Staying in Paris on a budget

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We assume only girls will follow this reasoning: we economized on sleeping, eating and transportation, but we did spend some money on shopping, french breakfasts and wine.

GETTING AROUND   dsc_0345

Instead of buying a Paris Visite- metro card for a couple of days (either around 17, 24, 34 euro for 1, 2 or 3 days) we bought 10 individual metro tickets (you only pay 9). We walked all around Paris and only took the metro when we absolutely had to . You see so much more when you walk! + need we say more: all those buttery croissants can add as much as 5 pounds a trip (and they tend to go to the hips), and walking all around Paris is an excellent way to avoid the Paris 5.

Furthermore: you only get to use one metro ticket one time . If you get out of the subway, you can’t use it anymore. However, you can use the same tickets on the bus, where you get an hour and a half no matter how many times you get off. You can also take a city bike, which costs around 1,70 for 30 mins.  (www.velib.fr)

SLEEPING: SOCIAL NETWORK

Internet is a wonderful wonderful thing. Use your contacts to find a place to crash! Ask friends to ask friends to ask friends if they know anyone who lives in the place you want to visit. Otherwise; use sites such as www.couchsurfing.com (or http://www.appartager.com  for a longer stay in Paris).

We slept in a real bed (okay, we admit, we do have some back pain at the moment) in a cozy closet-sized space for 5 euro a person a night.

WHEN IN PARIS (or anywhere)…  BE PARISIAN

it’s depressing  how Parisian girls can look effortlessly stylish. You can, depending on your self-esteem, feel like a clumsy, overdressed elephant in under ten to twenty seconds. Luckily, we stayed with such girls and were able to sneak a close peek in their lives and bathrooms. We discovered some of their secrets.

First of all: they just look like they didn’t really try to look gorgeous but do anyway. it’s actually very well thought out. They all live in a very small space, which results in very small wardrobes as well. This means they choose one color and they stick by it. Like the grand dame Coco herself, they choose black. They might accessorize with nudes and greys, but they stick to their favorite color no matter what.

Their make-up looks like they’re all fair-faced maidens out of an annoying fairy tale, but a closer look into their bathrooms revealed they use quite a bit of makeup. Hauschka for the organic lovers, Givenchy for the others as a fond de teint. Some blusher. Yves Saint Laurent Mascara (or another high quality one). An nude, brown or gold eye shadow you use in a fine line all around your eyes (instead of an eyeliner), a Chanel lipstick and you’re set!

Second of all: they buy the very best they can buy for the money they can spend. And I mean this literally. Even girls living in the dodgy end of Paris in a 16 m2 apartment buy organic food and wine, spray Chanel nr 5, use O.P.I for their nails, and have designer handbags and Dior sunglasses.  They just don’t have a LOT of it (they haven’t got the room for it anyway).

Thirdly, they have the attitude. Never ever change your path when you are walking, even if someone is coming right at you. Just look at your friend or straight ahead and you’ll win every chicken race. Never say please or thank you to anyone who might look like an outsider (and with outsider we mean anyone who doesn’t live in Paris city) or just if you can help it.

Lastly: wear a scarf. If you want the Parisian feel, never go ANYWHERE without a scarf.

Et voila, you’re practically a Parisian already!

SHOPPING MEKKA

VINTAGE BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Paris is, to no one’s surprise, fashion heaven. The amount of vintage shops is astounding. Why on earth would you go the Chanel store in rue Cambon if you can find a vintage 1940’s handbag that has the olde worlde feel in every stitch and chain? Why buy over the top Dior sunglasses when you can have a 1950’s one that’s sold by a woman using a cigarette holder in one hand and a mirror in the other?

But forget about the brands. Paris has style without brands. We found 2 woolen cape jackets, tons of beautiful shirts, skirts and handbags for the price of a decent Parisian meal. We’re on our way home with five (!) extra bags full of beautiful clothes that look like they’re made for us but are actually getting a second life. The Kilo shops really are the place to be. You have 2 in Le Marais and another one in the 1st arrondissement.  (http://kilo-shop.fr/) You can weigh anything you want to buy in the scales scattered all over the shop and immediately see how much it would be. But never fear; a big smile and a small chat can go a LONG way in changing the price…

EATING & DRINKING   dsc_0304

Paris equals fine dining, amazing wine,.. and so on. However, most of those dining experiences are well out of our budget.

What we couldn’t miss, however, is le moelleux from le petit marché (9 rue de Bearn) we didn’t buy anything else, so we felt like we could get one moelleux to share (9euro). If you have some cash to spare, take a main course as well, you won’t regret it.

http://www.stillservedwarm.com/dining-at-le-marais-le-petit-marche-paris/
http://www.stillservedwarm.com/dining-at-le-marais-le-petit-marche-paris/

Check  this for some more pics!

What you can’t miss: breakfast!!!!! Un croissant et un p’tit noir au comptoir (a croissant and an espresso at the bar) is all you need to start your day off just right. (REMEMBER: if you sit at the bar, the price is about half of what you would pay for sitting on a terrace) . If you’re visiting Paris in warmer weather, just take your viennoiseries (baked goods) outside and have a picnic.

Don’t overspend on dinner. Be creative! Buy a one-euro tabouleh in the supermarket and pimp it with some rocket salad, avocado, tomatoes or good olive oil. Think Jamie.

FREE WIFI

Budget travelers as we are, we always need some free Wi-Fi to plan our next visit or our ride home. Combine pleasure and planning by finding a free Wi-Fi brasserie, café or cinema. The trick for staying as long as possible on as tight a budget humanly possible is to order separately and thus gaining more free Wi-Fi time. Advantage: you get free snacks with each order placed. So the double amount of free snacks. Voila. Always ask in advance if the Wi-Fi is turned on because busy cafés tend to turn it off between noon and 3 am.

HOW TO MAKE LONG BUS RIDES ENJOYABLE dsc_0414

Please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t expect to be alone on the bus. As is to be expected from a low-budget-travel-means, you will be faced with numerous annoying people with cringeworthy habits that will send you through the roof if you expect a quiet ride. DON’T-DO-IT!!!! It’s never gonna happen unless you book yourself a private jet plane (and what’s the fun in that?)

Bring some wine. Really, you’re gonna need it. That adorable two-year-old that was smiling so angelically? We can guarantee you it’s going to start screaming at one point. And it’s going to be sooner rather than later. Wine will make the screaming a lot less nerve-racking.

Bring cookies. (Need we say more?)

Bring cards so you can be the person playing solitaire.

Bring lightweight books. Who are you kidding with your intelligent literature? You’ll never be able to concentrate amidst all the previous mentioned screaming, the fourth fast and the furious rerun, the girl next to you playing solitaire, and the two annoying giggling girls in the back drinking the aforementioned booze (oh wait, that’s us, come and say hi!). Anyway, bring your happy-go-lucky chicken soup for the soul and you’ll do yourself a gigantic favor.

FAILURES

Getting in without a ticket

There was a (supposedly excellent) exposition of Brassaï in the Hotel de Ville when we were visiting. Because it was free, the line was insane. Naturally, we tried to get in there another way. We walked all around the hotel, trying every door and even the car park. We considered jumping over the fence, but that seemed a little extreme. We tried to get through by going to another expo in the same building that wasn’t as popular (no wonder, as it was about the murdered soldiers in the first world war). Even as we were only pretending to go to the expo to find an unguarded door, we got depressed. We tried chatting up the soldiers outside, but all we got were some lewd comments… We abandoned the mission in search for some ice cream mid- project. Lesson learned? Don’t be a sissy and climb that wall .

The trip home: where did we go wrong?

We had it all planned out: we contacted a couple of people on taxistop (www.eurostop.com). We chatted with one guy who was going to Brussels the same day we wanted to get back. Sadly, suddenly we couldn’t get through anymore, he didn’t answer any of our messages,…  So we had to book 2 bus tickets (as these were the last two tickets and Lien had to be at school the next day). But alas… an hour after we booked the tickets, our ride suddenly called back and asked if we were still coming along! Too little, too late. Lesson learned? Always get an extra day if you’re travelling ad hoc.

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