Showing posts with label Paris on the cheap. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paris on the cheap. Show all posts

02 November 2008

Paris on a Budget

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.

24 August 2007

Paris: On the Cheap

I cannot tell you how much I wanted this raspberry confection in the window at LeNotre near the Bastille one dreary morning in May.

I craved it. I could taste it. I wanted to consume it.

Eating it - posessing it - would have brightened my day considerably.

But it was 40 euros, and it was a big. I should have bought a smaller dessert, which was about 7 euros. But even that is hard for me to do, as my frugality gene rears its practical head regularly when we are on the road.

The way I see it, you never know when you will need every extra penny you have. So: No frivolous purchases.

My husband and I often split desserts. We want a taste, not the whole thing. This saves us both money and calories, not to mention carbs, fat, salt and other things that are bad for you but good tasting.

We restrain ourselves, shooting photos instead.

I'm not sure if I am entirely happy being so darned prudent and frugal.

21 August 2007

Cooking in Paris: Warm Pepper Salad

You eat well in Paris on 200 euros day. Very well. Breakfast will be your cheapest meal, followed by a good lunch and dinner. You can probably work in a snack, too.

But I didn't have that kind of money to spend. We were trying to keep our trip under $5000. By planning ahead and buying food items that complemented one another, my husband and I ate well on less than 20 euros a day. It helped that we rented an apartment with a small - aren't they all?  - kitchen.

I improvised as well, as I do at home, pairing ingredients in new ways. One day after a morning of traipsing around the 13th arrondissement and taking buses across the south side of the city, I had peppers, onions and sausage on hand plus half a baguette.

I cut the sausage into bite size pieces. I sautéed it and the peppers and onions in minced garlic and olive oil, and topped them with a sauce of aoili and mayonnaise blended flavored with Provencal sauce from a jar. I buttered the bread and browned it in the skillet. The meal was served with a very reasonable rosé table wine from Provence.

The meal and a short power nap fortified us for another round of discoveries in the afternoon.

Improvised meals remain my favorites.