about finding yourself in a bad neighborhood."
Hallett, who has traveled to Paris a number of times using CobbleStay, said that the 24-hour availability of a company representative averted a near disaster during her last stay. Upon arriving late to her rental, Hallett and her husband found they were locked out.
"It was the middle of the night when I called CobbleStay," Hallett said. "[Graham] was able to get the landlord on her cellphone, and we were inside the apartment within 10 minutes."
While Hallett stays at a CobbleStay property with a view of the Eiffel Tower, more than 20 properties, ranging from 300 to 2,100 square feet, are scattered around Parisian neighborhoods and monuments, such as the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Place Des Vosges, Bastille, Notre Dame Cathedral and boulevard Saint-Michel.
All properties are fully furnished, offer more privacy than a hotel and have basic amenities such as Wi-Fi. Accommodations start at $150 a night.
"Once you stay in a vacation rental with the right agency, you'll never want to go back to a hotel," Graham said.
A business plan was not all that he brought home from his life in France.
Graham met and married his wife, Meri Graham, and had two children, Alex and Kristina, while overseas.
Having children influenced the couple's decision to leave Paris. They currently live in Costa Mesa.
"Meri and I just felt like we had done what we wanted to do in Paris," Graham said. "It's a great place to be a young couple, a great place to be parents, but we wanted to raise our children somewhere less urban."
However, with the daily — and often late-night — operations of CobbleStay, Graham hasn't had to entirely leave Paris behind.
"I get to keep one foot in the water where I grew up and one foot in the water in Paris, the city I fell in love with for the eight years I was there," Graham said.