We've decided we probably won't make it back to France in calendar 2009. For one thing, we've got some home repairs and upgrades next year, and for another, I feel a bit guilty spending the money.
But we will return for at least a week sometime in the next 18 months. We know how to do Paris on a very small budget.
When my husband and I look back on our trips, the moments we cherish most are those that cost us very little in the way of financial outlay.
On a warm spring May Day four years ago, our favorite moment came when we fed pigeons in Place Paul Langevin in the Latin Quarter. I had a half-bag of cashews in my purse, and we enjoy teasing the ubiquitous critters while children played nearby in the sun-dappled little square not far from the Pantheon.
In 2007, an afternoon in Musee Carnavalet on a rainy afternoon and a visit to Square Georges Cain provided us with an equally low-cost and enjoyable moment on our last day in Paris.
We've found great pleasure simply exploring and lingering in the many gardens in Paris. We even enjoyed a wet walk along the Seine one Sunday afternoon when buses were infrequent.
Recently we found pure joy in the Places des Vosges (above), just watching children play.
You can enjoy Paris on very little money indeed, I assured a reader who recently e-mailed me.
We've all got favorite tips, but here are a few of mine.
• Choose a value hotel. They abound in Paris. I find hotels on Tripadvisor, and have yet to go wrong that way. Expect a small room. You can adjust for a few days or even a week. You'll do a lot of walking as soon as you step outside the hotel.
• Make sure you have a mini bar in the room. Mini bar prices are often very reasonable when compared to those in snack shops and cafés. Your body clock will be off, and you may get hungry at odd hours.
• Fill up at the hotel breakfast, if it is reasonably priced, or buy a croissant from a bakery.
• If you will be in Paris for a week, rent a studio apartment. Most have microwaves and many have stovetops. Some even have ovens and all have coffeemakers. In 2007, we ate well for two weeks with just a stovetop and microwave.
• Shop for food basics at Ed l'Epicier, FranPrix or LeaderPrice. I found prices had gone up a bit from 2007, but they were still reasonable.
• Buy a carnet and use it to ride the Paris bus system. You will see a lot, observe real Parisians close up and not have to worry too much about pick pockets on the Metro. You can use public transport to get to and from Charles de Gaulle airport.
• Check out the city's free museums and sites. We thoroughly enjoyed Carnavalet and the Crypts. There are other freebies to enjoy.
• Walk. Explore hidden spaces. In my book, they - not the well-known monuments and open spaces which teem with tourists - are the true essence of Paris.
• Consider cafés and cafeterias located in one of the city's train stations. I found Le Train Bleu a bit steep, so we ate at the cafeteria just below and enjoyed a pretty darned good meal for a fraction of the cost of the fancy lady upstairs.
• Looking for entertainment? We chanced upon a string ensemble on Oct. 4 at the Place des Vosges (below). The music was sweeter than anything I'd pay for - it was spirited and spontaneous.
I'd love to hear your favorite tips for traveling anywhere and not spending a bundle.