When I lived on Île Saint Louis in Paris I had an apartment on the second floor (third from the outside, but don't ask me how this is possible, I don't even know) and every time I had to climb those stairs I was completely exhausted when I arrived at my little door. Now you're probably thinking that I'm totally pathetic and have a massive fitness problem, but no. That wasn't the case. Or well, at least not the whole story... Every single friend that I brought back to my apartment also ended up panting and gasping for air, just as me, when we arrived at my floor.
How is this possible you ask? Well, I unfortunately don't have a good answer for you… My theory is that the stairs were super super tiny and very very steep. And slippery.
I always felt sorry for the people living above me... "Just imagine more stairs" I kept thinking every time I put my key in the door. Phu! I rarely saw other people in the staircase and when I did they mostly kept to themselves (which I learned was quite "normal French behaviour" from my teacher at school), until one day when I met an older man, with white hair and a little wrinkly face on his way down the stairs.
A few days later I met him again, on his way up this time, with a friend helping him with the very steep stairs. I asked them if they wanted any help or if they wanted me to carry anything for them. The old man looked at me and gave me a huge smile and then he chuckled. "Haha thank you sweetheart but I've been doing this for 85 years! I'll manage". I almost fainted on the spot! His friend told me that he had lived in this building ever since he was a little kid, including climbing these stairs four (!) times every day. "He lives on the top floor. 6eme étage I think it is if I'm not mistaking…". If I didn't faint before I can swear that I did this time.
"Do you want to know my secret?" he asked me. He must most likely have seen my chocked face. "One bottle of rosé wine a day, that will do it!" and then he kept going. I've never laughed so hard in my life once I closed the door. And I thought those stairs were hard? Ha!
Later on I also found out that he still taught music at a school nearby in Paris and that he had lived in that exact building during World War II. Sometimes you stumble upon the most amazing people ever...