Last week I was in Paris and I spent $280.00 (Well $279.55 to be exact). That is amazing, even to me. That works out to be $40, or less than 30 Euro, per day. How did I do it?
Friends. Friends saved me in Paris, a city of $6 coffee and harmless restaurants that blind side you with $20 glasses of house wine. Ah, I love Paris. So much coffee, wine, and cheese; parks and museums; and now home to so many close friends.
I arrived on November 30th and took a 9.10 Euro train ride to my friend’s apartment. I would be staying with her and her mother this week. I was greeted by warm smiles, big hugs, and good smells. We sat down to the task of catching up, which transitioned into the task of eating dinner. And I have to tell you, all week long, Cloe’s (my friend’s) mom out did herself with her French feasts. That night we had pig cheeks. Other nights were fish, froi gras, snails, buttery creamy side dishes, always accompanied by a cheese plate and fresh (and homemade) bread. I have never feasted so well in France as I did this week, at the generosity of my wonderful hosts.
Sadly, Cloe and her mom had to work the next morning, so after dinner we retired early. I was left to my own devices the next day. I wandered down to the nearest Metro station and picked up a “Paris Visite” card. (Since my hyperlink function is not working this morning, here is the website: http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21894/paris-visite/) It seemed like the best option. Five full days of unlimited travel within Paris for 30.70 Euro. That worked out to be about 6 Euro, or three rides, per day- a minimum average I certainly exceeded.
I wandered for a bit, enjoying the architecture, while making my way to another friend’s apartment. Elise was hosting me for lunch. On the way I stopped in a market to pick up a bottle of wine for our reunion. Said bottle of wine, and a full meal later, and we were still catching up. We continued our day by browsing the winter markets that spring up all over Paris in December. Vin Chaud in hand, we browsed past stalls of scarves, jewelery, and other knick-knacks.
That night another friend, Sandra, was coming into town for the weekend- flying in from Zurich where she works with the IronMan Triathlon organization. We all met for drinks at a centrally located rum bar, deftly selected by Elise.
The weekend was spent enjoying the sights (we went to MontMatre, Sacre Coeur, a Dali exhibit, and Versailles), catching up with friends (some more old college pals had come up from South of France for the reunion weekend) and absorbing the city. I don’t have many travel tips for this week, because this week for me was more about reuniting with old friends than powering through the sights and smells of another new place. One lucky coincidence I can relate. In Paris, in the winter, the first weekend of the month, is free museum weekend. Many of the museums and famous sites are open and not requesting admission fees. Even the big ones like the Louvre and Versailles Palace participate. Since my Parisian friend Cloe was more interested in Versailles than the Louvre (and since I had been to the Louvre the last time I was in Paris, but had never seen Versailles) we decided to go with the palace. Because of my Paris Visite ticket, it only cost 3.40 Euro for me to get out the the palace, and free entry to enjoy the rooms, paintings, and the extensive garden. So, while you can’t plan your trip around these wonderful days, my tip is to always check the local happenings when you arrive. Perhaps your stay overlaps something rare and interesting and it can help guide your itinerary.
All too soon the weekend was over and my friends, who had traveled from Switzerland, Southern France, and Belgium, and all to meet in Paris for a few drinks and a good meal, had to return to their homes and prepare for Monday morning obligations. It was short, sweet, and wonderful, and made the trip worth every penny. Midnight of my last night I found myself with local Parisians Elise and her Fiancee, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night, competing with the stars in the sky.
Paris, I love you, but without friends like these, I could never afford you.