If you are trying to experience France on a budget, eating well can be a challenge.
It’s not that food is so terribly expensive, at least not in supermarkets. We have found prices in rural France to be comparable to prices at home, perhaps even a little lower.
The problem is that the choices are so vast. There were so many different things we wanted to sample! Among our favorite finds were olive-flavored potato chips, which sold for less than a Euro. The same bag would have cost at least $2 at home.
Plain old chocolate bars were richer and vanilla yogurt was creamier. There were an endless variety of imported coffees: We tried Italian and Kenyon and they were deep and robust, not flat like the coffee back home. (We were spoiled and have since switched to a heartier blend back home. Or, we grind our own just before brewing.)
Our hostess had a set of bright yellow pottery cups with the famous “Y’a bon!” Banania logo. These deep cheery cups made for a festive breakfast.
(Banania, I knew, was a drink made with cocoa and bananas, but the cups work nicely when you need as much coffee as we do in the morning.)
In France, we are tempted by many other exotic offerings and splurging is what vacations are for, anyway. We spent an average of 50 Euros a day at the market.
Paris is a different story. Although we booked a junior suite at the hotel, we had no coffee making facilities. The hotel breakfast at 17 Euros was great — once. But a 34 Euro breakfast is far too pricy.
So each day, we stocked up on yogurt, cheese, fruit and chocolate at places like Monoprix or the many small markets that are as plentiful in Paris as pharmacies, floral shops and bakeries. We crammed these snacks into the tiny refrigerator in our suite, and ate at most two meals a day in bistros or cafés.
For our next visit, we have booked an apartment that will allow us to cook our own meals much of the time. A sink, refrigerator, coffee maker, microwave and hot plate ought to suffice for modest meals.
The French don’t need vast and well-equipped kitchens to produce delectable meals. Or so they say.
I’m hoping this ability is genetic.